Fan-spiration: “Being a fan of FC Bayern means you are part of a family”
The World Cup final 2002 was a lonely affair for Alberto Santos Baranda. When Brazil won 2-0 against Germany, it seemed like he was the only one not cheering for the Seleção, but instead feeling sad for Die Mannschaft. It’s when he realized that he’d be following the ones that were defeated from then on.
After doing more research on the German national team, Alberto stumbled upon the same names again and again: Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“They weren’t only great players of the national team, but also of FC Bayern, and I started following the club,” says Alberto, who lives in Havana, Cuba where he works as a civil engineer. The rest, as they say, is history.
Alberto says there are two different moments that solidified his love for Bayern.
“First, I was a solo fan, without meeting other Bayern fans, without the existence of Cubayern,” he recalls, referring to the FC Bayern fan club in Cuba, for which he serves as Vice President. “In that moment, I fell in love with Bayern for being a club that is very close to its players, for its philosophy, for its history, for not giving up even in the toughest moments or the most difficult matches.”
The second moment came when he connected to like-minded Bayern supporters, a group that now makes up the base of Cubayern.
“Suddenly, I had so many people around me wearing the same colours, singing, laughing, clapping, united as a family,” Alberto says. “We are guided by our passion and our love for the club.”
According to Alberto, it is not easy to be a FC Bayern fan in Latin America, and in Cuba in particular – not only due to the geographical distance between Havana and Munich, which makes it complicated to even get simple FC Bayern merchandise.
“We receive a lot of pressure and are often verbally attacked by fans of other clubs,” the 30-year-old explains. “But for us, it means being unique. We may be a minority here, but we are a big one at heart. Defending what you love and believe in fills you with security and a lot of strength. Being a fan of Bayern makes you feel like you are part of a family.”
Alberto adds that since he became a FC Bayern supporter, the club has been a constant in both his personal and professional life: “It has been with me throughout my engineering career, for each exam, during my thesis defense – there I was, with my FC Bayern jersey.”
In 2016, Alberto and his friends watched the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 when Bayern were on the brink of elimination against Juventus Turin but staged a remarkable comeback with a late equalizer by Thomas Müller in the first minute of added time.
“We had to share the premises with Juve fans who made fun of Bayern the whole game,” he recalls. “When Müller equalized, we simply couldn’t contain our joy.”
The wild celebration, he adds, resulted in some of the fans accidentally stumbling and tearing down a divider to the venue next door where Barcelona fans were watching their team in the Champions League.
“They all stared at us, astonished,” Alberto says with a laugh.
It’s one of his fondest FC Bayern-related memories, in addition to winning the Champions League in 2013.
“That Robben goal, it was like everything was in slow motion,” he says. “When the ball crossed the goal line, I jumped and shouted so loud that I think people could hear me a block away.”
Four years later, however, Alberto experienced a low point: when FC Bayern lost the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid and was thus eliminated from the competition.
“There is no greater pain than losing to a team that has overbearing fans,” he explains. “Adding to that, it really felt like our party was stolen due to controversial decisions of the referee. Losing versus Madrid was very sad.”
Alberto, however, sees one big advantage when comparing FC Bayern to other European top clubs.
“Real Madrid had Cristiano, Messi is Barcelona, but Bayern has eleven players, eleven great players who are equally important, who move us and are the essence of the club, so it is hard to say who my favourite player is,” he explains.
“However, based on my little experience and what I have seen so far, I must say that Bastian Schweinsteiger is undoubtedly the Bayern legend that I have most admired for his dedication, strength, discipline, his greatness and humility.”
As Latin American fans, he adds, the Cubayern fan club would love to feel even closer to FC Bayern, be it through more subtitled content on the the club’s website, a closer collaboration between fan club leaders, participation contests for fans or perhaps even possibly a tour of the club in Latin America.
Alberto, who has never been to Germany before, says that watching a Bayern game live at the Allianz Arena is nothing but a distant dream for him at the moment.
“It’s too expensive, too complicated,” he admits. “But that is why we watch every game as if we were in the stadium. At every place where we watch football together, we create our own version of the Allianz Arena, where we sing, jump and cheer for every pass and every goal.”