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For all the passions generated elsewhere the length and breadth of the country in the Bundesliga, there is no other game quite like the number one Ruhr district derby, when Borussia Dortmund go head-to-head with great local rivals FC Schalke 04. Two clubs separated by a fistful of miles and bound together in more ways than many of their fans might care to admit, each with its roots in a similar yet clearly delineated working-class environment in Germany's traditional industrial heartland. To get an idea of just how much this game means in the region, GOAL! met up with the sporting directors of these two proud football institutions – as well as going straight to the heart of the matter and letting the fans have their say as well.
On the subject of Borussia Dortmund fans, they don't come any more fervent than Kevin Großkreutz. The difference, in his case, is that he is one of the vanishingly small number to have been able to live the dream to the full and make the unlikely grade all the way from the terraces out onto the Signal Iduna pitch as a professional. A true son of Dortmund, Großkreutz has willingly turned out for the team in just about every position possible – stand-in goalkeeper included – and for all his title-winning success, he has remained as down-to-earth as ever. By his own admission, he finds it very hard to imagine playing for anybody else.
On the other side of the divide, Julian Draxler's attachment to FC Schalke 04 likewise goes all the way back to his early childhood. Born in Gladbeck, virtually within spitting distance of Gelsenkirchen, his exceptional talent was swiftly noted by the club virtually every young hopeful in the district dreams of joining. The rest, as they say, is history. The reflective 20-year-old midfield star acknowledges that to a certain degree, the increasingly intense demands of the Schalke youth programme led to him partially losing that once-special connection with his hometown. Ahead of the big derby, he returned to Gladbeck to show us where it all began.