The Day A Dream Came True: My Munich Memory
As a Chelsea supporter since the age of nine in 1970, I really have seen it all. Good, bad, indifferent, downright dire. Drama, off-field shenanigans. Sometimes I feel that my club has been run as a pantomime that the media can swoop on and shout ‘he’s behind you.’ So, nothing much comes as a surprise to me these days. However, I have one special memory which surpasses all the others: Munich 2012. Their city, their stadium, their trophy, or so their fans told us as we arrived.
I had missed out on the Champions League Final in Moscow against Manchester United because it was simply too expensive. It cost as much as my whole season ticket, and there was no way I could splash out that much money. When we got to the final against Bayern Munich in 2012, it seemed like a sign. No one expected the then Di Matteo-managed side to beat Barcelona over two legs in the semi-final, and when we did, no-one gave us a prayer against Bayern. They had home advantage, for starters, and we had a team full of spirit but not really matching our opponents for skill or style.
I was guaranteed a ticket for the final, having loyalty points-a-plenty. I found a deal to travel on an official supporters’ coach which, including my match ticket, cost £260. It would be overnight travel with no accommodation, and so straight back on the coach after the game. Do it, said my husband, the infamous Mr Non Footy. He knew I might never get another chance, and that if I didn’t go this time, I’d regret it. I was prepared for heartache because I thought after that penalty shoot-out in the Moscow final, nothing in football would ever hurt as much again.
My son, also ardent Chelsea, was going to be 27 on the day of the final. I knew I wouldn't be able to get him a ticket but he decided to go to Munich for a few days, and meet up with me just so we could experience the day together, him watching the match a fan park. Then my husband got pleurisy. Go! He told me. He insisted he’d be alright, and that as long as he had his medication and the house was stocked with food, he would sleep most of the time I was away in any case. Non-football friends were appalled. How could I leave a sick man to watch sport? They didn’t understand. My husband wasn’t on his death-bed, and he did understand my need to do this.
The coach journey was hilarious. On my coach, someone swore they saw a lion on the side of the road at around 3am and that it was ‘a sign.’ (Stamford The Lion is our Chelsea mascot, taken from the lion on our club badge.) Someone else said it was just a dog they’d seen. But we all wondered, silently, just the same …
The day was spent in the Munich sunshine, with me dragging around a heavy parka which has been known thereafter as my ‘Munich coat.’ My husband questioned me taking it on departure, as the temperature in Munich was 27 degrees. I told him it would be useful for sleeping on during the journey, as a pillow. But of course, there was more to it …
I don’t need to go into details of the actual match and to be honest, I was so tense that I’m not sure how much of it I actually remember. I know that I wondered if it was a sign when Drogba equalised. And then the penalties. All looked lost, as we saw and heard the home fans behind the other goal cheer each Bayern penalty scored. But something changed. It wasn’t over. I put on my parka. And when Drogba stepped up to take the last penalty that could win the trophy, there was a strange silence and a collective holding of breath. I looked up at the sky, others looked at their feet. Only the bravest looked to the other end of the field. Then came the roar, like a roar I have never heard from our fans before or since. And the tears, and blue mascara, ran all down my face. And the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said he had noticed me put on my parka. He knew I couldn’t be cold. And he knew why I’d done it, as only another irrational superstitious football supporter can. Eventually back in the coach, after much celebration and delirium, my son sent me a text saying ‘we’ve only gone and won it!’ He doesn’t remember sending it due to the many beers of the day and evening evening. What a journey we’d been on. And what a journey home. I still have my coach ticket, my Thomas Cook travel wrist band, and my son’s text message. And my match ticket, of course, in a frame. Ultimately, if I never see Chelsea win another trophy in my lifetime, I and so many others will ‘always have Munich.’