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What’s it like having a season ticket for a club that plays 650 miles away from you?

Call it glory-seeking, call it parental indoctrination, call it what you want, but I – a lifelong native of South East England – have been a Bayern Munich fan since 2000.

My dad, with a similar disposition, has been a fan since the late 1960s.

Growing up the son of a staunch Chelsea fan, their 1967 FA Cup final defeat to Spurs (along with a waning interest in football in general) was enough for him to turn his back on the Blues and football as a whole.

The moment that would change his life

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The moment that would change his life

He was more interested in cricket but, much like today, in 1967, you had to support a football team.

Enter the 1967 European Cup Winners Cup final; my dad’s final effort at finding a team to call his own.

A 110th minute winner from Franz Roth against Glasgow Rangers was enough to begin a complicated, but fundamentally simple affinity with a German football team.

Beyond anything else, my dad got to stay up late as the match went to extra time.

This was the team and he was sticking to it.

A few years later in the 1974 World Cup, he saw that six of the 11 players representing West Germany were Bayern Munich players.

World Cup winners

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World Cup winners

The almost total lack of media coverage of this supposedly big team (and the fact that they were never on Match of the Day) was evidently not enough for him to realise that, for many years now, he had been supporting a West German football team.

The clue should have been in the name but of the O-levels that my dad got at school, Geography was not one of them.

Between the game against Rangers and the first match I attended in April 2000, Bayern had begun to establish themselves as a household name in football.

European glory in the 70s, heartbreak during the 80s and the rise of FC Hollywood in the 90s.

Top of the pile

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Top of the pile

The privilege of the first professional game I attended being a sold out Olympiastadion for a Bayern match is still something that I struggle to fully appreciate and comprehend.

What is often harder for other people to make sense of is how for nearly 20 years, my dad and I have been season ticket holders for Bayern, travelling every two weeks to watch our team play.

Despite a three year blip while I was at university, we have managed to make it to nearly every single home game as well as DFB Pokal (German Cup) games and the ever-exciting thrill of European matches under the lights.

Relentless champions

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Relentless champions

Frustratingly, my first year at university coincided with Bayern’s historic Treble winning season – I was not, however, prepared to let something as frivolous as my education get in the way of witnessing history.

Watching Bayern lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley is a joy rivalled only by the fact that the journey home was infinitely quicker than usual.

The pinnacle

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The pinnacle

My dad and I have been fortunate enough to see players like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery live and in person, as well as players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pascal Cygan… the list goes on.

As a Bayern fan, it’s incredible. As a football fan, it’s indescribable.

To this day, aged 27 and however much, I still find the sight of the Allianz Arena growing in the distance on the walk from the train station awe inspiring.

The stadium can fit 75,000 fans and does so every week with relative ease, but despite Bayern’s reputation as the big dogs of German football, other clubs and stadiums across the country regularly do the same.

A capacity crowd at the Allianz is a sight to behold

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A capacity crowd at the Allianz is a sight to behold

Last season, for example, 12 of the 18 Bundesliga teams were able to sell out at least 90% of their home games.

While the Bundesliga has a reputation for a high-octane and intense brand of football, the “rock and roll” that Jurgen Klopp famously spoke of comes from the fans.

Matches in the German league are as much a rock concert as it is a sporting event.

The famous Yellow Wall

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The famous Yellow Wall

The noise of the crowd, the music, the cheering, chanting, tears of sadness and joy, all of these combine to make the spectacle so much more than a simple 90 minutes of up and down action.

For the discussions of football being “for the fans”, this sentiment is no clearer than it is in Germany.

A number of clubs have even retired the number 12 shirt in dedication to their fans – the 12th player.

A solitary fan

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A solitary fan

Clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt have almost built up their reputations on the basis that their fans can add that extra element of both motivation and intimidation.

While the Bundesliga is back, these elements will not be.

The return is with an unfamiliarity that will be hard to prepare for, whether you are on the pitch or watching from your sofa at home.

Masks on

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Masks on

The general belief amongst Bundesliga fans is one of excitement, but one that caps off at about 80%.

An institution has been interrupted and it does not feel the same because of it.

Manuel Neuer pulling off a trademark save, Alphonso Davies recovering the ball before bombing forward down the left wing, the effortless blend of Thiago Alcantara’s Spanish and Brazilian flair all happening in stone silence.

It’s not the same.

Watching from a sports bar just isn’t the same

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Watching from a sports bar just isn’t the same

Earlier this season, at the risk of their match being called off as a result of fan protests, Bayern and Hoffenheim reduced the final ten minutes of their clash to a friendly kick-about.

The crowd watched on in stunned silence, simply allowing it to play out with no sense of competition.

It was what I – and many other fans – previously thought would be the strangest thing to happen all season.

Hardly a full house

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Hardly a full house

And then they played on Sunday afternoon, while the competition was there for 90 minutes, it was as if Bayern’s match against Union Berlin was a pre-season friendly that has no bearing on the league – or reality for that matter.

The VAR decision, the penalty shout, the final goal, did any of it really matter?

Yes, but it felt a long way away from it. 


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