The Bayern Way

Firm roots in the community are what sustains a club. That is what keeps the club running not merely as a sporting outfit but more like a community centre of the neighbourhood. And then there are the fans who are the lifeblood of clubs. Bayern has it all. This is a glimpse of their story.

“We inspire others with outstanding experiences — and with the essence of what makes us successful.” That is the guiding principle of one of the most successful football clubs in the world — Bayern Munich. The German giants have been a household name in world football for decades. However, the club with substantial global reach is very much rooted to its community.

With over 277,000 registered fans, Bayern is the most popular football team in Germany. As the premier football club of Germany, Bayern München also plays a leading role in the community. They have shown time and again that they are more than prepared to carry out that role. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the first initiative that Bayern München undertook was the #WeKickCorona campaign. The campaign was led by two Bayern stars — Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. Their mission was to raise money in support of social and charitable institutions working in areas affected by the pandemic. They also used the social media successfully to keep the fans engaged and attract more fans during the pandemic, even globally.

The fans are an integral part of the game. One could not imagine football without its fans. And sometimes, fans may even take the leading role in spreading the sport and solidarity. During the last FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Bangladeshi fans gained international fame, especially in Argentina, because of their support for the Albiceleste. Following the world cup madness, Argentina has reopened their embassy in Bangladesh and an amateur club with the name of Bangladesh has been formed in Argentina — Club Deportivo Bangladesh.

This just goes to show how big and crucial fans are to the beautiful game. And fanbase starts from the local community. The Bavarians now even have an official fan club in Bangladesh but it did not happen overnight.

Bayern finished behind city rivals TSV 1860 Munich in the 1962–63 campaign and were not even invited to join the nationwide Bundesliga which was due to start the following season. The organisers invited other clubs who had finished lower as they did not want more than one entrant per city. However, Bayern finally entered Bundesliga in 1965 and have never looked back since. The Bavarian giants boast no fewer than 290,000 club members, which puts them over 100,000 clear of fellow European heavyweights Benfica and Barca. The top five is completed by Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, both with just over 150,000 members.

Bayern have gained these members, not only through their scintillating football but also through their empathetic charity work. FC Bayern Hilfe eV helps people who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own with financial support including assistance to promote education and training. In 2019, FC Bayern received an award for community commitment. While receiving the award, Bayern Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said, "Support for children and adults is more important than any title race.” Such words and backed up by action make sure that a sports club has strong footing in the community it is based in.

The local popularity then trickles down to attracting local talents. Young and promising kids look up to the club and want to play for and defend the badge when they grow up. Looking at the big clubs of Germany, especially Bayern and Dortmund, makes it evident. Two of the most iconic footballers of Germany in recent times, Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus are the captains of the two clubs. They came up through the ranks of German clubs and went on to represent their country in the world stage winning the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

All of this is the result of strong club infrastructure and community engagement. Bangladesh also has huge possibilities in this regard where clubs like Mohammedan and Abahani have huge following in their local community. Effective steps could make sure that Bangladesh could also follow in the footsteps of Germany. The Bangladesh national team captain is a testament to that. Jamal Bhuyan was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. His local clubs Brondby IF and FC Copenhagen brought him to limelight that helped the BFF locate him in their radar. Consequently, he has become the biggest brand of Bangladesh football. Clubs have to play such roles to bring footballers up. That is how the football world has been functioning since the beginning and that is how it will continue to function.

Football is still the most popular sport in Bangladesh. The national team’s matches outside the capital and even the recent Federation Cup final between Mohammedan and Abahani have proven that again. The clubs need to chalk up their plans now if they indeed want to bring back the popularity of top tier domestic football in Bangladesh. European heavyweights like Bayern Munich are examples they could look up to, to build their infrastructure for the future. This would not only serve the clubs themselves but the footballing nation of Bangladesh as a whole.

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