Bayern Munich made history by winning their tenth straight Bundesliga title in a row, a new record for Europe’s top five leagues. The Serienmeister Stream is a ten-part stream that covers ten special aspects of that glorious decade-long run. Enjoy!
The Serienmeister Stream comes to a close today. What a run we have explored. Titles, trophies, wins, goals, kits, players, drama, all encompassing one action-packed decade. So how do you end such a series? Well, I decided to do so on a more personal note. Here is my personal best Bundesliga season of the ten - for more reasons than one.
There are a lot of seasons to choose from, but I decided to go for the 2019/20 season, the eighth Bundesliga title in the bunch.
Bayern started the season with a 2-2 draw against Hertha BSC, which wasn’t an ideal beginning, but soon went on a six-game unbeaten run to quell any nerves. However, a defeat to Hoffenheim and a draw to Augsburg started raising questions about then-coach Niko Kovač, and a 1-5 beatdown to Eintracht Frankfurt saw the Croat leave his post. A relatively unknown individual in Hansi Flick took Kovač’s place, and boy, what a replacement he was.
Flick started his tenure with a series of wins, and although two defeats saw his team plummet to seventh, the Flick Express (Flixpress; seriously, this needs to be an official term) soon picked up the pace again and defeated Werder Bremen, SC Freiburg, and Wolfsburg, the latter two in quite dramatic fashion, to climb back up the Bundesliga table and round off the calendar year.
A few weeks later, the team was back with a bang, scoring twelve goals in their first three games of the year. Although a 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig saw more dropped points, it would be the last time the team dropped any points that season. Four wins and 15 goals later, Bayern had long seized back the top spot of the Bundesliga, and were poised to make this a great season.
But Teddy you mindless meandering maverick, I hear you say, what’s so personal about this season? You’ve just stated a bunch of facts so far. Well, my beloved reader, I’m coming to the personal part.
As we all know, in March 2020, COVID-19 swept the planet. Almost the entire world ground to a complete halt. Businesses were closed, schools were deserted, and people barricaded themselves into their homes until god knows when. Naturally, football, including the Bundesliga, came to a stop as well. Bayern’s last game before the pandemic was a 2-0 win over Augsburg, with Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka on target.
A student minding his own business at New York University, I myself was on spring break when I suddenly received an email from my school. It basically told me they were kicking me out of my dorm and I had one week to clean out my closet. A number of reasons kept me from flying home, which meant I had just one week to find a place to live in New York City or move into the subway station around the corner.
I ended up wasting my spring break apartment hunting, going to and from Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem, and more. In the end, I found myself stuck in a tiny room in the middle of Crown Heights. There I would stay for the next three and a half months.
Living in that small, dusty room slightly bigger than a walk-in closet was a nightmare. I kept telling myself that I was one of the lucky ones, I had a roof over me and food on my table, my loved ones were safe, and so was I. But was I really safe? I was slowly descending into insanity. Every day I woke up staring up at a ceiling in an unfamiliar room in an unfamiliar neighborhood. It didn’t help that I heard that Crown Heights was notorious for its crime rate (true story, there was a shooting right outside where I was staying). I was scared. I was uneasy. My anxiety kept me up all night and I usually ended my day after the sun began its own.
My daily routine mainly consisted of waking up, walking to my computer, walking back to my bed, and that was it, give or take a few hours outside each week to go grocery shopping and to the laundromat. I couldn’t go anywhere else. There was nothing to keep me motivated. My studies were more or less done and dusted, and my classes felt like little more than a pipe dream. I would try reaching out and touching my classmates and my teachers’ faces on Zoom, only to be met by a smooth LCD screen. Nothing seemed real anymore. I felt like I was living in a bad dream. I was alone, with my friends and family tens of hundreds of thousands of miles away. I had never felt so alone in my life. Nothing was making me happy. The worst part? It didn’t show any sign of ending. I had no future.
That’s how I stayed for two months. Joyless. Empty. Exhausted.
But then, a miracle happened. The Bundesliga announced that it would be resuming in May. It was a glimmer of hope, a shiny ray of sunlight that pierced through the dark clouds that had loomed over my life. Something would fill my life up with joy. Finally, a bit of normalcy would resume in the routine that was anything but ordinary. The team reassembled, and so did I.
Our first match back was against Union Berlin, and despite some rustiness, we won 2-0. Then we avenged our Hinrunde defeat to Frankfurt by beating them soundly. The stadiums were empty but I didn’t care. I had something to enjoy for the first time in months. Something was making me happy again.
