Professional footballers have a lot in common with children – well, at least the FC Bayern boys do in any case. On the one hand, they’re unpredictable, moody, and have real difficulty concentrating on one thing for 90 minutes, as shown by their poor 1:1 performance against a much weaker Nuremberg side last week. Then again, just like children, they can be fresh, creative and full of innocent pleasure, which is what the Bayern team was like yesterday as they stormed to a 5:1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
The Bundesliga is back! After a short winter break, it’s business as usual – and this season, that means chasing Borussia Dortmund, who have built up a solid points lead at the top of the table. Will they be able to translate this into a victory, though, or are Mainz going to surprise everyone and become the national champions? Or will it be Leverkusen that manage to catch up? Or will Bayern München get out of the doldrums and keep the title? At the bottom of the table, meanwhile, will Mönchengladbach be relegated to the second league? And can Bruno Labbadia save Stuttgart? All these questions – and more – will have been answered before the last of the 17 remaining match days this season: by 14th May, we will know all.
There’s one thing my coach never tired of saying to me: “Hau den Ball ins Tor hinein!” – best translated with: “Just slam it into the back of the net!” What did yours used to say to you? What about this one: “I want to see you struggle!” Well, professionals in the Bundesliga are hearing this one a lot at this decisive point in the season: and it’s their own fans who are saying it.
The relationship between players and fans in the Bundesliga is simmering just below boiling point this season. After Hannover’s goalkeeper Robert Enke, suffering from a severe depression and trying to hide it from public view, ended up committed suicide in November of last year, Bundesliga officials, players and fans have been talking a lot about developing an atmosphere of respect, care and recognition – but these last six months have not seen these words become reality.
Imagine an exiting football season. Now double that excitement. And now add a mind-boggling plotline à la Lost. Not even close. This Bundesliga season is simply incomprehensibly and inconceivably incredible. So incredible, in fact, that after a rollercoaster ride of a season, with just two games left to play; four teams at the top are separated by just two points.
As usual, we began the season knowing Bayern Munich would win all along. But then we toyed with the idea that hyper-hyped newbies 1899 Hoffenheim could do it. They were top at the half way point, played great football, but proceeded to drop quicker than Christiano Ronaldo in the penalty area. Then when Bundesliga dinosaurs Hamburg went top, we thought they could win it too.