Authored by Jeremy Roth
The scene was set on May 19th 2012 for two of Europe’s perennial heavyweights to vie for European bragging rights. However, there was nothing ordinary about in this UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea FC and FC Bayern München. Added pressure was felt by both clubs before the already pressure packed game. For Bayern, the uniqueness of this specific game came from the fact that it was played in its home stadium, Fußball Arena München, as it tried to become the first club to ever win the Champions League in its home stadium (UEFA May 19 2012).
With regards to Chelsea, to refer to its season as turbulent and underwhelming would be an absolute understatement. After finishing 6th in the Barclays Premier League and narrowly escaping Napoli in the Quarter Final round of the UEFA Champions League, this final had do-or-die implications written all over it (UEFA May 21 2012). If Chelsea were to lose, it would be knocked out of all European competition for the following year, which would present a huge blow financially to the club and mentally for the players. As a result, this Champions League final was filled with drama and intriguing story lines.
After withstanding the relentless Bayern attack for the first 82 minutes of the match, Chelsea finally gave in, as Thomas Müller capitalized in the 83rd minute and headed a shot past Petr Čech to give Bayern a commanding 1-0 lead with only 7 minutes remaining in regular time (UEFA May 19 2012). The crowd, mainly filled with homegrown Bayern supporters, sang in jubilation, as they were confident that ensured the Champions League trophy was destined to remain in Munich.
However, Chelsea, and especially Didier Drogba (my childhood hero), were not just ready to hang up its boots on the season just yet. With just 2 minutes left in regular time and the pro-Bayern crowd as boisterous as ever, Juan Mata adroitly whipped in a tantalizing ball with his famed left foot off of a corner kick that seemed to magically find the head of none other than the Chelsea legend himself, Didier Drogba. With ease, Drogba found the front corner of the six-yard box, nestled between two Bayern defenders, jumped and headed the ball with such ferocity that it beat Manuel Neuer into the top right post. The emotions in the stadium reversed in a split-second. The small section of the stadium filled with Chelsea fans erupted in pure pandemonium (I too jumped off my couch at home and shrieked in absolute bliss), while the Bayern fans stood stunned and reverted to whistling in disgust. With the season on the line, Drogba came through in the biggest of ways and gave Chelsea the momentum to pull through in penalty kicks on the biggest stage in Europe.
Drogba’s heroics, and the game itself for that matter, acted as a microcosm for the 2011/12 season for Chelsea. When it seemed to be all over and the season deemed to be an utter failure, a little flicker of hope still remained. Drogba acknowledged the opportunity and pounced all over it with a miraculous header in a high-pressure situation. It is in these, moments that heroes are born. For me, Didier Drogba is that hero. The moment his forceful header propelled my team, Chelsea FC, to win the UEFA Champions League will always be engrained in my memory as the time Drogba stood tall above all.
UEFA. 2012. “Shoot-out win ends Chlesea’s long wait for glory.” Accessed February 16 2016. http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2012/matches/round=2000267/match=2007693/postmatch/report/.
UEFA. 2012. “2011/2012: Drogba ends Chelsea’s long wait.” Accessed Februrary 16 2016. http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2012/overview/
NextLevelKid7. “Drogba goal vs. Bayern Munich – Martin Tyler and Gary Neville Commentary.” Filmed [May 2012]. Youtube video, 00:30. Posted [May 21 2012]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiT5Ji6r8t0.