Fan-spiration: “FC Bayern became my safe space”
Tamara Jeremić’s love for sports in general started at a very young age: whether it was football, basketball, tennis, water polo or anything else – Tamara has always enjoyed the nature of sports.
“Serbia is full of talented people and you could always find some of them lifting some trophies or winning some medals, so sports are a huge part of who Serbs are,” the 23-year-old says about her home country.
But with football, she adds, it was a little bit different. Serbia’s national team wasn’t all that successful, yet football remained the most popular sport in the country – this, Tamara explains, is probably due to the huge rivalry of the two Belgrade clubs, Red Star and Partizan.
“I enjoyed watching football as much as any other sport, but I remember always hearing that football wasn’t for girls and because I was still young back then, I believed it,” she says.
Fast forward to 2010 when Serbia and Germany were facing each other during the group stage of the World Cup. Tamara was home alone that day and decided to watch it. At the very least, she thought, she could practice her German language skills.
“In Serbia, you start learning English when you are 7 years old, and then a second foreign language at 12,” Tamara explains. “I had the option to choose between German, Russian and French. My whole family studied Russian, so I decided I wanted to do something different and chose German as my second foreign language.”
Sitting in front of the TV, she decided to listen to the commentator and write down the names of the German players he mentioned to see if she spelled them correctly.
“Obviously, Schweinsteiger was the first one that caught my eye, or my ear, I should say, and by writing down his name, I remembered him,” Tamara recalls. “After Schweinsteiger, there was Badstuber, then Lahm, then Gomez and finally Podolski – and his name did not sound German at all.”
After the game – which Serbia won 1-0 – Tamara began to look up the players and realized that many of them were from FC Bayern Munich. This is how she was drawn to the club in the first place, feeling mesmerized particularly by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm.
It was not only her love for the German football team that blossomed, but also her interest in the German language. Even though she didn’t like German at first and admits that she had a lot of difficulties with it, Tamara is currently a student at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, majoring in German language, literature and culture.
After Tamara’s initial “encounter” with Bayern Munich, she stopped watching football again.
“Yet again, I was told by everyone that football isn’t for girls,” she says. “The older people especially didn’t want to hear about me cheering for a German team because of the history the countries share. It didn’t really makes sense to me, but since I was still young, I didn’t openly disagree.”
At the 2014 World Cup, Tamara was 17 years old and frankly didn’t care anymore about who was going to say what about her support for Germany.
“I stayed in my room and watched every game I possibly could. From the beginning, I was cheering for Germany, because Serbia didn’t qualify and I still knew a lot of the players,” she says. “I enjoyed watching every game so much, it was incredible.”
Once the World Cup was over, it was clear that Tamara wouldn’t let anyone ever tell her again that she shouldn’t be watching football. The tournament also renewed her interest in FC Bayern – she has been an ardent supporter ever since.
“To be completely honest, I was going through a lot when I started watching Bayern,” Tamara acknowledges. “Mentally, I wasn’t at my best. But knowing that I had that one Bundesliga game to look forward to, no matter what, made me feel like I was at least in control of something. At that time, Bayern truly was my safe space.”
Every Saturday, Tamara would sit eagerly in front of her TV, waiting for the football match to begin.
“It was more than just the sport itself, there was something about the players that I really loved,” she remembers. “Even though I obviously never met them in person, I had this great feeling about them. It really sounds sappy when I say it like this, but I can’t even start to explain how much of an important role the club played for me throughout the years.”
FC Bayern is also the reason why Tamara signed up on Twitter.
“I wanted to have someone to talk to about Bayern, because they just aren’t that popular here,” she says. “I’m really thankful for Twitter and all the amazing fans I met there. There isn’t much room for Bayern in my everyday conversations because I am the only one who watches Bayern of my friends and family.”
Schweinsteiger and Lahm were among the first names she learned from the German national team, and therefore two of Tamara’s most devastating moments as a football fan came when these two club legends decided to leave (Schweinsteiger) and retire (Lahm).
“Oh, and that one completely rigged game against Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena,” she adds, referring to the Champions League match in 2017 that was highly controversial due to a number of wrong decisions by the referee. “I have never felt more furious than I did when watching that game.”
When the pandemic is over, Tamara plans to travel to Munich to watch a football game at the Allianz Arena and see her favorite players live on the pitch – even though she can’t really determine who exactly her favorite player is.
“It has always been more than one, but some of them are Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Müller, Lewandowski, Neuer, Kimmich, Gnabry, Coman, Davies, and many more,” she says, laughing. “I know that many may not agree, but it is impossible to just choose one.”
Follow Tamara on Twitter: @bayernisch_