Champions League: David Meets Goliath in Bundesliga's 50th Anniversary Party

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

ROMFORD, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: General view of the trophies during the Champions League Trophy Tour on April 20, 2013 in Romford, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

The Champions League final is just two days away, and the footballing world is preparing for a spectacle on and off the pitch. This year's final is a historic match that for the first time sees two German teams compete for the title of Europe's strongest club team. And coming on the 50th anniversary year of the Bundesliga's creation in 1963, it could not have been better timed.

It's been 12 years since Bayern last hoisted the Champions League trophy, and having lost the 2010 and 2012 finals, they are desperate to finally cross the finish line in Europe's most prestigious tournament.

Dortmund have waited 16 years since their first and only finals appearance, which they won in 1997. Then-underdogs against the Juventus of Zidane and Deschamps, BVB's improbable victory will be their inspiration heading into Saturday's match against Germany's traditional powers.

Even weeks before kickoff, Saturday's final made headlines around Europe. Earlier in May, 500,000 Dortmund fans applied for just 24,000 tickets allocated to BVB supporters. Half those requests were within the first 24 hours of their being made available.

London is preparing for a massive influx of Germans, with some 150,000 expected to visit the city for the final. Local authorities have launched a huge security operation, cooperating with Wembley staff, UEFA and the two German clubs.

In Munich, Bayern have arranged for a free public viewing of the final at the Allianz Arena; all 45,000 tickets were sold within six hours. And in Dortmund, there will be three areas for public viewing. Even the city of Berlin has reopened the fan zones it used for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

With all four English clubs having been eliminated from the Champions League by mid-March, many fans in the final's host nation have turned to German teams to support in the latter stages of the tournament. 

Jurgen Klopp has become somewhat of a cult hero in England, while Dortmund have become the newest craze among East London hipsters. Others feel a gratitude to Bayern for being the reason they no longer hear Barcelona referred to as the "greatest club in the world."

Looking ahead to the final itself, the match is very much a David vs. Goliath situation. Bayern hammered Spanish champions Barcelona and Serie A winners Juventus by a combined 11-0 margin en route to the final. Concurrently, they won all but one of their Bundesliga fixtures this spring, shattering a slew of records in the process. Bayern's revenue is almost double that of their opponents, their experience and power is unparalleled in the Bundesliga.

By contrast, BVB are an up-and-coming team competing in the Champions League for just the second time since 2003-04. They've defied the odds in reaching the final despite a very modest wage structure and posting net sales in the transfer market since 2009. They've had some close calls with elimination but have absolutely earned their spot in the final. And they will most certainly aim to capture the spirit of 1997 as they prepare for Saturday.

Finals of course are played not only on the pitch in the last game, but in the weeks prior. The impending transfer of Mario Gotze to Bayern, with Robert Lewandowski also a possible departure, has left them with a "now or never" situation in their pursuit of a second Champions League title. That Gotze will miss the final is a savage and cruel blow that BVB certainly did not deserve.

For Bayern, it seems that the third time will be the charm. After failing at the final hurdle twice in three years, they've had indisputably the best season of any team in Europe. The club's management has done well to keep a consistent team, and the players are finally primed for glory on the greatest stage.

There are still 90 minutes to be played, though, and as the great German coach Sepp Herberger once famously said, "People go to the stadium because they don't know how the game will end." On Saturday, more viewers worldwide will watch a German match than ever before. Regardless of the final result, fans can all hope for a match that captures all the passion, intensity and unique flavor of the Bundesliga.


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