It was no El Clásico. No matter. It was a certifiable Die Klassische, played on a north London postcode. On the slopes of Wembley it was all signing, all standing, all German.
It’s twelve months since Bayern Munich failed to sweep past a Russian owned English club in their own Bavarian backyard. On Saturday night they banished their demons and bounced back to bitch slap their biggest domestic rival at the home of English football to lift sport’s most coveted club trophy – courtesy of the best of irony, some dubious signing tactics, and the sheer determination of last year’s Dutch boo boy, Arjen Robben.
Despite the European mix in the back story, this year’s Champions League final – make no mistake – was a very Deutsche Sprache affair. Up to 150,000 travelling football fans descended on London the few days previous, all gagging for a taste of the first all-German final.
All that talk of expensive fatty bangers was kept strictly to the Wembley concourse eateries. On the pitch there was much lean bratwurst. And from Franck Ribery, a side order of Sauerkraut. Impressive was the tally of home grown players fielded by both teams – and in Jurgen Klopp and Jupp Heynckes, neither a non-German manager between them. Bayern had five German starters and two subs. Dortmund had seven and four of the same.
The overall occasion deserved its ‘showcasing of German football’ tag. In the pre-game amble, the difference in style and vision of the two rivals was neatly contrasted in the personas of Klopp and Heynckes: the former reminding you of a black sheep second cousin who’d naturally get you drunk on strong beer, the latter the estranged uncle you avoid at family functions, until he gets his own way and the fun side comes out.
In his commentary, Clive Tyldesley likened the refreshing Klopp to “a young Jose, but without the dark agenda.” Correction Clive, we don’t recall the Dortmund manager being pulled up for diving culture in any of his early squads. He, Klopp not Tyldesley, is the maverick, the character and the to be admired rolled into one. With swagger minus the arrogance, another man so comfortable in his own skin you’re never likely to meet. Let’s hope Dortmund can keep him, as much as he can keep Lewandowski, Reus and Gundogan.
In the 90 minutes of play, the game certainly didn’t underweigh the hype. There were plenty of longish balls, but with great technical control and ability at either end of them there was much great football to enjoy. Both the roots behind the belt of young German talent and current success of the German top flight can be found in the words of Bundesliga Chief Executive, Christian Seifert, speaking before the match of the period between 1997-2002, when German clubs were in five different European club competition finals: “Right in the middle of that very successful era, from an isolated few in the Bundesliga the decision done to have the youth academies, and this was very much driven by former national players, who were in the management board of some clubs, like Karl-Heinz Rumminege, Uli Hoeness, Klaus Allofs and others.”
“The Bundesliga is right now very much a part of the German society, managing something which the churches are not doing anymore, that the political parties are not doing anymore. The Bundesliga works for all parts of the society, no matter which social class, no matter which class of age.”
On that note, Angela Merkel kept her alliegences schtoom at the prize giving, though that’s surely nothing do with it being election year. The electricity in body language between her and Michel Platini throughout the game was like watching two stiffs on a publicised blind date.
The welcomed boost to varied London coffers aside, the injustice ballot-ratio-wise was in the mere 25.000 tickets each allocated to Bayern and Dortmund whose attandances at the Allianz and Westfalenstadion are 71,000 and 80,000 respectively. With a capacity of 90,000 in Wembley itself, that was some amount of corporate tickets floating about once you’ve put the calculator down. The fact was highlighted twenty minutes after the game as, from a zoomed in bird’s eye view, ITV cameras caught the loyalty of the yellow-blazed Dortmund fans behind one goal who had hung around in defiance, while at the other end the red of the Bayern faithful was seen rejoicing in relief. More markedly, everyone else, apart from a few sporadic pockets, had left the building. Enough to sicken the less deceived.
As Chiles and Co were signing off ITV’s coverage, heavy accented strains of Football’s Coming Home could be heard reverberating around Wembley. And they say the Germans have no sense of humour? Well the Germans and their football have certainly moved on, and in the right direction for all. Hopefully the English game can do too. It’s a start that that old Basil Fawlty one liner sounds so crass now, enough so to not even mention it.