THE CHELSEA TRIUMPH: HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

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The triumph of Chelsea football club on the 19th of May at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich was nothing short of a miracle. I still get goose bumps just thinking about the historic game.  Events happening around us provide life lessons, and inspiration is also drawn from seemingly ordinary situations, which may be overlooked by many.

Going into the Champions League with yet another ‘new’ manager, Andre Villas Boas, it was sort of a routine. It barely elicited the usual rolling of eyes; nobody was surprised. But as the competition progressed, and it looked like the club was headed for a disastrous showing, the owner, Roman Abramovich once again fired the coach (a la AVB as he is fondly known) and Roberto DiMatteo was asked to become the interim manager. Acronyms have somehow become the norm at Stamford Bridge and going by that, RDM who was formerly an assistant coach was appointed to take charge of a team losing games without valid reasons. Then came a string of victories in the Champions League, starting with a 4-1 thumping of Napoli, a 3-2 aggregate win against almighty Barcelona, and the ultimate victory over Bayern Munich in the final. There are some pointers sticking out to the discerning eye, and these I wish to touch on.

First of all, many Chelsea supporters do not really like the fact that the owner, Abramovich hires and fires coaches at will, because it prevents the team from bonding, which only happens when the same team has been handled by the same manager over a period of time. Even though the policy of hiring and firing at will was detrimental to the club, he continued in the same pattern by sacking AVB and hiring RDM, albeit temporarily. The Champions League trophy was the ultimate prize the Russian Billionaire, the players and the fans craved and it was a shock when AVB was given his marching orders right in the middle of a game, so to speak. It happened after the first leg 3-1 defeat in the hands of Napoli. At that point it looked like the team was in disarray and that nothing could prevent a disgraceful exit from the elite competition. RDM was thus saddled with the responsibility of steering the ship back to safe waters. He had been previously fired as coach of West Bromwich Albion, and had had an application to coach West Ham United rejected. The fans didn’t expect any miracles to happen; they just wanted a decent showing at that period. It was a crucial decision letting AVB go at that point and giving the reins to RDM even though he seemed less QUALIFIED for the job.

RDM as THE coach didn’t do anything extraordinary to the team like maybe changing the players. He stuck with the same guys who have been there all the time: Drogba, Lampard, Terry and the rest of them. The result of the final showed that the coach had a date with destiny. He, who had been sacked, rejected and felt the lowest of lows, has become celebrated and has been placed on a pedestal. It goes to show that there is indeed sun after the rain. Dark times only last for a while and before we even know it, the sun starts to shine. Persistence, focus, determination and of course divine favour (not UEFA favour) brings results. Chelsea have been eyeing THAT trophy for years and they never let their gaze waver; through manager and player changes, they continued to fix their gaze on that coveted prize. They couldn’t do it on their own without a few (really, more than a few) sprinklings of divine favour (luck?).

Going into the final, Bayern were the favourites. They had the almost perfect record; their players were firing from left, right and centre. Mario Gomez was the goal-banger, Ribery made the wonderful pull-outs, Robben had the lethal left foot and Neuer was the solid rock at the goal post. Everything was in their favour (or so it seemed). And above all, they were playing right in their very own stadium, (not just any other stadium in Germany) and in front of their home fans. It couldn’t have gotten any more perfect for any team. And as the game progressed, I was scared for Chelsea. Bayern did all the playing, had not less than 15 corner kicks to Chelsea’s 1 or so (can’t recall now). They had more free kicks and even had a penalty which Robben missed, or as I would prefer, a penalty which Petr Cech SAVED! Chelsea didn’t play fantastic football; they didn’t play better but at the end they lifted the trophy. Was it ordinary that Mueller, Robben, Gomez, Ribery and the rest of them were all aiming for the sky and the sides of the goal posts? I don’t think so. There were just way too many instances of recklessness and squandering in front of goal that it makes you wonder. Bayern did all the right things except score when they should have. And when Mueller finally scored that 80+ minute goal, it seemed the world had crashed on Chelsea because theoretically, the game was over. Well as it turned out, it wasn’t and in the 88th minute, Didier Drogba, made it 1-1! There was a glimmer of hope in England, Nigeria (yes, Nigeria. We love the EPL more than the English) and the world over, wherever Chelsea had fans. Bayern continued the barrage of attacks and could have well wrapped up the game before full time; but they didn’t.

Then  came extra time and dear Drogba goes from hero to villain after hacking down Franck Ribery and gifting Bayern a penalty, which Robben  ‘gives to Cech for safekeeping’. Hmmm…at this point, many already felt it was Chelsea’s day (except the Man United, Arsenal and oh yes, the Totenham fans); but then we just had to wait and see. Then came the time for penalties and after Mata misses the first one and Lahm, Neuer and Gomez all scored, it looked like the cup was headed Bayern’s way. But wait, destiny had other plans. Olic then stepped up and missed, Schweinsteiger hits the bar and it was up to Drogba to score the winner for Chelsea. Well, he did and GAME OVER, History had been made!

The moral of this story is that you do not necessarily have to be fantastic to win the Champions League. Bayern should have won based on their performance, but football does not operate like that. It was interesting to note that Chelsea looked suddenly sharper at the onset of the extra time. Now, when God wants to show his awesomeness, He makes your enemies stagger and trip. You do not have to be the best at what you do before a miracle of this magnitude becomes your testimony. Imagine Bayern’s players all aiming for the sky as if some kind of force compelled them to do so. They played brilliantly but when it came to the point of actually scoring, they were wasteful. I don’t think they would be able to understand what befell them in front of their home crowd.

Prior to the game, not many people gave Chelsea a chance. Bayern had everything going for them and they were ready to win easily. But you know, it is not by pedigree, it is not by ‘gra-gra’, neither is it by playing in front of your home crowd in your ‘personal’ stadium. All those factors that were stacked in Bayern’s favour counted for nothing as they received the shock they didn’t expect! Sometimes, things we ordinarily may not be able to achieve through our own efforts, God hands to us on a gold platter. He makes everything work for our own good. Our enemies would stumble and fall, just so that we may get what we want easily. To tell you the truth, I am still confounded by the events of that Saturday the 19th of May, in Munich. Some things are just beyond human rationalisation. They just happen, and you wonder and think that, surely, there must be a divine force working somewhere. Sometimes when God blesses you, you are shocked, are lost for words, and you just ask yourself, ’how did it happen?’ And that is the very same question many Chelsea fans continue to ask themselves. Really, HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

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