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Niko Kovac received a standing ovation at his fan club visit to “Da Rode Stean Inzell”

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The warm welcome Kovac received transcended all of the criticism he’s received this season...

SV Werder Bremen v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga
BREMEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 01: Niko Kovac, Manager of Bayern Munich reacts during the Bundesliga match between SV Werder Bremen and FC Bayern Muenchen at Weserstadion on December 1, 2018 in Bremen, Germany.
SV Werder Bremen v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga BREMEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 01: Niko Kovac, Manager of Bayern Munich reacts during the Bundesliga match between SV Werder Bremen and FC Bayern Muenchen at Weserstadion on December 1, 2018 in Bremen, Germany.
(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)

As the season of Advent officially began over the weekend, Bayern Munich players and staff members separately paid visits to fan clubs throughout Germany and Austria. The annual visits to these various fan clubs is another fantastic part of Bayern’s extensive, interactive efforts between the players, staff members, and the fans.

Niko Kovac spent his Sunday at the Da Rode Stean Inzell (“The Red Star Inzell”) fan club in Inzell, Germany, where he received a standing ovation from the 350 fans in attendance, per Sport1. In managerial fashion, Kovac showed up to the event 20 minutes early, which was greatly appreciated by all of the fans inside the venue.

Considering all of the criticism he’s received and how heavily scrutinized he’s been for some of Bayern’s poor performances this season, the visit to Da Rode Stean was a nice change of pace for the Croatian. The welcoming, warm atmosphere paved the way for positive discussions on Bayern’s season without any sort of pessimism. Kovac touched base on a number of things in his discussions with the fans:

  • Kovac referred to himself as a “fighter” and does not feel the pressure of being fired if a few more results don’t go his way.
  • His preference to a 4-2-3-1 formation and how well it worked in the wins against both SL Benfica and Werder Bremen. He promised to use it more often.
  • He revealed the strong support that some of the players showed for him after Bayern’s 3-3 draw vs Fortuna Dusseldorf, namely Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery, and Thomas Muller.
  • He revealed how serious the feeling in the dressing room was prior to the match against Bremen. Everyone knew that they absolutely needed to win that game.
  • He insisted that the team is “growing together” and that there’s no distrust between him and the club’s front office, as some people have recently speculated.
  • Lastly, he fired a warning to league leaders Borussia Dortmund, saying that Bayern are going to “hunt” the clubs ahead of them in the table.

Not a Big Drinker

Kovac also revealed (via SportBild) that he’s not a big drinker, and that despite being 47, he’s only been intoxicated a handful (well, two handfuls) of times:

I’ve been drunk before. But: not very often. I can count it on five fingers on the one hand and five fingers on the other hand. I’m 47 and that’s just ten fingers!

WhatsApp groups and the importance of family

WhatsApp is a commonly used messaging application among the players and staff of football clubs, and Kovac and Bayern are no exception. Kovac revealed that he has two separate groups on the app to distinguish between the players in the squad and his family:

I’m in two WhatsApp groups. One with my family, We call it the “Little Family Group” because there are only three of us [i.e. his wife Kristina and daughter Laura]. Otherwise we have a complete group with the players in which we communicate about business like training, meetings, and breakfast. It’s very important to have a family to which you can go to. That gets lost more and more in the modern day. We have to bring it back. That’s the anchor!

Robert Kovac, the assistant manager

Niko’s brother Robert is the assistant manager at Bayern, and the pair were also alongside each other for the Croatian National team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Eventually, Niko said, they’ll retire and live their own lives, but for now, they enjoy working side by side:

My brother [assistant coach] Robert is always with me. We’ll carry on that way until the bitter end. At some point we’ll retire. Then he’ll live his life and I’ll live mine — separately for once.

Kovac stays humble

Despite having been a high profile player and now a manager, Kovac stressed how important it is for him to stay humble. Being manager of Bayern Munich, he says, doesn’t give him the right to think of himself in a brighter light than anyone else:

I can’t strut around and show off! I’m modest, humble. Sure, I’m in a very comfortable situation, but that doesn’t give me the right to behave differently or to be depicted better than everyone else. I’m convinced that some day I’ll die just as I am now.

Kovac’s dancing shoes were put to the test, too, as he was taught how to do a traditional style of Bavarian dance known as “Schuhplattler”:

Not bad, but FAR from perfect, boss!