The Champions League Final in Review

As we sit down on our couch, the teams are just walking out of the tunnel. We’ve skipped the build up, obviously, because we’re making Goulash and we’ve only just finished frying off the paprika. Still, it’s always good to miss the bit where Adrian Chiles pretends to care who Roy Keane thinks will win. Borussia Dortmund step out first, dressed in yellow and black like a stag night dressing up as early 90s referees. Munich follow, their red jerseys so dull as to be beyond comment.

The trophy is led out last. Carried by a Prussian general and a knight of the Holy Roman Empire, it is clear that this is not just a football match: this is an all out war to discover who is best at kicking leather towards a target. This is no mere football game. This is a battle to the death, if by death you mean “scoring the fewest goals.”

The teams line up to listen to the anthem of the Champions League. The only bit of the song I understand rings out: “THE CHAAAAAAMPIOOOONS, Buh buh bah bah baaaaaah,” The players applaud and the camera pans across to the referees, who have their own mascots! Their own mascots dressed as referees! I’m so excited by this it’s unreal. 5 year old referees make me happy, because I’m pretty sure they’ll grow up to be as obsessed with grammar as I am.

The game is ready to kick off. I am comfortable and leaning back in my seat with my girlfriend next to me. We both wait with baited breath for the first time Andy Townsend tries to pronounce Błaszczykowski. The first 6 minutes are characterised by lots of pressure from Borussia Dortmund, although it only culminates in 3 shit corners and a snatched shot. Lewandowski begins brightly, but it is 9:56 into the game when the first really entertaining thing happens – Błaszczykowski gets his first touch! Old Andy has clearly been coached, because his pronunciation is basically on the money (streaks ahead of his “Wojciech Tomasz Szczęsny” anyway).

We are playing the Andy Townsend drinking game tonight. If you haven’t heard of it, you need to drink whenever:

  1. Andy Townsend mixes up the singular and the plural versions of the word goal. Cf. “He gets his head up, takes one look at the goals, and fires off a shot.”
  2. Any time Andy Townsend gives a player a piece of advice, and then the exact opposite advice 2 minutes later.
  3. Whenever Andy Townsend commentates like Clive Tyldesley decided to let a 5 year-old boy do the analysis instead of a professional broadcaster. For instance using goalie instead of goalkeeper.

One is usually somewhat squiffy by the end of the night, but Andy’s clearly been given some lessons for this one. While I am considering AT’s new found clarity, the camera cuts to a sequence of shots of nervous looking German women. Then we see a group of Munich fans clapping in slow, but perfect, time. Even the Germans’ chanting is ruthlessly efficient.

We are now 16 minutes in and Neuer has already had a great game. 18 minutes and Ribery decides to make his presence known. A ball hits him, and he acts as if he’s been punched hard in the gut, which is ironic given his sex assault charges. Even more ironic since he looks like he wouldn’t be out of place wearing a scary mask and carrying a massive knife in a shit 90s slasher movie.

3 more saves for Neuer now and many close-ups of Lewandowski, who looks like a talented Vernon Kay. But less irritating. Bayern Munich begin to make their mark on the game and I forgive Lewandowski’s appearance when I realise Mandžukić looks like a tubby Greg Rusedski. Robben gets the best chance of the game so far, but Borussia’s goalie (DRINK!) saves with his face.

Dawn (aka, the girlfriend) sees a tweet about the Voice. We privately wonder if the singing from the Borussia fans is more, or less, annoying than the Battles round. Nature gets the better of me at 30:30 and I leave to attend its call. I hurry back, fearful of what I may miss. It turns out I needn’t have worried – shit all has gone down.

Once I’m settled back down, two more chances follow for Robben – but on both occasions he forgets he has teammates. Wanker. He has words with one of Borussia’s full backs and we get to see a shot of them standing next to one another. It is like a waxwork Jason Statham standing next to an extra in a shit 80s pop rock video.

Half-time arrives. 0-0, but more importantly it is time to prepare the dumplings for the Goulash. Since I’m working away at my traditional Hungarian casserole I miss the entire half-time break, so instead I fill in the half-time with guesses. Someone in the comments should let me know if I’m correct:

  1. Ray Winstone goes on and fucking on  about how “it’s all about the in-play!”
  2. Roy Keane makes a joke about his tackling.
  3. Adrian Chiles overuses the word thrilling.
  4. Gareth Southgate does nothing of any note whatsoever.

I breathlessly anticipate the start of the second half. I am breathless because the dumplings were a bit more work than I expected and because every time I breathe in all I can sense is Goulash-smell. Goulash-smell makes me feel faint with hunger. I see a panning shot of the Borussia Dortmund end in their yellow kit. Zoomed this far out, the only thing I can think to do is to belt out the lyrics to Sting’s Fields of Gold:

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of go—

Until Dawn yells at me. 49 minutes and 43 seconds in, and ITV cut to a pitchside cameraman just as he stumbles over a photographer – always the most entertaining point of any game of football. I realise that the lettering on Borussia Dortmund’s shirts are in the 2012 London Olympics font. Perhaps it was cheaper to just dye the German Olympic team’s shirts yellow?

