Saturday afternoons with my eleven friends

Another annual finale has come and gone, and a big question dragging out over the course of months has finally been answered. As tempting as it is to share my thoughts on a finale which ended this past Thursday night answering if Marie, Mandy or Sara would become Germany’s Next Top Model, I am in fact referring to who the 2009 Bundesliga (German national football or soccer league) champion is.

So the answer is: VfL Wolfsburg. And while I can certainly share my thoughts and facts about this news, that really isn’t the point of this post. Today, we’ll be looking further down the table. Way down. Keep going. And at number 15, stop! That’s right: Borussia Mönchengladbach. There’s a lot I know about this team, which you may not know. For example, they have the second largest fan base across Germany after Bayern Munich. They are the only Bundesliga team to have two gold stars on their uniform which symbolizes their five victories as Bundesliga champions. They hold the title for having the highest winning score in league history (12-0 against Borussia Dortmund in 1978). Their 1971 7-1 victory against Inter Milano is deemed by many as the most interesting game played by a German team on the European level, sadly annulled by a Coca-Cola can thrown onto a player during the game. Unsurprisingly, I know so much about this seemingly obscure football team from North Rhine-Westphalia, which had its heyday decades ago, because of my husband. Born and raised in ‘gladbach, my husband is a walking Wikipedia entry on the team. If I weren’t able to rattle off all of these facts to you today, it would indeed be shameful given how much they are lectured to me on a regular basis.

How regularly? Well, at least every Saturday. I can safely and proudly say that despite his demanding work schedule, my husband prioritizes his family. He always does his best to accommodate our needs and appointments, transporting us around, running errands, and on Saturdays, taking one daughter to Musikgarten at 9:30 AM and the other to Babyschwimmen at 2 PM. But there’s only one absolute point of inflexibility, and that is Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM. He has a standing date with our television. And if we have to be away from our house, he has been known to ask if he could at least bring the Premiere* box and plug it into our host’s television. I have to admit, it can be a pain in the backside when I would prefer that we go on a family field trip which would require shops being open (i.e., on Saturday and not Sunday). We’ve also had to decline invitations where we weren’t able to plug in the Premiere box.

It is now a family ritual to watch the game together. Our two-year daughter even says, “Borussia gucken,” every Saturday, probably because it is the only time that we have our television on. It is also a time to see her papa get very excited. He’s not a passive viewer. A well-developed repertoire of passionately delivered insults for the opposing team or underperforming ‘gladbach player has augmented the German vocabulary of both my daughter and me. And the (few) times that his team scores, there is rejoicing and jubilating that reverberates through our flat (much to my chagrin when the baby is sleeping). It is cute to see our two-year-old little girl throw her arms up in the air and scream, “BO-RU-SSI-A!” along with her father at these moments and giggle in sheer delight over the excitement while being thrown in the air by her ecstatic father.

Looking at Borussia’s league performance since the 2004-2005 season (when I started being obligated to watch the Bundesliga):

  • 2004-2005/15th (out of 18 teams),
  • 2005-2006/10th,
  • 2006-2007/18th,
  • 2007-2008/1st in second league

You can see that there were more goals conceded than scored. The whole family suffered from the long face of my disappointed and sad husband many Saturdays. It’s a sad sight to see a grown man, hunched over in his favorite jersey in front of the television, too disgusted to even curse anymore. Each of us gingerly approaching him to ask if he was hungry or might be in the mood for another beer. I could never admit this to his face, but after so many consistent defeats, I wished that we supported a more frequently victorious team such as … Bayern Munich just to save ourselves all the pain.

But as my husband has explained to me (many times), a true fan is loyal to a traditional club (e.g., FC Köln a.k.a to a Borussia fan Scheißköln, Schalke 04, VfL Stuttgart, for instance) no matter what. Through thick and thin, through victories and losses, and through first or second league.

In case you don’t know, although if you have continued to read this far you probably do, the last three teams on the Bundesliga table face relegation to the second league, a devastating and humiliating blow. We’ve flirted dangerously with this possibility it seems every year, and we were finally relegated last year. It was almost a relief to be there. Victories followed victories, and Borussia finished as number one for a change! In addition to these more frequent joyous afternoons, I liked being in second league because I had my Saturdays back. The beauty of second league is that most games are played on Sunday afternoons, and early Friday or Monday evenings (for which my husband would hurry home early to watch).

As Borussia seemed stuck between 16th and 18th places for much of the season, I thought I would be getting my Saturdays back again and would see my husband coming home early on more weeknights. But there were two games in a row where Borussia made miraculous 90th minute (i.e., final minute) goals while their main bottom of the table opponents lost. The weekend gods were against me, and Borussia finished the 2008-2009 season in 15th place securing their place in the Bundesliga for the 2009-2010 season. So, until the 7th of August when the season starts again, I’ll do my best to enjoy my free Saturdays!