Borussia Dortmund protest in Newcastle United clash is a reminder of the need for footballing collectivism
Supporters of the German club carried out a demonstration against UEFA during their Champions League win on Tuesday night.
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On Tuesday night, the Toon Army invaded Dortmund. Imagine a remake of Ben Hur where the entire extras budget was blown on rejected Auf Wiedersehen, Pet cast members and you'd be a fair way towards picturing the scene. Never before will a German city have come closer to running out of beer.
Within the imposing confines of the Signal Iduna Park, however, beneath the shadow of the deafening Yellow Wall, their beloved Newcastle United were vanquished with eine kleine fuss. In many respects, this was a routine Champions League clash of minimal note. The unfancied outsiders in a nerve-quivering group of death travelled to a formidable fortress on the continental mainland and lost 2-0. Nobody is bidding for the rights to the documentary.
But there was one particular moment worthy of retrospective acclaim. With their side a goal to the good, Dortmund's support took it upon themselves to unveil a banner reading, 'You don’t care about the sport - all you care about is money', while showering Nick Pope's six-yard box with fake gold bars and little hessian sacks emblazoned with crudely-scrawled Euro signs. Many have assumed it was a protest aimed at their visiting opponents and their morally dubious Saudi Arabian owners. I mean, if the boot fits, lads.
In truth, however, this was a coordinated demonstration against UEFA - that Injustice League in their ill-fitting suits - and their dastardly, avaricious ways. Hence the fake gold; bullion against bullying, if you will. In particular, Dortmund's dissent was a direct response to proposed plans to broaden the scope of the Champions League group stage so that it consists of one single 36-team pool in which all participants will play 10 fixtures each. Given the absurdly congested nature of elite football in its current, rotting guise, the revamp feels a touch like trying to cram three dozen prize racing stallions into a sleeping bag. At a certain point, the zipper is going to burst. This is no idle threat, either; the new format is expected to be introduced as soon as next season.
Quite why UEFA have taken it upon themselves to ruin the grandest tournament in club football is anybody's guess. The obvious answer is, of course, money, but the whole thing brings to mind a toddler disembowelling their most cherished stuffed toy out of bored curiosity. Gleefully removing the guts from Teddy is the easy bit - getting them back into his limp pelt, not so much. It must be nice to have so few worries in life that you actively start looking for perfectly fine things to meddle with. Perhaps if these fellas had a proper hobby we wouldn't have to go through this kind of logistical existentialism every couple of years. Somebody teach Aleksander Čeferin how to crochet and we can all get on with enjoying the game we love in peace.
Given that the governing body are far too fixated on the needless to ever care about needles, however, it would appear that the next best thing is to take some sort of vocal stand, and for that Dortmund supporters should be commended. Two of the biggest problems - admittedly, among many - that afflict modern football are forgetfulness and NIMBYism. Every now and again - maybe a handful of times a decade - those at the very top of the pile wake up in the soft light of a fresh morning, do a big stretch and a little yawn, and then decide to carpet bomb the sport over which they are supposed to be custodians.
That in itself would be bad enough if it weren't for the fact that they then expect all of those left in the smouldering rubble to give it a month or so and then just move on as if nothing has happened. And we do, because we are all powerless idiots. If you don't believe me, think back to the justified uproar that surrounded last year's Qatar World Cup. Never has a tournament been so openly or passionately protested on the grounds of the human rights abuses allegedly perpetuated by its hosts. FIFA's response to this cacophony of denunciation? Hand the 2034 iteration to Saudi Arabia. Progress! That's like being banned from the local swimming baths for cannonballing, then turning up the next day to do it all again, only this time you've brought your toaster with you too.
Or what about the European Super League, the Marie Antoinette of governing body proposals? A dirty dozen of the most prestigious clubs in world football tried to undermine the very foundations on which the competitive game is built, and as yet, not a single one of them has received any kind of meaningful punishment; no bans, no point deductions, nothing. In fact, for the most part, now that enough time has passed and the hazy stresses of existence have worked their conniving magic, nobody bats an eyelid at them wantonly chilling in their ivory towers. Weather the storm and wait for the plebs to get distracted by something altogether pettier; it's a tried and tested play from the plastic demagogue's book of governance.
And the whole sorry cycle is hung from a skeleton of selfishness. Far too many of us are content to turn a blind eye provided the bad stuff is happening somewhere else to somebody else. Let the minnows fold and the pencil pushers acquiesce to unfit ownership, so long as it is some other poor sucker who ends up sifting through the debris. Let the minorities live in fear and the workers flog themselves into an early grave, but heaven forbid a roll of those grubby bills don't get spent on a new centre-forward in January.
You might wonder, what does any of this have to do with Dortmund, or UEFA's plans to reform the Champions League? Well, perhaps not a great deal, directly speaking. But football's brattish ways are a Gordian Knot of cupidity. Greed begets greed begets greed, and the more governing bodies demand from the clubs they rule over, the more those teams will claw away at everything in their vicinity - players, fans, lesser sides - like rats in pillowcases, until the entire fabric of the sport lies in tatters at our feet.
Make no mistake, Dortmund's supporters had a vested interest in enacting last night's protest on such a visible stage. But by speaking up while others have not, they have also provided a timely reminder than when it comes to challenging the putrid tendencies of modern football, we should all very much be in this together.