Andersson & Hitzfeld on their memories of 2001
Twenty years ago, FC Bayern experienced a season finale which people still talk about today. In Hamburg and Milan, the club, team and fans suffered, battled and celebrated. In the FCB club magazine ‘51’, Patrik Andersson and Ottmar Hitzfeld look back on the fairytale May of 2001.
At his home in Stockholm, Patrik Andersson has books, not trophies on the shelves. Many of them look old – really old. “I collect books from the late 19th century,” he explains. “Old travel diaries, from Africa for example. Or the history of different countries. That interested me at school.” And what about his own history? Andersson shrugs his shoulders. The 49-year-old only has space for his two Swedish Footballer of the Year trophies in amongst his books, although there’s much more to talk about than that, not least five days in May with FC Bayern.
Last kick decides title race
19 May 2001. “Volksparkstadion…” mumbles Andersson with a grin. “I played the best football of my life in those six months.” The team – Effenberg, Scholl, Elber, Kahn, Lizarazu, Sergio – was a loud and high-quality one, as he says. Yet it had been an up-and-down season. In the DFB Cup, there was the second-round defeat to fourth-tier club 1. FC Magdeburg. In the Bundesliga, FCB dropped to fifth place at one point. Now, on the final matchday in Hamburg, they needed one more point to secure the title ahead of rivals Schalke 04. That never looked in doubt until the 90th minute, when Sergej Barbarez headed HSV in front. Andersson was a second too late to it. “Barbarez wasn’t even my man, I couldn’t get a challenge in,” he describes. On the bench, the suspended Hasan Salihamidžić had his head in his hands. In the parallel fixture, Schalke beat Unterhaching 5-3. The title appeared to have slipped away – until Hamburg goalkeeper Mathias Schober handled a back-pass in the 94th minute. There was an indirect free kick in the HSV penalty area. Everyone knew: this last kick would decide the title race.
You can even tell on the phone that 20 years after the game, Ottmar Hitzfeld still shakes his head. “That shot through the wall… I’ve watched it many times – inconceivable!” The then Bayern coach still wonders to this day what in God’s name happened. The 72-year-old remembers vividly how Oliver Kahn prowled through the Hamburg penalty area before it was taken. “He made everyone nervous, which perhaps was good,” he says. Hitzfeld was too far from the situation to be able to intervene. “You don’t shout who should take it. You have to rely on your senior players there.” Effenberg, Scholl and Tarnat were the regular free-kick takers back then, but of the three only captain Effenberg was still on the field in stoppage time – and he decided that it should be taken by someone who had never done that for Bayern before: Patrik Andersson. “It was gut instinct,” claims Hitzfeld. “Stefan said to Patrik: ‘We now need a flat, hard shot. Power is more important than precision here.’ This is football. This is football history!”
Gaps in the wall
Effenberg knew Andersson’s ability as a free-kick taker from their time together at Mönchengladbach. “I’d gone forward, like everyone else. Then Effe came and said: ‘Patrik, you’re shooting!’” tells Andersson. The question was just: where? The ball was half to the left side of the penalty area, nine or ten metres from goal, with a crowd of 11 Hamburg players (and five Bayern) in between. “You have a thousand thoughts in your head,” continues Andersson. He realised that as soon as Effenberg tapped the ball for him, Schober and Stig Tøfting would charge at him from the right. “When I shoot, they’re almost going to be where I am. The far corner was therefore closed off. The only option was to hit the ball as hard as possible, keep it low and hope that somehow it goes in.” The referee blows, Andersson runs up… While all this is happening, he notices a change in the Hamburg wall. “I saw that they moved inside a bit. A slight gap emerged between the two players on the far left – and that’s where the ball went through. It fitted perfectly, unbelievable!” And that amazement was written in the Swede’s face as he ran off in celebration with his arms outstretched. “There are just moments when everything bursts,” he says. “When you see the teammates, the people on the bench, the fans in the stands – unforgettable scenes! Incredible!” Kahn ripped out the corner flag and lay on the grass with it cheering, Shortly after, he took Hitzfeld in the arms and said: “Keep going! Always keep going!”
This was Andersson’s only goal in two years in Munich. His job had just been to keep it tight at the back, he admits almost apologetically. That’s what makes his goal even more special. “When you look at how many players have entered the Bayern history books… I left a legacy with that goal in Hamburg.” But how had the team even managed to rise up again after conceding in the 90th minute? Andersson describes Kahn’s reaction to going behind, how the Bayern goalkeeper picked the ball out of the net as quickly as possible and Sammy Kuffour tore at his shirt. “Olli sent out a signal. That was crucial!” he believes. “Olli made it clear to us: it’s not over yet!” Two years before, Bayern had painfully experienced against Manchester United what can happen in added time. Giving up was not an option.
