When walking up to the Allianz Arena in München you can’t help but get excited. However depending upon what colour is beaming from the stadium lights there can be two completely different vibes.
Coming to München to learn German I was immediately excited about seeing the mighty Bayern München play at the Allianz Arena, however being a football fan I also wished to see 1860 München in action as well.
I had indeed, been strongly advised my many Müncheners that I could not possibly attend both an 1860 game as well as a Bayern match.
“You must choose” they said, “You have to choose”.
After explaining I needed to see both teams in action to make a decision most fans accepted my choice, although the ones who were most disgusted were almost all 1860 supporters.
The Blue half of 1860, and the red half of Bayern could hardly be more opposed.
The 1860 fans are your typical ‘fanatics’ and neutrals in the city talk about the passion and romanticism surrounding the team and its supporters.
While when you mention Bayern you get a grumble about money and foreign fans controlling the club.
Travelling to the Allianz is also distinctly different, as while there is room to breathe when visiting 1860, it is hard to get up the stairs of the tube station when the Bayern crowd descend on the Arena.
The first fixture while on my German travels was 1860 v. FC Bochum.
Without much expectation from a club which is on the brink of financial collapse and in the 2. Bundesliga I was still anticipating my first German football experience with great excitement.
Buying a ticket at a cost of €23 in a stand behind the goals, on arrival into the stadium I immediately wished I had bought the cheaper €11 standing ticket.
However my German conversation with the ticket sales lady obviously hadn’t translated too well.
Directly below my seat was a swarm of 1860 fans in the standing section.
All adorned in their club colours and the majority sporting denim 1860 jackets cut off at the shoulders.
They were in full force and I was under their spell, already contemplating tearing up my €60 ticket to see Bayern München take on the lowly Kaiserslautern for the next week.
I had already picked which colour I would be wearing if a derby were to take place in years to come. Blue.
The crowd were passionate; they were loud for being only 16,000 strong and more importantly, they were Sechz’gers.
You would be hard pressed to find someone not born and bred in Bavaria let alone a foreigner.
That said walking up the icy paths on the day of FC Bayern v. Kaiserslautern did conjure up a lot of excitement, regardless of my premature decision to sign up to 1860.
Yet despite the impressive amount of people charging towards the stadium, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed in the surprisingly large amount of foreign accents coming my way.
Of course I was one of them, however you always feel that there is something lost when you see a group of five American fans decked out in trademark Bayern gear, while a few paces away there is a large group of Japanese also decked out in ‘their’ team’s colours.
Now don’t get me wrong it is still an impressive spectacle and it took nothing away from my enjoyment of the occasion.
However, there became no doubt in my mind which team I would support if I lived in München and became immersed in the culture of the city.
Regardless of trophies and Champions League football, Die Löwen (The Lions) have heart, while the Bayern fans get irate when Robben fails to beat four defenders.
Though it is common now in modern football for successful clubs to have a large foreign following, my preference is for a side which stays close to its roots, and that is what Die Löwen represent.
The city of München.
The Bayern game was a 15.30 kick-off so the stadium wasn’t lit up as of yet.
Walking in with the droves I found my seat amongst some old Bavarian men and couldn’t help but smile.
A full stadium. A sea of Red.
The standing fans were jumping away below me, starting the party which preceded the match.
They were just as impressive as the 1860 fans however there were less of them singing and getting involved.
Considering the results of both matches it is also saying something that the 1860 fans were more animated towards the end of the match than the Bayern fans.
Bayern cruised to a 5-1 victory over Kaiserslautern, though had the first two goals not arrived at opportune moments (a minute either side of half time) it may have been less of a whitewash.
Indeed the Bayern team didn’t impress greatly, with the defence in particular looking shaky and prone to mistakes.
An over-reliance on the right wing which Robben occupied also baffled, when it was Müller who did most of the damage on the opposite flank.
Yet Bayern were able to cruise through the game, with Kaiserslautern rarely able to threaten the Bayern goal and eventually succumbing to the class of Müller, Gomez and Schweinsteiger.
Three goals in the final ten minutes completed a rout in a match which was never in doubt.
Contrast this to 1860, who, despite matching Bochum in the first half lost their match 3-1.
Tragedy struck on the stroke of halftime, when 1860 defender Kai Bulow was harshly sent off for an apparent foul on Ostrzolek inside the box.
The penalty was despatched and despite a spirited fight back in the second half, Die Löwen eventually felt the effects of being a man down.
When local hero Benny Lauth scored a fine equaliser, the crowd roared on the team, clearly not content with a point and urging their side to find a winner.
There were definitely no feelings around the ground that a draw with ten men would be considered a good result.
They were made to pay for this enthusiastic approach, conceding two more goals as their defence became stretched.
The majority of the crowd stayed in their seats though, which can be a rarity in modern football.
Die Sechzt’gers remained till the end to clap their side off the pitch as well as to let the referee know their feelings about the red card.
While 1860 lost in an uninspiring 2. Bundesliga match, compared to the thrashing Bayern dished out to Kaiserlautern, I had no second doubts that I would prefer to be a Sechz’ger.
The Blue was for me and Die Löwen had secured my alliance.
They have passion, they have identity, they are Bavarian and they are proud.
Second Division football it may be, however I’ll take that over the Champions League any day in this rich footballing city.