A year ago today, on April 11, 2017, Sergej W. detonated three explosive charges surrounding the team bus of Borussia Dortmund on its way to the Signal-Iduna Park for the UEFA Champions League match against AS Monaco. A lot has happened in the 12 months since the attack.
Before every game, Dortmund players and staff that sat on the bus on that fateful evening relive the terrifying minutes after three bombs went off, shattering glass and hurting Marc Bartra. The club still uses the hotel in front of which the attack happened. The bus takes the same route to the stadium.
Some players still make use of the club’s offer to provide psychological counselling. In the trial against W., players and former head coach Thomas Tuchel are forced to relive the moments very publicly. In a telling snapshot of how journalism works, the quotes that made the most news came from Tuchel’s notion that he would still be the coach of Borussia Dortmund if not for the attack. Roman Weidenfeller reiterating that the players are not close to fully processing what happened, that the event changed his life forever: footnotes. Sven Bender saying “we all made a huge mistake” in playing the Monaco game just one day after the attack: footnote.
A number of people on the bus during the attack have already left Dortmund, and it’s safe to assume more will follow in the summer. It’s impossible to think Bartra, the lone victim on BVB’s side (a policeman was injured as well), didn’t leave the club at least in part to help processing what happened to him. His triumphant return in Dortmund’s cup-winning run notwithstanding, the Spaniard was never the same. How could he have been?
The bus bombing served as a catalyst to a process that started long before April 11, 2017. Tuchel’s assumption he would still be working for the Black and Yellows but for the attack is very likely wrong, as his problems with a large portion of the club’s players and staff were very much a thing even before he and Hans-Joachim Watzke had fundamentally different views of when and how the postponed match against Monaco should take place. Let’s not give W. too much credit here. Dortmund as a club were falling apart in some ways before he tried to take the lives of football players to alter the price of shares on the stock market. Something he, preposterously, denies, by the way. Which makes his apologies utterly worthless.
Through the Lens
The process of coming to terms with the bus bombing is very much an ongoing one. W. can expect a sentencing in the summer. For players and staff, it’s probably going to be a lifelong thing. Transfers, successes, disappointments — nothing will wipe away the events of one year ago. Everything that happens with Borussia Dortmund should be looked at through the lens of April 11, 2017. Every poor performance, every player in bad form, every questionable decision of the board. That can be tough for the outsider, be it a journalist or a fan. But it’s the least the public can do to help the innocent victims of a cowardly and senseless attack.