August 14, 2015 By Fabian Odhiambo
The 53rd season of the German Bundesliga kicks off in just a few hours as the reigning champions Bayern Munich welcome Hamburg to the Allianz Arena. The record champions from the south will be bidding to reach another milestone by being the first ever club to lift the Bundesliga title for the fourth consecutive time. The excitement is palpable. The day that the Lord has made is finally here. And yes, you can catch the match on Star Times (Unique Bouquet) as from 2145h.
This particular fixture brings back fond memories, reminding me of why I fell in love with the Bundesliga (and German football) in the first place. Growing up as a kid, I was not really exposed to the English Premier League as most are likely to think. The only television station available was the good old state broadcaster, KBC. And they at times aired German football. I hear KBC became synonymous with ‘Football Made in Germany’ in the 90s. Then usually, after the brief 1pm news, they would switch to the news from Deutsche Welle (DW tv), a German station. I tuned in religiously, as much as school time allowed. I don’t know why, maybe it was my thirst for knowledge that drove me to that addiction. Watching DW news regularly, I would come to know about Germany and sort of be sold to their culture, cars, politics and football.
Anyway, back to the Bayern-Hamburg game. Now in the 2000-01 season, the race for the title was between Bayern Munich and Schalke. Bayern was my favourite. Why? I don’t know. Because they wore red, and at school I was in the red stream? Maybe. I had been trying to follow the league that season, albeit not so seriously. Going into the final day, Bayern led Schalke by 3 points but with a weaker goal difference. Yes, I knew about goal difference even at the age of 10. What? I was a smartass. Have you met me? (Heh!) Thus it essentially meant that we (Bayern) needed a point away at Hamburg to be champions. For the Royal Blues of Schalke, they had to win at home against Unterhaching at the Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen. Delicately poised? You bet.
May 19, 2001. The stage was set. Bayern by the way had the small matter of the Champions League final against Valencia at the San Siro in about three days to think about too. Then again the game at the AOL Arena in Hamburg was a title decider and couldn’t play second fiddle to anything else. Third minute, Unterhaching scores through Andre Breitenreiter (current Schalke boss), 0-1. 27th minute, Spizak scores, Schalke down 0-2! Unbelievable. They were making it easy for Bayern to stroll away to glory, or so I thought. 44th minute, Schalke pull one back through Nico van Kerckhoven…and a minute later, Gerald Asamoah backheels the equalizer, 2-2! All this while it is scoreless in Hamburg.
On to the second half. 59th minute, Carsten Jancker converts a Bixente Lizarazu cross to give Bayern the lead…or so it seems. The linesman had raised his flag for offside. Goal disallowed. Damn it! 69th minute, Seifert heads in a free kick, 2-3 to Unterhaching. Ridiculous. Haha! Four minutes later, Jörg Böhme thunders in a free kick for Schalke to equalize yet again. In the very next minute, that man again, Böhme chips the keeper to give Schalke the lead for the first time in the match, 4-3! Pandemonium in Gelsenkirchen. In the 83rd, Olaf Thon scores what would have been a fifth for the hosts, but it is ruled out offside…incorrectly, by the way. 89th minute, Ebbe Sand taps in for his 22nd goal of season to make it 5-3. Meanwhile in the 90th minute at the AOL Arena, Sergej Barbarez score to give Hamburg the lead. He’s now also on 22 goals. As it stands, Schalke are winning the league. Bayern are shocked to the core. I was, too.
Following that goal, the Schalke players and fans celebrate. They can’t wait for the final whistle. The referee duly obliges. Schalke are champions! Fans invade the pitch. Scenes! Meanwhile, the Bayern-Hamburg game goes on. 93rd minute, in what is surely Bayern’s last throw of the dice, Hamburg keeper Schober picks the ball with his hands after a back pass from Thomas Ujfalusi. Both sets of players protest, the referee gives Bayern an indirect free kick in the area. The captain, Stefan Effenberg takes the ball, and tees up Swedish defender Patrik Andersson who blasts it in. 1-1! Game over. Bayern are champions! We were champions! That Andersson lad, what a man! God bless him and his descendants! The feeling was just…unbelievable. Wow!
What I will never forget though is that when the cameras turned to Parkstadion, the entire Schalke fraternity was in euphoria. It was a carnival atmosphere. I was like, “ok, there can’t be two champions, what is going on?!” They were in oblivion. Truly, ignorance is bliss. Slowly news would filter in that Bayern had actually scored at the death and won the league. How I loved it. Seeing grown-ups drenched in beer, who just moments ago were in seventh heaven now in tears. It was strange. They had been champions for four minutes. Really weird. But I was happy.
Actually, I did not watch that season finale for whatever reason. Of course in those days there was no internet so I had to wait till the next day in the afternoon to catch the highlights on DWtv. Since I had no prior knowledge of the results, I actually lived the riveting experience as if I was watching the live broadcast. People ooh and aah about the famous Aguerooooo! moment. Ah, it was alright. I experienced something better way before that. That is what the Bundesliga gives you.
So why won’t you go out, get your Star Times decoder and live the Bundesliga starting from tonight? Oh, and I hope you pick Bayern Munich as your team.