Munich, Allianz Arena, May 18, 2012: We’ve been working on the choreography for the biggest game of our lives for a week now. For the most important match in the history of FC Bayern. The European Cup final in your own city. Hundreds of thousands of Bayern fans were on their feet in Munich these days. The foils were laid out, the block flag mounted. Suddenly the helpers began to mumble, pointing to the pitch. Bastian Schweinsteiger walked through the otherwise empty stadium towards the Südkurve. Shortly before UEFA’s official press conference. There was a short small talk and then he inspected the pitch, the penalty area, the penalty spot. It was the penalty spot from which he was to hit only the post about 30 hours later. The penalty spot that shattered an entire city’s dream.
In his youth Schweinsteiger led his teams to titles. U17 Champion 2001, U19 Champion 2002, other clubs became aware of him during this time. Clubs, with which the way into the Bundesliga would have been allegedly easier. But the late U17 coach Stephan Beckenbauer convinced Basti to take the stonier path at his home club. A decision that should pay off. When FC Bayern dropped out of the group stage of the Champions League in autumn 2002, the record champion was already certain as the last team in the group before the last matchday against RC Lens. I still remember how many people tried to get rid of their tickets back then. I also declined the offer for a free ticket. Officially 22,000 spectators were in the stadium on this dull November day in 2002, watching a varied 3-3 draw, and in the final minutes two young FC Bayern players made their professional debut: Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Schweinsteiger was mostly used on the offensive wings. One of his best games in this position was against FC Chelsea in April 2005. After a 2-4 first leg, in the return leg the Munich-based team gave their best right from the start. Zé Roberto on the left and Schweinsteiger on the right caused quite a ruckus, but Frank Lampard hit the Bayern heart with a deflected shot for the 0-1, but Schweinsteiger did not give in and could not be stopped until the final whistle despite the hopeless result. After the match, the Kicker named him the player of the match, which FC Bayern won 3-2 by scoring two late goals. Due to the elimination, it was the last floodlight match of FC Bayern in Munich’s Olympic Stadium. No football fan who has ever experienced an evening game with floodlight poles will ever forget this atmosphere in his life. For FC Bayern it was probably the last home game of all time under classic floodlight on this day. For Bastian Schweinsteiger that evening was the day on which the legend of the Fußballgott began.
For a long time Stephan Lehmann did not wait for the addition “Fussballgott”, which was only called by a part of the Südkurve, while reading out the team line-up. After his initial time as a shooting star, “Schweini”, as he was then simply called, was smiled at from time to time. He gave the tabloids enough stories. And just when Franck Ribery came to FC Bayern and showed what world class means on the wings, Schweinsteigers future in Munich did not always seem secure. After the disappointing season with Jürgen Klinsmann, FC Bayern signed Arjen Robben as another wing attacker. Schweinsteigers future in Munich seemed open again, his permanent place in the first team history. But at the start of the season Mark van Bommel was out for weeks and Schweinsteiger moved into the spotlight alongside new arrival Anatoly Tymoshchuk.
The first months under Louis van Gaal were a difficult time for FC Bayern. In the meantime, FC Bayern even slipped to eighth place in the standings on the 12th matchday. Hardly conceivable from today’s perspective. But Schweinsteiger begins to establish himself as a switching point in the shaky centre. When van Bommel returns, Schweinsteiger keeps his position and Tymoshchuk moves to the wing. And then there was the game at Juventus Turin. Last day of the Champions League group stage. Thanks to the support of Girondins Bordeaux, FC Bayern got another unexpected chance to reach the round of 16. But at that time Juventus was a bogey team for FC Bayern. A few years earlier they had lost two of their guest performances at the old lady. A goalless draw would have sufficed for the Italians. And who better to play 0-0 than Juventus?
Becoming world class
I remember that we went to Turin without real confidence. One last time Champions League before the UEFA Cup. A lot of people thought so. But what happened on 8 December 2009 went down in history as the “Miracle of Turin”. Driven by an outstanding Bastian Schweinsteiger (Kicker grade 1.5), who also completely neutralised Juve’s playmaker Diego, FC Bayern won 4:1 against the Italian record champion. It was the day on which Bastian Schweinsteiger delivered absolute world class for the first time in the centre. World class, which he confirmed a few months later in South Africa. Especially his solo against Argentina in the quarter-finals will be remembered.
What made Bastian Schweinsteiger so special was his love for Munich. It was never a big secret in the city where you could find the bell sign with the name “Cantona”, Schweinsteigers favourite player in the youth. When you were shopping, having coffee or going out for dinner in the Gärtnerplatz district, you had a good chance of running into a person with a striped hoodie or a cap and sunglasses. And then came May 19, 2012, the day that changed everything in our lives. It should have been the biggest day in the history of FC Bayern. It became the day when a lifelong dream burst like a soap bubble.
What happened in the following 12 months is a well-known heroic story. Bastian Schweinsteiger had some setbacks in his life. For example, in the unfounded accusations by a Munich tabloid that he was involved in a betting scandal. Or in the Springer Medien campaign against him that he was a “Chefchen”. The Finale Dohoam was the biggest setback of his life. It was precisely at this time after the vice triple that doubts about the “Generation Lahmsteiger”, as Justin would so nicely put it, were greatest. But exactly then Schweinsteiger showed what really makes the “Mir san mir” feeling.
I deliberately write “Mir san mir” with an R at the back to distinguish this genuine Bavarian attitude to life from the marketing slogan “Mia san Mia”, which is used in an inflationary way. We could have collapsed after 2012. We could have gone down in history as the eternal runner-up, who, like so many clubs in Germany, then sweet talked themselves about the narrowly missed opportunities over time. But giving up is not in our nature. Second place is not what we settle for. FC Bayern is what it is, because in its recent history it has never rested on the past, but always strived for the next triumph. Bastian Schweinsteiger embodied this mentality like no other. Visibly much more than the rather calm and considerate Philipp Lahm.
On May 19, 2012 Bastian Schweinsteiger lay on the ground about 70 meters away from me in the centre circle. 30 hours after we talked highly motivated about building up the choreo. “Our city, our stadium, our cup” was the title of the choreography at the time. It was our town, it was our stadium. But it wasn’t our trophy that night. 371 days later Schweinsteiger lay on the ground again about 70 metres away from me in the middle circle. But this time not with his face towards the ground. Bastian Schweinsteiger looked into the night sky of London. With the gold medal around his neck. When I saw him lying there, I also looked at the stars above us. It was the greatest day of his life as a club footballer. It was the biggest day of my life as a fan.
For almost ten years I was allowed to follow FC Bayern across Europe to the matches. Eight of these ten years Bastian Schweinsteiger was on the field for our club. He shaped my life as a Bayern fan like no other player. Not only because of his sporting performance, but also because of his development as a person. As a world-class athlete for whom success never went to his head and always remained authentic. The first to respect his defeated opponent as the winner on the court, even in the hour of the greatest triumphs.
When I follow our young players today in my hobby as a fan of youth football at FC Bayern, most of them adore Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. “They then write “GOAT” about these players, “Greatest of all time”. The GOAT of my life is Bastian Schweinsteiger. The boy who grew up in Upper Bavaria. The youth player who made it at FC Bayern. The vice captain who led us to the greatest success in our club’s history. And the person you take your hat off to. I’m not saying ” Servus, Basti ” today. Today I say: “Goodbye, Basti”. Because I can’t imagine a future for FC Bayern without Bastian Schweinsteiger one day in a responsible position. He embodies the attitude and values of our club like no other. I’m sure we’ll meet again one day! Until then: Thank you Fußballgott!