Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger Wants Basketball Playoffs for European Football

About a year ago, Bayern Munich played Chelsea in the Champions League final, losing on penalty kicks. It was a heartbreaker; Bayern were, overall, probably a better team, and they were playing in front of their home crowd at Allianz Arena. What did Bayern’s dynamic central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger want to do when, after having his penalty kick saved by Petr Cech, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba won the trophy for the West London club? He, like any true baller, wanted to run it back.

Above is a video, via TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott (and BekoBBL), of an interview with Schweinsteiger conducted at the German League basketball playoffs. Schweinsteiger, attending a Bayern vs. ALBA Berlin clash, talks a bit about the idea of introducing a basketball-style playoff system to football. At the end of this month, Bayern will play fellow Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final. Bayern will have appeared in three out of the last four finals, losing to Inter Milan in 2010 and Chelsea in 2012. After going through the whole Champions League gauntlet, surviving the occasionally arduous group stages, and making it through several rounds of two-leg knockout rounds, teams meet in the final and it’s death or glory. Since Bayern has lost the last two finals they’ve competed in, it’s not a shock to hear Schweinsteiger entertaining the idea of a best-of-whatever series to decide the final.

“You can get revenge back for a defeat. We lost in the final of the Champions League last year, and we certainly wouldn’t have minded a second or a third game,” says Schweinsteiger (or his translator, to be specific), much to the delight of the lady interviewing him. “It’s fairer that way. I think the system in basketball is good because whoever ends up as a winner has deservedly won. It’s not just because of one fortunate victory.”

Putting aside the blatant shots fired at Chelsea here, it’s interesting to hear Schweinsteiger talking about this stuff. As an American who loves European football, I probably think more about what American sports could do to be more like those Old World competitions, not the other way around. For instance, while it’s probably out of the question, logistically and in terms of infrastructure, I think promotion and relegation would be huge for MLB and the NBA. And I think both leagues could stand to have cup competitions (like the FA Cup in England) running parallel to the regular season, with the reward for winning being a lottery pick or cap relief; something to spice up the usual slog through the months.

But could a playoff system work in the Champions League? I think the two-leg knockout rounds are still a pretty fair decider, though we’ve clearly gotten to the point where the away-goals rule should be reconsidered. The Champions League final, like the Super Bowl, has become as much about the pageantry around the match as the match itself. For better or worse, UEFA has a sporting-event-as-international-holiday on its hands, and that’s not going to change so that the best team can always win.

And who’s to say that they would anyway? Or should? With a best-of-three series in the final, you’d lose Liverpool’s comeback win in 2005, Manchester United’s miracle in 1999, and the singular brilliance of Barcelona’s Wembley performance in 2011. You can have the magic of a Cup final or you can have fairness. Life’s full of little trade-offs.

(I can’t leave this post without highlighting the fact that Schweinsteiger describes Bayern fullback Philipp Lahm’s basketball game as “pretty small, but he’s very uncomfortable to play against.”)

Filed Under: Bayern Munich, Champions League, Chris Ryan