Tom Bartels was the voice of the Triumph of Rio: The 49-year-old commentated the World Cup final for German TV channel ARD. He thinks back to that extraordinary game, which became the biggest highlight of his career.
I have since re-watched the most important moments of the final at a lot of events that I’ve been to. That includes listening back to what I said when Götze scored the winner and when the game was over: “Germany is back in football heaven.” That wasn’t a line I had prepared. The only thing I’d told myself is that I wouldn’t just say “Germany are World Champions”. That’s as dull as it gets. When I saw the Christ the Redeemer statue which was shown a couple of times throughout the broadcast, I came up with football heaven and so I went with that. I’m quite happy with it because it fit in nicely.
I got a lot of texts on the day of the final, almost every five minutes at one point. A lot of people wished me luck and that’s when it really sunk in that pretty much everyone would be watching it. I’ve never received more texts, apart from maybe after the final. It was an exceptional situation; the tension was growing minute by minute. The culmination was getting a call from the DFB and being told that Kramer would play. I nearly dropped my mobile. I was like, “Why? For who?” He just said, “For Khedira”. I went live soon after that and had to digest it all. Bixente Lizarazu and Arsène Wenger were sat alongside me commentating for French TV. Wenger couldn’t believe it either; he was looking over and over the line-up sheet, then the game was under way before we knew it.
I mainly remember it as being really gripping. I was confident for a long spell, but shortly before the goal I caught myself thinking, hopefully we don’t lose on penalties. That would have made everything that had happened before suddenly pointless. Those are our expectation levels: You reach the final, but then if you lose, you’ve done everything wrong. It would have been sad if this side didn’t make that final step. They deserved the title because they were a very sound team. I didn’t see a better one at the tournament. My international colleagues felt the same way.
For me, the symbolic figure of the final was Bastian Schweinsteiger because he put so much into it. When you look back at his injury situation, how he went into the tournament unfit, that Löw didn’t use him at the start, how he improved game by game and then to play like that in the final – that really impressed me. He is one of those that we have celebrated and suffered with over the years, together with Klose, Podolski, Mertesacker, Lahm and of course Joachim Löw – you almost get a tear in your eye when you go through all that with them and then they finally get their reward.
For all the joy that came with it, the game was so stressful for me. As a reporter, you dread not reaching the right level at a decisive moment, saying the wrong goalscorer or something like that. You have a few sleepless nights thinking about that. Then all of a sudden, Götze’s goal happens, and it was a relief, a release – for me too, because my nightmare would have been having to spend an hour commentating on Argentina’s victory ceremony.
After I was done, a huge amount of pressure disappeared. I was soaked with sweat. We spent the night on our roof terrace in Rio with a view of the sea and the Sugar Loaf Mountain, had a few drinks and did a bit of dancing. Sadly, we didn’t have an ice bath there. That certainly would have been helpful as it was an incredibly long day. I collapsed into bed at around three o’clock in the morning.
At some point afterwards I had a moment where I thought, “Now I’ll have to do something different,” as there’s probably nothing bigger that will happen in my career. If you’re given the chance to be at event like that and even commentate it, you think, how amazing is it to have experienced something like this?! A World Cup win for Germany and at a magical place like the Maracanã too – that will remain unique. It’s a true gift, a real highlight.