According to a German weekly, Dortmund players made it clear that they didn’t want to play a match less than 24 hours after last month’s attack on their bus. This contradicts the club chairman’s account of events.Several senior Borussia Dortmund players expressed a wish to further postpone their Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Monaco after their team bus was attacked, according to a report that is set to be published in Thursday’s edition of the German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit.”
Three explosive devices were detonated next to the team bus as it made its way from the team hotel to the Signal Iduna Park at around 7 p.m. on April 11, shattering windows and injuring Spanish defender Marc Bartra on the arm. Following the attack, the decision was made to postpone the match until 18:30 the following day, less than 24 hours later, with the club’s chairman, Hans-Joachim Watzke, insisting that no alternative date was possible and that coach Thomas Tuchel and the players had agreed to the move.
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Tuchel, however, denied that he and the players had been consulted, later telling reporters at a press conference that he had been informed via text message and that the decision had been made “by people in Switzerland,” where UEFA’s headquarters are located. The disagreement made public a long-running public dispute between Tuchel and Watzke, which culminated in the termination of the former’s contract.
According to “Die Zeit,” senior members of the team did voice concerns at a meeting ahead of training on the day of the re-arranged match. The paper reports that German international Marco Reus addressed Watzke on behalf of the team, telling the chairman: “I think it’s wrong to play this evening.” An exchange of words ensued, before midfielder Gonzalo Castro and three further players supported Reus’ position.
Speaking to Dortmund-based publication “RevierSport,” Reus insisted that there had been no argument.
“Aki Watzke and I have a close relationship based on trust,” he said. “This means that we are able to express differing opinions and speak openly about certain things. Following the attack, Aki give players who didn’t want to play the option to say so that afternoon.”
Yet the report in “Die Zeit” contradicts Watzke’s subsequent claim that, when given the opportunity, neither Tuchel nor the players expressed any misgivings.
‘Common ground with the coach’
“On the afternoon of the match, there was still the possibility not to play. We would have worked that out with UEFA,” Watzke said. “The offer was there but obviously nobody wanted that. After several discussions, we felt sure that we had found common ground with the coach.”
Earlier this month, Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin told German public broadcaster ZDF that the players were free to decide whether they wanted to play or not. “But we’ve been in this business long enough to know that it’s not up to Mr. Watzke or [BVB president] Reinhard Rauball, but UEFA,” he said.
The relationship between Tuchel and Watzke began to deteriorate as early as summer 2016 when key players Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were sold against Tuchel’s wishes, and despite Watzke having previously said they would be staying.