Football fans from one part of Germany's Ruhr district would, only half-jokingly, tout a bulwark of their very own as worthy of taking its place among that elevated company: the South Terrace, otherwise known as the Yellow Wall, at Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park.
With the club's swift rise to a position of pre-eminence both at home and abroad in recent years, word has been spreading with equal rapidity about the quality, and quantity, of their support. Outside of Germany, relatively few followers of the game would have been aware until recently that Dortmund are the best-supported team in Europe, and by some distance, ahead of Manchester United, Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and, in fifth place, current European champions FC Bayern München.
Even prior to the Yellow-Blacks' resurgence under Jürgen Klopp, when the football on offer was often far from spectacular, they were regularly pulling in an audience at the higher end of the 70-thousands. These days, Klopp's dynamic and successful young troops rarely play to anything much less than a capacity crowd on home turf. And that, at the Signal Iduna Park, adds up to an official head count of 80,645.
The South Terrace is the heart and soul of this massive stadium, which has undergone several phases of extensive renovation down the years. The one completed in 1999 left the South with an expanded capacity of 24,454 - making it Europe's largest open-plan football terrace. Being in the midst of it is a unique experience, with, in the words of one fan, "every sensation intensified a thousand-fold." The crowd, as another put it, "becomes a single entity, encompassing the team itself."
Night of nights against Malaga
Even by their own incredible standards, though, the Borussia faithful played their part in a finale of unparalleled drama when CF Malaga came visiting in the second leg of the sides' UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie last April. Ahead of kick-off, the atmosphere inside the stadium was already something special, with a fantastic piece of fan choreography leading the way - a giant yellow boot opening up to display a cartoon BVB fan with binoculars "on the hunt for the lost cup," before the distinctive outline of the Champions League trophy formed behind him.
When the visitors subsequently went 2-1 up on aggregate inside the final ten minutes, it looked more like being a case of the hunt for a lost cause but, spurred on by their never-say-die supporters, the Yellow-Blacks powered relentlessly forward, scoring twice in added time to progress. "Shell-shocked" and "crazy" were two of the words that came immediately to mind for Klopp, asked to describe his feelings the game and the atmosphere generated at the finish.
Experiencing is believing
Asked to describe the South Terrace feeling, Dortmund devotees time and again will be heard to say it's difficult, if not impossible, to put precisely into words; It has to be experienced first-hand to be properly understood. Marco Reus has done just that on many an occasion. Now playing a starring role for Dortmund and Germany, the 24-year-old attacking all-rounder was a South Terrace stalwart growing up and, after running out in front of it for the first time in BVB colours following his move from Mönchengladbach in 2012, he described the experience - early goal in a 2-1 victory over Bremen included - as "awesome. I got goosebumps just warming up, never mind after scoring."
And it's not just hometown heroes who are thus affected. The intense affinity between all the players and their "twelfth man" is plain. The South Terrace is the default destination for group celebrations after a goal and throughout every home game, the atmosphere generated there whips up the whole stadium, propelling the team ceaselessly on in the direction of the opposition box. In his own inimitable style, Klopp himself has further added to the mythology of Borussia's home turf and its unrivalled Yellow Wall: "Every time you walk out onto the pitch it's like being born again, except with a lot more applause. You come out, and it just explodes."