The most important game came up just after my graduation, which was reduced to little more than an online stream. However, I didn’t mind in the slightest. The very tangible prospect of winning the Bundesliga was much more important to me than some silly ceremony.
What I saw that afternoon against Borussia Dortmund was more than enough to shake away any remaining demons of COVID. The team fought the hardest I had ever seen them fight that season. They went for every ball first, they defended staunchly, and they pressed like there was no tomorrow. A superb lob from Joshua Kimmich sent us seven points clear at the top of the table. I was thankful, more than thankful for the team that had played their hearts out for the fans watching around the world, people like me who desperately needed a reason to be happy.
As the team started chugging towards the Bundesliga title, I myself started to make the most of my life in Crown Heights. I started taking a football out to my local field and taking shots by myself, taking absolute care to stay safe, of course. It felt good to lace up my boots and kick that ball. Bayern had given me a reason to pick myself up, to enjoy my life to at least some extent. I started smiling again.
A 5-0 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf later, we faced another stern test. We would be playing the two teams that had defeated us in the Hinrunde. A week that could make or break our season. But the team did not flinch in the face of that challenge, and gave me hope that I should not either. Leverkusen were dispatched 4-2, and Gladbach were also beaten 2-1, despite the absence of our top goalscorer and assister. Goretzka’s winner against Gladbach meant that only one more win out of our last three games would be enough for us to win the Bundesliga. Next up, Werder Bremen.
Bayern took to the field in a very rainy Weserstadion and fought hard despite the conditions and a resilient Bremen side. It took a while, but Robert Lewandowski eventually scored the winner, and although they needed a stunning save from Manuel Neuer later, Bayern were champions of Germany once again. As the final whistle went, I raised my arms into the air out of happiness. The team had not stopped fighting even in the middle of a global pandemic, and we had won our eighth successive Bundesliga title.
There was still time for two victories over Freiburg and Wolfsburg for Bayern to cap a near perfect Rückrunde, and I was happy. More good news followed; I was finally able to go home to Korea in early July, just in time for the end of the season. I would be going home even happier after a 4-2 win over Leverkusen in the Pokal final.
On the surface, this season might seem like a typical Bundesliga season, but it was the furthest thing from, most of all for me. Watching those games in that dimly lit room with barely enough room to move around gave me hope, gave me happiness. Most importantly, it gave my life some much needed meaning in the middle of what was one of, if not the most, toughest phases of my life so far. It felt like I had a friend, a friend who was doing his or her best to keep me happy. Despite being stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar, possibly hostile neighborhood, I did not feel alone once Bayern started playing again. I felt safe, at ease. Something was right in my life again.
Just a few days after the Pokal victory, I flew home to Korea and met my loved ones again. I had fought my own battle in this pandemic and I had won, all thanks to the Flixpress.
Speaking of which, Bayern got busy and prepared for the final step in their season: the Champions League. I think we all know how that little tournament in Lisbon turned out. I was happy again.
Which brings us to today. Reminiscing about those months, I have mixed feelings. While the confinement was anything but fun, I still have fond memories of my mental state rebuilding itself while watching those games in that tiny little room. My team got me through so much, and I can never thank them enough for that. This is what makes this particular season my personal best, and most memorable, Bundesliga season of our glorious decade.
Bayern are in for a tough season ahead, and who knows what will happen? But one thing is for sure, I will not leave this team no matter what. Bayern stuck by me through a very difficult phase in my life, and I need to stick by Bayern when it goes through hard times. Yes, I might slander Julian Nagelsmann a lot, or a certain player or two, but whatever happens, I will stick by this club. I owe this club a lot, and it’s time for me to return the favor.
I want to end this piece with a song from Lady Gaga called “Hold my Hand.” It embodies the message that Bayern was sending my tired soul during that painful but ultimately triumphant time.
Hold my hand
Everything will be okay
I heard from the heavens that clouds have been gray
Pull me close
Wrap me in your aching arms
I see that you’re hurtin’, why’d you take so long
To tell me you need me
I see that you’re bleeding
You don’t need to show me again
But if you decide to
I’ll ride in this life with you
I won’t let go ‘til the end
So cry tonight
But don’t you let go of my hand
You can cry every last tear
I won’t leave ‘til I understand
Promise me, just hold my hand.