At 53:00 we cut to a shot of Angela Merkel, supposedly the most powerful woman on the planet. If that’s the case, why does she have such shit seats? At 54 minutes and 17 seconds, my hunger gets the better of me – I am checking on the Goulash instead of paying attention to the football.

Luckily there is currently a slight lull in the action. The most entertaining thing right now is a player named Bender. No sooner do I stop finding that funny, than Bayern Munich break the deadlock. I have nothing interesting to add to that point as I had been rooting for Borussia Dortmund and am now a bit put out.

I am in no mood for Clive Tyldesley’s ‘statistics’ right now.

Real Madrid couldn’t score against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. Barcelona couldn’t score against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals. Borussia Dortmund will need to find a goal against Bayern Munich now if they don’t want to lose this final.

Thanks, Clive, for explaining the rules of football like we didn’t know them. It’s 66 minutes in now, and the ‘stats’ are coming thick and fast: “We’ve not had a 1-0 final since 1998,” we are told. Like anyone cares.

I am suddenly revived by an unbelievable penalty for Borussia Dortmund. I say unbelievable, but I mean fucking hilarious. As if to prove how silly the foul was, we cut to a Munich fan looking pensive. A fan who looks like an Aryan Eminem. The penalty is scored. Borussia are level. The commentators cannot resist a sly dig about Germans and penalties. Everything feels right with the world, until Andy Townsend gets overexcited and starts wibbling on about the “goalie”. I have my first drink of the night. Then Andy gets carried away and calls it a “pen” instead of a penalty. I pour myself another drink.

Now that Dortmund are level my mind can return to the Goulash, which is nearly finished cooking. The combination of beef, paprika and exciting football leads me in to a feeling of ecstasy, in which I feel like I am floating outside of myself. Then a terrible sensation of tautology grips me, and I wonder if I am repeating myself.

WOW! An incredible goal-line clearance from Borussia, which I miss as I am serving the Goulash. Then an incredible disallowed goal  form Lewandowski, which I miss because I am slicing bread. When I return to the couch, there’s a crowd shot and I suddenly realise all the stewards are Borussia Dortmund fans (at the very least they’re in Borussia Dortmund colours).

Moments later a cynical challenge comes crashing in from Arjen Robben just as I realise that the Goulash is as good as I remember it. The game and the food is so good I’m almost looking forward to extra time.

Suddenly however, disaster strikes. And by disaster, I mean Arjen Robben. The sight of Bayern Munich scoring in the final two minutes of the game forces my Goulash to drop four of its letters and become merely Ash in my mouth. Bayern Munich must surely be the winner. Bayern waste time with a substitution. One Mario off for another. It’s almost unlucky there’s no one named Luigi on the pitch.

The final whistle blows and Bayern Munich are champions. I have now lost all interest. Dawn suggests I watch the lifting of the trophy. I comply, but first have to listen to Adrian Chiles talk about “the men at the Bayern end” and “the men at the Borussia end” as if no women in all of Germany watch football, before ITV skip to an ad break.

Whilst bored of the adverts, I consider the game I have just seen. It was fast-paced, entertaining and at times controversial. As was I. But Dawn and I agree that it missed the balls-to-the-wall action of Yeovil Town against Brentford in the League 1 Play-Off Final one week previously. It also missed that lovely emotional feeling you get when holding your balls up against a wall.

Watching Borussia Dortmund climb the stairs dejectedly to receive their loser’s medals, I start to wonder if maybe I should have seconds of the Goulash. Klopp is given literally the shittiest trophy I have ever seen in my life. It looks like a logo for an independent tyre manufacturer in some tiny village in Sussex.

Bayern Munich players kiss the trophy as they walk past it, although Dawn points out that they look as if they are caressing their pregnant girlfriend’s belly as they do so. Suddenly the proceedings become unintentionally hilarious.

Lahm lifts the trophy on behalf of the Bayern Munich team. There is lots of noise, lots of cheering and our commentators provide lots of hyperbole. Gold and silver tickets fall down from above the trophy area. If the Bayern Munich team pick up enough of them, Richard O’Brien will come on and offer them a pony trekking holiday across Great Yarmouth. Just like in the Crystal Maze.

I turn the TV off. The game is done. Football is finished until it begins again. I have one final thought: I never believed I could truly, deeply hate someone. I never believed it was possible to be filled with a hate so powerful that it might burst out of me at any moment. Never, that is, until Heineken put that fucking wanker in the same pompous advert at the beginning and end of every ad break throughout an entire 90 minutes of stupid football. Him, I hate.

Well done, Bayern Munich.

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