Calcutta: Some things in life are worth the wait. And Calcuttas long wait for the King — not Shah Rukh, for once — but Bayern Munichs legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, came to an end on Sunday when the custodian arrived in the city to play his farewell match for the famous Bavarian side.
The superstar of world football, who guided Germany to the final of the 2002 World Cup and won the Golden Ball, is part of a 45-member Bayern Munich squad that flew in for a friendly with city stalwarts Mohun Bagan.
Bayern Munichs visit has generated a buzz hardly witnessed before. And not without reason. The German giants, who won a double back home after bagging the Bundesliga and German Cup this season, are the biggest club side to visit the city after Peles Cosmos (1977) and Dutch side PSV Eindhoven (1991), the latter with seven World Cup stars in their ranks.
But fans of football and Bayern Munich here should not expect the Bavarians to take the exhibition tie at the Salt Lake Stadium too seriously. Certainly not as seriously as Cosmos or Eindhoven did when they played here.
Less than an hour after the team arrived amid heavy security at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld admitted it was more of a social visit for his team.
With Bayern bringing just 11 professionals and three top ranked players — Oliver Kahn, Mark van Bommel and Ze Roberto — it cannot be, by any stretch of imagination, a serious friendly. The visitors will not even train at the stadium prior to the match.
We trained at Bali for a couple of days before coming here. The boys are tired. Here, we have come to attend many social projects. We are footballers but we have social responsibilities as well, the Bayern coach explained.
Oliver Kahn, however, is not the only big name in the Bayern squad. Team manager Uli Hoeness, who has a World Cup (1974) medal, also enjoys star status.
Frankly, we have no knowledge about Indian football. We should get to know on Tuesday. We are here as a part of our globalisation plan, said the manager making the globalisation plans pretty much known. Bayerns social responsibilities were pretty much obvious as several agencies clamoured to extract as much publicity out of them.
Minutes after the three most well-known faces of the squad —Kahn, Hitzfeld and Hoeness — held an impressive news conference through an interpreter, the entire team went over to the Bodyguard Lines at Alipore to inaugurate a local tournament organised by the city police.
It was certainly a delightful experience for the huge crowd as a patient and cheerful looking Bayern Munich sat through the rather chaotic function (marked by long speeches) and obliged the organisers in every possible way.
Kahn, Van Bommel and Roberto obliged every autograph seeker after the function. Like they say, all mega-events reserve the best for the last. As Kahn was called in to formally inaugurate the tournament, he got up smiling, picked up a piece of paper from the interpreter and announced in Bengali: Ami ei protijogita udbodhon korlam (I hereby inaugurate this tournament).
From the Bodyguard Lines, Kahn and company left for Millennium Park to enjoy a river cruise, courtesy yet another public relation exercise by a foreign airline company.