The ''Covid season 2020/21'' is over. From a sporting perspective it was a success, with the DFB-Pokal win and qualification for the UEFA Champions League, in which the team impressed with good performances against Sevilla and Manchester City in the knock-out stages. However, more than anything else, this season will be remembered as the year without fans and therefore without emotions. Without that which gives football its charm.
''Over the course of the past season we have experienced so many moments in which the fans would have proved decisive or we've simply missed them an awful lot - both wins and losses,'' said captain Marco Reus, adding: ''Every time I look at the empty south stand it still hurts so much.''
However, the season started with a moment of pure emotion. The final third of the 2019/20 season had been played in front of empty stands as part of the strictly isolated ''Bundesliga special matchday operations'', so it was with considerable surprise that Borussia Dortmund received the news, four days prior to the start of the new season, that they would be able to fill every eighth seat in Signal Iduna Park for the opening game against Borussia Mönchengladbach (a 3-0 win).
After 203 days of absence, ''You'll never walk alone,'' rang out around the stadium once more. The players finally got to savour the bread and butter of all performing artists: applause from the crowd. The 9,300 fans in attendance did their best to make up for the almost 70,000 empty seats. Pure emotion for those who had the honour to be there. A crowd of 11,500 fans were allowed in for the following home game, a 4-0 win over Freiburg, but the hopes of a speedy return to normality proved deceptive. Increasing infection rates meant that only 300 spectators watched the 3-0 derby win over Schalke. After that, no more fans were allowed in.
21 home games in the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal and the UEFA Champions League - all of them without fans!
In Dortmund especially, the loudest stadium in Germany, this was a burden which could both be felt and measured: in defeats and points dropped. Of the first seven home games of the season without fans, the Black & Yellows - known as a force to be reckoned with at home - only won two! The fans were missing both as an energiser and as a corrective.
What would the atmosphere have been like in this cauldron after Jude Bellingham's opening goal in the second leg against Manchester City? Would the sheer power from the stands have given the team that extra push and intimidated the opposition? What would have happened in our rival's back garden when Erling Haaland scored a wonder goal to make it 2-0? How would this 4-0 win away to Schalke have been celebrated in the guest block? What scenes would have played out in the Berlin Olympiastadion at half-time with the Black & Yellows 3-0 up against Leipzig? What about as the team lifted the DFB-Pokal trophy?
No party. No victory parade. Celebrations limited to the living room, congratulations via Twitter.
''I really hope that in the new season we can experience the atmosphere the way we know it. Especially here in Dortmund. That's the reason we play football,'' says Marco Reus.
No matter how beautiful the game itself, no matter how clever the tactics, no matter how sophisticated the technique on the ball: without fans, football lacks emotion and thus that what gives it its charm.
We thank you. For every day you supported us despite the difficult time for all of us - even from afar. We miss you. And we hope that we can see you again in mid-August! (br)