The Yellow Wall: a spellbinding sight in the south stand of Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park that may not be quite visible from space, but whose dimensions and noise reach up to the stars.
At 328ft long and 131ft high, the Südtribüne of one of world football’s most magnificent venues packs in enough people to make up a town. A raucous, bellowing, spine-tingling town of Schwarzgelben souls that can cause opposing teams to wilt and BVB’s best to bloom.
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"If you are the enemy, it crushes you but if you have her at your back as a goalkeeper, it's a fantastic feeling,” Dortmund custodian Roman Weidenfeller once said of Die Gelbe Wand, or the Yellow Wall. Almost 25,000 fans from different walks of life file in for every home Bundesliga game. But once each takes their place within the 75,347 square feet of space – be they a doctor, a teacher, a student, a grandfather, a wife or a schoolboy – it is time to unite in an attempt to draw the ball into the net during a BVB attack, or repel opposition advances.
"The south stand has this unbelievable power; many opposing players are afraid of these people and this tremendous noise,” Dortmund stadium announcer – and former player – Norbert ‘Nobby’ Dickel explained of the Westfalenstadion’s intimidating wall. “When the game starts and the south stand sings, it's something very special. It’s certainly the heart of BVB," he added.
For those who stand in the largest grandstand in Europe, it can feel as though the structure were moving under their feet, while for those looking in, it has an equally other-worldly feel. “To exit the dark tunnel and come out into the stadium is to be reborn,” ex-Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp said of the experience of following his former team out onto the field.
"You come out and the stadium explodes: out of the darkness and into the light. You look to your left and it looks like 150,000 people are standing there, going crazy."
A combination of fan power and design make the Yellow Wall – a term that originated in 2005 – the spectacular sight it is. Built ahead of the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the Westfalenstadion has since undergone a series of expansions that have made it the biggest ground in Germany today, with a capacity of around 81,000. The south stand – which originally held 12,000 – was doubled in size not long after Dortmund’s 1997 UEFA Champions League success.
“From the front of the lower tier you can almost scratch the goalkeeper on the back while way up, just below the roof, where there is an inclined angle of 37 degrees, it’s like a ski jump,” was how German publication Der Spiegel described the dimensions of one world football’s most iconic stands. Different fan groups make up the numbers that pack inside and are known to even assess their own performance as a collective following a game, as well as that of their team.
“Of course it's something out of the ordinary," BVB’s current coach Peter Stöger said of the Yellow Wall. “It’s of a different class; it overwhelms you, in a positive sense,” the 51-year-old added. Asked before a game against Borussia Dortmund if it was the opposing players or their coach he was more wary of, former Bayern Munich star Bastian Schweinsteiger responded, “It’s the Yellow Wall I’m most afraid of.”
Its capacity reduced somewhat to make it an all-seater stand on European nights, the effect is no less spectacular with memorable tifos rising up as the players take to the field to leave Südtribüne watchers agog.
Prior to kick-off, fans in black-and-yellow join together to sing out wonderful renditions of that famous footballing anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone. Later, when the Dortmund goals go in, the beer cups fly and scenes of celebration are manic.
The Yellow Wall is passion, pandemonium, picturesque and inspiring. It is a unique phenomenon that brings pride to the people who stand within its embrace and gives goosebumps to those looking in from the outside. Long may fans bask in its brilliant wonder.