Time for something a little different. Back in April of 2011 some close friends and I decided to travel to Germany to see some football. I had always wanted to watch a match abroad and for me the Bundesliga is the best league in Europe. At the time it made sense to see if we could see the best team in Germany, Bayern Munich. As we planned our trip it became evident that getting a ticket for the Allianz Arena to see Bayern was going to be a challenge (and an expensive one at that). The decision was made to instead go and see their city rivals 1860 Munich because at that time they shared the same stadium and they very rarely sold out the Allianz.
From the moment we got to our first 1860 game, kilts and all, the fans could not have been more welcoming. They were delighted that a group of Scots would go and see the ‘other’ team in Munich rather than the “red bastards” of Bayern. So it was, that in April 2011, I fell for ‘Sechzig’. I have been lucky enough to visit a few times since with many of the same friends and unbelievably, despite having a 5 month old baby in the house, my wife has given me the go ahead to go back to Munich this week. I thought that instead of doing a match preview for Dundee United vs Falkirk I would instead preview the 1860 game. Before we get on to the fixture against VfB Eichstätt there are a couple of things that you need to know about 1860 Munich –
First of all, you think Dundee United are badly run? Well let me tell you about why one of Germany’s oldest and most famous teams is currently playing in the regional 4th tier of German football. The simple fact of the matter is that 1860 Munich are a total basket case when it comes to ownership and it has been like this for a number of years. They have been, in recent times, the laughing-stock of German football. The club, known by many as ‘Die Lowen’, suffered a double relegation to Germany’s 4th division at the end of the 2016/17 season in the most ridiculous of circumstances. Last year 1860 faced Jahn Regensburg in a relegation playoff athe the end of the Bundesliga 2 season. They lost the fixture over two legs and at the end of the second game the fans trashed the Allianz Arena. Afterwards, the Jordanian owner of 1860, Hasan Abdullah Ismaik, blackmailed the board members to try to gain full control but they did not play along with him. This then meant that the board could not fund the license for playing in the third tier of German football so they defaulted on that payment and were then relegated to the regional 4th division, making it two relegations in the space of a week. Furthermore Ismaik (who is a 60% majority shareholder which in a roundabout way contravenes Germany’s strict ’50+1′ rule) then threatened to demote the club even further and attempted to legally challenge the long-established ownership structure of German football. Although Ismaik owns 60% of the club he is not allowed, by German footballing rule, to have more than 49% of the voting rights meaning he is not in full control.
Since last season the club have found a bit more stability and that has been driven by their incredibly loyal support. The Munich side still boast one of the largest memberships of any German football club and the influence they have has allowed 1860 to start over. This however is being done with the knowledge that Ismaik is still the largest shareholder. The club is massively in his debt and this is not going to change anytime soon. He apparently wants to sell his shares but he is looking for a ridiculous sum of money. In truth the problems are not all his doing and the reality is that 1860 have been badly run for decades now, it is just that Ismaik has been the catalyst for this more sudden and shocking decline.
One positive that has come out of all of this (apart from the galvanizing of the support) has been the move away from the Allianz Arena. Despite the stadium being one of the best in Europe it was a weight around the neck of not only the club but also the fans who detested playing at the home of their bitter rivals. Anytime we have visited the supporters have always been very vocal about the fact that they hated the ground and they wished to return to Grünwalder Stadion, the spiritual home of 1860 Munich. The Allainz Arena essentially bankrupted Die Lowen and it was the financial pressures of using the stadium that led to Istiak’s involvement. The club sold their shares in the stadium to Bayern for roughly £10million due to their desperate need for cash. This then meant they had to pay an eye watering £3million a year rent to Bayern to then use the stadium for their home matches. Thankfully the club is now back at Grünwalder Stadion.
Due to the ‘rustic’ nature of the Grünwalder Stadion it can only officially hold 12,500 people but this is due to change next year as the club have approval to extend the capacity to roughly 15,000. The limited capacity has meant that pretty much every single home game this season has been a total sell-out. This has also been helped by the fact that 1860 Munich are currently sitting in 1st place and have been comfortable leaders for the majority of the season. They have Munich born former player Daniel Bierofka in charge and he epitomizes the 1860 spirit as he is growling lion-like figure who wears his heart on his sleeve.
The complicated route back to the ‘big time’ for 1860 Munich will take them a number of seasons and even if they win the league this year (which they should do quite comfortably) there is no guarantee that they will end up in the Bundesliga 3 next season. The lower divisions in Germany are all regionalised so the league winners of all the 4th tier leagues play one another to see who gets to play in a higher division.
The game against VfB Eichstätt this weekend is a bit of a derby but given the nature of the division it is the case that most games are derby of sorts. The small town of Eichstätt is about an hour and a half away from Munich and they should bring a decent support down to the game against the league leaders. The game doesn’t mean a huge amount for VfB Eichstätt as they currently occupy 6th place in the table and are in no real danger of either promotion or relegation. For 1860 Munich they have won 7 out of their last 9 league games and are within touching distance of the league title.