The 2018/19 Bundesliga season for Borussia Dortmund was one to remember. Although they came short of the title, their season was compelling enough to be documented with a television series.
The four-part Amazon Prime documentary series, directed by German filmmaker Aljoscha Pause, starts during Dortmund’s winter training camp in Spain in January 2019. At this point in the season, the team is leading the Bundesliga table by six points ahead of Bayern Munich.
The series has its ups and downs. At some points in the series, it can feel sort of like a drag, but the highlights are certainly the moments when you can see the behind-the-scenes dealings and interviews with people at the club that usually do not get the spotlight as much such as team scouts, the club chefs, and club board members.
An example being Matthias Sammers role at the club. He was brought in during the summer of 2018 as an external consultant, and is present at some of the board meetings regarding transfers and playing philosophy. He describes his role as being without bias and that he will analyze and critique the club without caring about who it might upset. He brings an outsider’s view of the club. In one of the board meetings, he brings up the shakiness of the defense. He made those remarks while they were still leading the table. This foreshadows happened for the rest of the season.
The series unfortunately, for the team, starts at the second-half of the season when the team starts to get inconsistent results and hits a really rough patch in February and early March. It is at this time that Dortmund gets eliminated from the German Cup, the Champions League, and gives up their first-place position atop the Bundesliga table to Bayern Munich. The problem with the team clearly becomes their defensive shape and goalkeeper Roman Burki surprisingly becomes one of the louder voices in the series from the player perspective.
Burki criticizes the team a lot throughout the series, especially when it comes to defense, and you get a sense that he is one of the tough personalities in the dressing room; but he knows when to criticize his own performances as well.
Another interesting point in the series is the controversy with Matthias Sammer that I was totally unaware of being from the United States and only watching and reading English-language coverage of the Bundesliga.
After Dortmund’s disappointing loss to Augsburg, Sammer, who was working as a pundit for Eurosport in Germany, ripped the team apart in his post-match analysis. He thought the team was too young, inexperienced, and lacked the right mentality for a match that they knew they really needed to win to get back some momentum for the rest of the season.
The club sporting director and other members at the club did not view Sammer’s comments as something to make a big deal out of because they actually agreed with his analysis. But the media made a big deal out of it because of Sammer’s role at the club and it projected a sense of uncertainty and self destruction on Dortmund in the media landscape in Germany at the time.
The lowest part for the team in this whole series is a 5-0 loss away to Bayern, and although the title race goes down to the last day of the season, this game is where it all falls apart and you get a sense that it is not destined for them this season.
Another part of the series that stands out is the look at how Marco Reus rehabs from his injury in February and how he returns in March. The Reus segment really shows the human side to football as you can see Reus really has struggled with injuries throughout his career and he is clearly frustrated by it. It makes you want to root for him as he goes through the grueling rehabilitation process and then you feel happy for him when he is given the clear to play a few weeks later.
In each episode of the series, there are interesting segments that recap important parts of Dortmund’s history like their first Bundesliga titles in the 50’s, their Champions League victory in 1997, and the club’s financial difficulties in the early 2000’s.
The most memorable history segment in the series was a look back into the Jurgen Klopp era. The side won the Bundesliga back-to-back in 2011 and 2012 but you’ll come out this episode remembering Klopp’s recollection of the 2011 championship celebration. He explains how he ended up waking up on the back of a truck in a factory garage on the morning after the championship parade celebration.
Klopp admits that he had so much to drink that he didn’t even remember what happened during the parade and celebration. He was found by the Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and he recalled how Klopp was always the one that partied the most, even more than the players.
There are many other stories that the series chronicles, like the 2017 bombing of the team bus before their Champions League quarterfinal against Monaco that injured Marc Bartra and affected the team psychology even into the season that this series covered.
From watching other soccer documentary series’, I felt like this show needed more fan interviews and perspective, especially because of how notorious the Dortmund supporters are with the standing-room section wall and their working class roots.
Overall Inside Borussia Dortmund (available with a free trial to Amazon Prime) is a must if you are a soccer fan and especially if you are an avid viewer of the Bundesliga. The series can be seen in German with English subtitles or with it being dubbed in English. It can sort of feel like a drag when it shows highlights of their games. Maybe it would have been better served to split the story up into a few more episodes but it is still easy to follow along. The positives in this show outweigh the few negatives. One gets a lot of insight on how a top European club is run and you get to see a lot of different perspectives within the club which makes it interesting and rewarding for the viewer.