Bayern Munich’s desire to win two consecutive trebles ended abruptly on a snowy Wednesday evening in Kiel. It was the most unlikely of results, and the first time since Bayern was knocked out in the second round of the DFB Pokal since 2000. As a Bayern fan, losing always tastes sour, but history was made tonight. Holstein Kiel, the team made up of Bundesliga rejects and lower-division players, reminded us all why football is the best sport in the world.
Recognizable issues in a unique defeat
Bayern lost tonight due to recognizable issues. Off the ball, Bayern doesn’t look like the same team that sent shock waves through the football world only a few months ago. Tonight, the team looked tired, uncreative, and most significantly, defensively vulnerable. Kiel’s first goal looked like Jonas Hoffman’s first two goals against Bayern last Friday. One pass going by the central defenders, and Manuel Neuer is left in yet another one-on-one situation against the opponent’s attacker.
Offensively, Bayern looked tired. Without Robert Lewandowski for the first 75 minutes, the whole team lacked creativity. Bayern’s two goals came off a free-kick and a goal that would have been disallowed if VAR was available. The team that scored eight against Barcelona a few months ago failed tonight to create chances against a team that has never played in Germany’s top division.
Should Flick be questioned as a result of this defeat? Perhaps. Is it too soon to panic? I believe so.
I am a firm believer that short-term thinking often causes negative long-term effects. Flick won Bayern Munich their 6th Champions League title during a season where things looked very bleak at first. He deserves the supporter’s patience.
Cinderella stories still exist
I will leave the analysis of what is going wrong at Die Roten for another article or for this comment section. Tonight isn’t about Bayern Munich, Hansi Flick’s tactical mistakes, or poor Marc Roca’s penalty kick. Tonight is about Holstein Kiel.
How often does this sort of upset happen? For younger Bayern fans, this is the first time Bayern Munich has lost to a lower-division side. The last time Bayern Munich was eliminated this early in the DFB Pokal was back in November 2000, when they lost to FC Magdeburg. Arguably, the game against Magdeburg was the bigger upset. Also winning on penalties, the then fourth-division team from the former East knocked out a Bayern side that had been in a Champions League final only a year before.
But football in 2000 was very different from what football is today. Chelsea and Manchester City were yet to be bought by billionaires, Neymar didn’t know what Paris Saint-Germain was nor had any idea that he was going to be bought for €222 million, and football overall enjoyed its last remaining years before becoming a hyper-capitalist phenomenon.
In 2000, Holstein Kiel was also in the fourth division. Today, they are still a club that has never played a minute of Bundesliga football. In fact, the whole state of Schleswig-Holstein has never had a Bundesliga side. Kiel’s players today consisted of Bundesliga rejects, players that have, just like Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich, dreamt of being the next Miroslav Klose or Michael Ballack, but have fallen short of that almost impossible accomplishment. 29-year-old Stefan Thesker played eight Bundesliga games in his career, while 26-year-old Ahmet Arslan played one for Hamburg SV. Captain and last-minute goal scorer Hauke Wahl have never reached those heights, neither has goalkeeper Ioannis Gelios. The most experienced Bundesliga player is Fin Bartels. In his 170 games of Bundesliga football experience, he played against Bayern 11 times and lost every single game.
Only in sports can two teams with such vastly different CVs and economical backing go head-to-head and be equal on the pitch. It doesn’t happen often and even less so in this day and age when super-clubs have become more superior in their respective leagues and on the international stage. But it happened tonight.
Holstein Kiel forgot about all the odds that were against them. They continuously moved the ball from the back, won 53% of the duels on the pitch, and defeated the Champions League title-holders by playing their own game, not parking the bus. They reminded me of why I fell in love with this game. They reminded me that football games can sometimes be decided by the performance on the pitch, not performance outside of it.
Tonight was DFB-Pokal drama of the highest order. David, managed by a coach who grew up in Kiel, beat the Goliath giant from Munich. A sour defeat for Bayern fans that leaves a lot of questions, but also a reminder that Cinderella stories can still happen.