After the initial sojourn in Saarbruecken, we packed our bags and relocated to Dortmund in the state of Nordrhein Westfalen. The area where Dortmund was located is also known as the Ruhrgebiet, the industrial heartland of the then West Germany. As such, coal mining and steel making were the main industrial activities, making these two sunset industries the economic backbone of the Ruhrgebiet.
Even then, these two industrial activities were acknowledged to be in the sunset of their respective lives, with more and more sunrise industries becoming into being in the southern states of the Bundesrepublik, notably in the areas surrounding Stuttgart and Muenchen. As such, unemployment and the retrenchment of workers were the norm in the Ruhrgebiet, with the state authorities working hard even back then to transform the local economic landscape.
Dortmund has its fair share of attractions especially in the arts and in sports. It was in Dortmund that I was first introduced to theatre, with myself being a member of the audience watching ‘My Fair Lady’ and thinking, ‘hey, this can be quite interesting’. What struck me as hilarious then was not because the play was staged in German but the fact that I could actually understand it. Well, most of it anyway.
The staging of the play, the theatre house itself was all new to me but most importantly, it was fun and exciting. Of course, having seen the film version in English helped in making the connection with some scenes. Since then, I have been to a few more plays and have enjoyed every one of them.
It is common knowledge that the game of football (or soccer as it is more popularly known in the US) is very popular in Germany. In fact, Germany has consistently ranked as among the top footballing nations, having done very well in the World Cups as well as the European Championships.
Club-wise, the most consistent German club team has been Bayern Muenchen. But in the 1990s, Borussia Dortmund emerged as one of the teams challenging Bayern Muenchen’s supremacy in the German Bundesliga and they proved to be quite successful, with several of the team called up to represent Germany at international level. So successful were they that they even won the European Champions’ Cup.
The students’ liaison office of the CDG Centrum in Dortmund, where we were housed, helped a lot in getting us acquainted with the German way of life. Visits to the theatre, concerts, football games, and a host of other activities were organized. The language of communication was of course, Deutsch. No other language was allowed and hence the presence of pocket dictionaries and little note books became the order of the day.
Of course, we did pick and choose as to what we wanted to participate in. Interaction with other sponsored students from the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean were also the order of the day. We learned about each other’s cultures and languages and of course, the common language amongst us guys were our love and passion for football.
Regular topic of discussion was of course the German national team, who were then busy preparing themselves for the 1988 European Championships held in West Germany. Although der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer, was manager, they were not looking too good and the sports media had a field day.
But West Germany being West Germany, they have a habit of doing well in tournaments and so they did, reaching the semi finals (I think) although it was Holland, with Gullit, van Basten and Co, winning it that particular edition of the European Championships beating USSR (remember them?) in the final.
With them guys from the Caribbean, it helped that I also used to play cricket when I was in school and knew of great cricketing personalities then, like Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, and others. Back then the great cricketing nations were the West Indies, England, Australia, Pakistan, and India. New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka hadn’t really appeared on the radar yet.
Scores were pretty much even stevens amongst themselves, with the sole exception being, of course, the great West Indies team of the 80s. They were the team to watch and the team to beat. When they played, boundaries and sixers were the norm, regardless whether it was an ODI or a test match. And their bowlers? Life was pretty miserable back then for a batsman, I can tell you that. Intimidation was the key word for the West Indian bowlers and intimidation it was.
One of my best memories of Dortmund was the Kool and the Gang’s concert. The concert was not only about music but the pyro-technics and the showmanship.
The whole hall was practically standing and dancing, despite us actually paying for seats. The band played their many hits including ‘Ooh La La’, ‘Joanna’, ‘Get down on it’ and many more including material from their new album.
As the last concert that I attended was back in Cardiff when I was a student (can’t remember whether it was Whitesnake or Gary Moore), it was fun to say the least. Of course, I bought the customary concert t-shirt and program booklet but as the years passed by, my ‘slender’ frame could no more fit the t-shirt (or was it the other way around?), and so that t-shirt is now history.
We were in Dortmund for three months before we moved again, after completing our language course. This time, we headed for Kiel, the capital of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. But first, a stopover to then cold-war era West Berlin (where we visited the office of our sponsors) before finally making our way to Kiel. Mind you, this was during the Cold War era, but again, that’s another story.
Also, bis naechtes Mal, tschuess!!!!