It was a clear night on the 23rd of August. 24th, if you put it in Korean time, where I was watching. It’s not an easy feat getting up at 4am, but thankfully, I didn’t have to go through that, because I wasn’t asleep at all. I stayed awake all the way to kickoff. I couldn’t sleep, I was too nervous. This was my first ever Champions League final as a Bayern fan. After seven years of waiting, we had reached the final again. Paris Saint-Germain were our opponents. A treble was on the line. We had to win.
I remember seeing that lineup and doing a slight double take, as Kingsley Coman had replaced Ivan Perišić, who had started the last three consecutive Champions League games against Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, and Lyon. Lord knows what Hansi Flick was thinking then, but hey, it was a winger for a winger, it wasn’t a special change, right?
How very wrong I was.
The butterflies in my stomach turned into stinging wasps as kickoff drew closer and closer. At that point, I just wanted to get the whole thing over and done with. My body cried for sleep, but its cries were drowned out by the deafening sound of my racing heart.
And finally, we kicked off. It was now or never.
I don’t remember the first half being that eventful, to be completely honest. All I remember is Manuel Neuer’s world class double save against Neymar, and Robert Lewandowski hitting Keylor Navas’ post. Of course, there was David Alaba’s huge blunder in our box, but Kylian Mbappe wasted his chance by shooting straight at Neuer. Perhaps Lady Luck was already on our side then?
Halftime came and went, the goalless scoreline doing little to settle my nerves.
The start of the second half wasn’t that eventful either. The highlight was when Serge Gnabry and Neymar got into a tussle, but other players got more involved than them. Probably natural, considering how much was on the line. Otherwise, the match remained tensely poised.
And on the hour mark, it finally happened.
Joshua Kimmich received the ball at the edge of the box and whipped in a sumptuous cross. Fate had it that it would be the surprise starter Coman, a Parisian native no less, that met it and headed it past a helpless Navas. 1-0.
I didn’t celebrate that goal too much, though. All I did was emit a quiet “yes!” and clench my fists. The game was far from over, and I wasn’t planning any premature jubilation until the final whistle went.
The game turned more lively after that. My heart dropped a fair few times, particularly when Marquinhos’ shot was blocked by Neuer’s right leg, and when Mbappe’s point blank range effort was saved again first by Neuer, and then by the offside flag.
But no more goals came, and stoppage time hit. Five minutes? Really? Why so much?
I was on my knees, staring intently at my screen, praying that the referee would blow his whistle. My heart was running faster than an express train.
A final mammoth effort from Paris saw Neymar spin, lose his marker, and fire a curling shot across goal...only for it to sail harmlessly past the post for a goal kick. I let out an immense sigh of relief and kick-started my heart again.
Five minutes and eleven seconds passed. I desperately gesticulated toward my wrist, despite the obvious absence of a wristwatch. Why wasn’t the game over yet?
But just when I was thinking PSG had used their titanic sums of money for something else other than players, the whistle blew.
Bayern Munich were the champions of Europe. We had won.
My fists punched the air. All the pressure, nerves, and emotions that I had bottled up inside me were drained in one long roar of delight. It was around 6am, so I probably made the neighbors really mad, but I didn’t care. Blazing tears stung my eyes as I collapsed on the floor out of happiness.
Although I hadn’t slept in ages, I didn’t feel tired in the slightest. The sheer adrenaline that had fueled me for the past two hours was still burning like the eternal flame. Of the countless titles I had witnessed my team win over seven years, none hit as hard as this one. My first ever Champions League title as a Bayern fan. For years I had seen us falter at hurdle after hurdle for multiple reasons. This time, we had finally made it all the way.
As captain Neuer exploded with happiness and hoisted the European Cup high into the Lisbon sky, I smiled like I had never smiled before. It was a feeling of pure joy, a feeling that could be replaced by few others.
One year later, I look back on that day with fond memories, hoping that the day will come again that we will lift that coveted trophy again. When will that be, and who will be the person lifting it? Only time will tell.