Anyone watching training can feel the joy and pleasure the ladies take from their sport – no matter whether it is football-specific or tactical exercises, piggy in the middle games or passing and shooting training. "The girls are really euphoric," says Thomas Sulewski, their "gaffer", who sets the perfect example of enthusiasm and emotions on the training ground of the BVB women's football academy known as "Am Rabenloh". It is a place steeped in history, because it was here, on the former training ground of the BVB first team, that Ottmar Hitzfeld laid the foundations for the German title wins in 1995 and 1996 and the Champions League victory in 1997.
"It is an outstanding feeling and a wonderful task to be part of the women's football project – and to do it with the club I have supported since I was a boy is even better," says Thomas Sulewski. If everything had gone "normally", he would probably still be actively playing football today. But because he had to hang up his boots after tearing two ligaments ten years ago, he decided to try his luck as a coach, among others with ÖSG Viktoria 08, Westfalia Wickede and SV Brackel 06.
His longest and most successful stint was at SV Berghofen, the home club of BVB legend "Aki" Schmidt. He started as an assistant coach with the seniors and took over the ambitious women's team in 2017, leading them to the Bundesliga 2 in 2020 as an additionally promoted team. This was a huge success for the club from Dortmund's suburbs and ultimately too great a challenge for Sulewski: following their promotion, he ended his involvement in Berghofen for professional reasons.
Then BVB came calling, and Thomas Sulewski didn't need to think for long. He was immediately "ablaze with enthusiasm", he says, and threw himself into the new and exciting tasks with great vigour. One of the first tasks was to watch the approximately 150 videos that the applicants for one of the coveted spots on the squad had sent in. "We had specified a catchment area of 35 km, but we received enquiries from as far away as Kiel, Hamburg and Munich," Sulewski reports. 50 interested women were invited to the trial session and then a squad of 23 players was selected.
The BVB women are starting in the local Kreisliga. Thomas Sulewski warns against the assumption that they will breeze their way toward promotion: "We will not underestimate our opposition in the division. The game with Borussia will be the biggest game of the year for every other team. And we will usually have a bigger audience cheering against us." The head coach wanted to make another thing clear: "We will not appear big-headed, we will not come on the BVB bus – as is usual in these divisions, we will arrive in separate private cars."
The pre-season for the women's team's first season went perfectly. "These are inquisitive and talented girls who listen well and try to implement what the coaching staff tell them. And everyone is proud to wear the Borussia Dortmund shirt. It is a pleasure to work with them," says Thomas Sulewski. In a three-day training camp in Willingen, the players came together and became a team. And the performance in the friendly matches was very respectable.
The "Women's Football at BVB" project has started with great promise. And coach Thomas Sulewski has played a big part in that. Perhaps in the long term, something great will emerge from "Am Rabenloh" again. Just as it did in 90s...