Cologne - Six days in the Far East and over 30 hours in the air, clocking up some 25,000 kilometres all-told: it was a demanding schedule but, returning from their pre-season tour of Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, the players and management of Borussia Dortmund were in agreement that the experience had been well worth it.
"Japan was fantastic, Singapore was tremendous and so was Malaysia. It all made a vivid impression on us. It was the right decision to go, because the people there really appreciated it," BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said in summary of the trip, adding, "It was a bravura effort on the part of the players. We asked an awful lot of them, it was an exercise in willpower as well. But the team did a great job."
With one club marketing appointment following hot on the heels of the next, the Dortmund players scarcely had a moment to themselves. New head coach Thomas Tuchel kept the regular training ticking over as well, with the first session on arrival in Japan even held at midnight. "It was extremely hard work all-round, some days we didn't have half an hour off," central defender Neven Subotic admitted, "but it was OK, because every day brought a fresh highlight: an unbelievable atmosphere at the friendlies, training in unusual places, new cities. It was a great experience, and one that brought us on as a team."
Big in Japan
Wherever they went, the black-and-yellow crew were treated to a rapturous welcome by local adherents of the global game. As soon as they touched down at Tokyo airport, Marco Reus and Co found themselves thronged by Japanese fans, all looking for an autograph or a selfie. The players duly obliged, presenting themselves very much as a hands-on star ensemble.
It was a taste of things to come, as thousands turned up to watch the Bundesliga side's public training sessions ahead of their friendlies against Kawasaki Frontale (6-0) and Johor Southern Tigers (6-1). Over 25 thousand tickets for the meeting with Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo, were sold-out in the space of 48 hours. If the signing and subsequent success of Shinji Kagawa sparked an initial wave of interest in Dortmund, the club's Japanese fan base has evidently expanded considerably since, independent of the star midfielder's presence at the club.
So much so, in fact, that a follow-up trip may well be on the cards – to Japan and the region as a whole. "We felt really welcomed there. I spoke with the club staff and they're very happy we went," said Watzke before the flight home: "It's incredibly impressive to see what's happening in the Far East, and how much pleasure it brings to people there to have an international top club like Borussia Dortmund visiting."
An undeniable measure of stress on the one hand, countless unforgettable impressions and an invaluable promotional job for club and country on the other. As BVB's head of marketing Carsten Cramer put it, "For the Bundesliga, or indeed football 'Made in Germany', it's been very significant." The 2015 Far Eastern summer tours of Borussia Dortmund and domestic rivals FC Bayern München may well prove to be only the start of something very big.