Against All Odds
The road was long and the wait seemed unending as Chelsea football club of England overcame hot favourites Bayern Munich to claim their first UEFA champions league trophy in their 107th year old history and 57 years since Europe’s biggest football showpiece was introduced.
Since 2003, when Roman Abramovich, described as a Russian eccentric billionaire took over the club from Ken Bates, he has never hidden his preference for the most glamorous trophy club football can offer. At a point his desire for the trophy became an obsession that it took £800 million, seven mangers in nine years to assuage that obsession. Abramovich is said to have spent £56 million alone on manager compensation since he took over.
Finally, on Saturday, May 19, Chelsea achieved what many bookmakers had for long, given Chelsea’s inconsistencies in the season, written them off. On a balmy night at the Allianz Arena, with 70, 000 spectators and another estimated 300 million viewers globally, Chelsea claimed what has apparently become an elusive holy grail to the club. It took 120 minutes of football and a penalty shootout to claim the top price.
The victory also marks the first time any London club is winning the trophy. Incidentally, the victory came the same way they lost it four years ago at the Ludzniski stadium in Moscow when the team captain, John Terry, missed the decisive penalty kick.
The tortuous road to ultimate victory took a turn for the better when the former manager, Andres Villas Boas, was sacked by Chelsea’s trophy hungry owner, Abramovich and under the guidance of interim manager, Roberto Di Matteo, the team was able to overturn an almost impossible 3-1 defeat by Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo, in Naples Italy. Having beaten Napoli 4-1 at the Stamford Bridge to win 5-4 on aggregate, Chelsea moved to the second knock-out round where they triumphed over Benfica of Portugal on 3-1 aggregate having beaten the Portuguese representative 1-0 in Portugal.
Then many bookmakers thought that the fairytale run of England’s sole remaining representative was about to end when it had to face Barcelona during the semi-final. The Catalan giants were the overwhelming favourites to knock Chelsea out of the last four and set up a mouth watering final with their local rivals, Real Madrid, two clubs overwhelmingly tipped by pundits to arrive at Allianz Arena as finalists.
However, the football world witnessed an improbable upset when over two legs, Chelsea ran away with 3-2 aggregate win over Barcelona to set up their first UCL final in four years against Bayern Munich, a fixture no good football predictor gave a chance to be.
Like it was at the semi-final stage, Chelsea proved wrong, bookmakers who had predicted that Bayer Munich would win mainly because of three reasons. One, the quality of players, especially finishers in the mould of: Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery and Mario Gometz paraded by Bayern Munich. Two, the suspension of four key Chelsea players; captain, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovich, Raul Meireless and Ramirez was regarded as the biggest blow for the London club. Three, the final to be played at Alianz Arena, the home ground of Bayern Munich was clearly, according to bookmakers, in favour of Bayern Munich.
However, it took the ingenuity of the departing Didier Drogba to shatter the so called bookmakers’ predictions and hand Chelsea the trophy that they have so much desired in the last decade. The Ivory Coast captain got the equaliser through a header when the trophy seemed to be slipping away in the 88th minute after Bayern Munich took the lead in the 82th minute through Thomas Muller. The Ivorian went ahead to score the decisive penalty to hand the trophy to Chelsea amidst wild jubilation.
With the victory, Chelsea have joined the league of clubs that have won the lucrative UEFA champions league. Despite breaking the jinx, the owner of the club, Abramovich was said to have charged the players to give him three more champions league trophies. Speaking through Bruce Buck, the club’s chairman re-echoed the sentiments of the Russian billionaire-owner when he said, “there are a lot of clubs with three or four of those stars on their club badge. We have only one. Roman gave a thank you speech, the message was that it was down to the boys.”
The winning came like killing two birds with one stone. Having finished a distant sixth on the English Premier League, EPL table, the first in 10 years for Chelsea, they were effectively off Champions League qualification for next season. However, this changed as Chelsea qualified automatically as a defending champion right into the group stage, thereby stifling the hopes of their London rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs in Champions League football, next season.