Saturday 25th February 2017 ko 15.30
FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN 8 (Arturo Vidal 17 Lewandowski 25p 42 54 Alaba 56 Coman 65 67 Robben 87)
HAMBURGER SV 0
Entry €70 (c£60)
Pin Badge €3.95
I remember exactly when I decided I simply had to visit the Allianz Arena. I was part of a party staying in Regensburg and we decided to take in an early morning Kreisklasse game in Munich one Sunday. En route to Viktoria München’s second string we passed through Fröttmanning on the autobahn and the space-age vision transfixed me. The question was how, and when?
Of course the Allianz Arena is best known for being the home ground of Bayern Munich, and was built to replace the Olympic stadium in 2005. For the one-off visitor the big issue is that Bayern Munich games always sell-out, to the point that only a handful of their games since moving haven’t sold out! My pair of tickets came courtesy of Jens Hanssen, a Bayern member, and a groundhopper whose ground count will one day I’m sure surpass all others. Let’s face it also, who wouldn’t want to visit a stadium that can change colour to suit whoever’s playing there, red for Bayern, blue for 1860 and white for Germany?
The technical side of it is mindblowing, that exterior is, in essence of series of balloons, inflated by fans, with 26,000 square metres being able to be lit with 300,000 LED’s. Even the video walls are huge, our guide on the stadium tour joked that they are bigger than the floorspace on his first flat!
Of course the easy way to visit the Allianz Arena is to watch 2. Bundesliga side TSV 1860 München who also use the ground. The recent history is that the stadium was built as a joint venture between the two clubs opening in 2005, but in financial distress 1860 sold their half to Bayern for €11 million in April 2006. They now are merely tenants, and are set to move out in 2025, assuming of course they can find a suitable ground. For the record the Olympic Stadium no longer has a pitch and their ground before that, the Grünwalder Stadion, is too small.
The truth of it is that I fancied seeing the place full, and for a top-flight game, and whilst I ended up with the best seats in the house that weren’t in hospitality, the whole experience ended up being a case of exploring the culture of success and how those involved cope with it.
The fact of the matter is that Bayern are Germany’s most successful club and if UEFA co-efficients are to be believed, the second-best club in Europe behind Real Madrid. But how did it happen?
The club was formed in 1900 as an offshoot of the Munich Gymnastic Club, after some members were forbidden from joining the German Football Association (DFB). Initial games were played on the Theresienwiese, these days home to the famous Oktoberfest, but by 1925 the club were happily playing at the Grünwalder Stadion and in the South German League.
However the rise of Nazism hit the club hard. Their coach Richard Kohn, and president Kurt Landauer were both Jewish and were forced to leave the country. The club’s Jewish roots were unquestionably held against the club and many members either left or were purged. Bayern struggled in the wartime Gauliga, with 1860 being the more successful club. Even after the war Bayern struggled and in the 1950’s were barely solvent.
That goes part of the way to explaining why Bayern were not part of the inaugural Bundesliga in 1963. The DFB consolidated the Oberligas to form Germany’s first national league, but since 1860 Munich had won the Oberliga Süd and the DFB wanted only one team from each city in the new league, Bayern were forced to wait 2 years, gaining promotion with a team featuring the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier and Gerd Müller, by legend, “The Axis.”
You could argue that despite a lean period in the 80’s Bayern haven’t looked back, with the running total of triumphs totalling 26 German championships, 18 German Cups, and 5 European Cups. Such is the nature of rivalry that whilst 1860 still regard Bayern as public enemy number one, Bayern themselves care far more about Borussia Dortmund.
We booked a stadium tour and a trip to the museum for €19 on Friday. The tour was predictably Bayern-centric, as perhaps it now has to be. You saw precisely the same cult of success you see in England with Manchester United. “Be a fan of us… we win all of the time.” Of course the question of what you’re meant to do when the team doesn’t win isn’t addressed, you wonder if it even gets considered?
The museum is more a celebration of Bayern’s achievements than a historical piece, the display of the replica “Deutsche Meisterschale” massively impressive but I remembered a visit I’d paid to VfR Mannheim. VfR were playing in the 5th tier Oberliga but won the National Championship in 1949. The old trophy, the “Viktoria” had been lost, to be found after German re-unification in a pile of coal, so VfR became the first club to receive the Meisterschale. Every year since the DFB has awarded the champions a slightly smaller replica but post-war austerity meant that was impossible and VfR Mannheim, now relegated to the sixth tier Verbandsliga Baden still haven’t received their replica. Surely Bayern have a spare lying around?
That’s not to say that Bayern are bereft of a conscience. They are not above helping clubs in distress out as the likes of 1860, St Pauli and Fortuna Sittard would attest to. But the club clearly do have an arrogant streak, the club song says in both English and German, “FC Bayern, you can say we are the champions of the world,” – there are several clubs who could claim that title! Then there’s the reputation of hoovering up the best talent to stop other clubs benefiting from them, and the principle of “Bayerndusel” the Deutsch equivalent of “Fergie time!” Some of that can be attributed to Bayern being the biggest club from Bavaria, the biggest state of Germany. But as the U-Bahn train discharged its passengers I was under no illusions, I was watching the German version of Manchester United, with all that went with it. I hoped that like at Manchester United, the best fans are the ones that actually attend games. I did look at the merchandise branded, “Mia San Mia” a Bavarian dialect of “Wir Sind Wir” or “We are who we are” and wondered.
Attending the biggest club in the land meant a raft of rules and regulations to wade through. Unusually for the Bundesliga my DSLR camera wasn’t a problem, providing I didn’t use a lens that was above 200mm. What was a problem was my bag. The rule states that no bag over A4 is allowed in, and there’s a bag-drop near the station. My error was taking the rule as meaning to fit something A4- specifically my clipboard! I could have returned to the bag-drop but I had little time and less inclination, so the bag spent the game hidden under a hedge!
Another little annoyance is the German habit of accepting only Fancards to pay for food and drink in the stadium. The advantage for the clubs is obvious, it removes cash from the concourses. However if you’re only at a one-off game, the card costs to buy, then once you’ve bought credit, you do so in the knowledge that afterwards you have a card with at least some credit on it you’re unlikely to use again.
But let’s not grumble too much, our seats were fantastic and Bayern’s football was superb. To the British SV Hamburg are known for two things, that Kevin Keegan once played for them and that their ground has that clock. The clock in the northwest corner of the Volksparkstadion marks the time, down to the second, since the league was founded on 24 August 1963, since Hamburg are the only club left with continuous membership of the Bundesliga. It goes without saying that every other club is now trying to stop the clock!
Certainly this disembowling helped push that clock toward the horologist. Robert Lewandowski was utterly unplayable as his marker, former Arsenal defender Johan Djourou was weak and error-prone. It isn’t usual to watch Bayern Munich fans taking pictures of the scoreboard but it was all the more remarkable for it being a repeat of the scoreline when the club’s met in 2015, and the score was 9-2 the year before.
But I was approaching this as an interested outsider, not a fan. The cult of slavishly following success isn’t for me even if just like at Manchester United I found the home fans to be both friendly and knowledgeable. Would any of these fans transfer their loyalties to the “Dosenverkauf” of RB Leipzig if they took Bayern’s supremacy? Probably not, these fans at least have the commitment to go to games. It’s the types that think a season ticket is a TV subscription you have to watch. It was a hugely enjoyable afternoon, the football as amazing as the surroundings. But as I retrieved my bag from the hedge and grabbed a sausage and a beer by the U-Bahn, I felt absolutely no desire to go back.