Borussia Dortmund enjoyed a significant amount of success during the 1950s and early 1960s. the foundation of the German Bundesliga in 1963 provided a stern test, as bvb failed to conquer the nation.
Prior to the formation of the German Bundesliga, regional champions and runners-up would compete to decide the German Championship winner at the end of the season. Borussia Dortmund won this competition twice during the 1950s and clinched the final German Championship at the end of the 1962/63 campaign.
This immediately booked their place in the inaugural Bundesliga campaign, along with fellow regional runners-up FC Koln. The league was to be contested amongst 16 teams with the formation coincidently taking place in Dortmund. The ideology behind the new national division was to increase the opportunity to identify German talent, following their quarter-final exit in the 1962 World Cup.
Die Borussen had successfully eclipsed fierce local rivals FC Schalke 04 in the Ruhr Region during the 1950s but the prospect of competing against Germany’s very best teams was set to be a concerning but exciting task. Would they be able to continue their progress and reign dominant in Germany, or would their hopes and dreams turn to ashes?
Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen competed in the first ever German Bundesliga match on 24 August 1963. It was to end in bitter disappointment for the Black and Yellows, despite Friedhelm Konietzka scoring the first ever Bundesliga goal inside the opening minute of the first half.
Despite scoring a brace with a late consolation, Konietzka and Borussia Dortmund lost 3-2 on the day, but fortunately this result wasn’t going to set the tone for the rest of the season. They went onto finish inside the top four on goal difference but 12 points behind FC Koln, who lost only two games to clinch the first ever German Bundesliga title.
They also competed in the European Cup for the third time in their history, after winning the German Championship at the end of the previous season. BVB successfully eliminated Norwegian underdogs FK Lyn by a comprehensive 7-3 aggregate score line over two legs in the preliminary round of the European Cup.
European Cup runners-up from the previous campaign Benfica awaited them in the First Round. The likes of Eusabio, Antonio Simoes and Jose Torres were predicted to cause havoc for BVB’s defence. This proved to be the case in the first leg, which was won 2-1 by the Portuguese giants.
However, Borussia Dortmund comprehensively swept Benfica away with a surprising and famous 5-0 win. Dukla Prague were next to be shot down by the rampant Germans, despite their 3-1 win in the second leg. Unfortunately, they were unable to reach the final, after being defeated by Italian outfit Inter Milan in the semi-finals.
Life in the German Bundesliga remained promising for Borussia Dortmund, who finished only five points behind eventual champions Werder Bremen in 1965. They followed their third-place finish in the Bundesliga with domestic cup success, after beating Almannia Aachen in the final to win their first ever German Cup.
In 1965, Borussia Dortmund became champions of the DFB-Pokal Cup for the first time in their history. The 22nd edition of the tournament saw defending champions 1860 Munich suffer elimination in the Second Round. They were defeated by Mainz in a replay, opening the door for a new champion; enter the famous ‘Black and Yellows’.
Their gradual progression went unnoticed in the early rounds with one-goal victories over Preussen Munster and Tennis Borussia Berlin. Their 2-0 win against Eintracht Braunschweig further enhanced their ambitions to win the tournament and a dazzling 4-2 win over FC Nuremberg in the semi-finals booked their place in the DFB-Pokal Cup final in Hannover.
55,000 eager supporters packed themselves into the Niedersachsenstadion in Hannover to witness a comfortable 2-0 win against Alemannia Aachen. The BVB players finally grasped the famous and historic trophy to also qualify for the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup for the 1965/66 season.
There was a change in personnel in the dugout for Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the 1965/66 campaign. Willi Multhaup, who’d won the German Bundesliga with Werder Bremen in 1965, succeeded Herman Eppenhoff. Multhaup had been chosen to guide the ambitious ‘Black and Yellows’ to both domestic and European success.
Unfortunately, they were beaten to the German Bundesliga by 1860 Munich, who finished three points ahead of them in the title race. Despite this, Borussia Dortmund remained superior in European competition and became the first ever German team to taste European glory.
They comfortably eliminated European minnows and Maltese opponents Florania in the First Round by a 13-1 aggregate score line. Bulgarian outfit CSKA Cherveno Zname proposed a tougher challenge but again Borussia Dortmund were victorious. They were clinical in front of goal in Europe but their leaky defence was proving catastrophically concerning.
