There were emotional scenes at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday as Borussia Dortmund celebrated their first Bundesliga title in nine seasons, barely five years after facing bankruptcy. "Nobody believed we'd be on top within five years," said left-back Dede.
Dortmund have come a long way since last winning the league in 2002. Within a few years they were facing the prospect of bankruptcy as financial problems threatened the Black and Yellows' very existence. Dortmund had to re-invent itself, beginning a gradual rebuilding process, with the primary objective one of consolidating its status as a top-flight club.
Last season the hope was to establish Dortmund as a top-five side, so when UEFA Europa League qualification was attained, Jürgen Klopp was hailed as an overachiever. At the time, not even the most optimistic Dortmund fan can have dreamed of witnessing BVB storm to the title with two matches to spare.
"This is a beautiful thing," said a tearful Dede, one of two survivors from the squad who last won the title, along with Sebastian Kehl, and who will leave the club at the top after 13 years' service. "It is not easy to become Bundesliga champions, but it is deserved.
We had so many problems a few years ago. Nobody believed that we would be back on the top just five years later. I can't find the right words. I have huge respect for the Borussia fans who have supported me for the past 13 years."
There were 80,000 of them packed into the Westfalenstadion, hoping that their side would win and Bayer 04 Leverkusen would come unstuck at 1. FC Köln. Two 2-0 wins later and the 'living room' many Germans claim to be the heartland of football had given way to a black and yellow party.
"I thought it would feel different, that I would feel more euphoric," said a slightly shell-shocked Klopp, following the 2-0 home win against 1. FC Nürnberg. "But that will come later, I'm sure.
The team has managed an outstanding achievement, nobody expected this. It is hard to find the right words. Every week we came across a strong Bundesliga side and every week we had to exceed ourselves again and again. Exceeding yourself 32 times, that's just plain crazy."
As a lifelong Dortmund fan who followed his club's fortunes from the stands before joining them from Rot-Weiss Ahlen in 2009, Kevin Grosskreutz was also struggling to put his emotions into words. "I cannot describe this," said the 22-year-old Germany midfielder. "Two years ago I was standing with the fans in the terraces – and now I am a German champion myself. The fans, the team and the entire club deserve this, as we have played a really cool season."
Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes − whose side is eight points adrift and, like Dortmund, guaranteed a place in next season's UEFA Champions League − was generous in defeat. "We have amassed an incredible total of points , one with which you would normally win the title," he said. "But there is one team that have simply been better."
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