MUNICH – “You should have been here yesterday,” the cab driver who welcomed me here on Thursday morning said with a voice that was half-proud and half disappointed.
The day before I arrived, Munich hosted a titanic battle between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg of the Uefa Champions League. I watched that match in patches in a bar in Dubai while waiting for my connecting flight to Germany.
I drank only one beer at that bar, with a 500ml draught costing around R150. A beer must have some serious super powers, including not having a hangover the following day, for me to purchase more than one at such a price.
Madrid left Munich in high spirits after winning 2-1.
I arrived in Munich in good spirits but a bit tired after a marathon of flights. The cab driver who took me to my hotel was quite bubbly and chatty. He told me he is a Munich fan and that’s why he was half-disappointed. But the half-proud part comes from how much he prides himself in his city.
They do cabs in style here. pic.twitter.com/OOaiOZEFUy
He volunteered to take me to the Allianz Arena, serving as my photographer once we were there, even though the stadium was slightly outside the route to my hotel. If he just followed the route I would have only glanced at it. But he took me inside and was patient throughout my admiration of one of the most iconic venues in football.
The stadium precinct is draped in the German giant’s success. A large banner reminds you as you enter that you’re now at the home of the 2018 German Kings.
“The parking here can accommodate more than 20 000 cars, it’s very big,” the cab driver who I never got to ask his name told me. There were no cars on that big parking lot when we arrived. The few cars that were there were next to the entrance, including a McLaren.
The gloomy weather and Bayern's loss made the eye-catching venue solemn. It didn’t help that it was without its allure that truly comes out at night, showing off its beautiful architecture with the bright colours it wears.
The Allianz Arena without her glory that comes out at night. pic.twitter.com/VKUsVFW5C9
Two fans came out from the stadium’s store looking glum. Their car was parked next to a long banner that has all the 28 times Bayern have won the Bundesliga, a record in German football.
Bayern will lift this title for a sixth successive season next month. It won’t feel as sweet should they not reach the final of the Champions League as conquering Germany is a foregone conclusion – what they crave the most is to be European Kings again. They last did that in 2013 at the expense of Borussia Dortmund in an all-German final.
Emulating that feat is at the top of the agenda for Niko Kovac who will replace Jupp Heynckes as Bayern’s manager next season.
Kovac’s Eintracht Frankfurt has been a revelation this season. Kovac visits his future home on Saturday in a mouth-watering tie against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
Trust me, I won’t be a second late for that match since people here are very punctual and having been a day late for the battle of European giants.
* Njabulo Ngidi is in Germany courtesy of StarSat