Borussia Dortmund’s History: Defining their DNA

Borussia Dortmund's Yellow Wall is a Historical Landmark

Borussia Dortmund’s History

Borussia Dortmund is a German Football team known for both their success on the pitch and the passion of their fans. The club’s success in the German Bundesliga appears even more impressive in the context of Dortmund’s history. Similarly, the passion of Dortmund’s supporters undoubtedly stems from the persistence and perseverance of the club that started with their creation in 1909. These are the key moments of Borussia Dortmund’s history.

The Birth of the Black and Yellow

Consensus dissatisfaction with a local, Catholic church-sponsored league led nine men to search for new opportunities to play football. Resentment for their local parish priest’s relentless and merciless approach to management united the men. To ensure their priest would not dissolve the group, the men blocked him from their organizational meeting at a local pub. Unknown to the group at the time, this battle with adversity was only the first of many the club would face in the coming decades.

The founders of Borussia Dortmund's History

Though Borussia means “Prussia” in Latin, it was actually borrowed from the local Borussia Brewery in Dortmund. Perhaps more interesting, the famous black and yellow kit that the team currently sports wasn’t selected until 1913. Initially, team shirts featured blue and white stripes accompanied by a red sash.

From Financial Frustrations to Political Problems

Following the switch to the black and yellow kits, the club had considerable success in local leagues. The first major obstacle for the club came in 1929 as Dortmund had a brush with bankruptcy. If not for the generosity of a local supporter, excessive debt surely would have dismembered the club. Remarkably, this proved to be one of the multiple periods in Dortmund’s history to feature financial trouble.

Not long after their battle with bankruptcy, Borussia Dortmund encountered further complications when the newly-empowered Third Reich fired and replaced the club’s president for refusing to join the Nazi party. Despite this change, some members of the club used their offices to discreetly print anti-Nazi pamphlets. They were consequently executed in the final days of the war. That being said, their anti-Nazi efforts reflect the same integrity and dignity that the club’s founders championed and that shaped Borussia Dortmund’s history to date.

First German Titles and the Birth of the Bundesliga

The club made their first appearance in the national league final in 1949, 40 years after their founding. However, the club wouldn’t claim their first title until 1956, 46 years after their birth. The following season, Dortmund claimed their second consecutive, and second overall, German title. Both of these titles came when Dortmund played in the Oberliga West, Germany’s top division of football during the late 1940s and 50s. Dortmund’s third title came in 1963 and was the final German championship before the birth of the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund's First German Championship Title

Central to the establishment of the Bundesliga, Dortmund hosted the 1962 meeting of the German Football Association that resulted in the league’s creation. Sixteen teams, including Dortmund, were selected to play in Germany’s official professional football league. Further strengthening the connection between Dortmund and the birth of the Bundesliga, Dortmund’s own Friedhelm Konietszka netted the first Bundesliga goal just one minute into their inaugural match with Werder Bremen.

Westfalenstadion and Relegation

Despite the club’s success during the 1950s and 60s, the 1970s featured more adversity for the Black and Yellow. Financial problems accompanied by relegation from the Bundesliga in 1972 raised serious concerns about Dortmund’s future. Despite these concerns, construction of Dortmund’s iconic Westfalenstadion concluded in 1974. Currently named Signal Iduna Park for sponsorship purposes, Westfalenstadion has remained Dortmund’s home since 1974. The iconic Yellow Wall, the stadium’s south terrace, is the largest standing terrace in Europe and houses arguably the most passionate and dedicated section of football fans on the planet.

The Westfalenstadion in it's old days

Playing in their new stadium, Dortmund earned promotion back into the Bundesliga in 1976. Despite their consistency on the pitch, the club’s financial problems persisted through the 1980s. Dortmund narrowly avoided relegation in 1986 following a relegation playoff after finishing sixteenth in the Bundesliga. Yet another chapter of Borussia Dortmund’s history that saw them destined for failure gave way for future success.

The Golden Age

By the 1990s, Dortmund was still searching for their fourth German title and first Bundesliga title. As one of the sixteen founding clubs of the Bundesliga, Dortmund’s title drought remained particularly puzzling after VfB Stuttgart narrowly clinched the 1992 title on the final match day. Thanks in large part to their finish as runners-up in the 1993 UEFA Cup, Dortmund received financial relief enabling them to sign better players as part of their quest for a title. By the 1994-95 season, Dortmund were reaping the benefits of those signings. Once again rising above their past adversity, Dortmund secured back-to-back Bundesliga titles in the 1994 and 1995 season, earning their fourth and fifth German titles, respectively.


