Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen
29th August 2015
I allowed my excitement to be tempered by a little trepidation. Would it be all amazing football, weissbier and noise or a corporate hotbed of sponsorship and prawn sandwiches? Bayern are caricatured a little like the Empire in Star Wars – the best weapons, cold, powerful, ruthless. A polarising team whose superiority is often ensured by converting the most promising young Jedi from their opponents (Gotze, Lewandowski) to the Dark Side. Buy’em Munich, the team people love to hate. Well I don’t hate them. They are a brilliant team supported in the stadium and in the city by a football-daft public who passionately support their club. And for all that Dortmund are depicted as the hipster, fashionable ‘second’ club – and they are a great club – Bayern are very much the team of the people in their city.
Getting to Munich
From Brussels, Munich isn’t just ‘um die ecke.’ In order to be able to go to as many games and stadiums as possible, I need to keep the cost down and the cheapest option – by quite some distance – was the overnight MegaBus (www.megabus.com). I was quite pleased with my 56€ return fare despite the prospect of a thirteen hour coach journey.
The first leg of the journey left me thinking “people don’t know what they’re missing. This is the way forward.” Only about 15 people on a lovely new bus. Perfect. The we reached Koln, where I’m guessing the Youth Hostels were quiet. Within two minutes the bus was full. My ‘new friend’ was a student from Bosnia. He was about the height of professional basketball player and was carrying all of his worldly possessions in bags (which he had to have around him) and he was as sweaty as ….[insert favourite sweat simile here]. He was in the mood for a chat. I disliked him and his oversized limbs even more when he told me he paid 1 Euro for the journey. ‘You’re good to Munchen? Oh good, me too’ he stuttered with joy. Then, after hours of listening to him struggle to communicate, he said ‘goodnight,’ and fell asleep. So I had to spend the journey next to a guy who took up most of my space, was smelly, wouldn’t shut up and to top it off, got his journey cheaper than me. Needless to say, once he fell asleep, I couldn’t.
The bus then stopped in a car park in the outskirts of Stuttgart for an hour. A ******* hour! Some of the kids up the back of the bus (Leverkusen fans, it turned out – they were on the return journey too) decided to have some noisy drinking game in the car park. Had it stopped at services, I could’ve had a coffee. Anyway, once they were back on the bus, a rendition of Barbie Girl started. After this I think I slept from about 4:30 until 5:15, then I couldn’t get back to sleep. Big Bosnia had no such problems. Tired, thirsty, grumpy, hungry, sore, I arrived in Munich just before 7.00 and briskly made my way out of the Bus Station towards Marienplatz.
Getting tickets for Bayern is almost impossible so, unless your lucky enough to be offered one, check via the club directly (works more than you’d think) or you can become a member and get them via the club’s second hand ticket sale or, as a last resort, go through viagogo.
I could go on and on about how beautiful and fabulous Munich is as a city based on this being my second time in the city. It’s beautiful, in the way that Paris, Budapest or Prague are beautiful. Loads to see and do. I decided, after a quick McDo for hot food and drink and clean toilets at 7am, to go for a stroll around the Viktualienmarkt then take the metro up to the old Olympic Village and see the stadium. I simply bought a day ticket (inner city is fine) and headed 15 minutes north on the train which, despite having digital screens with the latest ‘Kicker’ story, seemed to have been preserved from the 1970s. Nevertheless, this being Germany, it worked.
The Olympic Stadium is a unique and perhaps evocative structure. It reminded me of so many Bayern and Germany matches of yesteryear. I wasn’t even born when the Olympics were held here mind you. I arrived just before 9am, when it opened. 3€ to get in which, for a geek like me, was well worth it. I must admit that I had never remembered the seats being a sickly lime green but, that notwithstanding, this inanimate object seem soulful. Am I getting carried away? Behold, many photos.
