MUNICH – A symbolic bridge connects the Bayern Munich academy building to the main stadium, which accommodates 2 500 fans at the FC Bayern Campus.
The German giants’ academy is called a “campus” because it has a university feel about it, even using German colloquial university terms in the 30 hectares of land it’s built on.
It’s quite fitting that it has that university feel about it because it is a place of higher learning, preparing players for the “real world” that is the Bayern Munich first team for the extremely talented few.
“The first team is not looking for good or very good players, it’s looking for world class players,” said FC Bayern Campus media manager Dirk Hauser.
“Our target is to produce at least three players a year who are good enough to train with the first team. But we don’t look at quantity, we look at quality.”
The hundred hopefuls at the academy dream of becoming the next Thomas Muller, Phillip Lahm or Bastian Schweinsteiger, who started at the club’s academy and went on to be legends in the first team.
But that trio didn’t grow up at the state-of-the-art facilities in the FC Bayern Campus which cost the club €70 million on its completion last year.
The academy was opened on August 1, with the stand-out feature being a bridge that connects the academy building to the main stadium.
“As you walk on the bridge from the academy to the main stadium, the Allianz Arena is on your left eye. You can see its iconic structure.
“The aim of the bridge is to motivate the players on the bigger picture, which is to cross the ‘bridge’ from the academy to the first team and play at the Allianz Arena one day,” Hauser said.
The FC Bayern Campus has eight pitches for the club’s 10 youth teams that start at Under-9 up to Under-19, and the four women’s teams that have the first team, reserves and two junior teams that start at Under-14.
Youth development is the cornerstone of German football success. In a presentation by Bundesliga International, it was revealed that since 2002, €1.39 billion was invested in their academies.
“Every club in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga II (first division) must have a youth structure for them to be registered with us,” said Marco Beck, the Bundesliga International project manager for audiovisual rights.
Beck revealed that the Bundesliga has the highest average attendance in European football, which is based on having the lowest average ticket prices in Europe with a strong season-ticket buying culture, with those season tickets passed down from generation to generation, while clubs are strongly regulated to ensure that they spend within their means.
But at the heart of it is patriotism that ensures that Germany not only consistently has packed stadiums, but the Bundesliga basically has no competition on the TV space, with the locals prioritising their own football ahead of foreign leagues.
A strong home support, reasonably-priced tickets and huge investments on youth structures are what have made Germany the football juggernaut it is – a lesson for other nations.
* Njabulo Ngidi is in Germany courtesy of StarSat.