Soccer City: Why Munich is Germany’s football capital

WHAT chance has any club got when you have Bayern Munich on your doorstep? TSV 1860 Munich, the Bavarian capital’s oldest club, has an unenviable task in trying to get air time when the behemoth that is FC Bayern pervades every side street, kiosk and newspaper.

As a city, Munich has much to offer as well as three professional clubs – SpVgg Unterhaching, formed in 1925, is the other team – it is a stylish and comfortable metropolis. We know it for a number of clichés, beer halls, foaming lager, lederhosen, oompah bands and hearty food that relies heavily on meat, potatoes and bread. It’s the home of BMW and insurance giant Allianz and it has played its part in European history in many ways. Munich’s GDP per person is around € 101,000 which is 40% higher than the national average in Germany. In short, it’s a very prosperous place.

FC Bayern are at the top of the tree – no other German club has won the Bundesliga since 2012 and every aspect of this huge footballing institution is dissected by the public – in Germany as well as in Bavaria. Bayern are loved and hated, admired, resented and envied.

Bayern are one of the world’s top football club brands and form part of the European elite. They are watched by 75,000 people at every home game at their impressive Allianz Arena, making them one of the top clubs by average attendance. TSV 1860 Munich, who are now in 3.Liga, draw an average of less than 15,000 to the Grünwalder Stadium. As for Unterhaching, also in 3.Liga, they attract barely 5,000 loyal fans.

TSV and Unterhaching are like all clubs that reside in a city dominated by a European giant. They are in the shadows. Aside from a TSV club shop in the centre of the city, there’s little trace of Munich’s “other” clubs, which is a pity. TSV were members of the Bundesliga before Bayern and were champions in 1966, three years before their soon-to-be far noisier neighbours. TSV also reached a European final before Franz Beckenbauer and his pals, losing to West Ham United in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup at Wembley.

TSV’s recent history has been disastrous, though, and that’s why they fell as low as the Regionalliga Bayern in 2017 after failing to secure a license to play in 3.Liga following relegation from 2.Bundesliga. The club had been co-owners of the Allianz but they soon realised that the stadium was too big and too expensive for their own purposes. They sold their stake to Bayern Munich for € 11 million and eventually moved back to their beloved Grünwalder. In staving off bankruptcy, the club effectively gamed the 50+1 system that characterises Germany club ownership, allowing Abu Dhabi-based millionaire Hasan Ismaik to buy 60%, although Ismaik’s stake only carried 49% voting rights.

If TSV were more prominent in the 1960s, the 1970s really belonged to Bayern as Munich became, arguably, the top football city in Europe. Bayern assumed the crown won by Ajax Amsterdam in 1974, winning three consecutive European Cups. Despite the Dutch dominance between 1970 and 1973, Germany was the centre of European sport – Munich hosted the 1972 Olympic Games and 1974 World Cup as well as Bayern and their three European Cups and three Bundesliga titles. Sadly, the shooting of Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village cast a dark shadow over events, but it could not erase the efforts made by West Germany to create a modern Olympics with some remarkable architecture, highlighted by the revolutionary stadium that set out to imitate the Alps.

Another reason why Munich has been so important to sport is the work of Otl Aicher, a graphic designer and typographer. Aicher, not a Bavarian by birth, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. His work included the logo for Germany’s airline, Lufthansa and he was commissioned to be the lead designer for the 1972 Olympics. This included the creation of a series of pictograms that illustrated the various sports of the games. His designs lived on and arguably changed public signage – even today, you will walk past a signpost somewhere that bears his influence.

While Adidas was not based in Munich, the sportswear company became the brand that everyone wanted to see on their football shirt and boots in the 1970s. It was “continental” and associated with the most successful and “cool” clubs and players of the period.

SpVgg Unterhaching vs. 1.FC Kaiserslautern 3. Liga

The majority of the faces of 1970s European football, in addition to the Netherlands’ Johan Cruyff, were undoubtedly German – Maier, Breitner, Beckenbauer, Hoeneß and Müller, to name but a few. Uli Hesse, in his book on Bayern (Bayern: Creating a global super club), explained that Bayern’s European success of the period was vital in order to keep these legendary players at the club. Hesse also revealed that their rivalry with Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1970s was something of a “Beatles or Stones” situation, although Bayern’s ability to carve-out victory, versus Gladbach’s status as heroic losers, made them unpopular with a lot of people.

