Ruhr derby highlights Bundesligas overseas allure
Borussia Dortmund face neighbours Schalke 04 on Saturday in the Ruhr derby and the Bundesliga's growing overseas appeal means there will be plenty of interest around the world.
Some 80,000 will pack into Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park stadium for the 141st derby with the hosts fourth in the league, two points behind Gelsenkirchen-based Schalke in third.
With less than 50km separating the two Ruhr Valley cities, the match has been sold out for months.
Both clubs also have fan groups around the world, but with ticket prices for England's Premier League games soaring, British fans are beginning to venture over to Germany to get their football fix.
Established in 2010, the Schalke Fanclub UK runs its own website, Twitter and Facebook accounts with 441 active members.
The club has several honorary members including Germany Under-21 midfielder Lewis Holtby, whose father hails from Liverpool.
While only a handful of fans currently trickle over to Germany from the UK on a regular basis for games at Schalke's Veltins Arena, Christian Wissing, the club's secretary, says around 200 worldwide members are planning to attend the home fixture with Dortmund in March.
"There will be around 30 from the UK, with the rest coming from Japan, Holland, France, Luxemburg, Switzerland and Belgium," Wissing, who was born and still lives in the Ruhr valley, told AFP.
"Next to London, the most significant area for our members is Manchester, but our members are scattered all over the UK.
"Of course, a significant number had their first contact with Schalke while based in the area with the British army. There are also a few members who have emigrated and students."
The Zeitgeist pub in London's Kensington is a favourite haunt for the Schalke UK members to meet and watch a Bundesliga game while supping German beer.
Dortmund has a strong UK supporters base north of the border and Edinburgh Borussen, East Scotland's Borussia Dortmund fan club, regularly meet up at the city's Brauhaus pub.
Having been set up through Facebook in 2010, the club is a group of expat fans living on the east side of Scotland with a close association to the Planet Dortmund fan club based in Glasgow.
"I'm going over to watch the Bayern Munich v Dortmund game in December and try to get to the Brauhaus a couple of times a month," Andy King, who runs the Edinburgh Borussen Facebook page, told AFP.
"It's not so easy to get from Scotland to Dortmund, there is no direct flight, so we tend to fly over to Holland and take the train to Dortmund.
"There are only a few who go regularly for games, some go over every other weekend. They have very understanding wives."
Despite almost 800 miles separating Edinburgh and Dortmund, the attraction of such an arduous trip to watch Borussia play at home still beats a local Scottish football match, says King.
"It's the atmosphere, it is really something else," he said, having first been taken to a home game against Moenchengladbach as a boy when his father was stationed in Germany with the British army.
"The tickets are cheaper, the players seem to work hard for each other, rather than themselves. And then of course, the beer is good."
One factor several fans mention for preferring the Bundesliga over England's star-studded Premier League is the fact you can still stand on the terraces in Germany while British grounds have been all-seater since the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
The average ticket price for the cheapest Bundesliga ticket is around 12-15 euros, roughly less than half what a fan would normally pay to attend a Premier League game.
Bundesliga tickets also double as local rail tickets, meaning fans do not have to spend more money to get to and from the game, once they are in the city.
A recent BBC price survey revealed a visit to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge including the cheapest ticket, programme, a pie and a cup of tea will set you back Â£49.60 (60.85 euros).
The Bundesliga attracts far more fans than any other league in Europe, 31 percent more than the Premier League.
Dortmund, at 80,521, had the highest average attendance for a home league match in Europe last season.
Schalke were sixth on the list, with 61,139, while Manchester United were third with 75,765 filling Old Trafford for each home league match.
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