Fan-spiration: “FC Bayern was my first love”
Following his family from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Dortmund, Germany seemed like a sensible choice for Arafat Khan. If only there wasn’t this small fact, this tiny detail that doesn’t quite fit the picture: Arafat is a passionate FC Bayern supporter.
Living in Dortmund, the city that is home to one of Bayern’s biggest rivals, has come with a certain amount of banter and mockery. The 20-year-old who is now doing his “Fachabitur” (vocational diploma) is the only Bayern fan at his school and often goes head-to-head with his classmates in defending his favorite team, particularly when Bayern and Dortmund face each other in the Bundesliga, but also when the teams compete internationally.
“I remember the day we played against Liverpool, I went to school wearing my Bayern outfit, including a cap and a jersey,” Arafat recalls. “My teachers and classmates made fun of me and told me that we were going to lose. When I came back the next day, I got booed because I was too overconfident.”
Even so, he adds with a laugh, once they saw how sad he was about FC Bayern being eliminated from the Champions League, they stopped the mocking and showed some sympathy.
Arafat has been a football fan since the 2006 World Cup. It was Bayern legends Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger that first caught his eye and inspired him, so he was eager to learn more about the two players and the club they belonged to.
“FC Bayern is life, I guess you can say, it was my first love,” he explains. “It’s more than just a club, it feels like family to me.”
Before moving to Germany, Arafat founded a Bayern fan club in Bangladesh in 2015.
“At first, it was merely a Facebook page that I created, where I posted news about FC Bayern in Bangla language,” he says. “Through the page, I got to know lots of Bayern fans.”
After doing some more online research, Arafat applied to be recognized by FC Bayern as an official fan club, which happened in 2018. On Facebook, he says, the fan club has more than 5,000 followers, however, the number of registered fans amounts to over 70 – with many more interested and to be registered soon.
“We have chat groups where Bayern fans come together to talk about anything concerning the club every day,” Arafat describes the activities of the fan club, of which he remains president despite the fact that he moved to another country. “We have representatives in Bangladesh who work for the fan club. On match days, we try to arrange watch parties on Discord.”
It’s not easy to stay connected as most of the fan club members are located across the whole country and don’t have the opportunity to meet up often. The challenge to arrange a get-together has become even harder now due to the pandemic, which has changed the lives of everyone around the world – and also the way we consume football.
Arafat says that he found it strange at the beginning to watch Bayern games without the chants and sounds of a fully packed stadium, but after a while, he got used to it.
“It’s better than nothing because at least there still is something to watch,” he shrugs. “But I do miss going to the stadium.”
His favorite moment as fan came last year when FC Bayern won the treble, since the 2013 triumph happened when he was still quite young.
“Last year, I cried after the UCL final,” Arafat admits. “It was very emotional because we have all waited for a long time, especially after repeatedly losing to Spanish teams in the previous years. One of the most devastating moments for me was our defeat against Real Madrid. It was so controversial because of the referee issues.”
Arafat, who admires many FC Bayern players past and present but names goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer as his favorite, says that most football fans in Bangladesh support teams like Real Madrid, Barca, Manchester United and Chelsea – but the fanbase for Bayern keeps growing as well.
“As the President of the FC Bayern München Fanclub in Bangladesh, I am trying to provide a platform for the supporters where they can show their respect, love and loyalty to our beloved team,” he says.