Home > Shamrock Rovers Programme General Articles, Travel > German Groundhopping in the Gruenwalder

German Groundhopping in the Gruenwalder

Published in Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers v Bray Wanderers) 8 April 2011

So how has it come to this? My interest in football, or is it an obsession, sees me standing on a terrace on a cold February Friday evening watching Bayern Munich’s reserve team playing. This footballing obsession cannot go any lower or can it? Well maybe it can, as by the end of this German ground hopping football weekend it will see me visiting the three grounds Bayern Munich have played their home games in since 1925 and also visit their training ground to watch their post match warm down session. Shamrock Rovers has a lot to answer for!

The reason I am here is partially due to a match played in Munich 45 years ago. Back then, Shamrock Rovers were the FAI Cup holders and as such qualified to play in the 1966/67 European Cup Winners Cup. In the second round they were drawn against the mighty Bayern Munich. At home in the first leg, Rovers drew 1-1 and travelled to Munich for the second leg to face a Bayern team that included such household names as Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Mueller. Bayern led 1-0 at half time, but second half goals by Bobby Gilbert and Liam Tuohy meant that with seven minutes to go Rovers led on away goals. However, Gerd Mueller scored to win Bayern the tie allowing them to progress all the way to the final where they would beat Rangers to lift the Cup Winners Cup.

Our summer football season in Ireland allows us football fans to take in some live european football during the Irish close season. Munich is the destination this year for a group of us Rovers fans. This destination allows one of our group to tick off a milestone in his footballing ground hopping obsession. By attending a reserve team match in the Gruenwalder Stadium in Munich, it will mean he is halfway on his journey to see a game played in each of the 26 stadia where Shamrock Rovers have played a competitive European football match. I’m a willing accomplice on his mission this weekend. So it is a chance to see the scene of this glorious Rovers European defeat that brings us out to the Stadt Stadion an der Gruenwalderstrasse as it is officially known. Tonight Bayern Munich’s Reserve team (or Bayern Amateure), who are bottom of the 3rd Bundesliga, will take on Carl Zeiss Jena who have travelled several hundred kilometres from east Germany for the game. They have brought a couple of hundred away fans with them to Munich and they are corralled into one section of the northern terrace. The ground is classic old school with four massive floodlight pylons, two curva terraces behind the goals and two stands either side. The vocal Bayern fans are all standing in the central section of the east stand just like Rovers do in Tallaght. The atmosphere is also up there with Tallaght, even though there is only about 800 home fans in the stadium. The Amateure team has fairly hardcore support with several huge Tifo flags flying when the teams emerge onto the pitch. With a trumpeter and a couple of large drums, their fans do not stop singing for the 90 minutes despite being second best in the game which they will lose 2-1. Sitting in the dug out opposite the home support is Amateure’s trainer who is none other than the 1970 World Cup top goalscorer, and the man who broke Rovers’ hearts back in 1966, Gerd Mueller.

The Amateure team has developed a number of players for the current Bayern first team including Philip Lahm, Tony Kroos, Thomas Kraft, Diego Contento, Andreas Ottl and Bastein Schweinsteiger. Thomas Mueller and Holger Badstuber are also remembered fondly by the Amateure fans from the 2009 season when played with the reserve team before breaking into the Bayern elite squad. Mueller went on to win the Golden Boot for being top goalscorer in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. At this Friday night game we get chatting to a number of Bayern fans at half time who enquire about the green and white colours we are wearing. The Shamrock Rovers brand is strong and a number of fans we meet over the weekend have seen the Hoops play against Drogheda on the eve of the 0-0 draw between Ireland and Germany in the home qualifier for EURO 2008. Andi Bruck is one fan we meet and he is very familiar with Shamrock Rovers having seen the Hoops play several times. He is a member of the Red Munichs 89 fan club who sponsored a game in Tallaght against Galway United in the 2009 season. We arrange to meet the next day when Bayern’s first team will play Hoffenheim in the Allianz Arena.

Bayern’s new home ground is in a fairly souless out of town location north of the city surrounded by autobahns, warehouses and car parking. Bayern have been playing their home games in the Allianz Arena since the stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup and it is also home to Munich’s other club, TSV 1860. The facade is lit in the home team colours on match night. When we leave after the game, the stadium spectacularily lights up the night sky in red. Holding 69,000 fans, Bayern’s home games are always sold out. Interestingly for a modern stadium, it includes two large terrace sections behind the goals as Germany has championed the idea of safe standing terraces even in new stadia. Ahead of the game we get invited into the fans room in the stadium where fans congregate ahead of the game for a chat and a drink. On the wall, amongst lots of Bayern memorabilia, is a Shamrock Rovers pennant given to Andi and the Red Munichs for their close ties with Shamrock Rovers.

It is a very strong side that the Bayern team line out with, studded with internationals including Hamit Altintop, Frank Ribery, Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben and the aforementioned Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Badstuber and Mueller. Even with this impressive squad, Bayern trail run away Bundesliga leaders Borrussia Dortmund by double digit points in the table. After 90 seconds Bayern go 1-0 up with Ribery, Mueller and Robben all combining to set up goalscorer Gomez. Ryan Babbel was making his debut for Hoffenheim but he and his team mates were ineffectual against Bayern who score a second through Mueller. In the second half Robben scores two further goals for Bayern. His first sees him step inside around a couple of defenders to hit a low shot into the bottom corner. His second is a classy strike bent into the top left hand corner confirming Bayern’s 4-0 win.

Postmatch we meet up to discuss the game with our new Bayern acquaintances. Football fans enjoy telling stories of their team and memorable away trips. What interesting story can most Irish football ‘fans’ tell of their journey from their home to the bar stool in their local pub? Not a very good one. We tell of our infamous trip to Cobh to collect the First Division trophy while Bayern talk of their trip to the German Cup final in Berlin on their chartered train. We can tell of playing Juventus in a monsoon in Modena while they come back with their story of their 36 hour bus journey to Cluj in Romania for a Champions League tie. At this stage we learn that Bayern will be having their post game training session just a few short U Bahn stops from our hotel at midday the next day and somehow get convinced to go have a look. It also happens to be on the same train line that will take us out to the 1972 Olympic complex. So this allows us to venture out to see the Olympic Park and Stadium which hosted the 1974 World Cup final where Gerd Mueller scored the winner for West Germany. The stadium also hosted Bayern Munich’s home games from 1972 till 2010 but this weekend it is hosting a snowboard show! For all my football obsession, I can say that this is the first time ever to go and watch a team train. However, it seems to be a regular occurrence for the several hundred Bayern fans who have turned up to see Ribery, Robben and Badstuber jog a few laps of the training pitches. The Bayern players who didn’t get any game time against Hoffenheim, including the third Bayern Munich player to have won the World Cup Golden Boot, Miroslav Klose, get put through their paces before we head off.

The new Airtricity League of Ireland awaits us back home. Next up for Shamrock Rovers a pre-season friendly against Monaghan while for Bayern Munich, well, it was a small matter of a trip to the San Siro in the Champions League. Worlds apart you may say but depending on resultas and the draw later in the year, you never know Rovers might get a chance to play another famous Italian or German team in a competative European fixture with another stadium to visit for groundhopping Shamrock Rovers fans.

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