If you have got your breath back from an enthralling final day in the Premier League, your pulse might be set racing one final time on Saturday evening! If you are of the Chelsea persuasion, you may be aware of a small, little game in Munich that is occurring. The Champions League final they call it, or something or other. But seriously, Saturday evening’s game represents arguably the pinnacle of all footballing competition, with many believing that securing the big eared trophy eclipses even World Cup final glory in terms of prestige and difficulty. It remains whether Chelsea can hold their nerve and be the first London club to lift the Champions League when they take on Bayern Munich at the weekend.
Last week I was invited along to a press day in Central London by male grooming enthusiasts BRUT who this year launched their ‘Man Up’ Challenge; a series of high pressured moments that makes the modern man step up, take a risk and rise to the ultimate test – in sport or life. The series which has previously featured Premier League stars such as Tottenham’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto separates the men from the boys with spider removal from a bath, gutting a freshly caught fish, dealing with the dentist’s drill and taking a penalty kick representing a few anxious incidences which require a manning-up to the challenge.
Distant (to say the least!) in my attempts to even stand near the frightful-looking tarantula enclosures, I side-stepped the eight-legged friends to acquaint myself with two of the human variety in polar adventurer and doctor Ed Coats and GB Olympic Team Sports Psychologist Dr Steve Bull. Coming from a football standpoint myself, I was eager to learn how they have dealt with the pressure of superhuman ventures and managing sporting spectacles of a lifetime.
Dr Coats who was selected to join James Cracknell and Ben Fogle in their race to the South Pole, captured in the BBC documentary ‘On Thin Ice’ feels a lot of the personal preparation employed to land on the ice can be applied to football, with the management of expectation, one of the key hurdles for Chelsea to man up and face head on.
‘There is an awful lot of expectation; that is the toughest thing for anyone. Managing that expectation from the fans, that they put on themselves, from the manager and all the backroom staff around them. I think that is a really big thing to conquer and its taking them out of their comfort zone. Everybody wants to be in that position, to come within reaching distance of that trophy’.
Of course, Chelsea have indeed been within touching distance before in Moscow in 2008, with John Terry’s slip and missed penalty representing one of the cruellest denials of glory within recent footballing history. With Terry and Chelsea fans likely to have had more than their fair share of sleepless nights reflecting on that devastating moment, stewing on old mishaps and issues of what could’ve been need to be flushed away, disposed of and buried for at least ninety minutes in Bavaria at the weekend. Dr Steve Bull spoke of how his athletes utilise one or two ‘swing thoughts’ ahead of athletic competition, which are just enough to focus the mind, yet not expose the competitor too much, to over-analyse their destiny.
‘They (athletes) will have a very simple swing thought. Now it might change from day to day, it might even change by the hour but you absolutely need to keep it simple and that’s true for a sporting event, job interview or driving test. Chelsea’s preparation should not be thinking about raising the cup after the game. It should be what have I got to do in this game. What are my swing thoughts for this game; that first tackle? That first pass? Those positive orientating swing thoughts need to be in the mind’.
Of course, UEFA will again position the silver and gold clad trophy right at the end of the tunnel before kick-off, but as we have seen before, some players choose to walk alongside it without even the merest glance and some choose to stare into the prize, almost checking their nervous reflection in its proud body. This is where the mind must remain focused and whereby nerves either grab hold and detriment or are overcome and channelled into good energies. Dr Ed Coats continued and paid diligence to those incidences whereby a good run in a competition can be met with an almost anti-climaxing final appearance whereby all that hard work is undone by nerves.
‘As soon as you get in a situation where it matters, you can go to pot and it’s that standing up in front of people thing, it’s that first hundred metres or it’s that first flight landing on the ice where you’re thinking it could be minus thirty out there; there could be a blizzard or anything. It’s just about keeping calm, believing in what you’ve done beforehand because you’ve got to remember I’ve done this a hundred times, I can do this and like I say, embrace it, get out there and think I can take this on’.
Chelsea can’t forget the road which has led them to Munich, whereby they toppled the odds to overcome not only Napoli from a precarious situation but also favourites Barcelona who were widely believed to win the tie with relative ease. These are the real incidences of survival instincts in a way and these experiences cannot be understated going into a big game such as at the weekend.
As we have seen this weekend, anything is possible in football and Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp league winner serves as evidence to that old football cliché that it really isn’t over till the fat lady sings. If like me, you are slightly jealous of the Chelsea personnel in stepping out at the Allianz Arena, in front of the watching world on Saturday, BRUT will be bringing the stadium experience direct to you as early as in September. If you are a supporter of a Championship club, football enthusiasts will be invited to ‘Man Up’ and face that excruciating pressure of taking a spot kick in front of their own fans in the watching arena. In the meantime, what better way to make your dad ‘Man Up’ by offering him the BRUT Father’s Day Gift Set which is available at a cost of £6.99. Details of both this offer and the forthcoming ‘Man Up’ Challenges can be found at the website www.brutformen.co.uk
Chelsea fan? How do you think you will fare in Saturday’s massive game? Can they hold their nerve? Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Taylor_Will1989