Fan-spiration: “Supporting Bayern Munich is like breathing – you can’t live without it”
Like many football fans, Lujain Kanaya’s first touch point with the sport came through her family – in her case, it was her older sister who introduced her to the world of Bayern Munich and the German national team when Lujain was nine years old.
Starting out as an observer, Lujain’s passion for football and Bayern Munich was fully fuelled in 2005. “At that time, there were still many legends playing for the team, like Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm,” the 27-year-old with a bachelor degree in English literature recalls. “After seeing them play, I immediately fell in love with the club.”
Lujain lives in Damascus, Syria, where life as a supporter of FC Bayern wasn’t always easy. For a long time, she says, live streaming was reserved exclusively for games of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Things changed, however, when the Association of Bayern fans in Syria was officially recognized in 2015, and it became easier to watch Bayern matches.
“In Syria, there are actually many supporters of Bundesliga teams, including Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke and Werder Bremen, and we have significant number of fans of the German national team,” Lujain explains. “Since the establishment of the Association, with its headquarters in Damascus, the Bayern base keeps growing.”
She was with fellow supporters of the fan association when she watched Bayern’s Champions League round of 16 game against Juventus Turin almost five years ago. The first leg had ended in a 2-2 draw. In the second leg, Bayern trailed Juve by one goal.
“I was very nervous when the result was 2-1 and the match was about to end,” Lujain recalls. “I watched with great fear, wondering if we’d be eliminated from the Champions League. But suddenly , in the last second, Thomas Müller scored a killer header to force extra time. I jumped around like a mad person and screamed so loudly for Müller, who had revived my hopes and the hopes of all Bayern fans to go through to the next round.”
In the end, Bayern won 4-2 after extra time. It was, as Lujain says, the most exciting and wonderful match she had ever witnessed.
“The next morning I woke up with a sore throat after all that screaming, but it was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she laughs.
Perhaps it is not surprising that Thomas Müller is among Lujain’s favorite players – she admires his unique style and his ability to surprise: “He passes the ball when you expect him to shoot, and he strikes when you expect him to pass. Müller is truly one-of-a-kind.”
Besides Müller, however, Lujain names Bayern’s goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer as her idol.
“I first noticed him when he was still the goalkeeper for Schalke, but he impressed me further during the 2010 World Cup, when he put in one perfect performance after another, even managing an assist in the game against England,” Lujain says. “He has been my idol ever since, for his unbelievable saves and the way he redefined goalkeeping. The most amazing game he ever played was against Algeria in the 2014 World Cup. He has been a role model to many goalkeepers around the world and to those who support him.”
For Lujain, being a fan of FC Bayern is a lifestyle more than anything else – the club has taught her many valuable lessons, from being determined and taking things seriously to never lose hope and stay motivated.
“Supporting Bayern Munich is like breathing, you can’t live without it,” she says.
Sometimes, Lujain adds, she doesn’t really understand the club’s transfer policy and its reluctance to sign big names instead of snatching away players from second-level clubs – but at the end of the day, being a fan also means sticking together through good times and bad.
“Unfortunately, I never had an opportunity to see a Bayern game live. It’s difficult for Syrians to get a visa since the Syrian civil war started in 2011,” Lujain says. “The restrictions make it very hard for us to travel. But it’s one of my biggest dreams to attend a Bayern match someday.”
Follow Lujain on Twitter: @Juju_Kanaya