Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Today I had the pleasure of seeing my favorite soccer team, Bayern München of the German Bundesliga win their seventh straight league title in the final game of the season. It was the 28th time since the Bundesliga was formed in 1963 that Bayern won it. It is the first time since 2009 when the Bundesliga title went down to the final game. It was also the toughest title fight that Bayern has had the past seven years. This year Borussia Dortmund gave them all they were worth.
This year was a year of transition for Bayern, the lost some key players over the summer trading block, and a number of key players were getting older and suffering injuries more often. Dortmund, a young team with some solid veterans came out of the starting gate hot, by the December break they had a nine point lead on Bayern and many were writing the reigning champions off, especially after Dortmund defeated the the Champions in a close 3-2 battle in the first stage of the Klassiker in Dortmund. it appeared to many, if not most that Bayern was doomed, and might even stumble enough not to secure a place intrepid UAFA Champions League next season.
The second half of the season was different. Dortmund stumbled, Bayern recovered. They won 13, tied 3, and their only loss in the second half was on February 2nd. During the run they destroyed Dortmund 6-0 in Munich in the second leg of the Klassiker. Different players stepped up at different times, younger rising stars and the veterans who had been the backbone of the team for years. Back up goal keep Sven Ulreich was a big part when the legendary starter Manuel Neuer was injured in a win against Düsseldorf the following week. Striker Robert Lewandowski won the Golden Boot for the second year straight, something not done since Bayer Leverkusen’s Ulf Kirsten won it back to back in 1996-1998.
Bayern took a two point lead and 17 point positive goal differential into their final match in their home at Allianz Arena against Eintracht Frankfurt. Dortmund had to play on the road against Borussia Mönchengladbach. In order to overcome Bayern’s lead Dortmund would have to win and have Bayern either lose to Frankfurt or tie them with Dortmund winning by a clear 18 points. That didn’t happen.
Dortmund did win by a score of 0-2. It wasn’t near enough. Bayern buried Frankfurt 5-1 with legendary wingers Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben nicknamed “Robbery” by their fans scoring late goals. Ribery had spent 12 years in Munich, Robben, 10. It was a story book ending to a tough season. First year Coach Niko Kovac whose job in in question throughout the season deserved the win. In the post game celebration the coach, like coaches in the United States got drenched, but it wasn’t with Gatorade, it was with a five liter glass of Paulaner Bier dumped on him by Arjen Robben. A receiving line of Bayern Greats Greatest the team members a s coaching staff as they were presented their individual medals and the teach received the championship trophy.
Bayern, Dortmund, Leipzig, and Leverkusen all secured places in the Champions League. Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg, and Frankfurt secured spots in the UEFA Europa League, while Hanover 96 and Nuremberg were relegated to the Second Bundesliga. Köln which was relegated from the Bundesliga last year will return for the 2019-2020 season. They will be joined by either Paderborn or Union Berlin, the result which will be determined Sunday. Stuttgart will place the Third Place Second Bundesliga League finisher. That will be either Union Berlin or Paderborn, if Stuttgart wins they stay in the Bundesliga, a loss sends them into relegation. I wish the Major American sports leagues had such a system. The Second Bundesliga is not the Minor leagues, it’s teams can play for the German Cup and they have the same kind of followings as the First League teams
Bayern has one more game in a week. On May 25th they play Leipzig for the German Cup and the team is already preparing for next season with new additions of star players to fill in their weaker areas, with more to come. Dortmund is back, and Bayern will be ready for them next year. Robben and Ribéry will continue their careers elsewhere with no hard feelings, rumor has it that Robben might end up playing, like many other aging European greats in the MLS.
I am just glad I got to see Robben and Ribery play in person on our last trip to Munich. What a year.