Former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak shared his Revierderby experiences with Stats Perform.
"I remember some fans saying, 'we don't care if we come last in the Bundesliga, as long as we beat Schalke.'"
The Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke is one of the fiercest rivalries in football – black-and-yellow and royal blue separating the cities of Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr region.
Wild fans, flares, tifos, goals, bragging rights (Schalke edge Dortmund 60-52 for all-time wins) and more – this famous derby has it all. So, it is fitting that the Revierderby will bring the Bundesliga back to life on Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Second-placed Dortmund will welcome bitter rivals and sixth-placed Schalke to Signal Iduna Park behind closed doors in the league's first game since the 2019-20 season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"That is the game for Dortmund and Schalke fans. That's bigger than Dortmund and Bayern, that's bigger than anything," former Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, who won two Bundesliga titles under Jurgen Klopp during his five years at the club, told Stats Perform.
"I remember some fans saying, 'we don't care if we come last in the Bundesliga, as long as we beat Schalke.' That's the biggest thing.
"You see the build-up, you hear stories about what's happened in the years gone past. That is a massive, massive fixture to kick things off.
"It will probably have the highest viewing on TV of all-time because you have 80,000 people who would normally cram into the stadium, they can't go. It's going to be a massive game and I can't wait."
The Revierderby will take centre stage domestically and abroad, as it so often does. Schalke and Dortmund played out a goalless draw in October, but the iconic match carries extra weight this time around following the coronavirus outbreak.
While Ligue 1 and Eredivisie have decided to cancel their seasons, the Bundesliga is returning as the Premier League, Serie A and LaLiga try to restart.
But the 156th Revierderby will stand alone compared to previous instalments, with no fans permitted inside Westfalenstadion this weekend.
"The players on both sides are well aware of what that game means to everybody," Australia international Langerak, who now plays for J1League side Nagoya Grampus, said. "It's not just another game in Germany. The players will understand but without fans, it will be a completely different feeling.
"You wouldn't say there would be less fire within the game, it might be a little bit more tactical or players might be a little calmer in certain situations.
"For example, if someone is chasing the game with 10 minutes to go and the fans are getting their tails up, that is when anything can happen. That is going to be missing, however, the players will understand these are crazy times and will adapt as best they can."
Langerak experienced his fair share of Revierderby clashes after he was plucked from Australian club Melbourne Victory in 2010 and thrust into Dortmund's first team.
The 31-year-old was involved in 11 showdowns against Schalke before leaving Dortmund in 2015 – Shinji Kagawa's brace in a 3-1 victory away to Die Konigsblauen in 2010 a standout moment.
"I wasn't lucky enough to play in one of those games but the first one was in Schalke and I think Kagawa scored two goals," Langerak – a DFB-Pokal and two-time DFL-Supercup winner with Dortmund to go with his 2012-13 Champions League runner-up medal – added. "Huge game. I remember we came back on the bus from Schalke to Dortmund. By the time we got back to Dortmund, the training ground where we get into our cars, there were that many fans – there was flares, it was the biggest party.
"We were obviously stuck on the bus for 30 minutes or something while the fans were celebrating for us. Then you get off the bus and you couldn't just get in your car and drive because they were blocking our cars in. They were just dancing around our cars, there were flares and singing. In this moment, everyone who is associated with Dortmund is a hero for the next week."