Bayern Munich is playing scary good football right now. While their ascendancy to superclub status is nothing new, this year they are in rare form. They are fifteen points up in the Bundesliga, have scored 57 goals in 22 games, and have only allowed SEVEN goals in league play all year.
After their 3:1 thrashing of Arsenal last night in North London, they are well-positioned to move into the quarterfinals of the Champions League and stand an excellent chance of winning the competition for the first time since 2001 and the fifth time in their history.
Why does this matter to Jewish fans of the beautiful game?
In a football landscape when oil money from the Emirates flows directly into huge clubs like Barcelona, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City, maybe it’s time to start rooting for clubs that have some Jewish history. Many of us know about Tottenham and Ajax’s philo-Semitism, but would you believe that Bayern Munich, the giants of Bavaria, also has some Jewish connections?
In the days before the Nazi regime, the Bavarian club was noted for its tolerance and resistance to anti-Semitism, in addition to its hiring of Jewish coaches, but when the Nazis came to power, many of them had to flee Germany. The club also had a Jewish president, Kurt Landauer, both before after the Holocaust, and a founder of Bayern, who was also a sculptor, designed the famous menorah that stands outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.
Today, there are only 9,000 Jews living in Munich. But there is a gorgeous new Jewish community center and synagogue in the center of downtown (where, coincidentally, my boss went to services this past Shabbat) and the recent influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union has spurred a mini-revival of Jewish life and culture which we should all embrace. While German-Israel are complex and perhaps moving away from the closeness of previous generations, Germany remains a strong ally of Israel on a continent which has swung heavily in the other direction.
Call me a front-runner if you will, but as the clubs in the Round of 16 fight for their place at the final on May 25 at Wembley, this year I’m pulling for the boys from Bavaria. I’d love to see them square off against Leo Messi and Barca in the final… that would be pretty incredible.
The second leg of Arsenal and Bayern’s fixture is Wednesday, March 13, at 3:45 pm on Fox Soccer. In the meantime, if anyone wants to buy me a sweet black Bayern Champions League jersey with my name and #15 on the back, hey, I won’t complain. After all, it was just my birthday.
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