Their two legs against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid settled the nerves, as they drew 1-1 in Spain and kept a vital clean sheet to narrowly defeat the red and whites 1-0 in Dortmund. Defending champions West Ham lied ahead in the semi-finals but they proved surprisingly unchallenging for Multhaup’s men.
A comprehensive 5-1 aggregate win set up a testing final tie against Liverpool at Hampden Park in Glasgow. The final proved to be a close affair. Neither team broke the deadlock until the 61st minute, when Dortmund’s Held put his team into the lead. But Liverpool responded with an equalizer soon after. Hunt restored parity in the 68th minute and neither team managed to find a late winner, taking the game to extra time.
Then, in the 107th minute, Dortmund took the lead yet again with Libuda’s goal. This time, they managed to hold on to their lead to secure the title.
Decline & Relegation
Dortmund’s win in the Cup Winners’ Cup helped overshadow the fact that they absolutely choked away the Bundesliga title at the end of the 1965/66 season.
Things were looking good for Dortmund. They only had two losses throughout the entire season, they were top of the table and were doing well in Europe. With their eye on two trophies what could possibly go wrong?
They could lose one of them. Embarrassingly!
There were only five games left in the season and all Dortmund had to do was continue to avoid defeat and secure wins and the title would be theirs. But then, in an incredibly unlucky streak, they proceeded to lose four out of their last five games to give up the title to 1860 Munich.
1860 Munich ended up winning the title with 50 points, leaving Dortmund and Bayern Munich on 47 points. To make matters worse, Dortmund lost both of their games to 1860 Munich throughout the season. This marked 1860 Munich’s first Bundesliga and German title.
The 1970’s were conclusively unkind to Borussia Dortmund. The period was characterized by Dortmund’s relegation in 1972 and financial troubles throughout the decade.
Overspending and poor money management put the club in a very precarious position. Then, in the 1971/72 season, Dortmund managed to finish in 17th place after gaining just 20 points throughout the season, resulting in relegation to the Regionalliga.
Their poor season was characterized by atrocious performances away from home, including a devastating 11-1 loss to Bayern Munich. Dortmund were also unable to secure wins in general and conceded a ridiculous amount of goals.
Their goal difference of -49 and 83 goals conceded was the worst in the league. With numbers like these, it’s really no surprise they were relegated.
The relegation also didn’t make matters better for their financial situation. Without the financial benefit of being in the Bundesliga, Dortmund’s chances of getting back to the Bundesliga took a big hit.
Life in 2. Bundesliga
Die Borussen ended up staying in the Regionalliga (and then the 2. Bundesliga when it was created) until 1976, when they earned their promotion.
Dortmund also benefitted from moving into their new stadium, the Westfalenstadion, in 1974. The stadium was built to host games in Dortmund for the 1974 World Cup and was named after the Westphalia region in Germany.
BVB and the city of Dortmund benefitted from the revenue brought in by the new 54,000 seated stadium. Dortmund has played in the stadium ever since, even though it may have looked odd to have such a large stadium in the second division for two years.
Luckily for them, Dortmund’s troubles subsided with their 1976 promotion. A strong showing in the league saw them finish second, putting them in a play-off. Then, they defeated 1. FC Nüremberg to earn a spot back in the Bundesliga.
Their promotion season was characterized by strong away performances and an unbeaten record at home, making them fully deserving of a return to the Bundesliga.
Return to Bundesliga
The 1980’s didn’t offer much of a reprieve for Borussia Dortmund’s troubles. The financial problems continued, and a relegation scare further threatened the club.
The financial problems made themselves apparent in Dortmund’s finishing positions in the league. A 13th and 14th-place finish were followed by a dreadful 16th-place finish in 1986.
Inconsistent results at home coupled with only two away wins meant that Dortmund were lucky to avoid automatic relegation. The play-off still proved to be quite troublesome, though.
A two-legged play-off against Fortuna Köln was all that stood between Dortmund and safety. The first leg was a rough start, with Fortuna Köln winning 2-0 at home.
But Borussia Dortmund managed to respond positively, winning 3-1 in the second leg. With the aggregate score line perfectly balanced at 3-3, a third match was needed to decide it all. No pressure…
In the end, Dortmund proved to have more than enough quality to guarantee safety. They battered Fortuna Köln 8-0 with goals from over half of the team, evidently.
Things got relatively better for Dortmund after these rough couple of decades. Within a few years, they had won another DFB-Pokal. And that was only the beginning for Borussia Dortmund, who were on the way to winning many more domestic and European trophies.