MUNICH – Sometimes, it’s hard to focus on a soccer game.
Borussia Dortmund players had to, though, less than 24 hours after a bomb attack on their team bus. And they will have to do so again on Saturday, when Eintracht Frankfurt visits in the Bundesliga.
Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin made it clear that his thoughts were far from the field in the rescheduled Champions League quarterfinal match against Monaco on Wednesday – a game Dortmund lost 3-2 after an uncharacteristically hesitant start.
“Until I was on the pitch in the second half, I didn’t think about football, to be honest. Because last night I didn’t realize what happened, and when I was at home and my wife and my son were waiting in front of the door, there I felt how lucky we were,” the visibly shaken Sahin told former Norway international Jan Aage Fjortoft, now a journalist.
“I know football is very important. We love football. We suffer with football. We love football. I know we earn a lot of money, we have a privileged life, but we are human beings. There’s so much more than football in this world. Last night we felt it.”
Dortmund defender Marc Bartra was hit by shrapnel as three explosions hit the bus. The Spaniard was taken to the hospital and had surgery on a broken bone in his wrist.
A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors, Frauke Koehler, said metal from one of the bombs lodged in a headrest. It could easily have been a lot worse.
“I can’t forget the faces,” Sahin said of his teammates, who ducked for cover when the explosions hit. “I will never forget these faces in my life for sure. Oh yeah, when I saw Marc there and I saw Schmelle (Marcel Schmelzer), I sat next to Schmelle and I will never forget Schmelle’s face. It was unbelievable.”
Schmelzer also highlighted the impact of the attack on his side.
“We have to function like puppets,” the Dortmund captain said. “You read the whole time of an attack on our bus. But you shouldn’t forget there were 30 people sitting in it, so it’s an attack on us as people. It makes us incredibly sad but also incredibly fortunate to be standing here today, especially when you hear the details that are coming out (from the investigation). We’re just incredibly lucky no one else besides Marc was seriously injured.”
Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel was stinging in his criticism of UEFA for going ahead with the Champions League game so soon after the attack.
“We had the feeling that we were being treated as if a beer can had hit our bus,” said Tuchel, who claimed he wasn’t asked about whether to proceed with the game.
But Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said Tuesday that a congested calendar meant there was little option for postponing the game further. UEFA spokesman Pedro Pinto told The Associated Press the governing body was in touch with all parties.
Tuchel may have been trying to protect his players but it’s clear that the attack had an effect on his side.
“Most players hardly slept, myself included,” Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl said. “I tried to come to terms with it with my family, tried to wind down and switch off. In the end in the game we made the best we could of it.”
Amid increased security and while the investigations continue, Dortmund will have to make the best of it again Saturday as it seeks to improve upon its fourth place to secure automatic Champions League qualification. Fourth only brings a playoff.
Apart from Bartra, who would have been suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards anyway, Dortmund is struggling with injuries – there was one spot free on the bench against Monaco because of a lack of available players.
Dortmund is unbeaten in a club-record 34 league games at home. It has scored in its last 19 games, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang second behind Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski in the scoring chart. Lewandowski has 26 goals in 28 games. Aubameyang, who played two games less, has 25.
Frankfurt, which was previously third, has lost its last four games away and it hasn’t won any of its last nine.