Bayern Munich returns to the field on Tuesday at the Allianz Arena where they will face SC Freiburg. I've been following a Freiburg supporter for a long time now on Twitter, and he was more than willing to answer a few questions for Bavarian Football Works regarding his club. Aaron Bauer is a reporter covering the Olympics for Around the Rings. You can follow him on Twitter at @ABauer_ATR.
Before we got into the questions about Freiburg, I wanted to find out from Aaron why and how he fell in love with Freiburg.
Aaron Bauer: I fell in love with Freiburg because I lived there for six months as part of a study abroad program. The city is probably one of the nicest in the world, and somewhere I really believe that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. It's known as Germany's "sunniest" city for a reason, and everyone I met there was incredibly hospitable. Throw in the fact that standing room tickets at Dreisamstadion are $15 and you have a recipe for a rabid sports-loving college student to fall in love with the beautiful game. Oh, and seeing this as your first live soccer experience was the cherry on top. Just for reference, that was Mattias Ginter scoring his first Bundesliga goal in his and Christian Streich's debut match. Freiburg occupied the bottom of the table halfway through the 2011-12 season before finishing the year in 12th place well out of the relegation zone. I was hooked.
BFW: The city council recently approved Freiburg's plans to build a new stadium. How much will this improve the club's ability to attract/keep players?
AB: I don't think the stadium's main purpose is to attract/keep players. SC Freiburg have a very specific role as a club in Germany, and they operate specifically under that model. They invest around 10% of its annual revenues in its youth facilities (The Guardian) and (Associated Press) and have the philosophy of being a club that nurtures homegrown talent. The club also understands its role as being a stepping stone for players outside of Germany to expose themselves to larger clubs. Most recently Vladimir Darida and Roman Buerki have said that they chose to go to Freiburg because they felt the club would be the best thing for their development. So, clearly in the past 2-3 years the club's reputation has grown and the SC's philosophy can bring in talent.
The stadium comes almost out of necessity. If Freiburg wants to stay in the top flight of German football, and they do, by their rules; the club then needs a larger stadium to compete. Currently Dreisamstadion does not have a regulation sized pitch, and receives an exception from the DFB to compete in the Bundesliga. This creates a very unique atmosphere where the supporters are right next to the pitch, which makes it an intimidating place to play, but clearly the club cannot stay here forever. Only Paderborn have a smaller ground in the top flight, and has a capacity of 6,000 less than the next largest stadium in Wolfsburg. In order to stay up, Freiburg need to bring in more revenue, which can be done through sponsorships and a new ground. Freiburg's ground also has two standing room only terraces, which required temporary seating in 2012-13 when they played in the Europa League. Having a modern facility will do wonders for the club.
BFW: Things haven't been going as swimmingly as you'd like this season. However, with Christian Streich at the helm, there surely is still some "He'll figure it out." attitude among supporters, and I'm sure everyone would've accepted being higher in the table than Dortmund in December. Do you see things heading in the right direction for the year?
AB: This has been an odd season for Freiburg. Yes, they are currently in 15th place, but a lot of it is due to the dropping points late in games. Four matches this season, against Hertha, Hoffenheim, Mainz, and Paderborn, Freiburg conceded goals after the 85th minutes. Two games (Hertha and Hoffenheim) the goals came in stoppage time, after curious decisions by the refs to award as much stoppage time as he did. As for the games against Mainz and Paderborn, Freiburg just didn't defend well enough to get all three points. A fifth game, a 0-0 draw against Mönchengladbach, could be considered here, since Admir Mehmedi missed a penalty in the 63rd minute, which just shows how dropped points have affected this season. If Freiburg won those four matches, Freiburg would have 22 points and be knocking at European places. Sports are funny sometimes.
I think there is a lot of support for Christian Streich still because of the success and stability he has brought to the club. After Volker Finke left, after 16 years in charge of SCF, in 2007, friends told me they were worried Freiburg would become a club that hired and fired managers rather quickly. Luckily Robin Dutt stayed for a while, and throwing out the Marcus Sorg experiment, the club seems committed to Streich. He is a local, who played at the club and has kind of a cult-following (he bikes to work every morning!) Over the three years he has been in charge now, Freiburg has started slow and gained steam each year. Some feel that his inability to move away from the 4-4-2 when results aren't coming is a hindrance, but in the end he has gotten results. The team is incredibly thin up front when Admir Mehmedi isn't scoring, as evidence by scoring only 15 league goals so far, so there are definite issues that need addressing during the winterpause. I think that this is not a team that should go down, so I'm willing to trust the process that has worked for the past 3 years. Just don't ask Streich about late goals in press conferences.
BFW: In a match like this with Freiburg so clearly over-matched on paper, what kind of mindset do you enter this match with as a supporter?
AB: Bayern Munich is always a tricky fixture. At home, we've given the giants some frustration and gotten results two of the last three times FCB has played in Freiburg. On the road, there have been many results that supporters choose to forget (the 7-0 drubbing in early 2011 being one of them). I don't know how most supporters prepare for a fixture like this, as I am trained in the American "any given Sunday" (or I guess Saturday here) mentality. In my mind Freiburg can win every match, even if most likely a 3 goal loss will be the result on Tuesday. In the 1994-95 season Freiburg beat Bayern 5-1, albeit in the Black Forest. I like to play this video before the two teams play. If we were to get a point out of this match, it will be an incredible, and maybe Nicolas Höfler repeats his mid-week heroics from last year. Auf Gehts SCF!!