Champions League Final

Herbie and I had fun playing around in the backyard before we settled to watch Chelsea FC win their first Champions League title.

I’m a huge footy fanatic. And I came home from LeaderShape at the perfect time, right before the final football game of the year: the UEFA Champions League final. It’s finally summer, and so with my two weeks of vacation, I have plenty of time to relax, go to all my doctors appointments, pack, and, of course, watch one last football game.

When I studied abroad in London with Temple, I lived in Islington, a neighborhood in North London. The Premier League, the professional league of English soccer, is much different than any American professional sports league. While most cities in the States have one professional team per sport, London has many Premiership teams. My team’s the Arsenal, whose home in Highbury was a short walk from my flat. As such I was taught to despise the other London teams, most notably, Tottenham and Chelsea. The top four teams each year in the Premiership qualify for the Champions League, a tournament of the best teams in Europe.

This season, Arsenal finished in a tight race in third, behind Manchester City and Manchester United, so we qualify to compete next season. Tottenham, the other North London club, our arch-rivals, and my cousin’s favorite team, was in fourth place, but with Chelsea competing in the title game today, if they won, as returning champions next year, they would steal the fourth spot from Tottenham. As a Gooner, any opportunity to take down Tottenham I’ll take, even if it means cheering for Chelsea.

So after playing in the yard all afternoon with my puppy, we settled in to watch Bayern Munich face Chelsea in Munich. The odds were in Bayern’s favor, as the final was held this year in Munich, but Chelsea’s been on some miracle streak under new coach Roberto Di Matteo. For 82 minutes, the game was a deadlock in score, but Bayern clearly dominated. When they scored, I thought it was all over, but then Didier Drogba gave Chelsea the equalizer. I screamed, cheering loudly, before composing myself as I realized that this was Chelsea, the team I hate, that I was cheering for. But it was a really good game. And I just really love football.

In the end, the English squad won on penalty kicks and became European champions. But just wait until next year, when Arsenal will surely be in the finals! Until then, there’ll be plenty of national team action for the summer with Euro 2012 and, of course, the 2012 London Games!

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