Bayern are part of Bavarian culture, their crest features the state colours and it’s a routine for the team to visit the Oktoberfest, dressed in traditional costume. A few years ago, the club launched a lederhosen-inspired strip, comprising a white shirt, brown shorts and white socks with a “calf-warmer” design. The team also wore Alpine jackets and hats to complete the look. Brave as well as respectful to tradition.

Beer, of course, is everywhere in Munich and a visit to the Hofbräuhaus, if you can get a table, is a significant box to tick. There are more accessible venues around the city that also capture the spirit and ambience of the beer hall. There’s no doubt that Munich is steinful of great liquid refreshment!

Aside from the cellars and beer gardens of the city, nowhere is the tradition of beer, sausage and brezel better represented than at a football match. The game and beer have long been bedfellows, although not always for the greater good. But at the Allianz Arena, to name but one footballing venue, the marriage of the people’s game and the people’s elixir appears to create the right sort of vibe. Munich may be a city of beer, but it is also one of the world’s great homes of football.


Photos: PA

Soccer City: Bogotá – do you know the way to Santa Fe?

INTERNATIONAL perception of Colombia, its capital city and its football was, for many years, negative and the very mention of the country would conjure up images of guerrilla warfare, drug cartels and the Bobby Moore bracelet affair of 1970. Thankfully, they are in a better place than they were, and crime is at a 40-year low, although according to Transparency International’s index, Colombia is still one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

From a football perspective, Colombia remains a passionate nation although their golden “narco-induced” period and the more recent upturn have now passed. Even so, Colombia are currently number 10 in FIFA’s rankings and they are among the top 10 player exporters in the world – almost 400 Colombians are currently playing abroad in professional football.

Bogotá, which was one of the world’s most violent cities in the 1990s, is a colourful place with a temperamental climate. It is now a tourist destination and a city rich in diversity and has a cosmopolitan history. Like many Latin American metropolitan centres, Bogotá has significant imbalances around the distribution of wealth, but its poverty rate, at 12.4%, is around half the national average.

Coffee not football

Millonarios fans. Photo: Juan Carlos Pachón. CC BY 2.0

Bogotá, despite being home to two of the country’s big footballing names, Independiente Santa Fe and Millonarios, was not where Colombian football took root, that came in the sea port of Barranquilla (the birthplace of pop singer Shakira) in the early 20th century and was influenced by visiting sailors. Right up until the second world war, Colombia was better known for its coffee than its football, the beverage forming an astonishing 80% of national exports.

After the war, Colombian football became embroiled in an international sporting controversy. Colombian clubs broke away from the national association and therefore, were no longer part of FIFA. The new body, free of FIFA’s restrictions, set out to create an attractive, international league of all-star players, offering huge sums of money to lure top stars. Alfredo di Stefano, who later became the kingpin in Real Madrid’s European Cup successes, and a number of fellow Argentinians, as well as players from England, were acquired, including Stoke City’s international centre half Neil Franklin.

Clubs like Santa Fe and Millonarios sounded glamorous to Europeans, but the reality was far from the sun-drenched utopia that was sold to them. Regardless, the new league was popular, drawing big crowds and the football was fast, attacking and full of goals. Nevertheless, it didn’t work out for the English players, who found the extreme poverty startling and also felt unsafe owing to the civil war that was underway.

Millonarios had an outstanding team known as El Ballet Azul (the blue ballet), which included Di Stefano, Adolfo Pedernera, Nestor Rossi and Julio Cozzi. Eventually, the team’s success and a global tour that took them to Spain, turned Di Stefano’s head and he left for Madrid and more conventional triumphs. The duration of El Dorado was brief and for a long while, Colombia were off the international radar.

Bogotá’s top teams, Santa Fe and Millonarios, were both formed in the 1940s and established by academics. Today, they share the Estadio El Campin, a 36,000-capacity stadium inaugurated in 1938 and sitting in the El Chapinero district, now a trendy neighbourhood popular with hipsters and media types.

Capital classic

Diego Valdes of Santa Fe.

It’s the stadium where Colombia won their solitary Copa America in 2001 and if the country had hosted the 1986 World Cup, as originally planned, doubtless where the final would have been held. Although Colombia withdrew in late-1982 due to economic reasons, they were the only major South American country not to default on its debt in the 1980s.

The clashes between Santa Fe and Millonarios are known as El Clásico Capitalino, the capital classic. Attendances vary, depending on whether the derby is in the first-stage Apertura or the second-phase Clausura, but the atmosphere is always intense. In the 2019 Clausura, both clubs averaged 13,000 for their home games, but in the Apertura, Millonarios averaged 16,000 and Santa Fe 10,000.

