“Twenty each, last price or they go to someone else.” There were enough other fans swarming around the Englishman into the U-Bahn station to make that a real possibility. It was the day of the Women’s Champion’s League final – two days before the main event. Olympique Lyon had beaten FFC Frankfurt 2-0 to defend their title, and Colin, Declan and I were on our way home.
We had been able to get tickets to the Women’s final at the turnstile, but we had no illusions about the final, even for the fanzone in Munich’s second stadium. There was a Chelsea fan wandering around Marienplatz offering to pay €2000 for Allianz Arena tickets, and we heard of the fanzone tickets selling for €250 online. Twenty quid was a steal.
I slipped two tenners and a twenty out of my wallet and gave them to Dec, who passed them to the tout with a twenty of his own.
“They are official, right?” we ask, but it’s a fait accompli. Our cash disappears into a pocket and we have three official-looking Olympiastadion Public Viewing tickets for the Champion’s League Final viewing. Or what we hoped were tickets. We’d have to wait and see.
Saturday was hot and clear and dry. Someone was filling a large paddling pool outside our housing complex’s common room where they would show the match later. I had spent Friday chilling out near my apartment in Grosshadern and so I didn’t notice much of a buzz around the city – nothing like an All-Ireland Gaelic football final anyway.
My misconception was dramatically corrected on the way into the city centre. Marienplatz was like an anthill of football supporters swarming through the tunnels of the U-Bahn station below and up onto the square.
It was a little past three in the afternoon. With around five hours to go before kick off, Munich’s boutique shopping district looked like a house party. The Polizei were filming the crowd which – although drunk and rowdy – seemed content and non-violent. Nobody was being dragged off to the “Grun-weisser Partybus” at least.
We left the madness of Marienplatz behind to grab a bite to eat near Giselastasse. Roxy Bar had dropped their usual cheap, spicy curries for some more fan-friendly fare – burgers, steak and currywurst mit pommes. The match specials didn’t seem much more jacked up than the normal menu. We had to reassure the waitress that we just wanted to eat, and had no intention of usurping the seats of fans who had booked the place inside and out.
Getting back on the U-Bahn to get to the viewing area was a nightmare. Although the numbers waiting for the U3 at our station were light, the trains were fed by the monster crowd at Marienplatz. The train would come, the doors would open, and the passengers inside would relax, breathe in, and bulge out. Eventually, we decided to just squeeze in anywhere we could and regroup later.
The underground brought little bites of the energy in Marienplatz with them. Grown men were thumping the ceilings in time with the chanting. Sweat and beer soaked into shirts, and every surface was slick with condensation. When at last we came to Olympiazentrum, we disgorged ourselves from the carriages with a collective sigh of relief and climbed out of the tunnels, sweaty and hot.
If Marienplatz was a house party, Olympiapark was a music festival. Fans milled past the scarf hawkers, swigging Augustiner and chanting. Bayern Munich supporters go all out. Your average Chelsea pilgrim will have the latest blue jersey stretched across his belly. Bayern’s backup paired one of the club’s eclectic back catalogue of strips with lederhosen. Some ladies wore red-and-white Dirndl ensembles. Others ignored the traditional Bavarian attire to tie scarves to each wrist. I felt conspicuous in the only red t-shirt I had to hand – worse still when someone took the “Espana” on it to mean I was a Barcelona man!
Outside the stadium there were bars and crepe vans and stands selling hot food. Between them were official merchandise shops and a course of football skills challenges. We loafed around the market and enjoyed the last of our beer in the sun.
They started filling the stadium around six. We joined the crush under the shade of the maturing Olympiapark trees by the turnstiles. A steward fished deodorant cans and beer bottles out of the bags he was searching and tossed them into a corner of the mesh fencing.
It was at this time that we started to notice the colours of the other tickets. They were pink on the back. Ours were not. I still had my ticket from the women’s final in my wallet. That was pink on the back too. This didn’t look good.
“Just keep cool and pretend nothing’s wrong,” said Dec. Wedged in the crowd, we shuffled towards the security ring and allowed the men there to pat us down and search our bags. I hoped I didn’t look nervous. The way ahead to the officials inspecting tickets was clear, so there could be no delaying it. I walked up and presented my hopefully genuine ticket to a middle-aged woman in a fluorescent UEFA vest. She examined it for a few seconds longer than I thought neccessary, then put a little tear in the middle, returned it, and waved me through. We were in.
I regrouped with the lads inside. I walked towards a fence at the top of the stand, and the amphitheatre filled with red crowd yawned open below. We got a spot about five metres back from the big screen and sat, relaxing, as the stadium went from crowded to full around us.
To the right of the screen was a stage where a band were readying themselves. The buzz was growing. One of the hosts pulled off his Chelsea jersey to reveal the concealed Bayern maroon to turn the boos to raucous cheering. When the band played “Stern des Sudens”, everyone around us belted it out, hands over hearts, flags in the air.
The day was important for Muncheners. Their team was on the verge of winning the Champion’s League final for the fifth time, and with no-one in the way but some English pretenders with a wall bereft of European silverware, confidence was high. One of the most popular chants among the reds marching about town was “Chelsea. Who the fuck is Chelsea?”
The buzz was up and the stadium was full by kick-off. The fans were expecting something spectacular, but missed opportunity followed bungled chance again and again. By half time, the frustration was mounting.
I was crammed into a portakabin bathroom when it looked like Bayern’s luck had changed. Everyone was craning their head to see the screen — be they at a urinal or a washbasin. The ball went past Peter Cech and tumbled into the net. We jumped around the loo in joy, arms around sweaty shoulders, floor shaking. And then the groan. It was offside.
Bayern were still dominating the match when I got back to the lads. They controlled everything except the Chelsea box. Anything that went near Cech bounced of a defender’s head. The Chelsea lads just had more height.
We all thought it would end in penalties. Then, in minute 83, a Kroos cross found Muller’s head, and then bounced off the ground up over Cech’s head, off the crossbar and into the net. It was flukey, but it was good enough.
Olympiastadion erupted. Behind us they popped flares; beer fell like rain, and the cheering nearly drowned the PA system. Triumph was minutes away. Then it shattered. Drogba’s extra time equaliser flattened the scoreline and the mood. Back to square one.
The fans and the players steeled themselves for extra time. They were tired; it was more of an effort to chase the ball now. The mood was taut; less chanting and more groans at every missed opportunity. Bayern couldn’t break the Chelsea defence.
It would go to penalties. Bayern were nervous-looking, but Chelsea strutted. They had held firm against the favourites to keep the scores level after two hours of football, and on Bayern’s home turf too. Chelsea were in bonus territory.
It was over almost as soon as it started. We built our hopes up as Bayern crept ahead, three goals to two. We were going wild.
Then Cech denied Olic’s shot. Neuer couldn’t stop Ashley Cole’s, and then, tragically, Schwansteiger’s attempt rebounded off the crossbar. The only way Bayern would stay in the contest now was for Neuer to block Drogba’s shot — but it was over in seconds. Neuer fell to the right as Drogba sent the ball left of his boots.
Olympiastadion went quiet, but for the subdued celebrations of the few dozen Chelsea fans on the stand in front of us. The Bayern players and their supporters sat in huddled groups on the pitches of two stadiums a few kilometres apart, heads buried in their hands. Many were climbing back up the stairs and out. Others just sat and gaped as Chelsea lifted the trophy. There were tears.
As we walked through the shuttered festival area, someone flung a bottle at the poster of the Chelsea players. It shattered on John Terry’s face.