20
Aug

Bayern Munich use magician, fireworks to unveil… new team bus

Bayern Munich pulled out all the stops for a huge club announcement on Tuesday. The German champions erected a big ol’ stage, set off fireworks and even hired a magician to… do what exactly?

Announce a new blockbuster signing? Unveil a dazzling new fan shop to rival Borussia Dortmund’s Fan World? Nope.

They revealed their new team bus.

Sigh….

You can go ahead and add this to the long list of reasons why Bayern are (not so) lovably known around the Bundesliga as “FC Hollywood.”

The kitchen is pretty epic though… for a bus:

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14
Aug

Bundesliga lowers drawbridge to castle before German Super Cup showpiece

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DORTMUND, Germany —

A few weeks ago, the Bundesliga invited FOX Sports to a two-night stay in the heart of Germany ahead of the German Super Cup. Having already booked my vacation in Germany for August just days earlier, I “sacrificed” myself for the good of the team. “Fine, boss, I’ll extend my stay in the country of my birth for two extra weeks. You totally owe me.”

After a brisk 14-hour journey from Los Angeles to Dusseldorf, I was greeted by our soon-to-be partners from the Bundesliga at the Hyatt Regency, a fancy hotel right on the Rhine. A couple hours later, we crossed a bridge over the Rhine for a nice dinner with former Germany internationals Jens Lehmann and Christoph Metzelder. Both played for Borussia Dortmund for several years and won a championship together in 2002, and here they were chatting with us for several hours over life lessons, cuisine and football.

Naturally, Lehmann commanded most of the table’s attention. He discussed at length the performance of goalkeepers at the World Cup and what made Manuel Neuer “the only truly world-class goalie today.” “The very best keepers,” he said, “they act, instead of react.” Anyone who saw Neuer play in Brazil this summer will know what Lehmann meant by this.

When I asked him to rate Tim Howard’s performance, Lehmann lauded the United States No. 1 for his record night against Belgium, but also said he was poor against Germany, blaming him for the lone goal of the match. Howard parried the shot straight to Thomas Muller — who buried the rebound — than out and to the side, he remembered. Tough critic, that man. Unsurprisingly, he’s an analyst right now for German television

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Lehmann also gladly recounted tales of his days with Arsenal’s “The Invincibles.” He did not, mind you, care to discuss the night he received a straight red card against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final in 2006 with me, his perfect record in penalty shootouts, or Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to drop Oliver Kahn in favor of him just weeks before the 2006 World Cup. “[Kahn] did not talk to me for four or five days after that,” Lehmann admitted with a sheepish smile.

And the fun didn’t stop there.

On Wednesday, I had an opportunity to meet, Christian Seifert, the longtime CEO of the Bundesliga, for a thorough presentation on what has made the German game so successful since the new millennium.

Seifert, as you would expect of a man in his position, was a remarkable speaker, with his heavy, amusing German accent shining through at times. Next to him on either side were the Bundesliga trophy — the “ugly salad bowl — and the FIFA World Cup. The real deals, in all their glory.

There were three main components to Seifert’s presentation; the Bundesliga’s ascendancy on the pitch, the economic stability of its clubs, and the extraordinary fan support and passion. They all combine to make the league as strong as it is today, he said.

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Several statistics jumped out at that may surprise some folks who don’t follow the league too much. For one, the Bundesliga’s recorded profit of €264 million in the 2012-13 season almost tripled that of the Premier League, which spends more than twice as much money on player salaries. A reason for this is German clubs rely much more on younger and cheaper homegrown talent — all part of the common strategy the clubs share with the German national team.

With an average attendance of over 43,500 fans per match, the Bundesliga is also the second-most attended sports league in the world, only behind the National Football League. And with 3.16 goals per game, it’s tops among the big five soccer leagues in Europe. These last two figures, specifically, explain why Seifert is so optimistic over the continued growth of his brand.  With FOX Sports securing its rights starting next season, there’s mutual excitement and an eagerness to work together to bring the Bundesliga to the mainstream American media.

After Seifert (and the trophies) posed for pictures, we were on to our next appointment. There was no time to waste as we had only several hours before the Wednesday’s German Super Cup final.

First, we stopped off at the BVB “Fan Welt,” a new, giant fan shop outside the stadium that we were told is “like the Amazon.com for Borussia Dormtund fans.” You could literally get everything there in black and yellow, including your own, personal BVB lawnmower. Yep.

