If you were in the Windy City Tuesday, you may have gotten the impression that the famed FC Bayern Munich club was based in Chicago, Illinois, not Germany.
The Bavarians kick off their Audi Summer Tour 2016 arrived in Chicago and were at Soldier Field preparing for their friendly Wednesday evening against AC Milan, which is followed up by matches in Charlotte against Inter Milan and New York City with Real Madrid as opponents.
But in Chicago it was all red and white as the rekordmeisters received a hero’s welcome. Although their practice session was not open to the general public, almost 900 Bayern fan club members were welcomed in to watch Carlo Ancelotti’s charges go through drills and a bit of scrimmaging. Although Euro participants such as Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller were granted an extended leave from the tour due to their summer exertions, such FCB stars as Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery, Arturo Vidal and company went through the paces under the watchful eye of their new Italian coach.
After practice, many fans made their way to Cleo’s to share stories and lift toasts to their favorite club. The home of the Chicago Supporters of Bayern Munich, the largest of Bayern’s 100-plus fan clubs in the United States, the sports bar was packed with Bayern fans and a multitude of FCB kit was seen, from old school to brand new, was worn by the supporters. Torsten and the gang from Chicago were great hosts, and it was fun to talk with fan club members from Minneapolis and my hometown, St. Louis. Cris and the @FCBayernUS crew have done yeoman work over the past two years to make all this possible — and believe me, it IS work trying to organize and coordinate these international tours. A wonderful bonus was that Bernie the mascot made a visit, as did Paul Breitner, the FCB legend…and both stayed and visited for quite a while, not just making a quick cameo. Class !!!
We also got a chance to see the Bayern players in the mixed zone after practice, and spoke to young American international Julian Green. Last season, his goal was just to play regularly after a rather lost season on loan with HSV, and he accomplished that. Now his goal is to get first team action, a tough goal on a club so chockful of elite talents as Bayern. Julian is proud to represent Bayern Munich on their tour, and his family will be meeting up with him on the next tour stop in Charlotte.