If Monday’s Hall of Fame ceremony had an intimate, special feeling, then Tuesday’s game felt like a huge Bayern party — with Chicago as the awkward friend who was tagging along. It was an event, before, during, and after the game.
Pregame ceremonies: Heynckes & Basti honored
Before the game began there were some formalities to be exchanged. Heynckes was given the award for best manager of the last season, as voted for by Journalists and separately from Kicker.
Schweinsteiger himself was also presented with a large frame containing pictures from his time at the club to chants of “Fussballgott” (football god), an epic atmosphere with the dimmed lights in the football temple Allianz Arena.
Some pre-game impressions below:
- Heynckes and Schweini reunited after the former was received his award for Kicker’s manager of season 2017-18. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- Following that, the Schweinsteiger ceremonies began. Basti first was presented with an photo collage of his time at the club. Patrick Pintaske
- The fans joined in the fun with a great choreo. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- And then the game began, as Basti’s two teams met on the pitch. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
The game: Basti with the Chicago Fire
In all honesty, the first half of Bayern Munich’s friendly against the Chicago Fire was a little bit standard. It’s what you would expect from most Bayern friendlies against smaller teams: total dominance and two goals against weaker opposition.
In the pictures below, you can see Bayern’s players celebrating the second goal — scored by Wagner (following Gnabry’s opener). The second image is a great illustration of Bayern’s dominance, as they spent most of the first 45 in Chicago’s half.
And Schweinsteiger? Well, he was a bit invisible, playing as a kind of libero in a back three that struggled to get to grips with Bayern’s offense. Some of the emotion surrounding Basti’s big game was lost in Chicago’s struggles.
Schweinsteiger’s incredible second half with Bayern
Everything changed in the second half.
From the minute 11 players in no. 31 jerseys walked out onto the field, it was obvious that the second half was going to be very, very different.
If the first half had the atmosphere of a training game, the second half felt like a fun kickabout with old friends. It started out seriously enough. Bayern continued to take the game to Chicago, now with Schweinsteiger calling the shots in the offensive midfield.
But as the half wore on, things took a silly turn as the team tried to get Schweini a farewell goal. He joked around with Alaba, Robben and Rafinha as they all scrambled to find a way to lob him an easy assist and set him up for a goal. Of course, the Chicago Fire didn’t make life easy for their teammate, as they did their best to block, intercept and deflect any and all shots. They were already down 3-0, after all — not exactly an advertisement for the MLS!
You almost had to feel sorry and a little worried for the goalie, Richard Sanchez: after he made some decent saves on shots by Schweinsteiger, the booing and roar of the crowd against him became viciously loud.
In the end, though, Basti made an improbable sprint to split Chicago’s defense and score on a spectacular goal on the volley. The drama made the beautiful strike all the sweeter, and everyone went home friends.
Here are some images from the second half:
- The second half was all about Schweini on the big screen. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- The man himself wore his no. 31 jersey along with the rest of the Bayern team Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- Robben makes the it 3:0 in the 63rd minute. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- Basti spread the ball around the pitch like he did in his prime. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- He had a laugh with the ref as well of course, like all influential players do. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- He also had a laugh with Alaba, Robben and Rafinha. Here he tells Rafinha off for playing a deep ball, which Basti clearly was not about to go to chase. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- All fun aside, Schweinsteiger’s teammates tried to set up him for a goal at every point, to the extent where the Chicago goalie was being heavily booed for saving the ball... until this sublime strike. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- The whole stadium erupted when Basti scored. The players tossed him in the air like a trophy... Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- ...and cheered with him... Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- ...and eventually rejoined what had become little more than a scrimmage by this point. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- Schweini took a moment to applaud the fans, too. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- ...thanking them for all their support, something that deeply moved him as he later said. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- He held the Bayern logo on his heart. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- And the fans enjoyed giving him the love as much as he enjoyed receiving it. Patrick Pintaske / Bavarian Football Works
- Schweinsteiger shakes hands with Niko Kovac, who was also on the pitch (and scored) in his first professional game (UCL vs Lens) and who Schweinsteiger replaced as a sub in his Bundesliga debut against Stuttgart around a month later.
During the game Schweinsteiger also too the time to thank fans and have a short chat with Kovac who was an active Bayern player for the start of his career. So many little points that made for an epic evening.
Ana Ivanovic and Brazzo in the Mixed Zone
And once the game was over we headed to the mixed zone to see who we could grab to talk about the living legend no.31. First, we were lucky enough to find none other than his wife:
What are your plans for the future?
I think just being a professional, at least on that high level, it’s just important to support each other. I know what he goes through; he knew what I’d been through, and like I said, it’s just most important to support each other, no matter what happens next.
Is it possible that you might come back to live in Munich?
You never know what happens. So many things happened that we didn’t even plan for. I’ve been traveling my whole life so I’m like, whatever happens, whatever we decide, I’m happy to just move around.
Soon after, Hasan Salihamidzic came out to chat to the media:
It was a lovely evening, wasn’t it?
Yeah, really nice, one has to say. A special playing career. Bastian also was really great, also scored a goal, had a fantastic farewell here in my opinion. The fans were sensational this evening, I have to say. My compliments! All in all it was a super farewell for Basti.
Did you talk to Basti and what did you talk about?
Yes, especially in the locker room and beforehand. Of course, we know each other well, played together. We talked a little bit about him, what he’s doing, what he’d like to do. He’s a super guy.
Schweini Press Conference
To end the day, Schweinsteiger gave a concluding press conference in his Bayern jersey. It was a very nostalgic moment.
Basti first acknowledged how emotional the game had been:
It was hard to hold back the tears. I was really moved. Yeah, I could say thanks to the people who were in the stadium or watching on TV.
He then elaborated on how special it was to have a proper goodbye:
First of all, thank you very much that it was at all possible for me to get a farewell game. I can remember the day when I flew to Manchester. The whole time I wasn’t able to properly say goodbye to everyone, the fans, the players, the team, and that’s why I’m really incredibly happy to be able to experience a moment like today. I’m speechless [...] and I consider myself lucky to have experienced something like this.
After which he was asked the all important question: Munich or Chicago?
It depends on how I feel, how my family feels, [if I want] to keep playing or not. I still feel fit, even though it’s become a bit more difficult to play against opposition like Bayern. But I still feel good, am having fun playing soccer. So I can well imagine continuing to play.
As the press conference came to a close, Schweinsteiger gave one answer that really showed his human side, and why he might eventually prove to be perfect for Bayern’s front office somewhere down the road. When asked what the nicest part of the visit had been, he said:
The moment when I saw the fans again, saw the players again in the stadium, but also the moment when I met Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness again after such a long time. That was also really nice. [...] Meeting family again also means a lot to me.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is incredibly genuine, someone who values bonds over titles, while still having the ambition to be the best and win everything. That balance was on full display in this remarkable game. Schweinsteiger obviously wanted score one last goal for Bayern and have fun with his old team, but he wasn’t out to humiliate his current teammates, and even seemed a bit embarrassed that he was being encouraged to shoot rather than lay off.
Mr Schweinsteiger the football player achieved everything, but Basti man is what made him a legend, what made him Bastian Schweinsteiger Fussball Gott. It was an unforgettable experience to witness his final game in person and to hear him describe how much it touched him.
—Paddy P, reporting from the Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany.