Like many young Mönchengladbach fans, Dilhan Schrörs had to make do with old tales of European Cup thrills until this season's exploits
A few weeks before the start of this Champions League season, I visited the new Borussia Mönchengladbach museum Fohlen Welt with my dad, who has supported the club through all of their nerve-racking phases. A club that has carried the magical narratives of the 1970s across generations, eventually exciting myself as a kid to admire the magnitude of that never-forgotten history.
No nights have rivalled that heyday like 9 December 2020. No other dates in recent decades have been as satisfying to the team’s loyal fans, even if the game played that evening ended in a 2-0 loss to Real Madrid. More importantly, Gladbach squeezed through to the Champions League knockout stage at the expense of Inter Milan, sealing a place in the last 16 of the European Cup for the first time since 1978. It was one of the greatest achievements in the club’s entire history – and one with a gratifying nod to the past.
Almost exactly 49 years before, on 1 December 1971, Borussia had been eliminated from the European Cup after a 0-0 draw against Inter Milan in the second round. That game was played not at the club’s old Bökelbergstadion home but at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, after the infamous first meeting – a 7-1 win – had been annulled due to a can being thrown at an Inter player. Gladbach were punished with a stadium suspension and then lost 4-2 in Milan, but no fan has ever forgotten.
As the current side secured their qualification, I imagined the déjà vu of my father, with history about to repeat itself. All those famous nights against European giants, facing a “provincial” team from Germany but competing on the same level as us, head to head. The indescribable pride of making the most of the possibilities, and pushing beyond limits. Not with money, but with all the spirit of a Gaulish village.
Our next opponents Manchester City are writing contemporary history with us. Having played four times against City over the last six years, 24 February 2021 represents the starting point for completely new stories to be created for my generation. The conditions seem unchanged, but the feelings now are filled with hope and strength. We are proud to look back, but there are no limits to our imagination for the near future. A fallen giant has been revived, restoring the legend of the club for astonished fans who are set to chronicle a renewed legacy for generations to come.