If, after watching Bayern Munich’s appalling display of simultaneous superiority and ineptitude that granted the evil white empire of Real Madrid entry to the Champions League final, you found it a little difficult to maintain the furious, righteous anger in your belly once you saw the agonizing, tear-streaked faces of the German club’s players after the final whistle blew last night, then a helpful way to rekindle that ire is to remember what was at stake.
Real Madrid are the bad guys. Not only because the club is extremely rich and successful in the world of sports, where riches and success are the bedrock for all the best enmities. Not only because the club’s historical ethos is something akin to that of a Harvard final club. Not only because the club’s best player is as unlikable as any superstar in any sport. No, Real Madrid are the bad guys whom you should be rooting against right now not only for the aforementioned reasons, but mainly because they stand on the cusp of achieving a historic feat that, if they are to complete it, threatens the very value system of the sport itself.
We’ve talked before about what Real’s continued Champions League success means for the game, so we won’t spend too much time with it now. Suffice it to say, in a sport structured so completely around crowning the most deserving teams with titles, and where the definition of “deserving” has a specific meaning that gets at not only the quality of a team’s players but also the often innovative strategic solutions a team comes up with to overcome opponents and the strictures of the sport itself, with competitors then analyzing and copying or refuting them with newer strategies all in the process of progressing the tactical and philosophical development of the sport, a team like Real Madrid winning the European Cup for the third consecutive time and the fourth time in five years—a team that doesn’t play in any particularly notable or instructive way and only teaches the tautological lesson that being rich and successful leads to more riches and success—would, to an extent, undermine what success in soccer even means.
This is why Real Madrid need to be stopped. This is what Bayern Munich were tasked with, to slay the beast and save the game. And this is why their inability to do so despite coming so goddamn close is deserving of every ounce of contempt the supporters of truth and justice are throwing their way.
The Bayern tie was the Juventus tie all over again, and it was even more painful the second go round. It was baffling just how thoroughly Bayern bungled it. Just look at this shit:
Seriously, look at it:
OH MY GOD CLOSE YOUR EYES BUT ALSO DON’T BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS:
Bayern aren’t even all that great of a team themselves, and yet they were the better side in both matches. They had so many chances to run up the score, and by far the best chances they conceded to Madrid came off two brainless errors most youth team players wouldn’t even make. Yes, the referee didn’t do Bayern any favors—most blatantly on a clear handball by Marcelo in yesterday’s match that probably should’ve been a penalty—but as Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes stated after the game, the German team can’t pin the loss all on bad luck, not after Bayern had more than enough opportunities to win the game themselves and blew it. Bayern truly have no one to blame but themselves. And for abdicating their duty to stave off what would be one of the most annoying title wins in recent memory, they have earned our scorn.
Of course, all of these concerns are exaggerated. It’s sports; none of this is that serious. Plus, it’s clear from the pictures from the pitch once the match was over that any frustration Champions League spectators of a certain philosophical bent feel about Real Madrid possibly winning the trophy again pales in comparison to the genuine heartache Bayern’s players felt yesterday and will continue to feel when reminiscing on what could’ve—should’ve—been.
And really it’s not just Bayern at fault for the continuation of Real’s European hegemony. Every big club in Europe has failed to build a team with players and tactics that together could make a stronger claim for “deserving” to win the continental trophies Real have made a habit of lifting.
(Though if any one club can look in the mirror and say they’ve tried their best to stop things, it’s Real’s city rivals, Atlético Madrid. No matter how this year’s Champions League final shakes out, the most impressive feat in all of soccer over these past five years remains Diego Simeone’s Atleti winning La Liga and reaching two European Cup finals in that span. It’s a shame that team fell short to Real in both those finals, because even just one Atlético Champions League title would’ve been a well-deserved, legacy-cementing achievement that stood for everything Real Madrid’s trophies lack.)
And so while it is indeed “fuck Bayern” for letting this happen, it’s also fuck Barcelona and fuck PSG and fuck Manchester United and fuck Manchester City and fuck Juventus and fuck the rest of them for allowing this extremely talented but unmemorable Real Madrid team to win their way into a place in history that far outstrips their actual status. Real Madrid should’ve lost yesterday, but then again they should’ve lost plenty of times over the years. But no one could finish them and so they won, and here we are. If Real really don’t “deserve” to win all these European Cups, it’s high time someone goes out there and beats them.