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Latinos are Crucial in European Soccer Expansion

Latinos are Crucial in European Soccer Expansion

Posted by PanamericanWorld on April 19, 2017

he historically strong following of European clubs by Latin American fans, as well as the new, emerging market of U.S. soccer — where Hispanics are a major fan-base— are important factors in making the game truly cosmopolitan. 

Given the rising levels of anti-globalization rhetoric in many parts of the world, the relevance of global football is even more remarkable. In this process, a few elite clubs are leading the way, in particular Germany's FC Bayern Munich. 

Bayern is now poised to conquer the Americas, as it seeks to win over more Hispanic fans in the US, solidify its following throughout Latin America, and increase the presence of Latino players in its ranks. 

Currently, the largest FC Bayern fan club outside of Germany is in Guadalajara, Mexico. It has over 4600 members. German football was one of the first to be broadcast on TV in Latin America, with games being shown from Mexico to Bolivia to Chile in the 1970s. This long legacy is what Bayern is building on as it makes a strategic move to conquer more fans and compete with followers of Real Madrid and Barcelona, in particular, as well as other European clubs that are popular in Latin America. 

Gioavane Elber of Brazil and Bixente Lizarazu of France FC Bayern Munich

There are over 300,000 official fan club members across the world and more than 650 million followers worldwide and 27 million followers in the US alone, many in well-organized fan-clubs with strong ties to the club's home base in Munich. 

Bayern has seized on this passion for fútbol in Latin America in a way that could be a model for other premier clubs. It has set up education programs (including in the German language) for its fans in Latin America. It has built strategic partnerships with universities. This is happening also in 'Latino America,' that is, the Hispanic US soccer market." 

Bayern has a New York City office and is reaching around ninety-thousand children through its education and soccer programs. The Hispanic market is critical for Bayern's efforts, but it is also complementary to its ties to mainstream US culture, such as its partnership with Columbia University in New York. 

As Rudolf Vidal, President of FC Bayern Americas, told me, there was a significant, concerted effort to change the nature of the German game around the year 2000. 

The evolution of FC Bayern 

Long known (and in some circles, admired) for a strict, dour, physical, and discipline-based style of play, German football underwent a radical shift. Millions of euros were invested to generate young, new players with a more creative style that would move away from the stolid form of former stalwarts such as Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthäus. 

The German soccer Federation (the DFB) and its premier league, the Bundesliga, invested to incorporate more artistic flair into players, emulating a more "Latin" style of play that is evident in national teams and leagues such as those of France, Brazil, and Argentina. 

At the same time, more Latin American players came to join Bayern. Many were from Brazil, the land of 'samba futebol,' such as Zé Roberto and Giovane Élber, but also from Peru, like the prolific strikers Claudio Pizarro and Paolo Guerrero. With this change in the cultural style of the game itself within the club (and throughout Germany), by 2014 there were six Bayern players in the German national team that won the World Cup in Brazil in the final against Lionel Messi's Argentina. 

Apart from Latin American players, Europeans have also contributed to Bayern's more "global" image. 

One of Bayern's most emblematic players of recent times, Bixente Lizarazu was recently in New York City to watch Der Klassiker, the clash between the Bavarian club and its arch-rival Dortmund, at an Adidas viewing party in the Big Apple. In a goal-filled thriller, Bayern won the game by four goals to one in its home stadium, the 75,000 capacity-filled Allianz Arena.

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