Schalke's Amine Harit (left) celebrates with his coach Domenico Tedesco (centre) after the dramatic 4-4 draw against Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Friedemann Vogel/EPA
Schalke's Amine Harit (left) celebrates with his coach Domenico Tedesco (centre) after the dramatic 4-4 draw against Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Friedemann Vogel/EPA
Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer (left) can't hide his disappointment after his team relinquished a 4-0 lead against Schalke. Photo: Friedemann Vogel/EPA
Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer (left) can't hide his disappointment after his team relinquished a 4-0 lead against Schalke. Photo: Friedemann Vogel/EPA
There was a heavy security presence outside the Signal Iduna Park for the Ruhr Derby. Photo: Friedemann Vogel/EPA
There was a heavy security presence outside the Signal Iduna Park for the Ruhr Derby. Photo: Friedemann Vogel/EPA

I am still hungover from it all! Eight goals! Eight freaking goals in a single match!

Of course I had expected an intense match. It is, after all, Germany’s top derby – the Ruhr Valley derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke04.

But not in my wildest dream did I anticipate what transpired at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.

I mean, how could I when I am from a country where the biggest derby has become a predictable oft-drawn yawn of a match bereft of any animosity?

Of course the hosts made an attempt to explain the intensity of the rivalry between the two sides.

And it was evident in the way the police and security personnel reacted at the sight of anyone in blue attire walking into any gate other than the ones reserved for the visiting Schalke fans.

A couple of our group were told to go to the other gate just because they wore blue.

As guests of Dortmund, though, we had the black and yellow scarves, and I waved it about proudly as the majority of the 81 100 crowd that packed the stadium sang heartily to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” prior to kickoff.

Matshelane Mamabolo.

Below and to our sides, the Schalke fans made the moment seem like we were at the MGM in Vegas for a hyped up pre-fight weight in.

They turned to look at us, their middle fingers pointing up as they chanted “Scheiss BVB (f*** off BVB (Dortmund)”.

Others even threw coins at us, the Dortmund crowd.

It was incredible, though, as the big flags flailed about at the Yellow Wall – the no-seats northern terrace reserved for the Dortmund ultras whose voices drowned the Schalke fans’ chanting.

But not as incredible as what was about to unfold in the next 100 minutes or so of action.

When Dortmund raced into a 4-0 lead before the half-hour mark, we celebrated wildly – surely this was game over, we felt.

And Peter Bosz no doubt believed he’d got his respite following a poor run of form that saw Dortmund move down the ladder following a flying start that had them occupy top spot.

Well, in the Ruhr Derby, I came to find out, the phrase “Give up” does not exist.

A few months ago I was in London and watched a West Ham v Tottenham match at the London Stadium. Early in the game, Spurs raced into a 3-0 lead, and many of the home side’s fans walked out long before halftime.

Not a soul in blue and white left the Westfalenstadion in anger or disappointment at halftime.

Instead they stayed on, chanting “Liebe Shalke 04 (Love Schalke04)”, and somehow believing their team could come back.

It seemed unlikely. And when they scored, only for the video assistant referee to cut their celebrations short by declaring an offside, I thought it was all over.

Well, incredibly they pulled two back by the hour mark and with 30 minutes left, a match that had seemed dead as a contest suddenly came alive.

An eerie silence enveloped the stadium, only to be punctuated by intermittent passionate chants of Schalke – from the upper stands – followed by “Null Vier (04)” (from the lower terrace).

Their fans’ belief infused the players with an energy that saw them take the game to their rattled hosts with increased intensity.

And then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang contrived to give Schalke further advantage when he needlessly tracked back to hack down an opponent from behind to earn a second yellow card that resulted in him marching off.

A man up, Schalke went for the kill. Just for sheer drama, I found myself willing them on – my black and yellow scarf off my neck – as we were advised to take them off by our hosts who feared there might be trouble after the match, as we were in the part of the stadium where Schalke fans were in the majority.

And they obliged alright!

At 4-3, the question was how many minutes would be added on for stoppages, and when the red number 7 flashed on the fourth official’s board, just about everyone knew what would happen.

And happen it did, Schalke grabbing the equaliser that some 60 minutes ago very few on the stadium would have foreseen.

At the end of the match, their goalkeeper’s celebration in front of the Yellow Wall instigated fisticuffs between the players, for which he later apologised on television.

That the crowd celebrated for over half an hour after the final whistle with their blue-and-white flags raised high above their heads – while the black-and-yellow ones that had dominated earlier on hung low down necks weighed down by bowed heads – was not surprising at all.

I’ve been to many matches around the world in my journalism career. Saturday’s Ruhr Derby was the best, and not just because of the eight goals, but the passion and animosity that typified exactly what a derby should be like.

 

The Star