Momentum for UCL final
While Kahn was lifting the championship shield in front of the fans in Hamburg, tears were flowing at the Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen. After HSV went 1-0 up, thousands of fans invaded the pitch, celebrating Schalke’s first league title in 43 years – believing that Bayern had lost. For four minutes, they felt like champions, then Andersson’s free kick struck like a dagger to the heart. “For Schalke it was cruel, for us it was incredible,” says Hitzfeld. Above all, it was incredibly important. “I don’t want to imagine what would’ve happened if we hadn’t scored that goal.” Four days later, it was the Champions League final. A squandered title would certainly have increased the pressure. The relief was huge, explains Andersson. From that moment, thoughts turned to the grand final against Valencia.
23 May 2001. “Today is a good day to make history” stated a banner among the Bayern fans inside the San Siro on that evening. Everyone knew that, 25 years after the last triumph in the European Cup and two years after the bitter defeat in Barcelona, it was high time that the famous trophy came back into Bayern’s hands. “I felt the team’s hunger from my first day in Munich,” recounts Andersson. Bayern had finished top in both the first and second group stage – despite the famous 3-0 defeat to Lyon – before knocking out Manchester United in the quarter-finals and holders Real Madrid in the semis. Now they were one match from glory. On the day of the final, Hitzfeld ordered Andersson to his hotel room. “It was a brief conversation, also a vote of confidence. I wanted to put myself in his position, hear his opinion,” remembers the former FCB boss. Bayern knew Valencia from the previous season, when they twice drew 1-1 in the group stage. The Spaniards also reached the final that year. “They were a really good team – very solid at the back, good on the counter,” explains Andersson. He had a key role in the centre of defence. “Patrik was the main man in our back three, the stabiliser, the organiser of the defence,” says Hitzeld. “He didn’t know the meaning of nervousness.”
Picked out wrong corner
The Swede proven that again in the game, which increasingly turned into a thriller the longer it went on. There was an early penalty in the third minute for Valencia. “I wanted to block a shot, and in doing so I went to the ground,” explains Andersson. The ball rolled to him, Gaizka Mendieta followed up. “I put my arms in front of my body to protect myself.” The ball bounced onto his elbow, the referee blew his whistle, and Mendieta fired in the opener. Four minutes later, there was a penalty at the other end, but Mehmet Scholl couldn’t beat Valencia keeper Santiago Cañizares. In the 50th minute, the referee pointed to the spot for the third time after a Valencia handball, and this time Effenberg converted to level the score. It remained 1-1 after 90 and 120 minutes, meaning the game had to be decided on penalties. It was 2-2 after three attempts each, with Andersson the fourth taker for FCB. “It’s a long way from the halfway line to the penalty spot,” he describes. It was a path he’d trodden in a final before. In the final for the Swedish title in 1989, he hit the bar with Malmö FF against Norrköping. Two teammates also missed as Malmö missed out on the title. Today, Andersson has to laugh when he talks about it. “That’s just how it was,” he says. He never shied away from taking penalties, and nor did he in Milan. “I wasn’t thinking about Malmö. Everything around me went dark,” he describes his walk to the spot. In the previous penalties, he’d observed that Cañizares had dived to the taker’s left every time. “So I went to the right – but Cañizares saved it!” Andersson still can’t quite believe it. Luckily for him, Bayern had Oliver Kahn in goal, who saved the next spot-kick from Amedeo Carboni and finally from Mauricio Pellegrino. FCB won 5-4 – and finally brought the Champions League trophy back to Munich after 25 years.
Andersson’s most vivid memory of the celebrations is the return to Munich, where a million fans greeted their heroes. “The parade through the city, the celebrations on the city hall balcony – phenomenal! We’d all waited a long time for this trophy: the fans, the players, the clubs” rhapsodizes Andersson. He and Bayern had experienced five days full of highs and lows. Both the Bundesliga and the Champions League appeared lost but were won in the end. “It’s in those decisive moments that you see how great a team is,” says Andersson. “I’m very proud to have been a part of this team. It was a great group.” Back home in Stockholm, an old etching hands on the wall. It depicts the mayor of Munich handing over the keys of the city to King of Sweden Gustav II Adolf during the Thirty Years’ War. “A little reminder of my time in Munich,” he says. History is important to Patrik Andersson. At FC Bayern, he helped write a special chapter in it.
Illustrations: Rafael Alvarez
We visited Patrik Andersson at home. You can watch the first part of the documentary here: