The Champions League Final 2012 took place more than a week ago. The European Championship has not started yet. We are in this twilight zone between two major competitions, letting go of the past, thanking it for all the good things, and looking forward to the future, expecting greatness. Hence, I am going to take this time to talk about this season and my trip to Munich on May 19th for the CL Final. I believe it is only right to do so now, at the end of May, because in my mind, the month of June is associated with a completely different idea.
To start off, this season left me with positive impressions. I am competitive and like to be the best, hence I understand why not winning either one of the three competitions might upset people. Still, I believe it is great, coming in 2nd. Take a look at the previous season. Do you remember how Bayern was falling? Do you remember how difficult it was for them to play? Do you remember that we got kicked out of the Champions League in the 1/8, that we hardly reached the 3rd place in the Bundesliga, and didn’t reach the final of the German Cup? I do. I remember it so vividly, as if it happened yesterday. However, this season they were excited to play football, they were working better together, they gave 200% and missed the first place because of that last touch. I am not upset. That is, I was at the moment but got over it pretty fast. I am content with the way my team played this season. I am proud of their accomplishments. And yes, I prefer it to van Gaal’s euphoria in which Bayern found itself in his first season with us. I am not a fortune teller, thus I might be wrong, but I do see Heynckes’ way of gradual improvement as a better way of doing things. Patience is a virtue. At the moment, I like it.
My decision to travel to Munich for the CL Final was very spontaneous, but it certainly was one of those trips that I hope I won’t ever forget. It is one of my most precious memories. In Stuttgart, where we had to change the trains around 8-9am, there already were tons of fans. This feeling of belonging is hard to describe. We got to Munich around 10am, and the atmosphere was electric. People in Bayern apparel, fans singing Bayern chants, tourists who just happened to be there on that day, some Chelsea fans, fans of Real Madrid asking those of Chelsea to beat Bayern, Barcelona fans asking Bayern fans to beat Chelsea. Masses of football lovers arriving in Munich every minute… I was sporting my Lahm scarf and felt immensely proud to be there. The weather was impeccable. Food and an orchestra playing in the English Garden. Besides, no silly fights between fans of the two teams. Nice conversations, hanging out together, preparing for the great evening. The dream was right there, and it was at home.
While on the subway, we found this newspaper pertaining to the event: it had a poster of the team inside.
On the cover, there was a picture of Lahm in all his awesomeness. This newspaper is one of my most prized possessions. It oozes grandeur. Nobody needed it, so we took, as we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity. Some people gave us a slight smile. I do not think they were surprised, though, by our actions, seeing us in our Lahm apparel.
We attended the public viewing at the Olympiastadion. The subway was so crowded that it was impossible to move. In fact, one did not have to do that: the crowd moved you in the right direction. There were so many people that I had a hard time imagining a crowd of the same size, if not bigger, at Allianz Arena. It felt like the whole city was there. Germany itself was behind Bayern. With those 60,000 people we went through joy, hope, sadness. I stood proudly with my Lahm scarf, letting everyone know that is the player I like the most. That is the player with an unbelievable level of commitment, determination, will, class, and talent. I know that people do not call a player ‘legendary’ unless that person has an international title. I do not care. To me, Lahm is already a legend.
What Philipp showed that evening was a match that one calls “out of this world”. When I saw that he would be the first to take the penalty, I prayed, “Please let him score…” I did not want the burden of not doing so to be on his shoulders. He had so much already! I felt like I could not even breathe and/or even watch him take that penalty, even though I did. Some time before the game, I read an interview in which he was asked something along these lines: what would he do if they did not win? He said that he would have to lock himself up somewhere. For him, as a Munich’s native, the game had a different meaning. It was of greater importance, and I am not sure if people saw how badly he wanted to win that night. Or, for that matter, how badly he still wants to win it.
Sitting in the stadium afterwards was a surreal experience. How quiet everyone was. How numb. When Thomas scored, the joy was overwhelming. Thousands of hands went up in the air. It was as if nothing in life mattered anymore. Now, some people got up, some stayed and applauded the team, watching them getting their silver medals. Seeing Lahm calling everyone else to get up and finally get their act together was surely one of the highlights. They had to get up, get their medals, and move on.
They say pictures speak louder than words. This one definitely says a lot.
On the way to the subway, everyone was quiet too. No complaints, no anything. Just silence. I cannot come up with words to describe that state of distress that one could feel in the air. “Is this for real?” was the obvious question. Everyone was very upset and very tired. People slept on the ground at the train station: there were not enough trains to take everyone back. I was frustrated with the way things were ran. Some fans had only a jersey on, and the night was pretty chilly. (Nothing was open, so people were hungry too.) I could hear some ‘Baaayern, Baaayern’ chants. One of the people I met in Germany told me, while watching me being upset beyond belief, “Instead of being upset, you should be proud that your team is the second best team in Europe.” The guy is not a fan of Bayern. He is not a fan of football per se, but, as many other Germans, he roots for a German team in such competitions. And he was right. As fans, we forget that our emotions are magnified by the simple fact: we are fans. Putting that subjectivity aside and looking at the reality, it does not seem that bad. My team is, indeed, the second best team in Europe. But wait a minute! This is the same team that was desperately trying to get the right to play in the qualifications for the Champions League. Look what they have accomplished: they made it to the final. The competition is intense, and not only did Bayern made it, they also played a wonderful game. I agree with Lahm: the season was not bad.
After the match, some fans online started praising Lahm’s composure, his leadership skills, his determination. They were sorry they doubted him. How interesting people’s mind work… I am very surprised they have not seen it before because those qualities did not just appear out of the blue. They have always been there for everyone to see, and those of us who paid attention noticed them a long time ago.
SZ wrote the following with regard to Lahm’s performance,
From the very beginning, [he] did what a true captain must do: pushed to the limit of his abilities. After 8 minutes, actually won an air duel, an important one, in his own penalty area. Highly concentrated in the defense, with many small, fine ball interceptions. Apparently, he has made up his mind to defend for everyone else in this newly formed defensive line. He succeeded in doing so, as if it was the simplest thing in the world. In the second half, he found time and space to support Robben in the attack, becoming more and more active offensively as the time went by; [he] even explored the opponent’s penalty area. A [man-to-man] marker, an area protector, an instigator, a pass giver, and a winger, all in one. And in the penalty shootout, he scored too. An excellent game of the captain.
To me, that is legendary. As I was leaving the stadium, I told the person I came with, “If somebody says anything against Lahm and/or his captaincy after tonight’s game, I will be raging.”
Before the game, at the Olympiapark, I took several pictures. First of all, I was very happy to see that Lahm’s fans really do exist. Sometimes I feel like they’ve gone into hiding, whether online or in real life, but that day I was more than happy to see people wearing a jersey with his name. Second, I cannot tell you how proud I felt seeing this huge poster. It was magnificient:
Here is another Bayern poster, including Lahm of course:
Overall, it was a successful season for Bayern. I really do believe it. In addition, they have already bought a few new players, and it is evident that the team is in the process of strengthening itself, rising from the ashes of the 2010-2011 season. I am up for a new adventure and am 100% behind them. On a side note, the things that Lahm has demonstrated this season were outstanding, to say the least. His tackles, his attacking skills… Pure art. Am I biased? Yes, it well may be that I am. In my opinion, he is one of a kind.