My football allegiance has always strangely gravitated towards Bayern Munich (and Germany). My first football memory is watching the Germany vs England match at the 2010 World Cup — my first Bayern memory, Schweinsteiger scoring that famous penalty vs Real Madrid. From a young age, Bayern somehow just slowly became my team.
Avidly watching and supporting Germany at the 2014 World Cup affirmed my love for players such as Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm. Whilst Pep Guardiola’s dominating squad led me to develop further connections for the club.
Yet, it was only through Jupp Heynckes’ 2018 Bayern that I truly became invested. So poetic was that Bayern team featuring Javi Martinez’ midfield comeback, Sven Ulriech’s unexpected, yet fantastic keeping, the saucy Muller-James Rodriguez attacking midfield partnership and the glowing Heynckes back for one last beautiful dance. This was a season full of emotion, full of storylines. Those fateful Bayern-Madrid matches remain the highest quality football games I have ever watched — Ulriech’s slip still is a dagger in my heart every time I think about it. But that’s what makes football worth watching — it mirrors life, it’s poetic, it’s packed with emotion. Watching football, you must feel the most painful lows, because as in life, these are what make the highest of highs so wonderful.
Come 2019, I was watching most of Bayern’s Champions League games and maybe 10 or so Bundesliga games a season — a passionate supporter but by no means a vehement full fledged lover of the team. I had also discovered Bavarian Football Works early in the 2018/19 season — the articles providing me a closer insight into the club. Even if I didn’t watch some matches, for example, I would be excited at seeing Thomas Muller win Meister of the Match in BFW’s Match Awards or other tidbits about the club.
In February 2019, I tore my meniscus in my right knee — eventual repair surgery keeping me from playing football myself for 10 months. To get my football fix, during this period of time, I joined BFW as a commentator and this is where I truly become that full fledged lover of the team. Debating all things Bayern with commentators INNN, RLD, Markopolo, Nasty Effects(!) and the rest increased my knowledge and love of the club ten fold — as did my newfound watching and discussing of every match. Writing fanposts on BFW also provided me great salvation during this time period — my opinions were being respected and heard, it was a great joy to see one of my posts be “promoted” to the front page. After a half dozen fanposts, John Dillon (then BFW managing editor) asked me to join the crew. This was almost four years ago now, I was delighted.
Now, fast forward to 2020 with Hansi Flick’s Bayern team storming through Europe, playing in such a joyous gung ho way. It was pure joy to watch that team and to contribute articles and comments to BFW — like Heynckes’ 17-18 charge, it was a squad filled with emotion. No one expected Flick to be so damn good. What a story the resurgence of Muller, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Manuel Neuer — the golden oldies reaching their peaks once again filled me with feeling. What a positive feeling within the team, the players loved Flick and he loved them. Like many others, this team provided me so much hope and happiness during the tough COVID period. Ultimately, for me Hansi Flick was always about being brave, sticking to your principles and gut despite outside noise and living with respect and tremendous heart. The football was magical but Flick and the philosophy of his actions were equally as important to take home as life lessons for me personally.
Now in the present, I visited Munich and the Allianz arena in the past few weeks for the first time.
When the opportunity to go to Manchester City vs. Bayern presented itself one day before the first leg, I took it. If only I had known! Joking aside, it was so worth it. Despite the horrific first match in Manchester, the stadium was buzzing with energy. A kind of energy I had never felt before. The sound was deafening and the fans turned out with full belief in the team. Celebrating Erling Haaland’s penalty miss was exhilarating, a collective wave of relief and for perhaps three seconds, pure elation in the stands before we remembered what the match situation actually was. Yes, Bayern lost the game, but I will never forget hearing the Champions League anthem for the first time and the famous Sudkurve giving it their all the whole game.
And then there was Thomas Muller. Commentators and readers of BFW know he is a player who has meant so much to me. Seeing him before he retired was an absolute dream of mine. But we can all learn so much from Muller. We always hear how he “runs around with the enthusiasm of a child” or something of that ilk, every time he comes on the pitch. The crazy part is, it’s actually the truth. Despite being a sub and coming on when the match was over, no one was more vocal and brimming with passion as the veteran. Muller is a player so often written off and cast aside — forget the footballing ability, his mental resolve to prove the doubters wrong again and again is incredibly inspiring.
I was lucky to also be at the Bayern-Schalke game a few weeks later.
Muller scoring the first goal of the match undoubtedly one of the best moments of my life as the whole stadium truly went into a state of euphoria — this moment even more significant given the talk about Muller’s future which had dominated much of the previous weeks. This goal was full of emotion. These moments are what makes being a football fan meaningful. That’s what makes being a Bayern fan meaningful.
In a way, these matches felt like the culmination of my first chapter as a Bayern fan. I saw the final remnants (like Muller) of the initial era I saw when I started supporting. Most importantly, I felt the love, energy and values that the club has. Being in Munich, you also feel the history and aura that the club has. These factors all contributing to why being a Bayern fan has brought me so much joy in the past 5 or so years. For me, being a Bayern fan is about emotion, living life on your own terms and living with great heart. Ultimately, it is about living with a Mia San Mia mentality — we are who we are.