In Part 1 of 4 pieces, we recall Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or triumph, Zambia’s historic Africa Cup of Nations success, Borussia Dortmund’s domestic double, Atletico Madrid’s great 2011/12 season and Manchester City’s nail-biting finish in the English Premier League.
January 9, 2012 – La Pulga, at only 24 years of age, went on to win his third Ballon d’Or award on the trot. The previous year, he beat 2010 FIFA World Cup winners and Barcelona team mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta to clinch the prize.
Throughout the year 2011, La Pulga proved to the world why he was on top of it although a portion of football analysts and fans wanted the coveted FIFA Ballon d’Or of the 2010 edition to land in the hands of Spain’s Xavi and Iniesta or even Holland’s Wesley Sneijder.
Majestic performances from Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to glory in La Liga, the Champions League, the Supercopa de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. All these glorious moments happened in 2011, leaving Lionel Messi as the genuine contender for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or. He gathered 47.88% votes. Cristiano Ronaldo (21.6%) and Xavi (9.23%) finished second and third respectively.
February 13, 2012 – The Chipolopolo of Zambia were destined to make history in Gabon-Equatorial Guinea. The 1993 Zambia national football team air disaster which happened 547 yards offshore from Libreville was the source of the 2012 AFCON squad’s success recipe.
With Herve Renard on their side as coach and Christopher Katongo as captain, the Zambian team went all the way to the final where they met hot favourites Cote d’Ivoire.
An extended penalty shootout session in the ultimate battle tested everyone’s nerves. In the end, the Chipolopolo gunned down the Elephants to lift the crown in honour of the 25 souls.
April 21, 2012 – FC Bayern München is the biggest and best team in the history of German football without a shadow of a doubt.
Hence, when they went into the winter break at the top of the Bundesliga table in the 2011-12 season, they were expected to be crowned German champions. However, poor form between January and March saw a confident Borussia Dortmund take the lead, one which they never let go of.
Some slips allowed Bayern to come back into the race but Dortmund beat out the Bavarians in a contest between the two, effectively sealing the title. Their historic title win (because they recorded the highest points tally in the history of the Bundesliga) was just a taste of what was about to come.
May 12, 2012 – A week prior to the Champions League finale, FC Bayern played BVB in Berlin in the DFB Pokal finale. After an even forty minutes, Dortmund took charge and never looked back. They won 5-2 with a hat-trick from Robert Lewandowski. The Bavarians looked on in disbelief. A young Dortmund side, devoid of the financial clout of a major club like Bayern, took the domestic competitions by storm and won a historic double.
May 9, 2012 – Atletico Madrid had a terrific 2011/12 season with apparently more ups than downs. They finished fifth in the Spanish Primera Division and took their chances in the UEFA Europa League by beating teams like Celtic and Lazio on their way to an all-Spanish final against Athletic Bilbao.
This glamorous fixture in Bucharest proved to be a one-sided affair as Real Madrid’s city rivals registered an entertaining 3-0 victory.
One man in particular emerged as the star of the team during the entire campaign: Colombia’s Radamel Falcao, also known as El Tigre. The striker, who finished third behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2012 Pichichi race, scored a total of 36 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions last season.
August 31, 2012 – With the same hunger for goals and glory, El Tigre shined in the UEFA Super Cup final against UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea. A hat-trick by Falcao acclaimed Atletico Madrid as the overall champions of Europe in Monaco.
May 13, 2012 – A few weeks before the end of the 2011/12 English Premier League season, it looked like Manchester United would win the title hands down. Indeed, the Red Devils went 8 points above their noisy neighbours by April.
However, the Citizens finished the campaign strongly while Man United progressively crumbled under pressure in the latter stage. The two-horse race went all the way to Matchday 38 with Manchester City needing three points against Queens Park Rangers to claim the title as Man United had beaten Sunderland in the day’s other fixture. Defeat was looming at the Etihad Stadium a few moments away from the final whistle.
However, a 92nd minute equalizer by Edin Dzeko reinstalled hope within the home crowd. Shortly after, Argentine striker Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero set the place on fire with a 94th minute winner which broke the heart of Manchester United’s club and fans worldwide. The 3-2 victory against QPR meant relief for Roberto Mancini and glory for the so-called ‘noisy neighbours’.