120 years on from the club’s formation, Bayern Munich has become Germany’s flagship club…whether other fans like it or not! Join COPA90 as we lift the lid on the Bavarian giant's success.
In February 1900, wrapped inside the warmth of Munich’s Café Gisela, Franz John and ten of his colleagues laid the foundations for what we know today as FC Bayern Munich.
Things were very different back then. German sports clubs were seen as a source of great national pride, run by the affluent middle class, who perceived football as an “English disease;” a mob’s game for the working man.
In fact, even the notion of competitive sport was deemed unsuitable. Most clubs centred around activities such as gymnastics and singing, where emphasis was placed on enjoyment and escapism over winning and losing.
John, initially a member of MTV 1879 – Munich’s own multisport gymnastics club – challenged the hierarchy on its beliefs about football. He was quickly rebuffed. And so, on that cold February night, he and ten others who backed his liberal and progressive ideals broke away to form Bayern Munich.
This brash, rebellious and pioneering attitude lives on at the club to this day, and is reflected in its motto: Mia San Mia.
The phrase – which, translated from local Bavarian dialect, means ‘we are what we are’ – acts as a rebuttal to any criticism the club or its fans face. It serves as a cultural philosophy, and is used in the same way Millwall fans chant: “no-one likes us, we don’t care!”
120 years on, Bayern Munich has become Germany’s one true superclub. After initially being overlooked for a spot in the inaugural 1963/64 Bundesliga season – in favour of their rivals, 1860 Munich – Bayern battled their way to the top of German football and, for the most part, have been there ever since.
Over the years, Bayern has boasted talent the likes of which most clubs could only ever dream of. Players like Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus, Gerd Müller, Sepp Maier and, more recently, Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack and Philipp Lahm.
Such talent naturally attracted mass media interest and, with the club’s players on the front of newspapers as much as they were on the back of them during the ‘90s, Bayern were awarded the nickname FC Hollywood.
Although intended as more of an insult, alluding to the internal drama at the club, it’s a name that’s since been worn as a badge of pride.
Bayern reached their apex in the 2010s, first by completing an illustrious treble under the stewardship of German coach, Jupp Heynckes in 2013, before dominating the Bundesliga, winning three consecutive league titles with Pep Guardiola.
The Bavarian giants have since remained at the summit of German football, having now accumulated an unprecedented seven Bundesliga titles back-to-back.
The success has not come without envy, though, and Bayern – similar to Manchester United – are hated by large sections of football fans across Germany and wider Europe. Not that it bothers the club or its fans.
When challenged, insulted or jeered, they will smile back at you, just as Franz John did all those years ago, and utter the words: Mia San Mia.