Bayern’s final match celebrations were full of confetti, emotional farewells, an Anastacia concert and some heavily stage managed moments.
We all love the final match celebrations in Munich. The parade of stars and perhaps a fond farewell to kick off the afternoon, and the closing chaos of confetti and a refreshing Bierdusche for the players. Sandwiched in between all of that, the little matter of a football match.
This is how things have always been done in the Bavarian capital, and I would not have things any other way. I have been lucky enough to have been in the ground during one of these celebrations, and the atmosphere is simply indescribable. As a Bayern fan, it is something to be embraced, imbibed and cherished.
Sometimes, however, things can go too far. Where boundaries are pushed to the point where the football becomes a sideshow. Where the other team that is there to play football becomes little more than inconvenient irrelevance. Yes, celebrating another Bundesliga title is great. But this time the organisers might have overshot the mark.
I am bound to stir up a few people here. While some will agree with me, there will be others who will ask what all the fuss is about, and argue that I am making something out of nothing. But what happened on Saturday was not a normal end of season celebration. There was little of the usual spontaneity, with many things being almost stage managed. Even the beer showers.
A wonderful farewell
The pre-match festivities were pretty standard, and wonderfully appropriate. A rousing send-off for Xabi Alonso, Tom Starke and captain fantastic Philipp Lahm. Tears, speeches and bouquets. (Even for the referee, which was a little odd). This is how things are done in Germany, especially when saying farewell to club stalwarts. When Lahm received his accolades, there was not a dry eye in the house.
Before this there was the parade of champions, again part and parcel of the pre-match buildup at the Allianz. A great moment for any Bayern fan, and when I was there in 2015 for the final match at the Allianz against Mainz, this was my favourite part of the day. It was nothing short of magical to see all of those great players I watched as a youngster, heroes of those potted late-night highlights on British television.
Then, there was some football. Bayern, Bundesliga champions for the fifth time on the bounce, against a Freiburg team still in with a shout of securing a slot in the Europa League. As Bayern fans, we expect nothing less than winning Meisterschale. For Freiburg, back in the top flight after a traumatic relegation in 2015, it was like a final.
A pop concert sandwiched in a football match
Bayern’s opponents still had something to play for, something that was apparently overlooked by the organisers of the half-time show.
Yes, that’s right: the half-time show.
Now, I have nothing against a little entertainment during the break. Ground announcer Stephan Lehmann in good voice, providing commentary as a couple of local kids take potshots at the goal, manned by Manuel Neuer on crutches or 1980s legend Raimond Aumann wearing a blindfold. OK, this didn’t happen, but if it did, it would be fun for all.
Instead, we had pop star Anastacia wheeled out, complete with a large stage. (I hadn’t seen Anastacia for years, and genuinely thought that she had retired). After belting out a couple of songs, she finished off with I’m Outta Love, which was in the charts when Philipp Lahm was in his late teens. Meanwhile, the players were already out on the pitch, waiting.
There were a few forced smiles, and if there was nothing for both teams to play for one could have laughed off the delay. Which wasn’t just a couple of seconds. While the players were trying to remain focused and referee Dr. Jochen Dries tried to keep a straight face, the singer finally made her way off the stage. When then itself had to be removed. Piece by piece.
By this time, it was getting more than irritating, as the pieces of the stage were removed and stacked by the touchline before being wheeled away on a trolley. While the Bayern fan part of me didn’t want to care that much, the football fan part of me was pretty irked that the Freiburg team, still in the game and with the own mission, had to stand around like lemons.
It’s all about the football. Or at least it should be.
If the boot were on the other foot and we had to put up with a similar situation in Dortmund or Leipzig, I would have been spitting blood about it. Even the Bayern players were embarrassed, with Arjen Robben sharing a few fruity words of sympathy with Freiburg coach Christian Streich. The always calm Streich remained diplomatic after the match, but it was pretty clear that he was annoyed. The delay may not have changed the outcome of the match, but that was really not the point.
I have never been a fan of the half-time show. Pre-match, fine. After all is said and the game is done, no problem. But slap-bang in the middle of a contest that may actually have meaning for one of the participants? No, it’s not for me.
As football fans, we are there to watch a football match. If you want to go to a pop concert, there are many options out there. (Meanwhile, I have never heard of a pop concert where the local football team trundles on to do some keepy-uppies midway through the show).
The concept is just too commercialised for me, a little too American. During the Superbowl, the half-time show is not just a thing, it is an institution. To the point where a lot of the pre-match media brouhaha is all about who is going to be taking the stage. Or where a wardrobe malfunction can create a bigger story than the game itself.
Let me be clear that I have no great desire to be a party-pooper. Anastacia was OK, and her duet with Carlo Ancelotti during the post-match evening gathering was great. She was also a better choice than Linkin Park, who have also been seen sporting the new FC Bayern Trikot.
This was not all, though.
While the shenanigans after the half-time show could be put down to bad organisation, the meddling with the post-match Weissbier showers bordered on the surreal. Usually, this is an impromptu thing, where players grab one of the many large glasses of foaming Paulaner before seeking out a suitable victim. Completely spontaneous, complete chaos, and great laughs for the crowd and the pitch-side photographers looking for that perfect shot. (Yes, there were a few of those).
I actually had to rub my eyes and look again during the early exchanges, when I saw what looked like a GoPro camera mounted on one of the glasses. Er, what? I have heard of a bird’s eye view, but a beer’s eye view? My first reaction was “what the hell.”
Of course, having a camera on the glass removes all spontaneity from the act of delivering the beer shower. Moving swiftly holding a three-litre glass takes more than a little skill, more so because it is pretty bloody heavy.
The perpetrator has to get into the correct position to avoid pouring that precious amber nectar on the equipment, and cannot make any last-second adjustment as the victim cottons on and attempts to evade the drenching with a subtle feint.
To get it right, the drenching would need to be choreographed. Which pretty much defeats the entire purpose. Needless to say, I didn’t get to see any decent “beercam” footage; the most notable effort (for all the wrong reasons) was Xabi Alonso completely missing Philipp Lahm’s head, certainly not worthy of a passing maestro who can land the ball with pinpoint accuracy on a Pfennig from sixty yards away.
Mercifully, all of the GoPro Paulaners were quickly emptied, leaving the players to get on with the job in the usual haphazard fashion. David Alaba presenting Arjen Robben with a Paulaner “hoodie” was a classic, caught in the proper way by a proper professional photographer, not some gimmicky and rather lame attachment.
Hopefully, this experience will tell the organisers to step back from half-time razzmatazz and GoPros on beer glasses. Let’s get back to watching a football match, respecting the opposition, and enjoying the spontaneous celebrations afterwards.