Yesterday I celebrated Peter 46th birthday at his place, in his party cellar, together with his â€œvieille Fineâ€ Cognac.
Peter works in one of the coal mines of the Ruhr area. He is not really a miner, dealing more with supervising and technology. He lived a pretty comfortable life until the German government interfered by closing the last of the Ruhr coal mines, which means that Peter is going to be a retiree before he reaches 50.
Still, he might have all the right reasons to celebrate. Peter lives in Hamm, on the eastern border of the Ruhr area. As Douglas Adams once put it, those are â€œthe uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxyâ€œ Ruhr area.
In these areas, especially if are of a Polish background, it is clear which soccer team you root for. You could, of course, try to be an â€˜agent provocateurâ€™ and support Schalke, which means that you will have to get use to see your car with flat tires. Or you can surf the wave and support the enjoyable Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund does all it can do to justify its Polish connection. Three players on the teamâ€™s roster, Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczikowski and Robert Lewandowski, are Polish nationals. Some of the fans derive from the Polish coal miners who arrived in the 19th century, when Dortmund became a town due to the mine industry.
Some of the families fled Poland after the Second World War, yet new ones keep arriving at the modern Dortmund airport using cheap flights from Katowice or Wroslaw. At the stadium, Borussiaâ€™s black-and-yellow mingles well with the red-and-white.
Peterâ€™s shifts, as well as the rest of his free time, were always scheduled with accordance to his need to watch Dortmundâ€™s games on TV or listen to them on the radio. Last week he was also next to the radio, following his favorite team against Leverkusen. He was afraid to wake up from a dream. But he didnâ€™t, so he could not quite grasp it. Life looked strange to him.
Yesterday Dortmund lost two points at home, against a team from the bottom of the table, and that looked more like it. That is the way Peter knows the world is supposed to tick. Rooting for a Polish club you canâ€™t really hope that something will eventually go right, that you are actually the best, and not an eternal loser anymore.
So Peter didnâ€™t mind losing points at home to lowly Stuttgart. He didnâ€™t mind that Dortmund was way better and deserved the win, and he didnâ€™t even mind the refereeâ€™s mistakes. What it all added up to was that now he was allowed to worry again.
Dortmund probably secured enough points to win the championship this year, but it doesnâ€™t mean that Bayern supporters shouldnâ€™t rub their hands with joy. It is not only that Arjen Robben made a magnificent comeback on Saturday, but the knowledge that putting together a winning team is still just half of the job.
The other half, injecting a winner spirit into the veins of the club and its supporters is a whole different thing, It is a complicated and long process, and Bayern already has it, no matter what happens. Liverpool use to have it, but lost it at some point, Manchester City seems not to be able to adapt to it.
I wonder if Peter will ever have it, but I suspect he is too clogged. Things work in a certain way in the coal mines, and it is quite hard to relieve old habits, literally.