After that wonderful little visit, I took the metro back to GiselaStrasse and walked down towards the Hofbrauhaus (thanks to a recommendation via Twitter), with a little detour into the Englischer Garten. I was hot (26°C by 10.30am) and thirsty so the Brauhaus had just what I needed. This biergarten was beautiful and filling up fast, mostly with people wearing FC Bayern strips. While there are two teams in Munich, everyone was in red today.
I really enjoyed the beer but the pretzel must have contained about 100 times the recommended daily allowance for salt. Afterwards, I went and ordered another beer out, in the sun at a nearby bar, forgetting to specify the volume. This meant, by the time said beer was scooped, it was 6 hours before kick off and I’d had two litres of beer before lunch on virtually no sleep. I was in danger of becoming the drunkest man in Munchen since Rambo ‘when I played for Bayern Munchen’ McInally stoated around these parts. I needed food.
My schoolboy German language skills involved the foods bratwurst, bockwurst and gartoffelen but little else. I decided I that I wanted something traditional and rustic, yet cheap, to soak up the beer and revitalise my ailing body. I decided to take a punt and ordered something that came with spuds and salad so I expected some uncouth lump of meat to gnaw through. Instead, came this pickled mushroom terrine, served with mushrooms, salad and potatoes. Not what I was expecting. I should’ve got a burger king or a pizza. Nevertheless, I ate up my lunch like a good boy, had a coffee and made my way to the Arena.
The Allianz Arena
The stadium is easily reached by Metro line U6 towards Frottmaning, which is about 20 minutes from Marienplatz. There is another 5 minutes or so to walk from the Metro to the perimeter of the arena. I fattened up on a bratwurst and some coke to keep my energy levels up as I wasn’t convinced my terrine was a solid base.
The arena is a thing of beauty, especially from the oustide. It is so sexily distinctive. I have included a few strange shots from close up to try to improve perspective (it is never small, just sometimes far away).
After trying to go in via the exit, I went through the turnstile with a crowd of people and then a steward asked us where we were going. Grumpy Wumpy made us stand outside before saying the German equivalent of ‘oh, what’s the use’ and let us go up to the bar/club shop.
The bar has a system of paying at a till then going to the bar with your receipt. So I duly obliged, had my last real beer of the day (not a litre this time) and sat down next to a plug point and charged my phone whilst watching the Bundesliga Konferenz. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this, instead of having Rambo McInally or Charlie Nicholas describing the goals on a Saturday afternoon, they show you them. You start watching, for example, Koln v Hannover then, after a minute, some dude shouts “TOR auf Schalke” or whatever and they go straight to that game and show you the goal. It’s sooo much better. For all the money in the Premier League, you still get that medieval dross with Jeff Stelling or whoever rambling on.
After that, upon recommendation, I went into the Paulaner Fan Treff which is advertised as having “ESSEN, TRINKEN, PARTYHITS” – what’s not to like? Inside is like a massive beer hall with bars at either end and a couple of currywurst stalls. You charge an electronic card with credit and off you go. I was ready to burst at his point and head a stinking headache, so I had an alcohol-free weissbier which was surprisingly good. I watched the games unfold in here with well over 1000 others until about 5:45. It is head and shoudlers above anything else I have seen offered elsewhere for the everyday, non-corporate fan. Well done.
I had a highly caffeinated soft drink that doesn’t come from Austria as well before taking my seat, hoping that the combination of stimulant and football would keep me awake.
After the climb up the stairs to the third tier, the view was close to perfect. The only thing that spoils its looks for me is the colour of the seats. Splitting hairs I know, and I know that as the stadium is shared (although not for long if 1860 find their own place) but the grey is just dull. It also seems that everyone smokes at their seat. I was downwind of two cigarette smokers and Fidel Castro.
Unlike some other clubs I’ve visited, perhaps due to the location, I didn’t feel that people knew their neighbour. Not just because nobody spoke to me – I wouldn’t speak to me either. And yet, two tiers down, the fans were giving it laldy. Was so pleased to see a proper standing area in this modern area although I do feel that, given its size, a similar arrangement behind the other goals would be optimal.
