Winston Churchill said never, never, never give up. Chelsea Football Club reached the UEFA European Champions League Final in 2012 – this is the most prestigious championship in world club soccer. For eight seasons Chelsea had attempted to win this trophy. They lost four times in the semi-finals and lost the 2008 final to Manchester United in a penalty shoot out.
In the 2012 semi-final against Barcelona they were losing 2-1 on aggregate and were down to ten men when captain John Terry was red carded. Chelsea remarkably got them selves ahead on aggregate with a goal before half-time. However a penalty to Barcelona in the second half seemed to spell the end for Cheslea’s heroic resistance. Unfortunately for Barcelona, the world’s greatest player, Lionel Messi could only strike the penalty against the bar. Ten men Chelsea hung and killed off the game with an injury time goal.
Chelsea went to the final against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, Bayern’s home stadium. Bayern were overwhelming favorites and Chelsea were without their suspended captain John Terry. Bayern dominated the game with Chelsea playing rearguard action for most of the game and Bayern finally broke through with a goal in the 83rd minute. The Allianz stadium started celebrating the inevitable victory.
Chelsea brought on substitute Fernando Torres after the Bayern goal. Torres was no longer the force he had been a few years earlier and he was a man that had something to prove. He received the ball on the right wing in the 86th minute and ran down the wing forcing a corner. Sky TV’s Martin Tyler provided the commentary “Chelsea running out of time, where there is life there is hope, they’ve had many many hairy moments on the way to the final but nothing possibly as bleak as this for Chelsea”.
Tyler went silent as the corner kick came in. Ivorian striker Didier Drogba was lurking in the box. This would be his last chance to win a Champions League medal and defeat was staring him in the eyes but he had other ideas. He ran towards the incoming corner, in the air and met the ball with a pounding header deflecting the ball in to the top corner of the Bayern net. The world’s greatest goal keeper Manuel Neuer got a hand to the ball but the power was too great. Tyler screamed “Drogba……..he’s pulled the rabbit out of the hat”.
The game went into extra time. Bayern had a penalty to win the match. Surely Bayern were going to kill off the match this time. However Arjen Robben’s shot was saved by Petra Czech. The match finished 1-1 and went to penalties. Bayern took and an early advantage and looked set to win the shoot out but suddenly a save and a miss and Chelsea were one penalty away from winning the Champions League.
Didier Drogba was the dedicated fifth penalty taker. This was planned to be his last game in a Chelsea shirt. In the 2008 final, he had missed taking a penalty in the shootout due to the red card he received. As he stepped up, English Commentator Garry Neville spoke, “Didier Drogba, I am going to say it now. It’s written in the stars”. Drogba sent the keeper the wrong way with his penalty shot and Chelsea were champions.
Bayern Munich players and fans claimed they were the better team on the night and that Chelsea were lucky and only came to play a negative defensive game. I see it differently. This was an eight year project of concentrated desire to reach this result. Their team showed tremendous guts, spirit and a never say die attitude. The years of coming close and bitter defeats had only intensified their desire to reach the summit and I believe that desire, that focus, is what created the luck when they needed it. Never give up on your dreams. If you experience defeat, use it to clarify and intensify your desire to reach your goal and remember “where there is life, there is hope”.
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