It has always been said that football is just a game and that what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch. However, there are those who also say that football is a war that is fought on the pitch. Either way, history has always been an important part of football and that’s clear whenever rival clubs or nations go head-to-head.
This is even more important at international level and especially when nations with previous historical conflicts face off, such as Germany v Netherlands/England or England v Scotland. When this happens, the urge for success is palpable among the supporters as they always want to defeat their great rival.
On the contrary, club tournaments, like the Champions League, don’t have many games that involve historic disputes and even those that do exist don’t have the same level of intensity from fans as at the level. international.
However, even though the Champions League doesn’t have many of these encounters involving prior historical conflict, there have been finals played between teams that included notable subplots involving history, political disputes and even the war.
At the moment this may be difficult to understand as the fans are still focused on the game and hoping that their club can win the title. However, when properly analyzed and taking all the elements into consideration, the historical ironies displayed are truly astounding.
Some of the ironies range from teams winning the title in the rival nation (or even rival region), runners-up from the same nation playing in the country with which there was a previous historical dispute, and even the nationality of the managers in charge of their clubs.
What endgames are these and what historical subplots are involved? These are the historical sub-plots behind these 5 Champions League finals.
5. Borussia Dortmund win the title at Bayern’s Olympiastadion
Borussia Dortmund’s only Champions League title came against defending champions Juventus. Led by Marcello Lippi, the Bianconeri were the favorites to defend their title again with a team that included Christian Vieri, Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane.
Despite this, Dortmund (led by Ottmar Hitzfeld) were out of phase and surprised with a 3-1 win. However, the interesting thing about this triumph was not who they defeated, but where they claimed the title; which was at the Olympiastadion in Munich where Bayern Munich used to play.
This is important because Borussia Dortmund not only has a rivalry with Bayern Munich, but also the region of North Rhine-Westphalia (where Dortmund is located) with Bavaria. Many German regions have a rivalry with Bavaria, but Dortmund’s win at Munich’s Olympiastadion was well received in North Rhine-Westphalia, even by arch-rivals Schalke 04 (not all Schalke fans, but many were satisfied with their triumph).
For a team from North Rhine-Westphalia to win the Champions League title not only against a historic club, but at Bayern’s Olympiastadion was truly remarkable for the whole region.
Interestingly, Borussia Dortmund’s triumph included another historic subplot as Paul Lambert, who played for Dortmund, would become the first British player to win the Champions League title. To do it with a German team and in the most powerful region of Germany knowing the history that there was between Germany and the United Kingdom, was really remarkable.