july 19, 1987. i was not even ten years old when i went to the stadium for the first time in my life. and it wasn't a bad way to start the experience: a derby in the hot maracana stadium, when flamengo played vasco da gama. over 80,000 spectators came to see a special match - zico still played for flamengo (alongside big names like junior), while vasco had a 21-year old romario helping out veteran legend roberto dinamite in the attack. dunga, by the way, played for sebastião lazaroni's vasco side at the time. both would become brazilian world cup managers.
it would be almost 10 years until i saw my second match, thanks to the enthusiasm of "katita", a palmeiras fanatic; which was nice, because i got to see djalminha and cafu in action for the greens from sao paulo; and even the home team from the small city of americana, rio branco, had two future stars: mineiro, who went on to play bundesliga football for many years, and marcos senna, who became european champion for spain in 2008, a full eleven years later.
before the world cup in germany 2006, i had only seen six live matches, half of them in the morumbi stadium to see brazil's best organized team, sao paulo fc. but even in these six matches, i had seen coaches like lazaroni, antonio lopes, christoph daum, tite, paulo autuori and emerson leao work at the sidelines, while players like emerson, zé roberto, ulf kirsten, rogerio ceni, luis fabiano, diego lugano, hernanes, carlos gamarra, marcos and juninho paulista showed off their various skills. then i went to germany to volunteer at the world cup, almost at the age of 30.
first up was france x switzerland. and what a french team it was! world champions fabien barthez, lilian thuram and zinedine zidane. willy sagnol and eric abidal helping out in the full back positions, claude makélélé and the great patrick vieira holding the strings in midfield, and young franck ribéry exciting his nation with his wing play towards striker thierry henry. i remember watching them train in the stuttgart stadium a day before the match, and i had never seen so many stars at one spot. until today, zidane remains the "biggest" player i have ever seen, maybe tied with zico.
those five matches really ignited in me the fever. to watch games live was now becoming a bigger deal for me than ever before, since i had always been a television football fanatic. in the second one, i saw one of my all-time heroes on the dutch bench, as marco van basten was coaching van nistelrooy, robben, van persie, van der vaart, sneijder, van bommel, cocu and van bronckhorst on one side. on the other, legendary coach henri michel was leading the exciting ivory coast team, at the time already led by didier drogba, with the help of up and coming midfielder yaya toure. a few days later, it was iker casillas in goal, sergio ramos as full back, carles puyol as center back, xabi alonso and xavi (genius!) in the middle, david villa on the wing and fernando torres up front. it took raul in the second half for spain to beat tunisia, and cesc fàbregas, whom i just saw yesterday for the second time (over 8 years later) also joined the action.
another three days later, it was time to see croatia - that meant mostly niko kovac to me, as a bayern fan; but also ivica olic and a very young luka modric where on the pitch in stuttgart. tim cahill was already australia's leading player, alongside mark viduka and harry kewell.
and just another three days later, i saw david beckham convert a free kick to put england in the quarterfinal. what a midfield the english had: hargreaves in his best form ever, steven gerrard, frank lampard, with the back line also being strong: rio ferdinando and john terry in the middle, and ashley cole on the side. and yes, wayne rooney was the star striker back then already.
only at the age of 31, i saw my team play for the very first time. bayern münchen played a winter friendly at kaiserslautern, so that was a great opportunity to also visit that legendary stadium called "betzenberg". it was packed despite being a friendly, and bayern won 2-0 with goals by luca toni and landon donavan. jürgen klinsmann was bayern's coach at the time, and the team had lucio, demichelis, lahm, van bommel, zé roberto, franck ribéry, bastian schweinsteiger and miroslav klose in action.
two other bayern-firsts for me are worth mentioning: my one and only visit to the allianz arena occured in 2011, at the audi-cup (pre-season friendly) in the final between bayern and fc barcelona, coached by pep guardiola. it was on that day that pep went to speak to the management and expressed his interest of one day working in munich; i did not get to see messi play (he would have been the greatest ever!), but thiago alcantara, now a bayern player, scored both barcelona goals. before that, brazilian club inter had tied 2-2 with ac milan, giving me the opportunity to see the likes of ibrahimovic, seedorf, ambrosini, gattuso, zambrotta, robinho, pato and kevin prince boateng live.
finally, only this year, i saw bayern play in a competitive match for the first time. the german cup quarterfinal was in hamburg, where i saw my team beat the home club 5-0, with three goals by mario mandzukic and a goal by arjen robben; dante also scored.
i have seen the brazilian national team once, in 2008; there, brazil managed by dunga (back at his job now) beat portugal (with cristiano ronaldo and pepe) 6-2, with three goals by luis "fabuloso" fabiano. germany i've seen twice; in 2012 in bremen against france (1-2) and this year against poland in hamburg (0-0) - so i haven't actually seen the current world champions win yet.
in total, yesterday's werder x chelsea match marked my 41st game. here are some figures and stats:
30 matches in the last six years
32 matches in europe, 31 of them in germany.
