Lars Ricken and that goal!
Let’s set the scene; it’s the 28th May 1997 and it’s a warm evening in Munich. The atmosphere is intimidating in Bayern Munich’s Olympiastadion, with 59000 fans watching on plus the millions viewing at home. You’re side are 2-0 up in the Champions League final but are starting to get pegged further and further back towards their own box as Juventus are desperate to get back into the tie. Then disaster, Alessandro Del Piero takes his opportunity and pulls one back for the Italian giants. The atmosphere starts to turn as Juve continue to push forward. Then your manager looks at you, “get warmed up, you’re going on shortly.” 5 minutes later, you’re on the touchline and the forth official has his board up, you’re time has come, it all goes quiet as you run onto the pitch.
Stephane Chapuisat comes off and slaps your hand as your run past, he’s been running all evening non-stop, it’s now you’re job to do the same. Being only 20 years old, you know you’ve got the energy to burn, but you can’t run around like a nutter. This is the Champions League final; don’t get taken by the occasion. You are wearing that beautiful bright yellow jersey, with a big black number 18 on your back.
The ball gets headed down on the left as Juve try once again to get back into the game. The ball is won back and skilfully BVB are charging forward on the counter attack. You’re in an advanced position and those fresh legs put you in acres of space on the right. An inch perfect through pass is played in your direction and you take it perfectly in your stride. You are the furthest man forward in a 1 on 2 situation, roughly 30 yards from goal; What do you do?
Do you take a few touches and hold the ball up waiting for an opportunity to play in a teammate in a better position? Or do you decide to take the opportunity yourself? Remember it’s the Champions League final, you are 20 years old, the atmosphere, the occasion, the pressure is huge. How do you make a split second decision? How do you know it will be the right one? What if you fluff it up, could it come back to haunt you?
You are confident and have faith in your own ability. You can feel Ciro Ferrara and Mark Iuliano charging towards you, but you also spot Angelo Peruzzi is slightly off his line. So without any hesitation you hit it first time. Then it all goes quiet, it’s as if time is almost standing still and the ball is slowly floating through the air.
The stadium erupts. The ball flies from 30 yards over Peruzzi into the top corner. You have done it, that goal will surely seal the Champions League for the first time for your beloved Borussia Dortmund. You run towards the bench to be greeted by players and staff, embracing you in that moment of brilliance. You’ve only been on the field for 16 seconds. It’s what fairy tales are made of.
For Lars Ricken this was no fairy tale, this was real. His stunning goal will be remembered by Dortmund fans forever as it clinched Europe’s most prestigious prize. The fact that it was a simply brilliant goal makes the moment even more special. It will go down as one of the greatest ever Champions League final goals. To be able to take that shot on with the precision in that situation is amazing. The composure shown from a 20 year old Ricken was something that any footballer would dream of. To take the ball in that kind of environment and high pressured situation and with your first touch of the ball, lob the keeper from 30 yards is pure class. The focus, expertise, and mentality from such a young man was amazing, you don’t see many young players with that kind of mental strength.
It’s a moment that will forever stick with Dortmund fans. Even if Ricken’s career was plagued by injuries, that moment made him a club legend and will forever be held in high regard.