Tel Aviv/Netanya The German football team Borussia Dortmund has a match, and even in Israeli pubs the teams' fans are cheering. Report on a football evening with the fan club "Israeli Borussen”, where Jews and Muslims stand together.
The tiny pub "Habarbanel” is located in a typically Israeli side street, near the old-city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. But those who go up the stairs, discover the unexspected: black-yellow banners on the walls at the rustic pub. There's beer and pizza. Men and women are sitting here, wearing scarves and jerseys of Borussia Dortmund. They comment on the match Tottenham Hotspur against BVB in Champions League, as if learned long time ago in a pub in Dortmund.
They watch forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put BVB in the lead. "Auf geht's Dortmund, kämpfen und siegen, weil wir dich so lieben”, the Israeli BVB fans sing in German. The joy was to be short-lived. After poor performance the team loses (1-2). "Maybe we had to fail again, so that coach Peter Bosz can be dismissed” says Uzi Levi (41). The mood is subdued, with the upcoming Ruhr derby against Schalke 04 already in the back of their minds. Some of them became Dortmund fan due to German ancestors. Others because they watched BVB matches, broadcasted via satellite, or took part in German-Israeli exchange programmes when they were young — and fascination never let them off. Since then, they have remained fans. And are now members of the biggest BVB fan club in Israel: "Israeli Borussen”.
This evening, Uzi Levi came from Netanya to Tel Aviv — the city, which is 30 kilometres away from here, which has been Dortmund's twin city since 1981 and which is particularly known for Lothar Mätthaus' failure as coach of Maccabi Netanya FC in 2009. "Dortmund and Netanya are my love, both coloured black-yellow” says Levi. The history of the fan club began on the Internet. The German-Israeli Adam Lahav (29) founded the Facebook page "Israeli Borussen” in 2011 with a friend. They published news and reports about Borussia Dortmund. In the meantime, the page has almost 6000 "Likes” and the fan club round about 60 members.
"We do not ask for religion or origin"
Lahav himself inherited to love Borussia from his German mother's relatives. He says, as a teenager in Israel, he was extremely right-wing in political terms. This has now completely changed. "The Israeli Borussen broadened my horizon.” In this fan club, he has learned the meaning of togetherness. Germans and Israelis, Jews and Muslims stand together. "We do not ask for religion or origin, we heartily welcome everybody.” The following evening. It's 6pm and dark outside, nevertheless Maccabi Netanya FC practice on the field at 20 degrees. Among the players the only German in Israel's Premier League can be seen: Tim Heubach (29), born in Neuss. In Netanya, German-Israeli football exchange reached a peak by the end of the 1990s. The only two Israelis ever to play for Borussia Dortmund come from here.
In 1998 the talents Shlomi Dahan and Amos Sassi were discovered by a scout and transferred to BVB. Two years later they won the Youth-Championship U19. Sassi played for BVB in the regional league West later on. But Dahan's career ended back in Israel. Today he is 38 years old and manager at Maccabi Netanya. But he still draws upon the past. "I was a young boy” says Dahan, "for me it was something big and powerful. Something, I will never forget and of course I'm a lifelong fan, it's part of me.” Although no further transfers followed, Dahan believes: "Sports and especially soccer can connect since — incidentally or not — Netanya and Dortmund are twin cities.”
This thesis is supported in "Habarbanel”. In Tel Aviv, there is not only the BVB fan club. There is also a big group of fans cheering for FC Bayern Munich. Even English or Russian teams are supported by migrants in certain districts. But the "Borussen” call them "glory supporters”. In comparison, their love gets under the skin. Many have tattoos. For example the slogan: "Borussia unites generations, men and women, all nations”. A slogan the club has chosen 2012 to fight increasing right-wing racism in BVB fan groups.
For a long time Borussia Dortmund was said to be the club with the right-wing problems. For several years those responsible for the fans have been organising tours to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial. On the beginning of November there were agitations again. When right-wing fans of the Italian club Lazio Rome showed pictures of Holocaust victim Anne Frank on the jerseys of their arch enemy AS Rome. Similar pictures, showing Anne Frank in jerseys of Schalke 04 have been lanced by a BVB hooligan on the Internet. Borussia Dortmund distanced clearly from this action. And the Israeli fans? They supported their club in this respect. "We received a lot of comments, but only positives” says Lahav.
Many fans had commented, saying they were glad that the fan club exists. "Stupidity and some picture manipulation is not enough to denigrate hundreds of thousands of BVB fans.” There were so far no right-wing attacks during the games, says Lahav. He noticed in fact that many stickers had been removed, but there were never any physical attacks. This was confirmed by the other members who regularly travel to Germany to support the team. "It is this special atmosphere before and during the game” says Oshri. He gets goosebumps when thinking of the song "You'll never walk alone" and "the river in black and yellow on the Südtribüne."