18 in the weserstadion, bremen
5 in morumbi, sao paulo
5 in the gottlieb-daimler stadion, stuttgart (world cup 2006)
4 in the imtech arena, hamburg
10 friendlies (3 international, 7 club)
5 world cup
4 uefa champions league
4 brazilian serie a
1987: flamengo x vasco
2004: sao paulo x corinthians
2005: sao paulo x palmeiras
137 goals, 3.2 per match
4 goals in 3 matches by robert lewandowski
4 goals in 8 matches by claudio pizarro
4 goals in 16 matches by aaron hunt
robson ponte for guarani (in campinas) in 1999 against bayer leverkusen, friendly
luis fabiano for brazil (in brasilia) in 2008 against portugal, friendly
mario mandzukic for bayern (in hamburg) in 2014 against hamburger sv, german cup quarterfinal
guarani 6x4 bayer leverkusen - friendly in 1999
brazil 6x2 portugal - friendly in 2008
sao paulo 3x3 palmeiras - brazilian serie a in 2005
werder bremen 0x5 borussia dortmund - bundesliga 2012/13
borussia dortmund 3x2 cf malaga - champions league 2012/13
werder bremen 3x2 hannover 96 - bundesliga 2013/14
werder bremen 2x3 mainz 05 - bundesliga 2013/14
hamburger sv 0x5 bayern münchen - dfb pokal quarterfinals 2013/14
important players seen: 196 (in my book), 141 of them at "international star" level
16 aaron hunt
9 eljero elia
8 claudio pizarro
6 marko marin
(none of those at international star level)
5 per mertesacker (international star)
all for werder bremen, of course; besides merte, with one game for germany, and hunt, one game for wolfsburg, and pizarro, one for bayern.
players seen in three different jerseys:
marco reus (germany, mönchengladbach, dortmund)
ivica olic (croatia, bayern, wolfsburg)
two different clubs (besides the above mentioned):
naldo (werder, wolfsburg)
aaron hunt (werder, wolfsburg)
sebastian rode (frankfurt, bayern)
rene adler (leverkusen, hamburg)
shinji okazaki (stuttgart, mainz)
claudio pizarro (werder, bayern)
antonio cassano (sampdoria, milan)
xherdan shaqiri (basel, bayern)
thiago alcantara (barcelona, bayern)
luiz gustavo (bayern, wolfsburg)
dante (mönchengladbach, bayern)
martin demichelis (bayern, malaga)
mario götze (dortmund, bayern)
zé roberto (leverkusen, bayern)
robert lewandowski (dortmund, bayern)
my 7 favorite matches:
may 30, 2004 - brazilian serie a
sao paulo 1-1 corinthians
full stadium, derby atmosphere, and when corinthians scored, it sounded like something form out of space!
june 16, 2006 - fifa world cup
netherlands 2-1 ivory coast
a great match with lots of attacking football and many stars in a world cup!
november 19, 2008 - international friendly
brasil 6-2 portugal
it is not always that you get to see so many stars, including cristiano ronaldo mabye just 2 meters away, and see such a spectacular match with many beautiful goals.
august 18, 2010 - uefa champions league playoff
werder bremen 3-1 sampdoria genova
to be in a stadium and listen to the champions league hymn for the first time is an awesome experience. great match, too, with a fantastic goal by now captain clemens fritz to make it 3x0.
october 20, 2012 - bundesliga
werder bremen 4-0 borussia mönchengladbach
fantastic atmosphere all game long, great action against a good team. werder at their best.
april 9, 2013 - uefa champions league quarterfinal
borussia dortmund 3-2 cf malaga
hands down the best match i have ever witnessed in a stadium - the incredible atomsphere at the signal iduna park, the dramatic 2 goals after regular time to make it through to the semifinals - it was all too much!
february 12, 2014 - dfb-pokal quarterfinal
hamburger sv 0-5 bayern münchen
first time right next to the bayern fans, five goals, great pep guardiola playing style, and bastian schweinsteiger's long awaited comeback!