By the start of the 1996-97 season, Dortmund’s domestic accolades earned them greater respect across Europe. However, they still lacked the elusive UEFA Champions League title that Europe’s most iconic clubs cherished. In 1997, Dortmund earned their first appearance in what proved to be a remarkable Champions League final with Italian club Juventus.

Dortmund DNA

After jumping to 2-0 lead over the defending champs, Dortmund found themselves clinging to a one-goal lead following a beautiful back heel in the 65th minute from the legendary Alessandro Del Piero. Once again, the Black and Yellow needed to overcome adversity, except this time, the adversity was on the pitch. Certainly, the Black and Yellow could have been complacent with their efforts, parked the bus and relied on their defense to see out the victory.

Lars Ricken's goal against Juventus in the Champions League Final

But complacency isn’t part of Dortmund’s history or their DNA; Dortmund’s founders weren’t complacent with their local priest’s managerial approach, and the 1996-1997 squad wasn’t interested in complacency, either. Refusing to let that goal stand in their way, the Black and Yellow kept their foot on the gas. Their persistence and passion were quickly rewarded. In the 71st minute, Dortmund-substitute Lars Ricken’s first touch of the ball became perhaps his most memorable touch. The then 20-year-old Dortmund native had only been on the pitch 16 seconds when he dazzled everyone with a breathtaking chip from over 20 yards out that sailed smoothly into the back of the net. The Black and Yellow then cruised to their first and only Champions League title.

Borussia Dortmund players celebrating first Champions League title

Following their remarkable run in the Champions League, Dortmund capped their successful year as world club champions. Dortmund joined Bayern Munich as the second German club to win the Intercontinental Cup after defeating Brazil’s Cruzeiro 2-0.

Bankruptcy Beckons Again

At the turn of the millennium, Dortmund because the first publicly traded club on the German stock market. Shortly after, Dortmund secured their third Bundesliga title and sixth German title in 2002 following a miraculous run at the end of the season. Similar to past years in Dortmund’s history, however, financial concerns resurfaced.

Borussia Dortmund fans March the streets to oppose club sale

By 2005, Dortmund was again on the verge of bankruptcy. Courtesy of club-wide pay-cuts, a loan from Bayern Munich, and a sponsorship deal to rename the stadium, Dortmund survived financially and managed to escape another relegation scare. As was tradition, Dortmund found a way to overcome yet another series of obstacles surrounding their club.

Returning to their Roots

History often seems to repeat itself, and certainly, Borussia Dortmund’s history feels very repetitive. 2008 marked the beginning of another return to glory for Dortmund when they hired Jurgen Klopp as their manager. While Klopp’s first two seasons (2008-‘09, ‘09-‘10) provided spectators with hope for the future, the youth and inexperience of the squad made for a cautious optimism leading into the 2010-’11 season.

Borussia Dortmund's Dream Team 2010-2011

That cautious optimism quickly became undying enthusiasm, as Dortmund were top of the table heading into the winter break. Complacency once again could have set in, but once again Dortmund stayed true to their DNA, winning their fourth Bundesliga title and seventh German title. Additionally, that squad was the youngest group to ever win the Bundesliga title.

Without looking back, Dortmund successfully defended their title the following season, adding to it a 5-2 victory over Bayern in the DFB-Pokal final. As a result, Dortmund became the fourth club to complete the German double.

The club’s domestic dominance concluded with the double, as they finished runners-up behind Bayern the following season. Dortmund was offered the opportunity to avenge their second-place league finish, however, in the Champions League final. But their rivals from Munich managed to win the first ever all-German Champions League final over the Black and Yellow by a score of 2-1.

Rebuilding Without Klopp

Klopp’s remarkable tenure came to a halt when he stepped down in April of 2015. Without Klopp, Dortmund struggled both domestically and in European play. Staying true to their traditions, however, Dortmund found a way to overcome adversity in the 2018-19 season under Lucien Favre. Dortmund looked poised to retake the crown, but a late-season collapse left Dortmund settling for second.

The Yellow Wall Showing Tribute to Legendary Coach Jurgen Klopp

Dortmund’s history, dating back to its founding in 1909, has been defined by cycles of success separated by phases of frustration and adversity. Nonetheless, perseverance and determination have served as the defining features of Dortmund’s DNA. Passionate support for the Black and Yellow has remained steady since Westfalenstadion’s construction, evidenced by expansions that have made it Germany’s largest stadium. Their most passionate supporters know the key features of Dortmund’s DNA, and they are as persistent and dedicated as the club itself. Whether Dortmund seems certain to rise or they seem destined to fall, they’ll always have the undying support of the Yellow Wall.

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