It has undoubtedly been a year of on-field excitement in the Bundesliga, yet events off the pitch over the past twelve months also helped to engender a spirit of collective goodwill that often went far beyond football.
bundesliga.com recaps some of the touching events and moments of generosity that made 2018 an unforgettable year for those connected with our favourite league.
On what was supposed to be a night filled with sporting anticipation for the meeting of two of Europe’s most eye-catching sides, Borussia Dortmund’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final meeting against Monaco last April had threatened to be remembered for darker reasons. An attack on the BVB team bus that left Marc Bartra with a broken wrist and the entire Dortmund team severely shaken, led to the game’s postponement.
With news soon emerging that the first-leg tie was to be rescheduled for the following day, Dortmund fans rallied and set up an initiative that was spread by the club via the hashtag #bedforawayfans. What followed quickly went viral. Photos of Monaco supporters invited to spend the night in the homes of fans of the Black and Yellows emerged on Twitter and Instagram. The immensely generous move allowed many visiting supporters the opportunity to remain in Dortmund for the rescheduled match the following day and helped to generate a ripple of camaraderie across the globe.
"I have to pay a huge compliment to our fans who have dealt with [this] very well, objectively, reasonably and stoically," BVB CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke said afterward. The events also provoked midfielder Nuri Sahin to pen an emotional article for the Players’ Tribune.
An overwhelming response from the Bundesliga family ensued, with well wishers from across Germany’s top division expressing their messages of solidarity toward BVB and the injured Bartra on social media. “In times like these we stick together,” came the message from Dortmund’s rivals Schalke. “#S04 wishes @MarcBartra a speedy recovery and hopes all the fans have a safe trip home,” the Royal Blues added. “You’ll never walk alone! Stay strong @BVB, our thoughts are with you,” Hertha Berlin tweeted, with Borussia Mönchengladbach adding, “We stand together and wish @MarcBartra and @BVB well.”
Watch: Marc Bartra the battler ...
Indeed, the former Barcelona defender was inundated with messages running into the thousands on his return to the playing field. In what was a trying year for the Catalan native, he was forced to dig deep once again later in the year after terrorist attacks in Barcelona left 13 dead and 130 injured. Bartra’s tribute to the fallen came in the form of a spectacularly taken first Bundesliga goal in the opening game of the current campaign against Wolfsburg. The 26-year-old pressed his lips to a black armband on his sleeve before raising both hands to the heavens.
The hunt for Steffi, Borussia’s brave fan
It was also through the medium of social media that Borussia Dortmund’s sole fan amid the plethora of Schalke shirts in last season’s Revierderby at the AufSchalke Arena was found. And once again, it was that man Marc Bartra who was involved, the Dortmund defender raising a request to find the dedicated visiting fan sitting among the throngs of home supporters during the 1-1 draw.
“I want to meet this woman! Will you help me find her? I wanna gift her my shirt!” Bartra tweeted, with Bundesliga.com retweeting in an attempt to help widen the search. And lo, Steffi was found, with the delighted supporter turning up at Dortmund’s training ground to meet Bartra and receive her signed shirt. “Great to meet Steffi today!!!! It's been a worthy quest and a real pleasure! Thanks everybody!”, the player declared afterward.
Schalke kidney accepted!
Another wonderful tale painted with Revierderby colours came in the form of Holger Leister – a Dortmund fanatic – who underwent a successful transplant with a kidney donated by his Schalke supporting brother Michael. “"I was initially worried my body would reject a Schalke kidney, but it all went well, and I'm very grateful for it," Holger enthused. "My quality of life has improved 60 or 70 per cent. I'm really grateful to him for that, otherwise I'd still be really struggling," the BVB fan added.
Hummels expresses Malawi concerns
Away from Die Schwarzgelben and Die Königsblauen, momentarily, we saw UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mats Hummels make a trip to Africa and a child care centre in Malawi. Hoping to raise awareness of the plight faced by the nation’s children, the Bayern Munich defender said, "I am deeply saddened seeing the poor conditions these kids are growing up in. Help is urgently needed in so many different ways. Sport in general is always a good thing because it helps the kids. They learn how to work together and sport is crucial in building relationships among children."
Hummels also signed up to the growing Common Goal initiative whereby an increasing number of professional footballers are donating 1 per cent of their wages to a collective fund. Along with Hummels, Serge Gnabry, Dennis Aogo, Julian Nagelsmann, Shinji Kagawa, Alexander Esswein, and Daniel Didavi are among those Bundesliga figures involved.
Big hearts, mighty efforts
This was also the year we saw BVB’s Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa, Sokratis and Bayer Leverkusen’s Sven Bender helping to fund a special MRI scanner for children in a Dortmund hospital. Goalkeeper Sven Ulreich offered a terminally ill Bayern fan the chance to see his heroes with match tickets for the game against Hoffenheim while Cologne supporters donated tickets for Red Star’s Europa League home games to an orphanage in Belgrade.
Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng was the first footballer to win the 2017 1Live Krone Award for his efforts in fighting racism and there was equal pride in the words of Neven Subotic as his foundation that helps to provide people in the world’s poorest regions with clean water continues to grow.
Watch: James Rodriguez visits Bayern fan club ...
James Rodriguez’s Christmas cheer
And finally, there was festive spirit with a Colombian flavour provided by Bayern midfielder James Rodriguez who raised the roof with a visit to the Red Rockets Hopferbach fan club. Firing a canon, taking a football challenge and answering fans’ questions were all part of the itinerary happily undertaken by Bayern’s midfielder who delighted local fans with his presence in the Bavarian town with a population of just 700.