The excitement surrounding the Champion’s League match between Borussia Dortmund and Monaco changed from exuberance to fear and anger as a “targeted attack on the BVB team bus” was executed (BVB). As many as 3 explosives damaged the Borussia Dortmund team bus as it was about to depart for the match on Tuesday, April 11th. The incident occurred as the team was boarding the bus at about 7 PM local time, outside the hotel in which they were staying, approximately 6 miles from Dortmund’s home stadium. A Dortmund player, Marc Bartra, suffered injuries to his arm and hand which would require surgery. The match was subsequently postponed until the next day.
Spectators were already gathered inside of Signal Iduna Park, where the match was to be played, as news of the incident spread. Fans were able to follow the horrible details of the event on their smart phones. In a show of solidarity, fans of Dortmund’s opponent, AS Monaco, stood, clapped and chanted “Dortmund” (McLaughlin). In another show of support, Dortmund’s fans utilized social media by using a hashtag offering Monaco fans a place to stay.
In a late night news conference, both the Dortmund police chief, Gregor Lange, and Hans-Joachim Watzke, Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive officer, reaffirmed that there were 3 explosive devices and that a 4th “suspicious object” which did not detonate, had been located near the area of the explosion (New York Times).
Dortmund Police stated in social media posts that “serious explosive devices” might have been hidden in a hedge, which was in close proximity to where the bus was parked (CCTV+). The metal-packed devices used in the vicious attack were sophisticated which indicated that those responsible for the ambush had significant knowledge of explosives. The devices, which were similar to pipe bombs, were set off remotely, probably using a cell phone and utilized a military style detonator (Connolly).
Additionally, state prosecutors reported that a letter claiming Isil’s responsibility was found near the site of the explosions; however, it was too soon to authenticate the letter. The letter demanded that Germany withdraw its Tornado aircraft from a multinational coalition campaign in Syria against the Islamic State. Additionally, the letter demanded the closing of the Ramstein Air Base which is used by both NATO and American forces (Smale). There is some question as to whether the letter fits the pattern of other Isil incidents because of the concrete demands. Typically, Isil statements use words like annihilation and control to indicate their intent to take over the world.
On April 13, 2017, German authorities arrested a 26 year old Iraqi identified as Beset al-O in connection with the attack. The police were able to confirm that he is a member of the Islamic State who arrived in Germany from Turkey a year ago, but that there was no direct evidence of his involvement in the attack. However, authorities have identified Beset al-O as an Isis member in Iraq who commanded a unit of 10 fighters’ intent on carrying out killings, kidnapping and other crimes (Connolly).
The football match was rescheduled for Wednesday, April 12th, less than 24 hours after the explosion. The quick reschedule was blamed on a crowded soccer calendar and evoked much criticism in the soccer world. BVB manager, Thomas Tuchel stated that his club felt “completely ignored” over the lack of communication regarding the new date for the match as he believed his team needed more time to recover after suffering through such a surreal event. Tuchel was upset that UEFA officials did not consult BVB players or coaches prior to the rescheduling date. Consequently, the game was played on Wednesday, April 12th with Monaco securing a 3-2 victory. Even though they lost, Borussia Dortmund showed their team solidarity during the Monaco match by wearing shirts with “Mucha Fuerza” printed on them, meaning much strength. Fans also showed support for Bartra by wearing his name and number 5, while the game announcer also recognized him at the beginning of the game.
The anxiety over terrorism attacks continues to grow as extremist groups operating in Europe have increased their visibility. In the past few years, assaults have occurred in France, Belgium, Britain and Sweden, which has contributed to a heightened sense of security. In 2015, Germany also had a brush with terrorism when the German National team played France in Paris at the time of a deadly terrorist attack on the French capital city. A few days later, the German National team’s match against the Netherlands was postponed due to what the authorities termed a credible threat of an attack.
Britain and Sweden, which has contributed to a heightened sense of security. In 2015, Germany also had a brush with terrorism when the German National team played France in Paris at the time of a deadly terrorist attack on the French capital city. A few days later, the German National team’s match against the Netherlands was postponed due to what the authorities termed a credible threat of an attack.
Bartra, the only player injured in the attack, had a prior experience with terrorism. As a member of the Spanish National team in 2015, Bartra was scheduled to play in a Belgium-Spain friendly that was called off due to concerns following the Paris attacks.
Bartra was seated in the back row of the bus and was hit by shards of the broken rear window. He suffered a broken wrist and additional wounds to his arm from debris that penetrated the skin. His injuries are expected to sideline him for a minimum of four weeks. Investigators later found shards of metal in a headrest, which could have caused serious injuries. After the explosion every player put their head down until police arrived not knowing if there would be more explosions or how long it would last.
Following his surgery, Bartra posted the following on Instagram: “These days when I look at my wrist, swollen and badly wounded, you know what I feel? Pride” (Burrows). His statement indicated that there could have been more damage done to everyone, but thankfully others were not hurt. In closing his post, Bartra stated that he intends to return this season even though he has weeks of recovery ahead of him. He said, “I want to see the stands again full of fans who love our sport, who fill our team with emotions that allow us to forget the increasingly crazy world we live in” (Payne). Additionally, Bartra asks that everyone is allowed to live in peace and that war falls far behind (Payne).
The incident has ignited a national debate in Germany about security. Dortmund, located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, is one of the most populous states in Germany with 18 million people and one in five German voters (New York Times). However, it is also home to hundreds of people who are believed to be Islamists and takes in the most asylum seekers of any other German state. State elections are scheduled for next month with national elections to follow in September 2017. Chancellor, Angela Merkel, a soccer fan, blamed the security problems on the varying security procedures in the 16 German States. With her party viewed as the underdog in the upcoming election, Merkel criticized the state for not allowing spot ID checks and searches of suspicious people. Following the attack, Dortmund increased its security measures for the rescheduled match by not allowing backpacks into the stadium, however, very few other teams made any significant security changes following the incident.
The last few weeks have been difficult for BVB and it appeared that nothing could be worse than the loss to archrival Bayern Munich on Saturday, April 8th. But the events of Tuesday, April 11, 2017 certainly overshadowed the results of any sporting match. If anything, it is a stark reminder of the world we live in today. However, in spite of violence, we go on with our lives and try to adjust. We cannot allow terrorism to derail our daily lives.