This month, I had the pleasure of spending 20 days in Germany. Sure, the sightseeing consisted of lots of thousand-year-old castles and visiting friends and family, but we all know the true highlight was the day I spent in Munich. As a lifelong fan of Bayern, it was a dream come true to be able to even stand on the hallowed grounds where so many talents have stood and where so many emotional moments have taken place. It would be selfish to partake in such an experience and not share it, so here I’ll take you step by step on a tour of Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.
The first stop on the tour is to see what 75,000 Bayern fans see every home game. Well, I was actually on the side where the visiting fans would sit, but you get the picture. Since it wasn’t enough to just see what Bayern Munich fans see, we had to feel what they feel. My tour guide invited the group to imagine it was the 90th minute and our favorite player just scored to win the game. Once we were all ready, we channeled that energy into a shout of TORRRR! that echoed throughout the grounds. I’ll be honest; I went all out with that yell. I figured that something like that is pretty rare, and unless I fly myself to Germany during the season, it’s unlikely that I’d have that experience again. I shouted like there was no tomorrow, and I’ll remember that moment forever. Simply euphoric.
Press conference area
As an American sports fan, my idea of a press conference is very limited. Even for more organized and important ones, they still have nothing on Germany.
As someone who has also been through the Philadelphia 76ers’ press area, believe me. Seating at the 76ers press conferences, in my experience, is limited to about 30 to 40 people, 50 tops. The conference seating in the Allianz? Row after row after row, seating more than 180 media members. Now that just speaks to the pressure put on the shoulders of the team to perform. After every game, win or loss, Niko Kovac has to go to that room and face seemingly endless rows of critical faces.
Okay, now this was cool. The tour includes a walk through the players’ dressing room, where you can see every player’s locker. Since the season is already over, the only things in the lockers were jerseys; even the boxes where their cleats would be kept were empty. (I know, because I opened one!) The day I went happened to be the day after Mats Hummels’ transfer back to Dortmund was confirmed. Just 24 hours after confirmation, they already began to clean out Hummels’ locker, even taking down the picture that hung above it. Life moves fast in the Allianz.
Getting ready to walk out to a packed Allianz Arena must be a thrilling experience, and the tour allows fans to share a little bit of that excitement. My tour guide stopped the group, and asked us the question, “Is this a Bundesliga or Champions League Game?” to which everybody immediately answered “Champions League.” She cued up the music, and we got to walk through the tunnel to the field with the sound of THE CHAMPIONS loud in our ears. I was surprised everyone chose the Champions League music, though. I know it’s a great and exciting piece of music, but I’m a big fan of the Bundesliga theme. Regardless, I got to feel like a Bayern player for 30 seconds, so I’m happy.
To conclude the Allianz Arena experience, I got to visit the FC Bayern Erlebniswelt Museum, which is the largest club history museum in Germany. The thing is, I read that statistic before I went there, but I still wasn’t prepared for how huge it really was. The museum takes you through almost every single year of Bayern’s history, from its original team of artists, photographers, and the like, up to their recent stretch of domestic dominance.
There is an abundance of interactive quizzes and activities if pure history is too much for you. One of the interactive activities was to choose a Bayern squad and prepare it for a game with all the necessary choices and tactics. I put the team in my beloved 3-4-3 formation, and the little German boy next to me kindly pointed out that I had everyone in the wrong positions. I guess Bavarians really love their 4-2-3-1, huh?
On one of the walls in the museum, different quotes from famous Bayern players and legends flashed and alternated. One of the quotes displayed was by Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidzic, summing up what Bayern is all about:
At Bayern, you learn to inherit this winning gene.
As Bayern fans, we expect wins. We expect total success. Unthinkable amounts of pressure are put on the team’s shoulders game after game, year after year. Without living in Germany, we sometimes forget just how special and just how amazing our team really is. A trip to the magnificent grounds of the Allianz Arena is a great reminder of these things. Should you ever find yourself in Munich, put the arena at the top of your list. Despite it being only a two hour experience, you’ll definitely remember it for years to come.
A word to the wise, though. If you want Weisswurst while you’re in Munich, you’d better order it before noon. That’s a firm Bavarian belief, and some restaurants will refuse to serve it afterward. It makes me sad because I didn’t know that restriction, so I couldn’t get it. Leberkäs more than sufficed, though.