Edin Terzic just stood there and cried. Twenty odd minutes after the final whistle, the south terrace of the Westfalenstadion remained full. Nicknamed Die Gelbe Wand, The Yellow Wall, they -- nearly 25,000 in yellow and black -- were serenading their coach. "If you win and stand top, or if you lose and stand at the bottom, we'll still sing: Borussia, BVB!"
They hadn't lost. And they weren't at the bottom... but inside the stadium, it must certainly have felt like both.
Going into the final day of the 2022-23 Bundesliga season, Terzic's Dortmund had had the league all but wrapped up. Leading the juggernaut that is Bayern Munich by two points, all they had to do was match their great rival's result at FC Koln as they themselves hosted a terribly out-of-form Mainz (four losses in last four games). The Westfalenstadion had been ready to celebrate... the city of Dortmund had been ready to celebrate. It had been a decade since they won the big prize -- they had finished runner-up six times -- and the party was going to be loud and go long into the night. Terzic, a Dortmund fan-turned-youth team scout-turned assistant coach-turned caretaker-turned manager now, was going to be the man to lead them into the light. Just like he had when as caretaker he had won them their only big trophy in the last five years, the DFB Pokal. One of their own, leading them on. Even the Bundesliga thought so: the original Meisterschale (Champions' bowl) had been sent to Dortmund; a replica to Cologne.
97 agonizing minutes of football later, though, it was darkness all over again. They had lost out to Bayern again, this time on goal difference.
And they had no one else to blame. They had trailed Mainz by two inside twenty minutes, missed a penalty and roughly 18641 chances. The penalty, and a two-yard tap-in, had been missed by Sebastian Haller - the miracle man whose goals had dragged them back into the title race. An open header from six yards had been missed by Marco Reus -- another boyhood fan, an academy graduate, now captain...and seven-time runner-up. Through all their misses, they had clawed two goals back in the second half, late on, from the unlikeliest of sources: the right foot of Raphael Guerrero and the juggling, twinkling boots of Nicklas Sule.
They had thrown everything at the Mainz goal, manned by their second-choice keeper Finn Dahmen, who had the game of his life. The stats back this up - Dortmund had 73% possession, an incredible xG of 4.16, and 29 shots at goal (10 on target and 1 hit woodwork). Terzic had done everything he could too, from the sidelines. He had thrown on a 17-year-old Julien Duranville for his senior debut, and he had been their best player. He had got his time playing an all-out attacking 2-0-8 formation by the end.
Borussia Dortmund fan-turned-head coach Edin Terzic in tears as the Südtribüne chants his name after losing the title.
The chant afterwards: "If you win and stand top, or if you lose and stand at the bottom, we'll still sing: Borussia, BVB!"
- Felix Tamsut (@ftamsut) May 27, 2023
"It's difficult to find the right words," Terzic told ESPN afterward. "We feel empty because we knew about the chance, you could feel the energy within the stadium and city. We all wanted it so hard. We were so close -- just one goal was missing, it was one goal in the other stadium that was missing, we knew we were 90 minutes away from lifting the trophy. This is the game we fell in love with as kids. Sometimes it's hard to miss a penalty, to conceded two early goals, and all of a sudden it feels so heavy. But we tried our best and unfortunately it wasn't enough."
It had finished 2-2 and it might just have been enough, but the genius of Jamal Musiala and the inevitability of Bayern Munich's winning machine combined to make sure it was not.
The Dortmund players were prone on the field, hunched in the dug-out, unable to move as silence filled the packed 81,000+ capacity stadium; when about four and a half minutes after the whistle a massive round of applause started going around. The silence of despair filled with the appreciation of what their football had gotten so close to achieving. And then the singing started.
Terzic walked around, consoling his players, putting on a brave face before coming to a stop in front of the Yellow Wall. He stood there, applauding them back before putting his hand on his heart and apologising. The singing just got louder... and that's when the tears finally flowed. It was the kind of moment that shows you exactly what football means to people. And that's why it's our penultimate moment of the weekend for this season.