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Champions League: Borussia Dortmund's Chance to Turn from Hipster Darlings to European Champions

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In sports, we often seem to have this tendency to romanticize talented, aesthetically-pleasing teams which come up short in the title department. Think of the Air Coryell San Diego Chargers of the early 1980s or the Princeton offense-running Sacramento Kings last decade or any of Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns squads. Mention those teams and people invariably smile and use words like ‘love’ to describe them when they come up in conversation.

It’s fun to do since these teams appeal to the ‘hipster’ element of sports since you can root for or talk up the merits of a great team and argue why they were great even without a title, or say you were “into them” before it was cool. Saying you were a fan of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Jason Williams is a statement of intent, that you appreciate good basketball above winning.

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For some odd reason, Germany club soccer team Borussia Dortmund has acquired the hipster tag. Manager Jürgen Klopp’s unkempt stubble and thick glasses make him look more like somebody that would be standing on a stage, tinkering with a synthesizer playing Kraftwerk covers rather than coaching a soccer team, so likely has something to do with it. The club’s rollicking home stadium, where fans stand in the “yellow wall” creating a scene unmatched most places in all of sports, probably plays a role in the hipster myth, too. Hell, maybe it’s all the umlauts and unusual characters used in the Dortmund players names, such as talented midfielder İlkay Gündoğan.

Whatever it is, Klopp has inspired this ear-bleedingly awful tribute song. The most incredible thing about this Klopp song is it doesn’t seem to be ironically bad on purpose. The makers seem to truly love the guy. Either way, European Dance Pop remains nigh unlistenable.

All that said, Champions League finalist Borussia Dortmund isn’t exactly in the same caliber of these other teams who’ve come up short when it came to winning. Klopp’s team, after all, has won the German Bundesliga the previous two seasons until being dethroned by their opponent Saturday in Wembley, Bayern Munich. However, the chance for Klopp’s high-energy side to put itself in the discussion as one of the best club teams this century (the line starts behind 2011 Barcelona) likely closes after the Champions League final.

For all the good Dortmund appears to do on and off the field, it’s still not a financial heavyweight in the class of Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, or even Bayern, which poached the club’s best player — Mario Götze (out of the final with an injury) — who’ll sign for the Bavarians once this season ends. Expect the big clubs to come calling for Polish striker Robert Lewandowski by the time the transfer window closes in August. Although he’s pledged his future to Dortmund, expect clubs to make the hard sell on German international central defender Mats Hummels, too.FBL-EUR-C1-GER-DORTMUND-MEDIA DAY

Dortmund were able to reload and make a run to the Champions League final this season after it sold Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United, namely by signing Marco Reus whose direct, hard-charging runs Klopp has credited with making the difference in Europe this season.

Still, the nature of soccer, even a rising power like Dortmund, works as a feeder to the elite. Eventually its players, and one day Klopp himself, are going shave, cut their hair and to sell out to the big boys.

If you’re a believer that hokey things like karma play a role in deciding soccer games, rather than heat maps and tactical nous, Dortmund would appear to be living the charmed life and on its way to its first European title since 1997. There’s no rational way to explain its 3-2 victory in the second leg of its quarterfinal match with Malaga, when Dortmund scored twice in stoppage time to advance, prompting the Spanish club’s owner — Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani — to accuse UEFA of racism playing a part in the loss.

Same goes for Dortmund’s ability to hang on in the second leg on the road at Real Madrid, when the home club rallied for two goals in the final 10 minutes and was one shot away from knocking the Germans out.

It’s been a charmed life for Klopp and his men, guys like Sven Bender, Łukasz Piszczek, Kevin Großkreutz, who’ve risen together from anonymity to the precipice of club soccer’s biggest prize. Not bad for a club that faced financial Armageddon earlier this century.

This is the chance for Dortmund one and only chance to stamp its place in the annuals of soccer history. Figure they’d gladly trade their accumulated hipster cred for a European Championship.

By the time you’re done reading this, the hipsters will have likely moved on to supporting another club, one you’ve probably never heard of, anyways.

[Photos Getty Images]

 

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