The 19th of May 2012…. A date etched firmly in the memories of anybody associated with Chelsea Football Club.
Where were you that day? I was lucky enough to be in the Bavarian capital and part of the celebrations that ensued.
My trip had begun the day before as I boarded a train to London. Little did I know at that point that as a Chelsea fan since 1988, I was about to experience the best feeling I’d ever have as a Football fan. I’d seen us win titles, FA Cups, a ECWC and League Cups, I was even there in 1990 to see Peter Nicholas lift the not so illustrious Zenith Data Systems Cup. But this was the big one. That trophy with the big ears that had never been won by a club in London was within our grasp.
Once in the capital I hopped on the tube and made my way to Stamford Bridge. A few pints later and at about 3pm I was boarding a coach enroute to Munich. The beers continued to flow and I had to remind myself I didn’t have a ticket for the game. Did I care? “No” Did I hope that I might be a lucky punter who could get his hands on what equated to ‘gold dust’? Well, yeah maybe a little, but in truth I didn’t have the funds.
The beers continued to flow on what was supposedly a dry coach with an alcohol ban…huhum… Never likely if we’re being honest. Before we knew it we were on a ferry bound for Calais. The atmosphere was building as a crescendo of noise rang out as we crossed the channel. All good natured fun and ‘Carefree’ we certainly were.
On arriving in France, it was back onto the coach we went as the next leg of the journey of our weird and wonderful dream filled weekend was well and truly underway. A few hours sleep was the max as the excitement continued to build. We arrived in Bavaria just before 10am and after a quick stop at a service station to freshen up it was full steam ahead and into Munich.
Once in the city all you could see were fellow blues everywhere. The main square, Marienplatz was awash with flags and a mixture of predominantly blue with pockets of yellow and white shirts. Yes Bayern shirts were aplenty but all in all us Chelsea fans were attempting to take over their city. It wasn’t long before we were spending the afternoon in a beergarten we had chosen and so the party continued. We basked in the warm Munich sunshine, bit to our horror the bar actually ran out of lager mid afternoon, yes, us blues had drank them dry. So, off to find a shop we went. Purely for medicinal purposes you understand. After all the pressure and stress was starring to dawn on us as to the fact we were so close to claiming the big eared trophy.
Kick off was approaching and it became clearer as although many had headed off to the game, there were still several thousand of us purely there for the atmosphere and experience of Munich.
So it’s 8.45pm local time and the game was underway. The singing continued as we stared up at the big screen. The game generally appeared to fly by. Let’s be honest, it wasnt the most exciting match to watch. But after 82 minutes it came to life as Tomas Muller headed Bayern into the lead. Shock would be the best way to describe my emotion. Surely it wasn’t happening again. After epic semi final defeats against Liverpool and Barcelona and that awful night in Moscow, surely we wouldn’t be denied again. Suddenly we had a chance……As we won the corner, now, you won’t believe me on this, but I turned to the guys next to me and said.. “Come on then, Drogba’s gonna score’ Now I haven’t got a Crystal ball and I’m not some prediction genius. If I was I would be a millionaire from being a professional gambler, but I really did say that. Then…….. BANG!!!! Like a salmon rising the big Ivorian smashed home an unstoppable header. Yessss!!!! The place went wild… The guys next to me jumped on me shouting ‘you fucking said It’. At that point I noticed somebody swinging from a tree branch and suddenly the big screen went blank. A stampede to leave the premises ensued as the rush to get to the next available tv started. Spilling out onto the street fans were looking about in hope as we all pocketed away in smaller groups into different directions. Then we spotted a little bar, as we walked up we heard a roar bellow out from the back room and proceeded to attempt to get in. Pushing our faces up against the window, to our horror, Bayern had been awarded a penalty. Up stepped Arjen Robben. “Oh no not our former favourite” You know the rest as big Pete made a great save and suddenly you wondered if maybe it was going to finally be our night. The door staff were accommodating as we entered the bar. But No alcohol was available and we had to remain at the front of the bar with Bayern fans in the back.
Extra time seemed to fly by after the penalty save and so the time had arrived for a nerve jangling penalty shootout. Now, after Moscow I really couldn’t bring myself to properly watch it. There had been times at Stamford Bridge where I turned my back on the action and waited for the reaction of fellow fans. So I knew I must continue this superstitious nonsense. I glanced over my shoulder after each penalty and witnessed the emotional reaction of those around me. When Ollic and Schweinstiger saw their penalties saved by big Pete, I really couldn’t believe we were once again… Just one kick away. Up stepped Drogba and Yessssss! He tucked away the winning penalty and all our dreams had been realised. I hugged several people around me, jumped up and down, peeled off my shirt and ran into the street. Now I was carrying a bit more weight back then and although I tan well, I would have looked a two toned mess with pasty belly and brown arms and face. However, I wasn’t the only one.
The celebrations continued into the main square where the medicinal German lager was consumed in bucket loads. At 3am it was back on the coach to be greeted by beaming smiles. The mood seemed to be one of shock and tiredness due to the release of the stress and pressure that had been felt. The trip home continued in that vein as the celebrations and feel good factor was felt with an intensity. We didn’t fortunately make it back in time for the celebration parade, but did we care…? ‘No’ because we had brought home what had become ‘The Holy Grail’ We were finally one of the elite clubs that had not only dined at Europe’s top table, but actually succeeded in winning the top prize.
Champions Of Europe