By Jonathan Gold
Quick, no thinking allowed: What’s the most entertaining soccer league in Europe? I guarantee you just got that wrong.
The Prem? Overpaid, overexposed, overcapitalized.
La Liga? If you’re not a fan of the endless financial pissing contest between Barca and Real, then you’re out of luck.
Serie A? Corrupt, slow, predictable.
Ligue 1? Sorry, too many racist shithead fans (at some clubs), the national apparatus is in utter disarray and all the talent goes to one of those other three leagues about 0.00145 seconds after it gets discovered.
Why didn’t you say the Bundesliga? Vas ist deine probleme? (Apologies, I’m 99 percent sure that doesn’t mean “What’s your problem?”)
All that aside, you should be watching German soccer. Yes, you. Particularly since the Revs season is over.
And one of the big reasons you should be doing so is to observe the resurgence of Borussia Dortmund. The beginning of the last couple of months have been very kind to the latest iteration of one of Germany’s most prominent clubs – a hard-working bunch with a few inspirational talents thrown in. The first days of October saw it hosting a 2-0 win over a little club you may have heard of called Bayern Munich.
At the beginning of this month, it beat early table-toppers Mainz to capture the league lead. It was another 2-0 win, this one featuring goals from Mario Gotze, described by no less than the Guardian’s esteemed Rafael Honigstein as, at 18 years of age, “fast turning into the next big thing of German football,” and Lucas Barrios, who now has five goals in 10 league games this year for Dortmund, and who, unsettlingly enough, is constantly described as “predatory” in nearly everything printed about him.
The Borussians haven’t looked back, either, with a 4-0 drubbing of Hannover and a 2-0 beating of Hamburg SV (the second strike, from Barrios, was a great team effort on the break) following a scoreless draw in the Europa League away to Paris Saint-Germain. They’re seven points clear at the top of the table, average nearly two-and-a-half goals per game, and look, in short, way better than anybody else.
Dortmund’s play, and the generally open, free-scoring style that comes with it – though it’s only conceded seven in the league this year – should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention to the state of German soccer of late. Far from the country’s usual reputation for determined, physical, grind-it-out dullness, the Germany side that showed up at this year’s World Cup displayed a stunning amount of youth and flair. As a team that was supposed to be crippled by the absence of veteran captain Michael Ballack – who is far and away the most boring world-class soccer player I can think of at the moment – the Germans produced some really wonderful stuff, led by the decidedly not-boring Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller.
A quick aside: If you’re looking for a lovable sidekick club to support, the Bundesliga has the best one of them all in FC St. Pauli, a newly-promoted team that’s constantly second fiddle to same-city big-shots Hamburger SV. St. Pauli plays in a rowdy but good-natured little stadium very near one of the most famous red-light districts in Europe, is supported by a left-leaning bunch that includes everyone from homeless chaos punks to happy nuclear families, and plays Blur’s “Song #2” every time the home side scores. What’s not to like?
The new school of German soccer is not Brazilian samba, nor is it even the kind of elegant chamber soccer produced by Spain’s tiki-taka maestros. It’s more direct and fast-paced, most notable for the lightning counter-attack produced by a viciously deft through ball and capped with a cool-headed finish. It really is a lot of fun to watch, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Put it next to the World’s Biggest Soccer League You Jumped-Up Losers, the EPL. The top team is Chelsea, which was shaped into an efficient weapon of soccer destruction by Jose Mourinho, won some titles, and has never really recovered. Manchester United is more dogged than entertaining, Liverpool is in complete meltdown, and showy, slick-passing Arsenal hasn’t won the title since 2004. Of the two serious pretenders to the throne, Manchester City plays with around 16 defensive midfielders, managing to be simultaneously less successful but even more boring than Chelsea in the process, and Spurs, are, well, Spurs, who will certainly choke like asthmatic coal miners as they always do. This may well be the year when England’s big four disintegrates, but if City is the team that replaces Liverpool, it’s hardly a victory for entertainment.
Or Spain! Yes, Spain, that land of two, err, 20 mighty teams battling for dominance to see which one of Barcelona or Real Madrid will get to win the league again, I mean, who will reign supreme in the professional league of one of the most soccer-crazy nations on Earth. Who wouldn’t want to follow that with bated breath?
So the next time you’re bored with your “big” European league of choice, and there’s no more MLS to watch, check out the Bundesliga – even if large numbers of Germans chanting in unison makes you nervous. Most of these ones are nice.
Jonathan Gold is a contributing writer for TheSoccerGuysOnline.com. Joe Meloni can be reached at Joe.Meloni@thesoccerguysonline.com.