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Tag: Champions League

Christian Schreiber: 1965 – 2016

Thursday, 7 July, 2016 0 Comments

The death on Monday morning of Dr Christian Schreiber was a tragedy with many facets. Tania lost a loving husband, Ella and Alma a caring father and his colleagues at the German Heart Centre in Munich a brilliant cardiac surgeon who was doing ground-breaking work in the fields of paediatric and congenital heart surgery.

But that’s not the end of this list of tragedies. Christian was the victim of a truly terrifying disease: ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This progressive neurodegenerative illness affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and those who are afflicted suffer unbearable physical and psychological pain. The suffering extends to family and friends, who are forced to witness its degradation of a person they love. All of this was amplified in Christian’s case because he was so young, so gifted, so multilingually charming and had so much to offer to those who needed his life-saving skills.

In the coming weeks, many personal and professional tributes will be paid to this wonderful man, but on the day when Germany play France in the semi-final of the Euro2016 tournament, it should be mentioned that football for Christian Schreiber was more than a game — each match was a morality play and the fans were his tribe. After completing an intricate operation in Kiev, or delivering a paper in London or attending a conference in Beijing, he would dash back to Munich to make the best use of his season ticket at the Allianz Arena, the stadium of his beloved FC Bayern. It was my good fortune to be his companion on some of these occasions and each one featured a non-stop assortment of scandalous stories, informed commentary, hilarious observations and a never-ending stream of questions that sprang from a curious mind insatiable for knowledge. One of the most memorable of these get-togethers was on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 when Bayern played a hard-fought 1-1 Champions League draw with Inter Milan. It was a bitterly cold night, but we were well insulated and had excellent seats near the half-way line. While the TV cameras followed the ball, we spent the evening watching the mighty defender Lúcio and the great striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic “get it on” in a terrific mixed martial arts battle. And all was well with our world.

For those who believe in such things, Christian will be looking down on tonight’s Germany-France game, enjoying every moment. For those who are broken-hearted by the loss, the memories of the moments are what we are left with now. The old Gaelic expression, Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (“There shall not be his like again.”), sums up this unique, loving, loved, very much missed man. RIP

Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich

Dr Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich


The ugly side of the Atlético Madrid-Chelsea game

Thursday, 1 May, 2014 0 Comments

It was a pleasure to watch Atlético Madrid defeat Chelsea FC 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last night. For those who don’t follow football, Chelsea is owned by Roman Abramovich, the poster child of corrupt Russian oligarchs. Last month, Alexei Navalny, a leading Putin critic, wrote in the New York Times that Europe should target sanctions at the Russian president’s “inner circle”, including Abramovich, who he described as “the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation’s wealth.”

Atlético Madrid Does that mean, then, that Rainy Day is adding its considerable weight to the Atlético Champions League campaign? Not so fast. It happens that the coming Saturday is World Press Freedom Day and that’s why the slogan emblazoned across the Atlético shirts, “Azerbaijan Land of Fire”, is so disturbing. Here’s the background: “On the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2014, the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan is worse than perhaps ever before. Journalists and bloggers who dare to criticize the authorities or cover risky topics such as human rights abuses and corruption face a range of pressures, including harassment, intimidation, threats, blackmail, violent attack, and imprisonment.” That’s Rebecca Vincent writing for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

Football can be a beautiful game, but it’s often an ugly business.


Champions League: Karl Lagerfeld vs. Uli Hoeneß

Friday, 24 May, 2013 0 Comments
Champions League: Karl Lagerfeld vs. Uli Hoeneß

The German fashion designer, artist and photographer Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many talents, and he doesn’t shun controversy. Unfashionably, he defends the use of fur in fashion. In a BBC interview in 2009 he claimed that hunters “make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting, killing those beasts who would kill us […]

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And then there were two

Thursday, 2 May, 2013 0 Comments

Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München will contest the Champions League final on 25 May in Wembley Stadium in London. While Dortmund did just enough to edge past Real Madrid, it is the thrashing of Barcelona by Bayern that has sent the football world searching for words to explain, interpret and understand what we have seen.

“We’re witnessing the beginning of the end of an era for Barca, and the end of the beginning of an era for Bayern,” said Gary Lineker on the BBC last night. And then there were the tweets:

So does this mean that the Bundesliga is the model for European clubs? Not quite, argues economist David McWilliams: “Without free-spending, debt-financed, brash Spanish giants like Real Madrid and Barcelona, Bayern would have nobody to play with. There would be no Champions League. Put simply, without the huge spending of the likes of Real, the Germans would have no competition to play in or against.”


Messi, Messi

Tuesday, 23 April, 2013 1 Comment
Messi, Messi

“The overwhelming sensation when you watch Messi is still this: He’s a child. The nerd with the flowerpot hairdo looks like a kid who has won a competition to spend a day with Barcelona. His physique seems to mock all the man monsters and fitness rooms and ‘food supplements’ of modern sport. When Messi receives […]

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The Special Ones: José Mourinho and Abel Rodríguez

Friday, 12 April, 2013 0 Comments

And then there were four: In today’s Champions League semi-final draw we have Barcelona, Bayern München, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Will it be Bundesliga vs. Bundesliga and Primera División vs. Primera División with the best of both meeting in Wembley Stadium on 25 May? Exciting.

While we’re counting down to the draw, let’s read about Abel Rodríguez from Mexico, who waxes floors for a living in Los Angeles and takes two weeks holiday every year to work for free for Real Madrid when the club does its summer training in Los Angeles. He had always dreamed of seeing Real playing their great rivals Barca in Madrid in El Clásico, as fans call the contest, so his family urged him to go. And he went. Without a match ticket or a hotel reservation. He arrived in the Spanish capital and sat outside the club’s training grounds for hours until manager José Mourinho spotted him as he was leaving. “Stop! It’s the guy from Los Angeles.” And that’s how the magical journey of Abel Rodríguez began. It’s documented beautifully by Grant Wahl in Sports Illustrated. Snippet:

“Mourinho called an assistant and arranged for Rodríguez to have his own room at the fancy hotel where Real Madrid was staying before the Barcelona game. Mourinho instructed him to get some rest at the hotel and meet him at the training site the next morning. That evening, the night before El Clásico, the two men caught up for 90 minutes together before sharing dinner with the Real Madrid coaching staff.”

It’s only a game, some say.

UPDATE: Bayern München vs. Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid. The semi-final first legs will be on 23 and 24 April and the return legs on 30 April and 1 May.


So near, and yet so far

Sunday, 13 May, 2012
So near, and yet so far

Last night, Borussia Dortmund thrashed Bayern Munich 5-2 in the German cup final in Berlin. Next Saturday night in Munich, the Champions League trophy will be up for grabs and, hoping for a less humiliating result, the thrashee of Berlin will host Chelsea FC in their home stadium, the Allianz Arena. Meanwhile, the “Grail” is […]

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Messi, Ali, Menuhin

Saturday, 10 March, 2012

It was the week of Lionel Messi. The diminutive Argentine striker struck five as Barcelona demolished their German opponents in the Champions League. The aftershocks were heard all around the world and The Himalayan Times was moved to declare “Messi runs rampage“. Our young century now has a megastar capable of mesmerizing audiences in the way Muhammad Ali did during the 20th century — minus the activism and eloquence, of course. But these are different times and Messi’s fans want goals, not political or religious declarations.

And what does Yehudi Menuhin have to do with all this? Well, he possessed the elegance of Ali and the agility of Messi and he combined those physical abilities with a heart and a soul that found sublime expression through the violin. He puts it all together here in a memorable interpretation of the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms.