Fan-spiration: “Watching FC Bayern play live is a feeling that becomes addictive”
When he was nine years old, Carlos Khairallah saw the German national team being crowned Champions of Europe. He still remembers Jürgen Klinsmann holding up the trophy, but the now 33-year-old also recalls crying two years later when Germany was eliminated by Croatia in the World Cup 1998’s quarterfinal. Unfortunately, even more tears were to follow shortly afterwards.
“My first encounter with FC Bayern was in 1999 when I was watching the UEFA Champions League final,” says Carlos, who comes from Lebanon where he works as a software engineer. “This heartbreak of a game made me fall in love with the club. I know it’s odd to root for the loser but I thought that they deserved to win that game, and I was a fan of the German national team. This had a great impact on loving FC Bayern at that time.”
Over the years, Carlos saw many players that he liked – from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm to Thomas Müller and Stefan Effenberg – but there is one man who outshone them all: Oliver Kahn.
“He made me fall for Bayern once and for all with his character, charisma and leadership,” Carlos explains. “When Kahn saved that penalty against Valencia in the 2001 Champions League final and won Bayern the trophy, it showed the mentality and determination he had. Kahn’s exceptional form with the national team at the 2002 World Cup is another example of why he’s my favorite.”
Kahn wasn’t involved in what Carlos remembers as his most devastating moment as a fan of FC Bayern: the crushing defeat against Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League final.
“After that goal of Thomas Müller in the 83rd minute, thinking that we had won but then we lost it… It took me weeks to be able to speak with someone about that game,” he says. “Add to that the fact that we lost the league in the last couple of matchdays, as well as the DFB-Pokal in the final.”
Having lived through this nightmare of a season, redemption felt especially sweet one year later, when the club managed to win the historical treble for the first time: “We went from losing everything to winning everything! It was great!”
In 2015, Carlos visited Munich with a few friends and fellow members of the Lebanese Bayern Club, which he co-founded. They contacted FC Bayern to ask if they could pay a visit to Säbener Straße and give them a plaque.
“We met Raimond Aumann who played as a goalkeeper for Bayern for 12 years and is now the director of fan club relations at FC Bayern,” Carlos recalls. “We did a tour and saw Arjen Robben training individually, as he was working on his return from an injury. And we also watched the Bayern vs Dortmund game in the Allianz Arena two days later, which Bayern won 5-1.”
In total, Carlos had the opportunity to watch Bayern live at the Allianz Arena four times: in the treble season against Fortuna Düsseldorf, which Bayern won 3-2 with a Boateng header in the 86th minute; in 2015, when Bayern beat rival Dortmund 5-1; in 2017, when Bayern secured a 3-0 victory against Celtic in the Champions League group stage; and finally in 2018, when Bayern could only manage a 1-1 draw against Augsburg, with Arjen Robben being the only goalscorer for the Bavarians.
The atmosphere in the stadium, Carlos says, is second to none.
“Every time I watched them live at the Allianz Arena was like going there the first time: experiencing the stadium, the people and the players – it’s pure joy and excitement from the moment you get into the U6 heading to Fröttmaning until you leave the stadium heading back from the game,” he explains. “It’s a feeling that becomes addictive. The more you watch them, the more you want to watch them again and again.”
In the end, Carlos adds, FC Bayern is a big family. The club honors their players and legends, all of whom have a great impact.
“Wherever you are in the world, if you meet another FC Bayern fan, you feel like they are family to you,” Carlos says.
This feeling of being part of a global family has perhaps never been more tangible than a few weeks ago when Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was shook by a massive explosion that killed almost 200 people and left thousands injured.
“On that day, on August 4, we lost a young member of our fan club,” Carlos says. “Ralph Mellehe was with a small group of firefighters who were among the first to arrive at the port to extinguish the fire, just minutes before the explosion.”
Ralph was a passionate FC Bayern fan, Carlos adds: “He always asked about our gatherings weeks before the next Champions League game and loved to watch them together with us. He was one of the most energetic members in the Lebanese Bayern Club family, may his soul rest in peace.”
In the aftermath of the Beirut explosions, FC Bayern proved that they are more than just a football club.
“The second day after winning the Champions League, the club donated 200,000 Euros to disaster relief in Beirut,” Carlos says. “This gesture meant a lot, not only to the Bayern fans in Lebanon, but to all Lebanese people, especially those who lost their homes, who are injured and who lost people they love.”
Deeply touched by the club’s display of solidarity, Carlos can only repeat what he has felt ever since he became a supporter of FC Bayern many years ago: “Einmal Bayern, Immer Bayern.”