Former ball boy Lahm leads Bayern in final of a lifetime
Philipp Lahm was a ball boy in the stadium when the last Champions League final was played in Munich in 1997. On Saturday he will lead Bayern Munich onto their home pitch as captain for the biggest match in club history in the decider against Chelsea.
Lahm and his team-mates aim to emulate the success of Stefan Effenberg and Oliver Kahn in 2001, and that of club leaders Uli Hoeness, Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge 1974, 1975 and 1976.
The 69,000-seat Allianz Arena belongs to Bayern, unlike their former home, the Olympic stadium for the 1972 Games, where Borussia Dortmund lifted the trophy in 1997, with the then 13-year-old Lahm among the ballboys.
“At the time I definitely didn’t dream of playing for this trophy one day,” Lahm told Wednesday’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).
Reaching Saturday’s final has been Bayern’s obsession ever since the arena was chosen as the venue by the ruling body UEFA in January 2010.
“It is the highlight in the history of Bayern. This says it all, given all the great moments in Bayern history,” the club president Hoeness told the SZ.
“First of all you must be awarded such a final and then you need a team that can work its way into such a match. It is this ideal scenario for Bayern, and it will be probably remain unique.”
Even Saturday’s 5-2 humiliation against Dortmund in the cup final has become secondary for coach Jupp Heynckes, players and officials ahead of the big game for which Munich wants the whole town to be painted in the club’s red.
“Everyone was focused on this May 19. You can reach a cup final another five times in your career, a Champions League final maybe once,” Hoeness said.
Munich are the first team to play a Champions League final in their home stadium since 1984 when Roma were beaten by Liverpool on penalties in the Olympic stadium of the Italian capital.
That should serve as a warning for Bayern, just as England’s 7-2 lead over German clubs in overall European finals.
In the Champions’ event, Bayern beat Leeds United in 1975 but the next four finals went to English sides: Liverpool beat Moenchengladbach in 1977, Nottingham won over Hamburg in 1980, Aston Villa stopped Munich in 1982 and Manchester United famously scored twice in stoppage time for the 1999 title against Munich.
Munich are certainly not underestimating Chelsea, who are aiming to salvage a modest domestic season lit up only by the FA Cup title and need victory on Saturday to play in the next Champions League.
But Dutchman Arjen Robben will be keen to win for Munich against the club he played for 2004-2007, French winger Franck Ribery aims to make up for his suspension in the 2010 final which Munich lost to Inter Milan, and Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger lead a generation of German players who finally want an international title.
“You need an international title if you want to become a golden generation,” said Lahm. “You want to lift the cup when you are in a final. And of course it is nice to be the first one to lift it.”
The lost 2010 final as well as that at Euro 2008, plus semi-final defeats at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups are to be forgotten when Lahm and Schweinsteiger take to the pitch.
“I don’t have many more years at top level,” said the 28-year-old Lahm.
Schweinsteiger, 27, said: “The Champions League ranks very high for me, just as the European championship or World Cup title. If you have the final in your living room you want to reach it and win it.”
Heynckes wants his first international title as coach with a German team but has already lifted the Champions League trophy with Real Madrid in 1998.
Lahm hopes that Munich will come second time lucky two years later after the 2010 loss, just as the 1999 losers did in 2001.
“We have many players on the team who were present then (in 2010). We have developed, we have much more experience. The belief in winning the title is much bigger than two years ago,” Lahm said.