The Bogotá clubs are not the best supported in Colombia, the highest average gates are seen at Atlético Nacional and Independiente, both from Medellin, Colombia’s second city. These two clubs, allegedly, benefitted from investments by the infamous Pablo Escobar, the drug baron that amassed personal wealth of US$ 25 billion from smuggling Cocaine. At one point, 80% of the world’s Cocaine came from Colombia and the crime rate soared, which included the tragic and shocking death of Colombian defender Andres Escobar, who was murdered in 1994 after scoring in his own goal in a World Cup game that a drug gang had placed a gambled on.

Furthermore, the editor of El Tiempo, after writing that football in Colombia was plagued by drug money, was kidnapped and held for eight months. This was the so-called Narco Fútbol era which also included referees being threatened and even killed and corruption among officials.

Millonarios had their own connection to the Escobar world in their owner during the 1980s, José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, commonly known as “The Mexican”. This period, which resulted in two league titles, is now an embarrassment to the club and its fans. After an assistant referee was murdered in 1989, the league programme was cancelled and Millonarios’ owner killed himself following a battle with police. The drug cartels were controlled to a certain degree, although drugs themselves were not.

Millonarios lurched from financial crisis to financial crisis and by 2010, they were bankrupt. This culminated in the club being acquired by a supporter group known as Azul & Blanco SA.

Their rivals, Santa Fe, have also had their image tarnished by involvement with a drugs cartel. In 2010, they were accused of money laundering after police intercepted two large cash amounts, totalling the equivalent of around US$ 40 million, which had been sent by drug trafficker Daniel “El Loco” Barres.

While Millonarios and, to a lesser extent, Santa Fe, were the dominant forces in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, since the 1990s, the Medellin clubs have been more successful, including Atlético’s two Copa Libertadores triumphs in 1989 and 2016. The closest a Bogotá club has come to lifting South America’s premier club competition was in 2013 when Santa Fe reached the semi-final, narrowly losing to Paraguay’s Olimpia.


The recent local derby.

League titles have been rare for both clubs in the 21st century, Millonarios winning two Clausuras in 2012 and 2017 and Santa Fee finishing top in the Apertura in 2012 and Clausura in 2014 and 2016.

Before football was suspended earlier this year, Santa Fe were faring better than their rivals, losing just one of their eight league games, while Millonarios had won just one of their seven fixtures. The two sides met in March at El Campina in front of 25,000 people, drawing 0-0. Santa Fe have benefitted from the the goals of new signing Diego Valdes, a 29 year-old striker who was signed from Deportes Tolima in the close season.

Bogotá has a number of other clubs, not least another Primera A team in La Equidad, who play at the 8,000-capacity Metropolitano de Techo stadium. Their nickname is the Aseguradores – the insurers, which explains the club’s roots, which date back to 1982 when the club was formed by La Equidad Seguros, an insurance cooperative.

La Equidad are watched by around 3,500 people and struggle to compete on many levels, but they did win the Copa Colombia in 2008. They share their stadium with two other Bogotá clubs, Tigres and Bogotá FC.

These clubs are relatively young clubs and have gone through a number of name changes and have both threatened to leave the city because of lack of support. They are both currently in Primera B and Tigres were propping up the rest at the time of suspension.

When we can we expect to see Colombian football return? This is a million peso question but there has been talk of it coming back in July, although President Ivan Duque doesn’t want the country to be the first in South America to resume.

When it does happen, Bogotá will also welcome back the tourists, for pre-virus visitors to Colombia were at an all-time high, some 4.5 million per year, of which around 60% came from the US and central America. People still have to be careful, but the country has come a considerable distance since a dark period in its history.



Photos: PA

Santiago – hoping for normal service to resume

CHILE’S top division kicks off on January 24 and the likelihood is a team from the capital city, Santiago, will emerge as champions come December 2020. Santiago has provided more than 75% of all title winners and remains the hub of Chilean football.

Chile will be hoping the league will be able to proceed without disruption for the 2019 campaign was abandoned in November after civil disturbances prevented the programme to play-out its last six stages. Heated street protests, triggered by the government’s decision to raise public transport fares by 3%, raged on for almost two months in Santiago and 27 people lost their lives. Eventually, the league was ended after 24 games and Universidad Católica were declared champions. They had a 13-point lead over Colo-Colo at the time.

Santiago is the largest city in Chile with a population of 6.5 million and is normally a relatively safe place compared to some Latin American locations. However, the recent riots were not only enough to curtail the 2019 football season, they also deprived Santiago the chance to host the Copa Libertadores final between Flamengo and River Plate. The game, which would have been the first one-off decider since CONMEBOL changed the format of the final, was switched to Lima, Peru.

