Bayer Leverkusen and the hunt for lost trophies

June 2, 2009

When Bayer Leverkusen, 1-0 down in the German Cup final against Werder Bremen, desperately poured forward in search of a late equaliser, somehow you knew there was no way they would turn this round.******They ended up losing another final on the same day their former midfielder Michael Ballack, who has also missed or lost everything there is to lose in football, including World Cup, European Championship and Champions League finals, was lifting the FA Cup with Chelsea after beating Everton.******But for Leverkusen it was more of the same bitter story of the past 12 years.******In 2002 they famously let slip a “treble”, losing in the Champions League final to Real Madrid, choking over the final three matches of the league to end up second to Borussia Dortmund and losing the German Cup final against Schalke.******Since 1997 they’ve finished second in the Bundesliga four times, most painfully in 2000 when a Ballack own goal against Unterhaching cost them the title on the last day.******That’s why they are called “Vize-kusen”.******Hold on, some might say. They have been to two Cup finals, fought for the Bundesliga four times and almost won the Champions League. There are not many teams out there who can boast to have done all that in such a short period.******That is true. But do these seven near-misses count more than Borussia Dortmund’s one Champions League win? Are they more precious than Schalke’s solitary UEFA Cup win? Or newly-crowned Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg’s one and only trophy?******Whether fairly or not, no one apart from the Werkself fans themselves will remember Bayer’s almost-seven titles, nor will there be anything to display in the trophy cabinet.******Leverkusen keeper Rene Adler had a hard time fighting back the tears after the final whistle:***

“It is difficult to say anything meaningful. Second place, you don’t get anything for that. Second place is the first loser. It’s terribly bitter. Vizekusen is just a word. It is a shame it was again confirmed tonight.”


PHOTO: Bayer Leverkusen’s Michael Ballack walks past the European Cup after his team lost the Champions League final against Real Madrid at Hampden Park. May 15, 2002. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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