Wednesday 17 January 2018

Comment - Attack on Dortmund coach demonstrates how vulnerable sport is but the show must go on

A window of Dortmund's team bus is damaged after an explosion before the Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco in Dortmund
A window of Dortmund's team bus is damaged after an explosion before the Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco in Dortmund

Jason Burt

“Dortmund … Dortmund,” sang the Monaco fans inside Signal Iduna Park after hearing the news of the explosions around the Borussia Dortmund team bus which led to the postponement of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Tuesday evening.

Within minutes Borussia Dortmund’s official Twitter feed was dealing with the practicalities – with a hashtag to find accommodation for supporters from Monaco left stranded by what had happened. There were many volunteers.

Nine hundred miles away in Madrid, Diego Simeone, the coach of Atlético Madrid, was conducting his press conference on the eve of his club’s home leg against Leicester City when he was told what had happened and that a Spanish player – Marc Bartra – had been the one injured, albeit thankfully with only a minor hand problem.

“I’m speechless and concerned,” Simeone said. “That’s the first thing that comes to my mind.”

It is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind even if the 21st century reality is that whether this is a terrorist attack or not  - and the chances of it being one were increasing last night as the German police continued their investigations - football, and more widely sport, has become a target. Now every showpiece event has to be conducted with that in mind. Affecting them grabs headlines, disturbs people, causes inconvenience, spreads fear and resonates around the world.

Football will carry on. Of course it will. There is no choice. The reaction of the Monaco fans, of Borussia Dortmund and of Simeone – once he had composed himself – spoke to that but anyone who was at Euro 2016 felt how the fear of being targeted, in the wake of the Paris attacks of Nov 2015, had seeped into the tournament and unfortunately damaged it. That damage was done and there was a general sense of ‘let’s just get this over with' rather than the joy of embracing what should have been a glorious event in a wonderful country. Those finals were negotiated safely – only for the Nice attack to take place. It is that traumatic, that cruel.

The words of Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic sounded disturbingly familiar – familiar, in fact, to the players involved in France’s friendly against Germany when it was targeted 17 months ago. Those players included Dortmund’s Matthias Ginter who was on the team bus on Tuesday, also, and must be traumatised. "We are currently in the stadium, in a safe place, but the feeling's horrible,” Subasic said.

Inside the stadium usually is a safe place but there are so many people around sports events and so much focus upon them that they are, unfortunately, increasingly vulnerable. There are so many people there and also, the terrorists and criminals know, so many people watching.

Borussia Dortmund against Monaco was a prestigious tie but it did not take place when it should have done and that reverberates. Thankfully minimal damage was done – in physical terms – but emotionally, mentally, the effect was far greater and will hurt and scar.

But we have to hold our nerve. This is about extra vigilance, about greater security, unfortunately, however inconvenient that may seem and about sport pouring more money into security. It has the cash to do so. Getting to a ground earlier, having an extra bag search, being delayed is a small price to pay.

So we must carry on. Games must be played. The show does not stop. Russia 2018, the next World Cup, is going to be challenging, fretful, also but it needs to be attended and covered. It is the essence of life. It is what we look forward to. Events such as those that have horribly unfolded in Dortmund are yet another shock to the system. But the system carries on. The game goes on and it has to.

Online Editors

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