This week, there was once again the European Cup. The quarter-finals of the Champions League and Euroleague were on the agenda, with three German representatives. Here, too, Sky Deutschland had secured the broadcasting rights. They made use of this right, but, as on all other occasions of German football broadcasts, they did the usual anti-publicity for the game of football, for their channel and for their own guild and future. You have to be a very die-hard fan of the game (and NOT of a particular team, mind you) to endure the images accompanied by German sound. It’s a bit like being in a torture chamber. However, since as an author one has made writing about these circumstances one’s “everyday business”, one has to go through the thumbscrews and the iron maiden.
Schalke had to deal with Athletic Bilbao. Now it may be that this name doesn’t exactly sound like thunder, but one should certainly make a few comments on a correct classification of this team – and in this context best of all Spanish teams. Bilbao have won in BOTH pairings before against Manchester United. But not only did they win, they played such fantastic football in the first leg that they virtually swept Man U out of their own stadium 3-2. That was anything but luck or coincidence. In the second leg they also won 2-1, but from an English point of view the 1:2 came so close to the end that you could hardly talk about a serious chance.
Did this escape the German commentator? Right from the start it sounds as if Schalke had drawn an absolute lucky draw here, a kind of walk-over that they only had to get out of the way on the way to the soon fading glory of the Eurofighters.
At the same time, however, attention may be drawn to the following circumstances: Spain are European and world champions. For many years, they have inflicted on the Germans a number of heavy defeats that have done the whole world good, since the arrogance of the Germans (especially when it comes to football) has long been recognised there and is highly unpleasant. When you have the chance, you want to hurt them as much as you can – because you’ve already had to take quite a beating, especially in terms of the affection of the goddess of fortune, recurrently and permanently granted to some, correspondingly denied to others. And when the Germans lose, the black beast is eliminated, then a sigh of relief goes out worldwide through all strata of the population, age groups, regions, nations, cultures, because one no longer wants to see and can endure this soup, which is simply not recognised by those who have it. The Germans are out? Hähä.
Now Leverkusen has been taught a lesson by FC Barcelona. In this country, people are talking about the disgrace this counter squad has caused “our” country. Everyone got a 6 from the BILD. Worldwide, on the other hand, it was recognised that it was by no means a weakness on the part of Leverkusen, but exclusively the outstanding quality of Barca, especially that Messi, whose likeness now hangs above practically all the beds of all the boys – and presumably also girls – in the world, because he is simply the greatest, and comes across as so unbelievably likeable, and who gave Leverkusen five goals, one more beautiful than the other, who has the world at his feet and who, with every further goal, has triggered the satisfaction described above. The black beast doesn’t even twitch any more. That, and only that, is how we like it. Nix beast.
Bayern Munich now pretend they have the bye Marseille (well, the first leg was won 2-0, even if all of non-German Europe would have liked to see a different result), then beatable Real Madrid, and in the final, against Barca, anything is possible in a game in their own stadium, or so we hear.
Barca dismantled Leverkusen. They had a stellar performance and, as noted elsewhere, there is simply nothing bad to say about Leverkusen’s performance. They were extras in a gala performance. Even if hard to swallow (for Germans used to winning, nay, claiming victory), this Barca was a few numbers too big, one stoutly acknowledges need, even if Leverkusen could even look back on the first leg, in which they tied the game in half 2 and almost equalised, and walk off the pitch with their heads held high.
Only: Real Madrid are 6 points ahead of Barca in the Spanish La Liga. Doesn’t that play any role at all in the Bavarian considerations? Do they think that the Spanish league table is diced? How can anyone assume to just brush this Real as it sounds? No, asked about their own feelings: please, please, let Bayern progress against Marseille – and then blow them out of the stadium, Real! If only for this arrogance, which cannot be dismissed, that they would already manage Real. If they would finally practice humility, if they could at least feel that respect – mind you, all this is directed at the media –, the recognition that they would be clear underdogs in this duel, as they will most certainly recognise in the betting market as well. No, “mia san mia” is the motto of the millennium – and that is why Real will approach it with due respect, the players, the coach as well as the media will have this one, which would never BEFORE verbally pounce on the beast, perhaps because one already knows the pain and does not want to feel it again. But the satisfaction would be all the greater if they had killed it.
