In this edition of Club Crawl, we talked with Michael Fähnle-Hedge, the chairman of DC Bayern Capital 11 who took the time to answer our questions and share some great pictures of events at his fan club. Even though they are 6800 kilometers away from Allianz Arena, DC Bayern passionately supports FC Bayern and brings a little bit of Bavaria to the U.S. Capital every match day.
1520 N Courthouse Rd,
Arlington, VA 22201
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Tell us the story of how your fan club was founded and what the fan club means to you and your members.
I was born and raised in Germany, growing up just south of Munich. I ended up starting the club because frankly, I got tired of watching Bayern matches alone. I wanted a chance to recreate some of the camaraderie one gets to experience as a Bayern fan in Germany. The club gives fans the ability to gather together and really take in the Bayern experience while being an ocean away from Munich.
Where and how do you watch Bayern games? Do you have special traditions (e.g. chants, food, beer, etc.) that you follow on matchday?
We have watch parties for every Bayern match at Summers Restaurant in Arlington, VA. For years, we have celebrated every Bayern goal by recreating the goal chant made famous in Munich by long-time stadium announcer Stephan Lehmann. Many of the members frequently wear Lederhosen and we also work closely with Bayern’s beer sponsor, Paulaner, to ensure we have Munich beer on hand for all matches.
Has your club made a trip to see Bayern live as a group? What was the experience like?
Yes. Back in 2016 we were the first North American fan club to take a large group to Munich. Single-handedly coordinating a trip for 41 members from DC to Munich was challenging, but the three days we spent together were very memorable. On the first day we were treated to a private audience with former Bayern captain and World Cup winner, Raimond Aumann, who serves as the Director of Fan Club relations for Bayern. We were all given complimentary Bayern gift bags as well as free tickets to the Bayern Amateurs match against Schweinfurt that night.
The following day we got to experience Bayern’s defeat of Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Allianz Arena. It was great that we were all able to get tickets together in the same section. On the final day we took a private tour of the Allianz Arena as well as the FC Bayern museum. Capping the day, we also took a private tour of the old Olympiastadion, Bayern’s home before moving to the Allianz Arena in 2005. Needless to say, many liters of beer were also consumed during the three days excitement. Additionally, given the size of our club, it’s a seemingly rare occasion when we don’t have at least one member in the stadium for any given match at the Allianz Arena.
What do your family and friends think about you watching all those Bayern games early in the morning/late at night?
I think for many of us, it’s just become the new normal. For most people, waking up to drink a vodka or beer at 9:30am on a Saturday would be a sign of alcoholism. However for us, it’s just what we do. It’s nice to get the match out of the way earlier in the day and gives members the opportunity to not have to plan a full weekend day around watching a sporting event. Though for a few of us, the party goes on long after the match has ended.
What would be your dream as a Bayern supporter? This could either be a title you want Bayern to win, a specific match you want to watch live or a player/legend you want to visit your fanclub.
I’ve been lucky enough to live through so many Bayern dreams already over the 33 years I’ve actively followed the club. I would like to see another Champions League victory, sooner rather than later. It’s great that we’ve been regularly in the mix, for the most part, since winning in 2013, but I’d really like to see us cross the finish line again soon. My ultimate dream would be to have a Bayern player, current, or most likely former, stop by one of our viewings. Being in DC versus a more attractive destination such as New York City, Los Angeles, or Miami, makes it a challenge, even though our importance to the fan community is regularly recognized by Bayern.
What differentiates Bayern from other European clubs in your opinion?
Although the change from big club in Germany to international powerhouse and fanbase has been pronounced during my years of fandom, Bayern still manages to make the fan feel like an individual that is an organic part of the club and its culture. It’s the small touches that Bayern does in order to get its fans involved in the club. It’s something that makes you feel invested in the club, not just a random person the club collects revenue from. The fans ARE the club. It’s very different from the model you see mostly in the U.S. with pro sports franchises. And although I may be biased, I think Germany does this significantly better than leagues such as England, where the fans are often viewed more as cash cows by the bigger clubs.
Do you interact with other fan clubs and if yes, how?
Yes, we’ve had good relations with the New York City fan club since we started, as they were founded around the same time us as. There were only a couple official Bayern clubs when we got started in 2011. The few clubs that existed before us were essentially defunct. DC and New York were the first to really get started as clubs that were open to the public and held viewings. Since then, Bayern has established over 100 clubs in the U.S. and Canada. When I started the club, I thought we’d be the only one. It’s amazing how much growth we’ve seen since Bayern won the Champions League in 2013. We collaborate often and have hosted the Baltimore club on a few occasions, as well as members from other clubs visiting DC from around the country.
How do you stay active in your community? How do you attract new members?
We do some charitable outreach though we aren’t a charitable organization. At the end of the day we exist to get together, watch Bayern matches and drink beer. But, I’ve always thought that it’s important to give back to the community, so that angle does come into play. As far as attracting new members, we have a solid social media presence, but truthfully people find us on their own, either through google searches or word of mouth. We don’t charge dues for membership. I’ve always wanted this to be a fun, open environment, where anyone off the street can join us and share in our love for Bayern.
While fan club numbers are obviously important, it’s not what drives us. Once people show up on their own, they usually come back for the atmosphere. There are so many places to watch Bayern matches now, including streaming the match on a tablet while sitting in your bathroom. But when you’re thousands of miles away from Munich, having the option to come out to a random bar in Arlington and feel, just a little bit, like you’re in Munich, that’s priceless in my opinion. It’s why I drive 22 miles on a Saturday morning when I’d truthfully rather be asleep, to watch in a bar with a bunch of people that started out as strangers, but have kind of become a family.
Stay tuned for the next segment of our series “Club Crawl” as we make our way around the globe to give Bayern fan clubs a voice.