This past week, before Bayern Munich played RB Salzburg, I had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid. Aside from Kylian Mbappe’s fabulous winner, I can barely remember any details. Commentators call such games “tactical battles”; I call them “boring”.
On Friday, meanwhile, at the end of the Bundesliga’s first weekend kick off between Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz, I found myself standing with Mainz. And for all of those who have read my work over the years, my bias towards Bayer Leverkusen (and Borussia Mönchengladbach) is obvious. Why was I standing with this team which tends to yo-yo between the top two divisions in Germany?
Well, obviously, because I wanted them to win.
For all of those who saw the game, Leverkusen’s first goal via Patrick Schick went in following a really unfortunate deflection off Mainz’s captain, Moussa Niakhaté. Mainz equalized via Aaron Martin. They should have been ahead shortly thanks to Karim Onisiwo but the referee deemed that Onisiwo’s goal shouldn’t stand because Niakhaté was offside. At that point, one could not help but feel for Mainz. Mainz would get their win though via two brilliant goals in the last ten minutes from Jean-Paul Boetius and Marcus Ingvartsen.
At the end of the game, the stats informed me that Mainz had outran Leverkusen; this wasn’t surprising at all.
So, why am I writing this?
Recently, there has been talk of switching to a playoff system to make German football exciting, because Bayern Munich winning the title every season makes the league boring and reduces its appeal internationally. Competition is always good for a league and I do not want to argue with that point.
I want to point out, for a second, that a league deemed boring is the one I would rather watch week in week out than the “tactical battles” in the Champions League. You may argue that this is because my team will win it anyway. But only one game per weekend involves Bayern Munich. It is the beauty of the game which makes me tune in to the other contests. This weekend, for example, Gladbach, caught in a relegation battle, will play Borussia Dortmund. I, like many a Gladbach fan, will be rooting for a Gladbach win because I do not want the Foals to suffer yet another relegation.
The Bundesliga produces brilliant games week in week out; the fans are brilliant, the teams are, for the most part, fan-owned and the league continues to stand against ownership by billionaires unlike in most other countries. Many would like to see the system change nonetheless.
But each year that this debate regarding competitiveness in the Bundesliga comes up, my heart sinks a little. I have watched the Premier League grow more and more soulless down the years. I would hate to see the league that has accompanied me through my ups and downs go the same way.
For me, Gladbach’s relegation battle and a Leverkusen-Mainz game under the floodlights will always be much more exciting than a tactical battle between two giants owned by world powers could ever be.
Let us know your thoughts and, as always, thank you for reading!