FC Bayern Munich: Star of the south

 The players of FC Bayern Munchen celebrate
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Birth of an institutionThere are 17 names on the FC Bayern Munich founding charter. The signatories were members of gymnastics club MTV Munchen but had resolved to break away and devote their efforts exclusively to football. They gathered on the evening of 27 February 1900 at a tavern named "Gisela" in the centre of Munich and established one of the world’s great clubs. The pioneers soon affiliated with Munchener Sport-Club (MSC) for organisational reasons but FC Bayern remained an independent entity in its own right. The only condition imposed by MSC was the adoption of the existing colours, so the fledgling team played in white shorts and red shorts. These remain Bayern’s colours today.

By 1920 the membership roll had grown to 700 and Bayern were the biggest football club in Munich. A maiden national trophy followed in 1932 when the Reds won the "Victoria", the cup awarded to the German champions at the time. Hordes of supporters covered the 180 or so kilometres to Nuremberg by bike, where they saw their heroes defeat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 and cement their place among the elite of the German game.

The making of a legend
The nation and the Munich club took time to recover their passion for the sport in the post-war era. The Bavarians earned a first German Cup triumph in a 1-0 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf in 1957, but a bitter setback was to follow in 1963 when they were not invited to become founder members of the new Bundesliga. The men in red finally claimed a place in the new top flight in 1965 under coaching legend Tschik Cajkovski, who died in 1998. The newly-promoted team included fresh-faced hopefuls such as Sepp Maier, Gerd Muller and a promising youngster by the name of Franz Beckenbauer.

This trio was to make a major contribution to Munich’s stellar progress to the upper echelons of the game. The club's first season in the Bundesliga ushered in a glorious era which continues to this day. Bayern finished third in their maiden top-flight campaign and claimed the German Cup. The international breakthrough came in 1967 when a single goal from Franz "Bulle" Roth was enough to seal the European Cup Winners’ Cup at the expense of Glasgow giants Rangers.

That triumph clearly whetted the appetite for more in Munich, as Bayern went on to win practically every trophy the club was eligible to pursue. During a golden age from 1968 to 1976, Maier, Muller, Beckenbauer and Co won the Bundesliga title four times, the German Cup twice, the European Champions Cup three times (1974 to 1976) and the Intercontinental Cup in 1976. However, it was to be the last truly prestigious international triumph until the dawn of the new century.

The club with its HQ on Munich’s Saebener Strasse entered a period of transition. Beckenbauer and Muller departed to see out their careers in the USA, but a new era dawned in 1979 when then 27-year-old Uli Hoeness took over as general manager. A team built around Paul Breitner and young hopeful Karl-Heinz Rummenigge steered the club back to the path of success and in 1980 Bayern won their first championship in six years. The Reds came agonisingly close to reclaiming the European Cup in 1982 against Aston Villa in Rotterdam, but Peter Withe's tap-in handed the trophy to the Birmingham outfit. Five years later Bayern again finished runners-up, falling 2-1 to Porto in Vienna.

Then as now, hardly a year passed without Munich laying hands on at least one domestic trophy, but the club was forced to wait until 1996 before their next international triumph with a 2-0 home win and a 3-1 away success against Girondins Bordeaux in the UEFA Cup final.

The new century had dawned before the next major coup. Following an unforgettable and agonising UEFA Champions League final defeat to Manchester United in 1999, when Munich held a 1-0 lead going into stoppage time but ultimately lost 2-1, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team bounced back and finally laid hands on Europe’s biggest prize in 2001. Bayern defeated Valencia on penalties in Milan after a 1-1 stalemate in normal and extra time, Oliver Kahn saving three spot kicks. Munich went on to win the Intercontinental Cup against Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires with Samuel Kuffour scoring the only goal of the game.

The southern German giants spent the next few years treading water, and again there was a period of change. The most significant development was a move from the venerable Olympic Stadium in the centre of Munich to the brand-new Allianz Arena on the northern outskirts of the city. Hoeness stepped down as general manager and became club president in 2009, abandoning the seat in the dugout next to the coach he had occupied for more than 30 years. His was an exceptionally hard act to follow as successor Christian Nerlinger soon discovered.

The present
A handful of coaches came and went until Louis van Gaal took the hot seat in 2009. The Dutch maestro overhauled Bayern’s playing style and tactics and promoted a number of promising youngsters from the reserves. The Star of the South - the nickname is taken from the traditional pre-match anthem - rose again. The likes of Holger Badstuber, Thomas Muller and David Alaba made the breakthrough under Van Gaal, who also converted Bastian Schweinsteiger from a wide man to a midfield anchor. Success soon followed. Bayern won the domestic league and cup double in 2010 and made the Champions League final, only to lose 2-0 to Inter Milan in Madrid.

The next campaign proved more problematic. The outspoken Van Gaal increasingly ran into critical flak and left Bayern in 2011. Jupp Heynckes was installed as his permanent successor, immediately leading the Reds back to the Champions League final in 2012. Bayern were the first club with the chance of winning the prestigious trophy on their home ground, but although they utterly dominated a defensive Chelsea side throughout the match and even led 1–0 through a late Muller strike, Didier Drogba converted one of the London club’s rare chances to send the game into extra time. Arjen Robben missed a golden opportunity to win it from the spot and the match went to penalties. Manuel Neuer even saved Chelsea’s first kick, but Drogba ultimately sealed Munich’s bitter defeat with the winning penalty.

It meant Bayern came to the end of the 2011/12 campaign with praise ringing in their ears but no silverware, as they finished runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in both league and cup. That only stiffened the club’s resolve for the following season, with Matthias Sammer replacing Nerlinger in a newly beefed-up position of ‘board director for sport’.

In the event 2013 proved historic. Heynckes led Bayern to another Bundesliga title, record after record tumbling on the way. FCB also won the domestic cup and made the Champions League final for the third time in four years. In the all-German affair at Wembley, Bayern defeated arch-rivals Dortmund 2–1 and completed the first-ever treble by a German club. It had already been announced at the midpoint of the campaign that Pep Guardiola would succeed Heynckes at the end of the season. The Spaniard led his new team to the UEFA Super Cup and crowned an extraordinary year by masterminding a FIFA Club World Cup triumph in Morocco.

For this and many other reasons Bayern are widely regarded as the best club side in the world for now. The squad is brimful with internationals, continuously augmented by talented youngsters from the club’s youth section, and boss Guardiola is already one of the most successful coaches in the history of the game. Bayern’s declared aim is to usher in another golden era to match or even surpass the glory years of Maier, Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller in the 1970s.

The stadium
Bayern moved to the Allianz Arena in the north of Munich for the 2005/06 campaign. The 71,000 capacity Arena was a venue for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, staging four group matches, a Round of 16 clash and one of the semi-finals. Bayern share the stadium with second-tier city rivals TSV 1860 Munchen.

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