Fan-spiration: “I cried like a little baby when he scored that goal”
Immersed in the world of football from a very young age, the first FC Bayern match Amalja Gjika remembers watching is the Champions League final against Inter Milan in 2010. Although the team didn’t win the coveted trophy that year, Amalja followed in the footsteps of her father, a huge fan of the Bayern Munich himself.
Amalja, who lives in Tirana, Albania and turns 20 next week, says that her first favorite players were club legends Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger. But it didn’t take long until another player came along who would replace them: Javi Martínez.
“Javi became my favorite player ever since his first historic season with us,” she says. “In my eyes, he was our best player that year and I’ll never forget the Champions League games vs Barcelona. He was just unstoppable and the best defensive midfielder in the world at that point. Javi and Basti were one of the best duos in football history, they were unbelievably strong together.”
Even though Amalja was only 11 years old at the time, she remembers her dad calling Javi “the genius” every time he touched the ball.
“You can say that my whole family loves Javi,” Amalja says with a laugh.
Shortly after, she decided to open an Instagram fan account dedicated to the midfielder.
“I wanted to show him how much I supported him because I feel that he is unfortunately very underrated, even by Bayern fans,” she explains.
The midfielder recognized and appreciated Amalja’s support by following her account and interacting with her on social media regularly, as did his girlfriend Aline Brum. Even a few hiccups along the way – her account was deleted, and she had to start from scratch – couldn’t change that.
When Amalja was in Munich in July 2017, she got in touch with Aline and asked her if there was a chance to meet Javi before the team’s departure to China for their pre-season summer tour.
“She replied one day before they left and said it was really difficult, but I was a 15-year-old girl with only one dream, to meet Javi,” Amalja recalls. She knew that the team would leave at 8 AM, so she woke up at 5 in the morning to go to the training ground. Her persistence paid off.
“As soon as Javi saw me, he smiled and came over. He hugged me and started to talk to me like I was a life-long friend,” Amalja says. “Those were the best ten minutes of my life. We took some pictures before he had to go, but he told me that he was so surprised I travelled all the way from Albania to see him.”
Encouraged by this first encounter, Amalja travelled to Munich more often in the coming years, and had more opportunities to interact with Javi – and some of the other players as well, but it naturally goes without saying that her main focus would always be on the Spaniard.
In November 2018, Amalja watched the Champions League match Bayern vs. AEK Athens – and she came prepared: she made a big sign asking for Javi’s jersey, which she shared on her social media accounts prior to the game.
“After the final whistle, I held up the sign with my dad, but saw that Javi exchanged shirts with a player from AEK,” she remembers. “But then he headed towards me, his own jersey still in his hand. Apparently, he did take the other player’s jersey but kept his to give to me. I was so happy.”
Nothing, however, prepared her for what was to come in late 2019, when Javi’s social media team contacted Amalja.
“They told me that they appreciate my support and wanted to meet up to talk about my page and see how they could help me out more,” she says. “Of course I accepted and was very excited.”
When she came to Munich the next time, Amalja met with some members of Javi’s team at a café near Marienplatz. After talking with them for a while, she suddenly felt someone tapping her shoulder.
“I turned around and saw Javi, and I really couldn’t believe it,” Amalja says. “I was shocked, and all the other guests at the café were looking at us. The waitress even asked me if I wanted some schnapps – I had to tell her I was still underage.”
Javi didn’t come empty-handed: after having a casual chat with Amalja, he gave her a present.
“It was a Bayern jersey with my name and his number on it, which he signed for me in Spanish,” she says. “We spent half an hour together even though I didn’t talk too much because I was star struck and just kept staring at him.”
Javi shared a video of his meeting with Amalja on his social media accounts. When she returned to Albania and went back to school, she could hear people talk – everyone had seen it, including some of her teachers. Her story was even picked up by a couple of media outlets in Albania.
“From that day on, I was always referred to as ‘the girl who likes Javi Martínez,’” Amalja laughs. “Many were surprised that he is my favorite, and not one of the other, more famous players, but I think they understand now why. I always call him ‘el mejor del mundo’ because he really is the best – I started to like him as a player, but he is also the most wonderful human being.”
When asked about her favorite Bayern moments, Amalja is quick to mention the 2013 and 2020 trebles – a no-brainer for every fan, she says.
“But I’d also mention the 2020 UEFA Supercup – I feel like Javi’s winning goal in extra time was a huge turning point for him and made it clear he’d stay for one more year,” Amalja explains. “I cried like a little baby when he scored that goal.”
Against all odds, Amalja still hopes that the club will offer Javi a new contract – nothing would make her happier than seeing her favorite player retiring at her favorite club.
While Amalja’s love and support for FC Bayern revolves a lot around Javi Martínez, the club as a whole also means the world to her.
“It’s my getaway from daily stress or whenever I am sad,” Amalja says. “Looking forward to a match always puts me in a good mood. I know it’s cliché but this club really feels like a family to its fans and I can honestly say it’s one of the biggest sources of my happiness.”
Follow Amalja on Twitter: @javisjames11