They say that mankind will never learn. Every so often, history will repeat itself, and the words of our forefathers will ring true once again, as meaningful as they have always been.
But their words do not merely speak of caution and fear – for among them are stories of courage and valor that warm the heart.
The tale of young David’s unlikely defeat of the giant Goliath is one such story that has stood the test of time, to the point where it is used liberally today.
Used to signify the unlikely defeat of a titan at the hands of a relative minnow, one can see why it has proved to be a goldmine for journalists everywhere – especially in sports, where upsets and underdogs are celebrated with much aplomb.
It is very curious, then, that in this battle Borussia Dortmund are seen as the minnows. This is, after all, the team that won consecutive Bundesliga titles not so long ago. A team that collected the prize scalp of the most successful European team of all time – that of Real Madrid – on their way to a summit clash against old rivals Bayern Munich last season.
No, that Dortmund are still considered to be the minnows is more a reflection of just how far ahead of the pack Bayern Munich find themselves today, rather than any shortcomings on the part of The Black and Yellows.
The Bavarians have always been a proud club. And why shouldn’t they be? Record German champions and five-time winners of the Holy Grail that is the Champions league, they have always had an almost overbearing presence on the domestic scene.
They say that champions rise stronger from the ashes of defeat, fiercer and more determined than ever, and perhaps no football team today embodies this better than Bayern Munich.
Dortmund initially exploded onto the scene with a brand of football that had the blood pumping, and their opponents gasping for breath, caught as they were in the slick, suave and sexy nature of their game. But more on Klopp’s side later – it is necessary to understand how the Goliath came into the reckoning first.
With the appointment of Jupp Heynckes, Bayern found deep within themselves something extraordinary – something that would shape their very identity.
Through some magic of chance or fate or maybe even foresight, the Bavarians had accumulated in their ranks players who typified the hunger and desire of their manager.
Heynckes, for all his successes as a player, was always under-rated as a manager. Nicknamed the “champion without a title” way back in his early days at Borussia Mönchengladbach , successive spells at a number of clubs saw the man chained to the nickname.
Even when he broke free of the chains to win – most prominently in his first spell at Bayern, and then at Real Madrid – he was sent packing unceremoniously pretty quickly.
He returned for a third spell in charge for the 2011 -12 season. And this was when both manager and players found that “special something”.
Club legends Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philip Lahm had tasted defeat once too often, both for club and country. A similarly motivated Ribery and Robben were as hungry as ever, and it looked only a matter of time before the team took their rightful place in history.
But fate had other plans. Finishing behind Dortmund yet again, the German contingent in the Bayern team had a bitterly disappointing Euro 2012 as well. But the tipping point may well have been the Champions league final loss to Chelsea in their own backyard.
It unlocked something animal, something very primal in this team, something that shook the footballing world with the force of its retribution. The treble winners are now as marauding as ever, safe in the knowledge that their place in footballing history is secure.
And with footballing visionary Pep Guardiola in charge today, it has become hard not to blink in the face of such outright superiority.
But if anyone can look an adversary in the eye and put up their fists for a fight, it is this Dortmund team.
In Jurgen Klopp they have a man who lives and breathes the game like few others. A favorite with reporters for the catchy sound bites he unfailingly offers, the man recently compared the experience of walking out of the Signal Iduna Park tunnel as an experience akin to being born, going into rather graphic detail at how it resembles the actual process of how one comes into the world.
But that is Jurgen Klopp for you – candid, open and vibrant. Whether he is comparing Arsene Wenger’s brand of football to an orchestra or calling the incessant linking of his players with moves to other clubs “cool”, Klopp does not mince words.
Even if he does get poetic and metaphorical at times, his words are so markedly different from his peers – dispassionate men in suits who so coyly fail to provide any insight at all into their thoughts.
For that, and so much more, Klopp has become a firm favorite among football fans the world over. A vast majority of fans – the writer included – having seen their own teams knocked out of the Champions league early on, were vociferous in their support of the Dortmund way.
Because who doesn’t love an underdog?
Dortmund can count themselves to be even more disadvantaged this time around, with injuries to key personnel, including the likes of Matt Hummels and Marcel Schmezler joining Neven Subotic, Lukas Piszczek and Ilkay Gundogan.
However, fate seems to be doing her part in giving Dortmund a chance – Ballon d’Or candidate Franck Ribery has been ruled out of the game after sustaining an injury during France’s miraculous win over Ukraine.
Even so, the odds are stacked firmly in Bayern’s corner of the ring – such is the depth and strength of their squad that even the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Claudio Pizarro, Xherdan Shaqiri and Holger Badstuber is unlikely to derail the Bayern train any time soon.
There are no unscheduled stops in the foreseeable future, not with Guardiola so relentless in his quest for perfection. But Dortmund will certainly be looking to throw a spanner in the works, and the world will eagerly hope that they can.
And why not? One of the enduring lessons from our tale comes from David’s reluctance to wear the King’s armor as he prepared to battle the mighty Goliath; instead taking refuge in his familiar, simple slingshot.
The stone flung from the slingshot found a hole in the giant’s armor, and he fell face down on the ground. David then took Goliath’s sword and cut off his head.
I may be taking the metaphor a little too far when I compare the use of Goliath’s own sword to Dortmund’s propensity to strike on the counter-attack, using the opponent’s perceived sense of control to unsettle and overcome – but the message from the story remains the same.
In trusting that with which he was familiar with to overcome Goliath, David teaches us to believe in our strengths.
Dortmund certainly do not need me to tell them to do the same – it is the foundation on which Klopp’s side is built on.Published 21 Nov 2013, 20:24 IST