Munich - When Gerry Marsden pulled “You’ll Never Walk Alone” out of his Merseybeat bag of hits in 1963, the Gerry and the Pacemakers frontman was probably looking no further than a top-ten entry in the UK charts.
Born on the Mersey
Little did he know the football masses at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park would later adopt the 1960s pop classic as their own.
It all started at Liverpool FC’s Anfield Stadium where, every weekend come rain or shine, the club’s resident DJ would get the feet stomping, scarves swaying and tonsils singing by reeling off the top ten tracks of the day, from the Beatles to Wink Martindale and everything in-between.
Originally a popular theatre piece, written by Rogers and Hammerstein for the 1945 play Carousel,“You'll Never Walk Alone” was already a fan favourite when Marsden’s rewrite went to number one on 29 October 1963 - and it still holds a firm place in Liverpool hearts to this very day.
Scottish outfit Glasgow Celtic FC were next to embrace the sing-song culture during a game against Liverpool in the 1966 Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals, with Dortmund supporters sampling the track’s uplifting refrain for the very first time in the final. Die Schwarzgelben came away from the contest not just as champions, but also boasting a piece of cathartic gold.
“The vast majority of normal German fans have no idea that the song is very closely linked to Liverpool and Celtic,” explained Uli Hesse, author of Tor!, an English-language history of German football. “They think it’s widely sung at football games.” To some extent it is, yet few sing it with quite so much gusto as Dortmund’s famed Yellow Wall.
Be it in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup or UEFA Champions League, Dortmund’s pre-match preparations would not be the same without at least one recital of their beloved hymn. There is just something about the song, with its emotive and unmistakable melody, that transcends the Anglo-German language barrier and touches Dortmund hearts.
Championing the collective and drawing on the everyday struggles of the working class, perhaps it is little wonder the former 1960s chart-topping smash has struck such a chord with the old mining community of the Ruhrgebiet’s largest city. The fact it remains as much a part of the Südtribüne furniture as the terrace itself speaks volumes. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is quite simply a very special anthem for a very unique club.
Listen to the Borussia Dortmund fans sing it loud and proud, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: