YNWA-Blog #7

Soccer fever in Herne

Our travels to the origins of the soccer hymn “You’ll never walk alone” brings us to a source of soccer fever in the Ruhr Valley. In Westfalia Stadion in Herne, the home club of Joachim Król, we get to the bottom of his passion for soccer – and also come across Borussia Dortmund, BVB.

In Germany, the passion for soccer is probably nowhere as strong as in the Ruhr region. And nowhere else are there so many soccer clubs so close together. Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and Vfl Bochum are well known. But clubs such as SC Westfalia Herne, which were once great, now play more of a background role. However, the club was established more than 100 years ago and can look back on an interesting history. Westfalia Herne was one of the successful clubs before the establishment of the German soccer league - the Bundesliga: In 1959 and 1960, the club played in the finals of the German Championship and, from 1975 to 1979, still played in the 2nd league. This evening, the club, which now plays in the sixth-level Westphalia league (Westfalenliga) is expecting a visit from its more famous neighbor from Dortmund. The BVB Under 23s team is playing.

“We're going on Sunday afternoon / to our Westfalia / The sun is shining bright / for our Westfalia” – this is the old club song, which is sung to the tune of “Viva Espana.” However, the sun is not shining so brightly on this Tuesday morning. The sky is gray – true Ruhr Valley you could say, but that won't stop the film team. The plan is to fly a drone above the soccer field. And as long as the rain holds off, the drone will remain in the air and zoom around the field. Below, on the field, Joachim Król is demonstrating his soccer skills, which are certainly not as rusty as he claims.

Westfalia Herne is Joachim Król’s first soccer passion. Although his passion for Borussia Dortmund has long since gained the upper hand, he loves to return to the “Stadion an der Ritterfeste” [stadium near the fortress] as the people of Herne call the stadium near Strünkede Castle, and is also an honorary member of the soccer club. Król grew up in Herne and, as a child and teenager, attended many soccer matches at the stadium together with his father. 

The covered main stand of the stadium has seen better days, in some places the paint is flaking from the wall. Joachim Król meets an old friend here: One of the sport’s greatest goalkeepers, Hans Tilkowski, who played for Westfalia Herne and also Borussia Dortmund. And of course for the German national side, where he defended the German goal 39 times. His most famous match: Tilkowski was in goal as the odd “Wembley goal” was scored - or not scored - in the 1966 World Cup. With Borussia Dortmund, he was DFB Cup Winner in 1965 and was the first goalkeeper to be named “soccer player of the year.” In 2008, Tilkowski also received the German Federal Cross of Merit for his untiring social commitment.

He talks with Joachim Król about the joy and sorrow of soccer, about wins and losses and the emotionality of the game. Nothing touches the Ruhr area soul more than identification with soccer heroes. Król briefly tells Tilkowski about the exciting story behind our film project. And we discover: Whether you support your favorite team in the stadium, admire Ferenc Molnár’s theater play “Liliom”, or listen to old music in the record store - the level of passion and enthusiasm can be very similar.

Hans Tilkowski and Joachim Król watch the Westfalia Herne team playing that evening. The Under 23s from the famous neighbor Borussia Dortmund are visiting. Just in time for the test match against the Borussia Dortmund Under 23s, the sun actually appears from behind the clouds for Westfalia. The Herne team can also be proud of the result: SC Westfalia Herne beat the Borussia Dortmund Under 23s 2:0.