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Dortmund vs Real Madrid: Why are Borussia Dortmund fans protesting in Champions League final?

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The UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund saw thousands of fans make their way to Wembley Stadium in London, England, on Saturday.

While Real Madrid has won the title a record 14 times, Borussia Dortmund has secured only one title, in 1997. Though it came close to winning its second at the same venue as today, Arjen Robben’s late strike broke its heart as Bayern Munich won that final in 2013.

This time, though, the fans of the Yellow ad Black, have thronged the stadium with fresh enthusiasm, with posters, drums and cheers in German ringing around London. However, there were also hundreds of fans with posters to protest against sportwashing.

What is Sportswashing?

Sportswashing is a concept which refers to associating football with parties who have malicious history or deal with tertiary parties who have dubious history.

One of the most popular cases of alleged sportswashing was that of Chelsea Roman Abramovich, who ran a successful Premier League club, Chelsea, but was also having reportedly malicious deals with the Russian government.

Why are Dortmund fans protesting?

The fans of Borussia Dortmund are protesting against sportwashing by Dortmund’s club management, which was also referred to some as a protest against ‘weaponswashing’.

In the context of Dortmund, the protest comes in the wake of the club’s latest three-year deal with German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall.

Dortmund said Wednesday the three-year deal with Rheinmetall includes “wide-reaching advertising space, marketing rights and event and hospitality arrangements in the stadium and on the club grounds” starting from this week’s build-up for the Champions League final Saturday.

“Security and defense are fundamental cornerstones of our democracy. That is why we believe it is the right decision to take a very close look at how we protect these cornerstones,” Dortmund chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke said in a statement. “Especially today, when we see every day how freedom must be defended in Europe. We should deal with this new normality.”

Rheinmetall reportedly has Israel as one of its clients, which has been at war with Hamas over the last few months, affecting thousands in the Gaza strip and Palestine.

And thus, its association with the Bundesliga side has attracted protests. “Protecting BVB from Sportswashing is our mission!” read one of the several posters at Wembley for the same reason.

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