Mourinho and the laundry basket.

Mourinho and the laundry basket.

For years the events that transpired on the evening of April 6th 2005 have been shrouded in mystery. 

Chelsea would be welcoming Bavarian giants Bayern Munich to Stamford Bridge for a crucial Champions league quarter final first leg tie. 

They would, however, be without talismanic manager Jose Mourinho, following a UEFA sanctioned stadium ban. The ban was brought on by Mourinho’s inference that referee Anders Frisk and opposition manager Frank Rijkaard had conspired against his side during the previous round.  

But this was Mourinho in full special one pomp, having just a year earlier announcing himself to the world by winning this very competition. There was no way Mourinho was missing this game.

 

 

Even now the timeline is somewhat hazy as to what went on that day. By Mourinho’s own retelling, sneaking in to the stadium would be no issue. It was, after all, home turf. All that was required was for him to arrive at Stamford Bridge earlier than the UEFA officials. He did, arriving at the stadium around noon, approximately seven hours before kick off. 

As the day turned into evening, officials, dignitaries and fans filed into the stadium and still Mourinho waited. No doubt meticulously tweaking and perfecting his plans. 

Two hours before kick off the team arrived. They were no doubt more than a little shocked at the sight of a man who they, like everyone else in the stadium that day, thought was in a leisure centre around the corner.

 

 

Whether it came through TV, radio or simply a muffled roar from above him, Mourinho will have been acutely aware that after just four minutes Chelsea had taken the lead. A deflected Joe Cole effort getting the best of Oliver Kahn in the Bayern goal. Despite a fairly even first half no more goals were forthcoming and Chelsea headed in to half time with the advantage.

 

 

Seven minutes into the second half a goal from young Bayern substitute, Bastian Schweinsteiger, shattered Chelsea’s delicate lead.

That’s when the notes started. Goalkeeping coach Silvinho Luoro sprang to his feet in the minutes following Bayern’s equaliser and promptly vanished down the tunnel. It was an action that raised few eyebrows, even after he returned clutching what appeared to be notes. However, by his third round trip, again clutching detailed notes, things were starting to look suspicious. Especially as each return coincided with a Chelsea substitution. 

 

 

Then there was assistant manager Rui Faria. Despite the April weather Faria elected to try out a new look, with a rather ill fitting beanie which he sported for the duration of the game. Eagle eyed observers also noted that he had developed a habit of touching his right ear. There were even times when Faria’s ear touching would be followed by him turning to Luoro before the latter would disappear down the tunnel. Was Mourinho communicating with Faria via earpiece? 

Yes. 

For Mourinho, however, his task was far from complete. Sure, it had been easy to sneak into an empty Stamford Bridge some nine hours earlier. But exiting the ground undetected would prove a far bigger challenge. With corridors full of UEFA officials it was clear that concealment was key. Luckily Mourinho, along with kit-man Stewart Bannister, had concocted a plan. The Chelsea manager was to be wheeled out of the building in a large, metal, laundry basket. I’ll let Mourinho tell this bit. 

 

"The kit man put me in the basket. It was a little bit open so I could breathe. But when he is taking it outside the dressing room, the UEFA guys were following and desperate to find me so he closed the box and I couldn't breathe! When he opened the box I was dying! I am serious! I was claustrophobic, I promise! It's true!"

 

 

It did not take long for the rumours around the events of the evening to start swirling, with speculation getting wilder and wilder. It was no doubt all to the satisfaction of Mourinho, each new variant on the tale serving to build the narrative around the young manager. The cocky, win at all cost, above the law young man who was taking on the world. 

It's an event that may speak volumes to Mourinho’s inherent superiority complex, the same one that had led to him concocting the Rijkaard/Frisk meeting that inadvertently landed him in a laundry basket, but it also speaks to something more. An all out obsession with winning and an insatiable appetite to prove himself. Mourinho has always delighted in constructing narratives of his side against the world. Perhaps, when the lid of the laundry bag was shut and their manager was wheeled away, his players, may just, have bought into it. 

 

Written by Andy Gallagher

 

 

 

 

 

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