108 years ago, on 19 December 1909, a group of young men gave birth to one of the most supported and successful clubs in German football history. An act of rebellion created “Ballspiel-Verein Borussia 1909”, who’ve endured a rollercoaster journey since their foundation.
If you search the “founding of Borussia Dortmund” on Google, you’ll see an array of contrasting reports. The story behind the reformation was that a group of young men, playing for their local church-sponsored side Trinity Youth, were extremely unhappy with the manner in which they were treated playing for the club.
Therefore, over 40 members, according to bvb.de organised a meeting in a local pub named “Zum Wildschutz.” They discussed the possible formation of a new football team and expressed their anger against local parish priest Father Dewald.
Vice-president of Borussia Dortmund, Franz Jacobi accused Dewald of “personally attacking and defaming players” and labelled the foundation of the club “absolutely necessary.”
”I have been a member of the Trinity Youth since 1902 and since 1906 we have been playing on the ”Weissen Wiese“. We footballers have been systematically attacked and defamed by our church since 1906. We can no longer put up with this. This club is absolutely necessary.“
Former Club Vice-President Franz Jacobi
Dewald made an abrupt appearance that day, in an attempt to prevent the inevitable, but was forcibly denied entry. His appearance encouraged 20 members to withdraw, according to bvb.de, but 18 members stood firm to complete the foundation of “Ballspiel-Verein Borussia 1909.”
The name Borussia is Prussian but it was borrowed from a local brewery in Dortmund called Borussia brewery. They started life playing in blue and white striped shirts with black shorts but switched to their familiar and famous black and yellow stripped kit in 1913.
The wheels were set in motion. Although Borussia Dortmund began life with modest ambitions, the founders that day would have no idea of the historic story which would subsequently unveil itself in the next 108 years.
Here is the story of BVB’s early years of mediocrity, attempted national domination, near extinction and bankruptcy and life during the Third Reich. This era set the tone for the club’s future, which has been full of joy, heartache and rollercoaster journeys.
Early Mediocrity & Attempted National Domination
Relatively small success came in the early stages of Borussia Dortmund’s existence. The Black and Yellows performed in the lower regional divisions but hardly had aspirations of becoming an established opponent in Germany.
Suddenly, in 1924, the club took out a loan worth over half a million pounds to pay for the development of “Borussia Sport Park.” They also attempted to enhance their reputation and improve their stance by signing various paid professional footballers.
This scheme worked initially, with BVB gaining promotion to the Ruhr Division after investing heavily. After lurking around the lower regional divisions, Borussia Dortmund had finally put themselves on the map by securing promotion to the highest regional division for the first time in their history.
Professionalism in sport was still frowned upon in Germany during the 1920s but Borussia Dortmund marked the change in mind set towards the potential of football. Unfortunately, Dortmund had taken it a step too far and professionalising their playing staff led to financial instability.
They were subsequently relegated and were left swimming in mass debt, which they were unable to repay. Their decision to radically develop the club had backfired and they were facing the prospect of liquidation.
Borussia Dortmund had broken DFB rules and two former board members were forced to stand in court. Former club president Heinz Schwaben and board member August Busse were forced to resign following the court case.
Schwaben was labelled a “villain” but swiftly rekindled his relationship with the club by stepping in and paying the debt with his own money. Borussia Dortmund had been rescued from certain extinction for the time being, but more concerning issues was on the horizon…
The Third Reich Dictatorship
The Third Reich era saw a restructuring of sports and football organizations across the entire nation. The Nazi party had “taken over” football and more than 300 Jewish players suspiciously disappeared in the early 1930s.
Adolf Hitler detested football but discovered it had the potential to be exploited due to its large following across Germany. The large gatherings between supporters lured his attention towards the sport, which was largely dictated by the Nazi party during this era.
Club staff and players were forced to support the Nazi party and were forced to take regular tests to certify their pledge to the unconventional and barbaric party. Bayern Munich offered refuge to Munich’s Jews and Jewish president Kurt Landauer played an influential role in their domestic success during the 1920s and 1930s.
Borussia Dortmund were also against the Nazi party, which led to pressure from the Nazis to replace club president Egon Pentrup, with August Busse, who was a member of the Nazi party. Pentrup refused to join the regime, which led to his departure and subsequent replacement.
A couple of members used the clubs’ offices to create anti-Nazi leaflets and suffered execution in the conclusive days of World War II. Despite stories of their defiance, reportedly 80% of squad members had pledged their support to Hitler.
Football was used as a platform to express Hitler’s catastrophic intentions and BVB and Bayern Munich’s attempt not to bow to the scheme didn’t bode well with the Nazi party. Therefore, both teams enjoyed little progress or success during World War II.
Fortunately, more prosperous and successful times were awaiting Borussia Dortmund after the Third Reich era…
Revierderby & First Step Towards Success
The Revierderby is one of the most fiercely contested football rivalries in the history of European football. Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04, both of the Ruhr region, have met on 150 occasions with various eras of dominance for both clubs.
In May 1925, both teams met for the first ever time, with FC Schalke 04 drawing first blood with an eventful 4-2 win. This first result set the tone for the early stages of the Revierderby with FC Schalke winning the first five meetings.
Overall, Schalke won 13 of the first 14 meetings, scoring 80 goals and conceding 9 goals in the process. The Royal Blues’ 10-0 victory in October 1940 remains the biggest winning margin in the derby to date.
It took Borussia Dortmund until November 1943 to claim their first victory against their fierce rivals, albeit in a narrow 1-0 win on home turf. Despite a disappointing 4-1 loss in the reverse fixture, BVB’s victory signalled an upturn in fortunes in the Revierderby.
In May 1947, Die Borussen beat FC Schalke by a 3-2 score line to clinch the Westphalia Championship and ultimately end their rivals domination in the region. They would also go onto win four of the next five derbies in the conclusive stages of the 1940s.
Unfortunately, the club were unable to push for the first Zonal Championship. In 1948, BVB were scheduled to face Eintracht Braunschweig on 8 May but this was abruptly changed to the following day.
It coincidently proved to be a working day and due to the rescheduling being pounced upon them at such short notice, players and staff was unable to receive leave from their employers and they were excluded from participating in the German Championship.
So, it was a sour end to a rather highly emotional era for the club, but the “Golden 50s” were ahead of them, with a stint in the European Cup and their first taste of national dominance.