It’s been quite a romantic journey, barely a few can deny this. The passion that Jurgen Klopp had was evident in every breath we saw, but sadly, come the end of this season, Dortmund and Klopp will no longer hold hands. This is Cabral Opiyo with his tribute to a great man who showed us why we love this sport.
Jürgen Norbert Clop.
Led Zeppelin prided themselves on defining heavy metal music over a generation; Jürgen tilted the football landscape and inspired a great few teams with his brand of football which he termed as ‘heavy metal football’. Just like Led Zeppelin’s music was said to be rooted in blues and psychedelia, Klopp’s teams played an intense, almost frenzied brand of football, once on the pitch even mild men like Neven Subotic took on a kid-before-bed sugar rush intensity.
The word is intensity.
This is a man who true to form converted from being a striker to a pure defender, that defines the character of the man who came to wow so many, most times witty, most times bedecked in his famous hoodie and resembling a homeless tramp, a lovable homeless tramp who loved football. I write as if he’s dead, and to some extent he built his persona alongside that of Borussia Dortmund so that the enigma that surrounded him cloaked his team too. This is the man who invented Heavy Metal football- there has been Cattenacio, there has been Mourinho-conservatism, there has been Pep pinball, there has been Ferguson’s Gung Ho football, and there has been Klopp’s death metal.
The Bundesliga wasn’t ready for the Gegenpress when Klopp so unceremoniously dished it out in full doses in 2010. His players hounded the ball carrier of the opposite team in packs, they nipped, they pressed, they tackled, they squeezed. The pressing was high, the press was like a heat wave, it hit you continuously, over and over again. Nuri Sahin, Sven Bender, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Goetze, Jakub Blaszcowski, Lucas Barrios, Mats Hummels, Lukasz Piszcek, Marcel Schmelzer, Neven Subotic. Those eleven men straddled the border of inhumane invasion of space and football pressing perhaps like no team ever before, Barcelona did it but they were not after blood too, Dortmund pressed to within an inch of their lives. The spur they needed was the raving lunatic on the touchline, the passion seeped through, Klopp was the man who could bring a stadium to mob status, he raised the roof, he stood between the pillars like a modern day Samson, he was/is a colossus in atmosphere creation. He made the yellow wall sing and sway, he conducted and boy didn’t they sing. The Signal Iduna Park/ Westfalenstadion wasn’t the most pleasant place to visit during Dortmund’s pomp, if you could identify all the supporters of the yellow wall I bet you they would all look like Klopp, every single one of the 80,000, the fans took on the persona of the manager.
His newbie team bloodied quite a few upper echelon noses in their pomp, the football was bewildering, they played hard and most times it bordered on the sublime, the transitions were Jesse Owens quick and they had many a team on the canvas, but still they pounded. With Klopp on the touchline willing every ball in and the Yellow wall leaning into the pitch like three Berlin walls stacked together, only this one consisted of human beings, they were the most intimidating team to play against, heck even Galatasaray would be cowed.
“I’m a bit proud of my first red card as a coach. I approached the fourth official and said: ‘How many mistakes are allowed here? If it’s 15, you have one more.”
That is but a snippet of what made every fan and hipster alike fall madly in love with him, he was cheeky, he was witty and he had a sense of humor, a graceful media savvy man who had the European media eating out of his hand in no time. Jürgen Klopp, Michael Zorc and Hans Joachim Watzke, the administration men at the Westfalenstadion made a deadly triumvirate, they fought each other’s corner and dragged BVB from mediocrity to the bright lights.
It’s the 29th minute of a Champions league match and Dortmund aren’t doing so well, a call by the referee is received horribly by the already irate Klopp and he squares to the fourth official and in a half scowl, half snarl stares him down, a most iconic picture, he wasn’t just Europe’s darling, he could be nasty fellow too, a Hyde to the Jekyll. “Screw you. I like giving interviews to you as much as having a toothache. Do you have to come here or what?” A journalist found out to his detriment that Jürgen wasn’t a happy bunny all the time.
There have been perfect games, the 5-2 thrashing of Bayern Munchen comes to mind, during his two years of dominance Bayern were swatted away like a bothersome fly over lunch, they were repeatedly outclassed, out pressed and out Klopped. The system could not accept the status quo that was enveloping their league and the system baulked at nothing to bring the emerging giant to its knees. In the theory of power transition, A.F.K Organski posits that when a state is discontent with the status quo, it challenges the great power to try and flip the status quo, Dortmund dared to and temporarily were at the top of the pyramid, but the system always wins. The behemoth that is Bayern swept into town and like a Navy SEAL sniper picked off Dortmund’s most prized assets: pop, pop – Goetze and Lewandowski down, but before that Real Madrid on an extravagant stroll around Europe dropped Nuri Sahin, the very soul of Klopp’s team in their cart, Shinji Kagawa the apple of Klopp’s bespectacled eyes was turned into a left wing commercialization gimmick by Manchester reducing the tramp to tears. Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus would be the nucleus of Klopp’s last great team, they swept aside all before them and even managed a swipe at Real Madrid by mercilessly battering them along the way to the final, Sergio Ramos and Pepe will have nightmares of the Yellow Wall always seeming only a gust of wind away from toppling and crushing them.
“If the audience wants emotions but you offer lawn chess, either you or they must look for a new stadium.”
In the end, the system always wins, two disappointing years later the man that every one grew to love decided that he had taken one too many a pounding and was hanging up the gloves. He fought his corner, he danced on the touchline like a Cassius Clay toying with George Foreman in the Rumble in the jungle, he bellowed, he touched gloves with many a manager only to completely annihilate them on the pitch, he was/ still is a colossus, he was Rocky Marciano in his prime.
The system always wins, but Klopp retains such goodwill he is still highly regarded for daring to try, daring to poke a giant, squirt water in its face and make faces at it, and when awake still tussle with it, like Jacob in the Bible who fought with an Angel till dawn and refused to let go till he was christened Israel.
“My game system is called fun football”.
Written by Cabral Opiyo
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