It was written in the stars.
Eight years ago, Chelsea became the first and still only London club to win the elusive Champions League trophy. Eight years is a long time ago. The club, let alone the world, have changed markedly in the years since.
Our motto is making history, not reliving it, but these days we have nothing but time for nostalgia. Perhaps even a need. Mikel John Obi and Paulo Ferreira shared some memories about that historic and special night in Munich.
Without the suspended John Terry, Raúl Meireles, Ramires, and Branislav Ivanović for the final, the narrative on Chelsea making it to the final pinned the team down as huge underdogs, mostly a formality for Bayern’s ensuing hometown victory. The Allianz Arena was a sea of red and white. “Unsere Stadt, Unser Stadion, Unser pokal,” as the banners read.
The perspective here, which both Mikel and Ferreira intimate, is that Chelsea came into the match well prepared despite the raucous environment not in our favor. The team had been battle tested against Napoli, Benfica, and Barcelona. Many of the players who made up the core of that team had played in big matches whether in club and international tournaments.
And as for the leaders of the team, they were ready for a different outcome than that of the 2008 Champions League final.
“Playing in someone else’s stadium, you felt they had a little bit of an advantage. But they also had extra pressure. Sometimes playing at home is not an advantage. We had it when Greece beat Portugal in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final. And Portugal won Euro 2016 against France in Paris. Sometimes it can be good. Sometimes not.
“Gary Cahill and David Luiz had injuries and I was ready to play at centre-half in case either of them didn’t make it but they did. I even did the warm-up with the starting XI. But as David Luiz said, it’s about motivation, adrenaline. You go through any pain you might have. We knew Bayern would probably have more possession. But in these finals it is all about the details, about concentration.
“Even I was quite active on the bench. I remember talking with José Bosingwa, trying to help him with his body position. He was up against Franck Ribéry. You are not just sitting on the bench to watch the game. You want to help.”
-Paulo Ferreira, source: Guardian
Both players remember very well the heartbreak and pain of losing in penalties to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final. The club already had gone through a gauntlet of tough matches in the lead up to the final, including a managerial change with the sacking of André Villas-Boas.
Villas-Boas was heavily criticized for phasing out the experienced players. Players like John Terry and Frank Lampard were the leaders of the team, they had won titles with José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti — yet found themselves at odds with Villas Boas.
When Roberto Di Matteo took over, new life was rejuvenated into the squad, as the once ostracized core of older players were relied upon again. The leadership from these players guided the team through the various challenges leading up to Bayern Munich.
RDM’s ideas may not have been as progressive as AVB’s, but he had the pulse of the squad and knew how to motivate best. The famous video that he played for the players before the match is only one example of him pressing all the right personal buttons (and not just in Europe but during the FA Cup-winning run as well).
“We didn’t want something like that to happen again and we even spoke about it the day before the game. For some of us it was the last opportunity. People like Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard.
“We didn’t know Roberto Di Matteo and the club had gone to interview our brothers, sisters, parents, whoever it was that is very close to us. The videos were played in the meeting the night before the game. My younger brother was on my video. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. We knew that would help to give us more spirit in the game. Those messages from our families were ringing in everyone’s ears.”
-Mikel John Obi
In extra time, Didier Drogba had dropped back deep into Chelsea’s own penalty area and fouled Franck Ribéry to concede a penalty. Chelsea had done so well previously to not lose focus after Thomas Müller’s 83rd minute goal, by equalizing in the 88th minute through Drogba. Former Chelsea winger, Arjen Robben stepped up to take a decisive penalty for Bayern. Just like Lionel Messi in the semifinal, he did not convert.
It’s a story that Mikel has told before, but it never gets old, just like Petr Čech’s heroics.
“I went straight to Robben and I said: ‘Watch, I’m telling you, you’re going to miss it.’ He wasn’t looking at me. We know each other from our days at Chelsea together. And I said to him: ‘You’re going to miss it. Watch and see. You’re definitely going to miss it.’ He didn’t say anything to me. He hit it and he missed. I was like: ‘Wow. I guessed right.’
- Mikel John Obi, source: Guardian
Moments like that swing momentum. Just like Drogba’s equalizer in the 88th minute beforehand, Čech’s save swung the match physics and game engine of life favorably.
It made you believe that something special was happening.
“I have this story about my housekeeper. She is Portuguese and I remember just before we went to Germany, she said: ‘Paulo, I shouldn’t say this but you guys are going to win.’ I was asking and asking why and finally she told me. And it was unbelievable.
“She said: ‘When did Paulo become a professional? 18, almost turning 19. What is Paulo’s shirt number? 19. When is the final? 19 May. I’m not saying anything else.’ When Müller scored, I’m thinking: ‘She told me this and now we concede, come on ...’ But then when Didier scores I said: ‘Oh. Wait a minute ...’ Then Robben misses and I felt: ‘We will win this final.’
-Paulo Ferreira, source: Guardian
The ensuing penalty shootout was nerve-racking for everyone involved and all the Chelsea fans around the world. Everyone in Chelsea Blue or supporting the Blues had the horrors of 2008 and John Terry’s slip in the back of our minds.
As Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park proclaimed, “life, uh... finds a way.”
“The penalties were nerve-racking. When I saw one of my teammates going forward, some of them I watched and some I couldn’t because I was so nervous.
“Drogba was not on the field to take his penalty in 2008 against United as he’d been sent off. Seeing Drogba go up to take the fifth penalty, I knew it was over.
“When Drogba scored that penalty, oh my God. I didn’t even know where to run. I was just lost, over the moon. Everyone had written us off. We were like: ‘Wow. How did we do that?’
-Mikel John Obi
Joy. Jubilation. Ecstasy.
It’s a moment forever ingrained in the part of our brains that keep hold of memories of happiness. In weird world of today, it’s good to be reminded of these moments.
As for the players, well, they have their own keepsakes to forever remember that fateful day on 19th of May in 2012.
“John, in his position as the captain, had made the replicas. Also, Drogba made some rings for the players, NBA-style ones. We’ve all got rings – 2012 Champions League winner. That’s something that you appreciate for ever. To be the first club in London to have won it, that was the biggest history ever.
-Mikel John Obi, source: Guardian