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You’ll never guess Bayern Munich’s brand-new bench-warmer

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If you were watching closely, you might have spotted the latest addition to the club bringing the heat for the reserves.

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 04: Head coach Niko Kovac of FC Bayern Muenchen looks on during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Hannover 96 at Allianz Arena on May 4, 2019 in Munich, Germany. Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

If you looked closely during Bayern Munich’s last home game against Hannover this past weekend, you may have noticed a dark gray metal panel set up in front of the reserve, partly hidden behind a large, red Bayern Munich placard (see lead photo above). That panel, it turns out, was a brand-new heating device Bayern was testing (Bild).

The invention is an infrared heating panel invented by a little German company called Jokerarea. Here’s the view from the inside:

The system uses infrared radiation to keep the legs and feet of the reserve players (the “jokers” in Jokerarea) comfortably warm. The trial was authorized by Hasan Salihamidzic himself at the request of Bayern’s fitness director Dr. Holger Broich.

The idea behind the device is to prevent injury by keeping the players’ muscles warm while they are seated on the bench waiting to play, even in frigid winter weather. Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are already using such systems to keep their benches suitably warmed.

The inventor of the Jokerarea is a Bavarian native, as well: former player and coach Dieter Wirsching, from the area of Würzburg. His inspiration was none other than Thomas Müller himself. He told Würzburg Erleben in 2017,

Last year on the second day of Christmas, I saw a Bundesliga review on TV and discovered a freezing Thomas Müller — that was the image that stuck in my mind.

Now Wirsching’s Jokerarea can be seen in soccer stadiums across Germany and Europe, and possibly now also regularly in Munich on cold days.

Of course, not everyone was completely satisfied. The Jokerarea was too hot for old-timer Arjen Robben: he set up a chair at the end of the bench outside the heated space. They then turned down the heat to a cozy 20°C (68°F).