An emotionless double
Is it strange that I did not feel any type of euphoria when Bayern won the league title for the eighth time in a row? Football has always been something that I associate with passion, emotion, excitement, and dedication. So why did I feel nothing when my favourite football team won the league double for the second year in a row?
The fact that I was watching the DFB-Pokal final be played at an empty Olympiastadion might have played a part, but Bayern’s win over Leverkusen gave me no feeling whatsoever.
All I kept thinking was: ‘’Wow…Bayern is really dominant…again’’
Bundesliga Champions ✅— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) July 8, 2020
DFB Pokal Champions ✅
3. Liga Champions ✅
U19 Champions ✅
What a year... so far. pic.twitter.com/irG2yXswWm
This empty feeling is, of course, relatively new. Bayern Munich’s success and failures have followed me throughout my life. Whenever I observe the Bayern logo, I don’t see the titles, superstars, or the best team in Germany: I see my childhood, my dad and granddad sitting in the same room with me, supporting the same team, and all the ups and downs that come with supporting a football team.
It’s not all about winning
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning,” is the start of perhaps one of the most famous football quotes there is, made by Danny Blanchflower the late Tottenham legend. That sentiment is something I truly believe.
Someone recently described me as a “romantic” football supporter. While I can’t know for certain what the person meant, I loved the description. For me, football has always been more than Champions League finals played by the best teams. I see it as a social construct in which all types of fascinating stories are interwoven, most of them playing out far away from the stadiums of the very best teams. That is why I write about German fan culture or about fascinating characters such as Deniz Naki. Football will always be about things that are so much more important than winning.
Both holding this view and being a life-long Bayern Munich fan may sometimes seem contradictory. As someone who loves to read articles about football ultras and has learned to appreciate cult teams like St. Pauli and Union Berlin, I see can why many people make a face when I tell them that I’m a fan of the billionaire super-club that is Bayern Munich.
But that is how it is, and how it always will be. It sounds cliché, but I would support Bayern even if they were in the second division — perhaps with even more dedication than I do now. Supporting a football team often is not a conscious choice, but something that you either inherit or unconsciously choose. After watching my mother’s old home video of my father holding me as an infant and telling me, “please say Gerd Müller,” I realized that I was never going to be anything else.
Growing up in an international atmosphere in Brussels amongst friends who were all Premier League or Barcelona/Real Madrid supporters, the feeling that it was “me against them” was one I strangely liked. No one could relate when I tried to explain the sheer ecstasy I experienced in my living room when Patrick Andersson scored the last goal of the season against Hamburg SV or my dismay throughout the Jürgen Klinsmann experience.
And that was ok. Because even though I was the sole Bundesliga supporter in my friends’ group, I always felt that they were ones missing out. The Bundesliga then was unlike the Premier League, dominated by Manchester United at the time, or the two-team competition in La Liga. The winner could be different every year. Bayern was always the favorite, but from 1999 to 2010, there were four other champions outside of Munich. The Bundesliga was competitive and a much more fun league to watch.
More importantly, Bundesliga games were cheap and accessible for a football-loving father and son. With Brussels only two hours away from cities like Dortmund, Köln, Mönchengladbach, and Leverkusen, the Bundesliga became my obsession.
Supporting a broken league
I believe it is my love for the Bundesliga that has made me less passionate about Bayern’s recent dominance. Before 2013, no team had won the Bundesliga four years in a row. Now, Bayern has won the league eight times in a row and there is nothing that suggests they won’t win another title next season or the seven after that. The Bundesliga has become an “us versus them” type of league — “them” being Bayern and “us” the rest of the league.
I don’t have the answers on how to make the Bundesliga more competitive. The talk about forming a new European “super league” makes my romantic heart ache; it is something I will never support. Nor will I ever support the Bundesliga dismantling the 50+1 rule. I believe that grassroots and professional football should go hand in hand. I find it beautiful that a team like Union Berlin can exist in the highest level of German football. I would never want it any other way.
Bayern Munich, as a sports institution, has done everything right and deserves to be this dominant in Germany. But I find it hard to turn a blind eye to the fact that their constant winning has broken the most wonderful league in the world in terms of competitiveness. After eight consecutive championships, the title-race has become rather meaningless and boring — even for fans of the winning side.
I’ll never stop supporting Bayern, but I will be the first one to admit that I won’t mind it if we see four other Bundesliga champions in the next decade.
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” —Danny Blanchflower