Similarly to other German clubs, the fans are well kitted out in club colours and ready for the clash. Most of the fans took their seats about 15 minutes before kick off. I found the balladesque anthems (especially the one in English) to be a bit slow (not comparable to Die Elf vom Niederrhein at Borussia). They tried an anthem in English at Anderlecht and the fans snubbed it – it was too obvious and dreamt up by marketing, not a fan. I love the trap-door tunnel – they remind me somehow of Gazzetta Italia on Channel 4 from when I was growing up.
The bit when they announce the team was like they were running through the top 20 singles – I quite enjoyed that. I had feared that the atmosphere might be a little flat and that the stadium would be full of consumers, but Bayern fans are as authentic as the next clubs’. And I’d best most of them do live in and around Munich.
Aww, Bayern Munich. Everything else just seems irrelevant when you can play like they did today. This was meant to be a really tough game. Bayer Leverkusen just beat Lazio 3-0 during the week and are deservedly in the Champions League and should make it again this year. They didn’t play badly either. On another day, Hakan Calhanoglu’s free kick would’ve found its way past not-Neuer, Bellerabi would’ve beaten three players then not found Alaba ready and waiting. Leverkusen did have the odd chance. But Bayern’s attack is just so multi-faceted.
Wendell and Hilbert at full back must have wished they had stayed at home. They were roasted all day long by Costa and Robben. It was amazing to watch. Often I watch Robben and think ‘I know exactly what he’s going to do’ but he still does it. His control is so good. That said he can be frustrating too. Lewandowski made the ‘right’ runs nearly all day but Robben virtually never passed to him. He went nuts towards the end and was clearly frustrated, despite being 3-0 up.
Bayern were supposed to be fragile and vulnerable today. Their one fit centre back was on the bench, leaving a back 4 of three full backs and Xabi Alonso. However, it is hard to hurt a team who always have the ball. While Bayern no longer play the tiki-taka style, their ball retention is phenomenal. Vidal and Thiago kept finding Costa and Robben and then panic ensued in the unconvincing Leverkusen defence. I’m never convinced by big ‘Papa’ in the Leverkusen defence but he may have been their best defender today.
The quality of the football was so good and Costa then pulled off a rainbow flick out of nothing. It was that kind of day and Bayern remained awesome. While Muller’s opener from Douglas Costa’s cross was the only goal in open play, and they fought like schoolboys to take the penalty – I couldn’t believe Robben and Vidal were arguing over taking the penalty when Muller scored the one before and was on a hat-trick – the game was a complete spectacle.
While Dortmund have started the season exceptionally well, I can’t see them having much joy against Bayern playing this well. Anyway, in other news, the toilets up in 319 aren’t the biggest and both Borussia Park and Signal Iduna accommodate more spaciously in that way. However, you might say that doesn’t matter when you can look as sexy as this stadium does lit up like a hooker’s handbag. Bright, brash and beautiful.
Leaving the stadium proved very straightforward. While there are droves heading back to the metro, the parking and the bus park, I left on full time, walked, took a few photos and got straight onto the next metro. Yes, it was a little hot and cramped but it’s only 20 minutes or so back to Marienplatz so you can’t complain. However, Bayern do have their own ‘Subway Loyal’ – whole legions of fans leaving after 83 minutes to ‘avoid the crowd’ ending up creating a crowd of their own. I’ve always disliked people leaving before the end and think it’s crazy, even if your team are 3 up.
From the centre, I strolled back to the bus station to look forward to another sleepless night cramped up next to a stranger for most of the way in sweaty jeans and underwear. But it was worth it for every second spent in Munich, both in the city and at the Allianz Arena. The Leverkusen fans were subdued on the bus back after the previous nights excesses: they weren’t dispirited but they were well beaten.
- Quality of match: *****
- Stadium character: *****
- Stadium atmosphere: ****
- Hospitality: *****
- Ease of access: ****
- Things to do around the stadium: *****
- Overall: *****