All the Spanish teams have shown absolutely outstanding football. Valencia and Atletico Madrid have also mastered all the tasks so far, partly with (as best as could be judged from the summaries) fantastic football that is simply fun because it is so fast, so perfect, so goal-oriented, so dangerous and they constantly exude goal threat. It’s Spanish football that stands out so clearly, and just nobody seems to notice in this country.
Schalke really kept up very well for a good while against Bilbao. They even scored two goals, which, by the way, were played in the summary with Spanish commentary, and which not only conveyed the joy of football broadcast there, but at the same time made the beauty of the goals recognisable, without envy, resentment or fault-finding, even if one may mention that they were also scored by a Spanish legend called Raul. There was simply cheering because football is such a beautiful game and because your heart swells when the round goes into the square. Regardless of who it benefits or harms at the time, not to mention the unemotional search for the “culprits” even before the ball hits the ground, as is usual here.
Schalke even had the chances to win 3:1 and they played such great football that the fans supported their team loudly until the bitter end. In the stands, as you can see from this, you have a fine sense of what a good performance is, and this is not only related to your own eleven, but also includes the opponent. This game was fun because it was football at the highest level. The fans recognised it, the announcer, as usual, nothing. When you hear him, it sounds more as if Queen Mum is visiting Berlin or he has been given the regrettable task of watching a couple of elderly ladies having a coffee – and has to say a few words about it. It’s just a job and I need the money.
When Bilbao managed to score the 2:2 – which was supposedly due to a mistake here and an inattention there — and he also failed to notice that Bilbao took all the corners in front of the goal in a dangerous manner, all the dams broke. First of all, those of the enthusiastically cheering Spaniards, who cannot be called that at all, because ALL of Bilbao’s team are proud Basques, and then, in the course of the game, when Bilbao showed this art of combination as already in Manchester. It was all so fast and so dangerous, everyone on the move and every pass at the right time, with the utmost precision, it was fun for everyone who loves the game. Sky put in a buzzkill and put it behind the mic. It really is a tragedy that not a single one of these brilliant moves, which produced goal chance after goal chance, was recognised and commented on accordingly.
Schalke really fought back until the last minute and played a really classy game. Huntelaar hit the post (at 2:3), and another shot by Raul missed by a hair’s breadth. When Bilbao got the ball again in the last second, cleared the last situation in front of their own goal – the announcer had been busy drawing a conclusion for minutes anyway, if not from the beginning – everyone went ahead again. They DESPERATELY wanted another goal. The Schalkers may have realised it, but it was too late. It was no longer defensible. A magical goal, 2:4, thank you, how nice that football exists.
The speaker had long since fallen into agony. He had never heard of the beauty of this game, of the quality of a team, of a move, of enthusiasm, of art. He has only heard that Germans always win, and that when they don’t, it is tantamount to withholding a feeling of happiness, for which it is necessary to find out who is responsible. This is quite easy for a German speaker, because after all, you have the heroes on the pitch, who are really somewhat tragic for today, and you can pick on them without them being able to defend themselves. He has made the most of this opportunity. Of course, as has been customary for the last 58 years or so, in the case of victory it is always “we” who win, in the case of loss it is “they” who have (culpably) denied us the feeling of happiness. If only he had felt sympathy for a moment, if only he had shown it, if only he had kept silent for a second and let the audience speak, because they were grateful for the brilliant evening’s entertainment, regardless of the outcome.
I would only want to get into the same boat with friends and supporters of the game. With HIM? Never!