My original intention in making this trip I'm on now was to get to see Bastian Schweinsteiger play (possibly) his last three Bayern matches. Not that I listen to a lot of rumours that swirl around the club, but they were becoming more persistent, and I was starting to get a little nervous. Sure, United could use his talents and Chelsea as well... and Mourinho is a big persuasion at Madrid, even though he's got a surplus of midfield talent, currently.
And, if you know me at all, you know Bastian is my favourite player, not only for Bayern, but for the Nationalelf as well. Many of my English and American friends kept asking me if I would buy a Chelsea / Manchester United / Real Madrid kit with his name on the back. Chelsea? Yeah. United? No. And not only no, but... Hell, no. Real Madrid? Meh.
So, I rang up my Muenchener friends and hopped on a plane for a little vacation. (Admittedly, it was a bit more difficult than that.)
I got the seriously excellent hook-up and was invited to Wednesday's Champions League match sitting in some primo club seats. (And may I say that I love Don and Tom very much!) It's wonderful to sit in club seats at any time, but especially nice during European competition, because you can still drink Weissbier, (insert smiley face here) and eat to your heart's content.
The Basel supporters brought it, for they still had a little something to play for. And although the Suedkurve were their normal, rambunctious selves, the rest of the stadium was subdued. It's strange to see open seats when you go to watch Bayern, as everything is generally a sell-out. And, I know this match was billed as a sell-out... but there were a few thousand missing.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Munich field a true starting squad--- minus Hans Joerg Butt. That being said, it was nice to see Thomas Kraft get a run-out in goal as well. Especially, if rumours are to be true, we're not going after a goalkeeper (Neuer from Schalke, please!) because Louis van Gaal thinks Kraft is our (next) man.
Kraft ended up on the right side of the battle versus Baselers Shaquiri and Sebastian Frei, Keeping a clean sheet in his second start this season; his first start was a loss at AS Roma.
Die Roten kept the pressure on the full match, and the score could've easily been double except for squandered chances by Ribery and Schweinsteiger, and close misses by van Bommel and Kroos.
It was lovely to see Franck Ribery's brace and a goal by Tymoschuk. The former getting his touch back and the latter proving his worth more and more each time out.
Rather uncharacteristically of him, Schweini had a less-than-brilliant 90 minutes. I've got to admit, his playing really had me wondering, "Oh crap. He's not concentrating.... because?!" I didn't want to give him one... but... we'll get to that in a moment.
Saturday's game against St. Pauli saw me sitting on the Suedkurve, with friends I know that play in one of the Oktoberfest tents here in Munich. The weather was extra-unpleasant as it was close to freezing, with the coldest rain I've ever felt. Thanks be that the Allianz Arena was handing out coupons for free Gluehwein, of which my party managed to snag a couple extra!
We'd, unfortunately, gotten situated a little late, so I was just sitting down as Hamit Altintop scored. No love lost for me there, but having seen the goal after the match: Good job, Hamit! (Normally I don't utter that sentence; felt strange to type it.) I would've expected to see him start against Basel on Wednesday and not in this Bundesliga match.
Unlike Wednesday's match, in which we played poorly and won, the match on Saturday showed a quicker, more accurate passing game. And when St. Pauli keeper Thomas Kessler fouled, and Philipp Lahm subsequently converted the penalty, I knew the match was ours.
Ribery is getting back to being 100 percent, although I think he still holds the ball one touch too many. He had some nifty little step-overs and then inexplicably would lose the ball.
However, by and far the best part of the match for me was after the referee blew the final whistle. The team stayed on the field, holding a sign thanking the faithful for the first half of the season and best wishes for the new year.
Then, my Leiblingsspieler, Bastian, grabbed the mic from house announcer Stephan Lehmann. My heart leapt in to my throat as he started speaking to the Suedkurve (and me in particular, I just know it). "I've extended my contract until 2016. Long live Bayern!"
Of course, the first thing I did was furiously update my Facebook with tears in my eyes. Yeah, tears. Of happiness. Unadulterated joy. I know a lot of men who cry when we lose big matches, but I only cry when we win.
The best Christmas present of all is Bastian staying at Bayern! Better him wrapped in a bow, but I can't have everything I want, now can I? But seriously, I don't want to watch him play for anyone else. EVER. And my wish may just be coming true.
Now I know, as time goes on, big-time players become less interested in staying with a club; instead chasing bigger contracts and more money. And I know it will cost Bayern Muenchen a lot (45 million Euro over 5 years) to put him on the field. But, yay! He's here to stay!
Uli Hoeness said, "It's an important signal, proving Bayern is not a selling club. It also demonstrates our financial clout. He's not just signed because we're all nice guys."
Thank you, Uli, and the rest of the Bayern boys. It is, indeed, a very merry Christmas. Froehe Schweinachten!