5 Champions League finals with historical subplots

UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /
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There has always been the saying that football is just a game and what happens on the field stays on the field. However, there are those that also say football is a war that is played on the field. Whatever it is, history has always been an important part of football and it is clear whenever rival clubs or nations take on each other.

This is even more significant at the international level and especially when nations with prior historical conflict clash, such as Germany vs Netherlands/England or England vs Scotland. When this happens, the urge for success is palpable from the supporters as they always want to defeat their arch-rival.

On the contrary, club tournaments, such as the Champions League, do not have many games that involve historical conflict and even those that exist do not have the same level of intensity from the supporters as on the international level.

However, even though the Champions League does not have many of these encounters that involve prior historical conflict, there have been finals played between teams that included remarkable subplots which involved history, political conflict, and even war.

In the moment, it can be difficult to comprehend as supporters are always focused on the game and hoping their club can claim the title. However, when properly analyzed and taking all the elements into consideration, the historical ironies being displayed are truly astonishing.

Some of the ironies range from teams lifting the title in the rival nation (or even in the rival region), finalists from the same nation playing in the country with whom there was prior historical conflict, and even the nationality of the managers in charge of their clubs.

Which finals are they and what historical subplots are involved? These are the historical subplots behind these 5 Champions League Finals.

Borussia Dortmund's Paul Lambert
Borussia Dortmund’s Paul Lambert (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Allsport/Getty Images) /

5. Borussia Dortmund claim the title in Bayern’s Olympiastadion

Borussia Dortmund’s only Champions League title came against reigning champions Juventus. Managed by Marcello Lippi, the Bianconeri were favorites to defend their title again with a side that included the likes of Christian Vieri, Alessandro Del Piero, and Zinédine Zidane.

Despite this, Dortmund (managed by Ottmar Hitzfeld) were not phased and pulled the upset with a 3-1 victory. However, the interesting thing about this triumph was not who they defeated, but where they claimed the title; which was in Munich’s Olympiastadion where Bayern Munich used to play.

This is significant because Borussia Dortmund not only has a rivalry with Bayern Munich, but also the region of North Rhine-Westphalia (where Dortmund is located) with Bavaria. Many German regions have a rivalry with Bavaria, but Dortmund’s victory in Munich’s Olympiastadion was well received in North Rhine-Westphalia, even by their arch-rivals Schalke 04 (Not every Schalke fan, but many were pleased with their triumph).

For a side from North Rhine-Westphalia to claim the Champions League title not just against a historic club, but in Bayern’s Olympiastadion was truly remarkable for the entire region.

Interestingly, Borussia Dortmund’s triumph included another historical subplot as Paul Lambert, who played for Dortmund, would become the first British player to lift the Champions League title. Achieving it with a German team and in the most powerful region in Germany knowing the history there has been between Germany and the United Kingdom, was truly remarkable.