The city has a multitude of football clubs, in fact when the Chilean league started in 1933, all eight teams were from Santiago. Today, there are six clubs from the capital in the 18-team Primera División.

Colo-Colo, from Macul, a commune in the central-eastern region of Greater Santiago, are the most successful and popular club in Chile. According to Statista, 42% of the population of Chile are followers of Colo-Colo. Universidad de Chile, who came next in the research, have 20% of the population.


Colo-Colo own their stadium, the Estadio Monumental David Arellano (the club’s founder), a 47,000 capacity ground. The club used to enjoy the patronage of the infamous General Augusto Pinochet, are unique as the only Chilean club to win the Copa Libertadores, which they clinched in 1991 by beating Paraguay’s Olimpia. Los Albos were runners-up in 1973 and Santiago sides Universidad Católica and Union Espanóla have also reached the final.

Colo-Colo’s fan group, called the Garra Blanca, is among the most feared in Chile. Other clubs, such as Universidad de Chile (Los de Abajo) and Universidad Católica (The Cruzaders) also have Barra Brava. Little wonder the big derby games often erupt into violence. In the 1990s, a Colo-Colo fan, Ricardo Pittcon, was killed after a clash between his club and Universidad de Chile. This sparked off a wave of football-related violence and as a result, Chilean attendances dropped dramatically.

In 2002, Colo Colo were declared bankrupt after they failed to pay part of a USD 400,000 debt. They were in deep trouble at the time, with players and employees owed money and emotions running high, so much so that groundstaff revolted and took over the Monumental to demand payment of wages. The club had run-up debts approaching USD 30 million.

Ahead of Colo Colo being auctioned, former player Ivan Zamorano, who finished his career with the club, tried to buy them. But a joint stock company, Blanco Y Negro, took the club over in 2005. In June of that year, Colo Colo became the first South American football club to launch an Initial Public Offering (flotation), raising some USD 31 million and wiping out its debts.

While Colo-Colo is the club everybody wants to beat, the Classico Universitario, the meeting between Universidad de Chile – who were also declared bankrupt in 2006 – and Universidad Católica, also raises the blood pressure. Universidad de Chile’s home ground, the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, is based in Ñuñoa, and has a notorious history. When Pinochet was in power, the stadium was turned into a torture and death camp. In 1973, the USSR was due to travel to Santiago for a World Cup play-off against Chile but they refused to play in the stadium due to its past use. As a result, USSR were eliminated and Chile went to West Germany for the 1974 World Cup.

The stadium was also the venue for the infamous “Battle of Santiago” which took place in June 1962 during the World Cup. Chile beat Italy 2-0 and two Italian players were sent off. Apparently, the mood was set before the game when two Italian journalists described Santiago as  a “backwater dump” and went on to criticise the city for its malnutrition, illiteracy and poverty. The Italian press men had to flee the country as the locals turned on them.

Universidad Católica, the current Chilean champions, play at the Estadio San carlos de Apoquindo in Las Condes, an area inhabitated primarily by affluent people, giving it the nickname, “Sanhattan”. The Santiago elite have long favoured the club, but their average crowds are considerably lower than both Colo-Colo and Universidad de Chile. While these clubs draw a regular crowd of approaching 25,000 , Católica’s attendances are around 10,000.

Other clubs in Santiago owe their formation to foreigners. Palestino and Unión Española were founded by immigrants from Palestine and Spain respectively. Similarly, Audax Italiano started life as a club for Italians who had settled in Chile.

Chile, until its recent problems, was seen as relatively stable country compared to some of its neighbours. Despite the events of late-2019, Chile was the 33rd most competitive economy in the world )and the top Latin American nation) in a study by the World Economic Forum. Santiago’s poverty rate is below Chile’s 15% but the city has a significant gap between the rich and poor and the cost of living there is 100% higher than the rest of the country. The average annual salary is the equivalent of around £ 7,000. As for the revenue expectation for a major football club, Colo-Colo generated around £ 25 million in the financial year 2018.

Economists expect Chile’s GDP – of which 45% is attributable to the capital city – to grow by 3% per annum in each of the next half dozen years. Even though the recent disruptions may drag on that figure, they also believe Chile’s economy is small and flexible enough to withstand setbacks from the riots. Football clubs in Santiago, who saw their season curtailed in the last few months of 2019, will feel a lot happier once the 2020 season gets underway.


Stadium photo: Sergio Musella (CC BY-NC 2.0)