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We then stopped by the BVB youth academy a couple of miles away, where club legend Lars Ricken greeted us. Ricken, who famously scored in Dortmund’s 1997 Champions League victory over Juventus on his very first touch of the bench, gave us a tour of the facilities, which included the revolutionary “Footbonaut,” a robot used to test player’s reaction time and pass accuracy.

Ricken demonstrated the amazing training tool for us. The robot itself is a cage consisting of several dozen squares and ball machines on all sides. Much like a pitching machine, balls are spit out at random and the player has only a split second to gather the ball and hit it at the square that lights up, also completely at random.

Finally, we made our way back to Signal Iduna Park to watch the German Super Cup between Dortmund and Bayern. We know how the match went by now — the hosts won the preseason fixture for a second year running by completely overpowering a Bayern Munich side that was still noticeably lacking in conditioning and pretty much every other department on the day. The Yellow Wall did it’s job, too. Chants of “Zieht den Bayern die Lederhosen aus!” (translation: Strip Bayern of their lederhosen) rang through the night, as well as the orchestra of whistles that serenaded Mario Goetze when he was substituted on in the second half.

After the match, our whole group returned back to the bus, exhausted but mostly thankful for such an incredible experience and two days of fun-filled events in the hotbed of German soccer.

Images provided by Thomas Hautmann / FOXSports.com

7
Aug

Josep Guardiola snubs Caleb Porter after MLS All-Stars beat Bayern Munich

by Thomas Hautmann

On a night that was meant to celebrate the best soccer players in North America and the return to action of Bayern Munich’s World Cup stars, it was a sour moment after the MLS All-Stars’ 2-1 victory that had everybody talking.

Furious over a pair of late, reckless challenges on his players, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola refused to shake hands with All-Star coach Caleb Porter after the final whistle, instead giving him the ol’ Dikembe Mutombo finger wag. Guardiola then showed Porter the cold shoulder all the way to midfield as he bee-lined to accost the referees, the American following his counterpart in vain. The rest of Bayern’s coaching staff also refused to shake hands with Porter.

It was an over-the-top and childish reaction from the Bayern manager, whose image as a class-act might suffer a bit Stateside. But, to play devil’s advocate, you can also understand his beef.

Bastian Schweinsteiger was lucky not to pick up a serious injury after Will Johnson’s clumsy tackle left the Bayern star in a heap and forced him off the field. As was Xherdan Shaqiri after Osvaldo Alonso’s cringe- and almost red-worthy offense earlier in the second half.

Guardiola boiled with anger on the sidelines, presumably already irked that he had to make his returning stars available in the first place for a glorified friendly. Schweinsteiger and the rest of Germany’s World Cup stars had only been under Guardiola’s care for a day, having flown halfway around the world to arrive five hours before kickoff, only to make 10-15 minute cameos. To lose a key man to injury now would be a bitter blow, and for what?

All things considered and given the heat of the moment, Guardiola’s anger at full time can be justified, if not his immature way of dealing with it. Porter, after all, wasn’t the one who committed the challenges.

The All-Star coach took the high road after the game while addressing the rough play:

“I understand completely why there was some emotion there,” Porter said.But we certainly didn’t mean to do anything negative in the game. We have the utmost respect for their players. Pep, the guy is an idol of mine. There were a couple tackles that went wrong.”

And the two coaches did put out the fire just moments later in the tunnel:

However, by then the Twitterverse had already exploded.

Was Guardiola’s finger wag and handshake snub inexcusable, or do you give him a pass in the heat of the moment and considering the circumstances? We’ll let you be the judge:

Image via Getty

6
Aug

Another golazo! Robert Lewandowski scores laser vs. MLS All-Stars

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Hey, remember when went out on a limb and said Robert Lewandowski will make a fine addition to Josep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side this season?

How about that time we reminded you of that fact just a couple days later?

Well, here we are again. Check out the Polish striker’s clinical finish against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday:

Yeah, Lewandowski is pretty good. #Analysis.

Image via Getty

27
Jul

Pitch invaders take selfies with Javi Martinez, Mario Balotelli

Bayern Munich snatched up their first title of the season on Sunday, winning the final of the Telekom Cup against Wolfsburg, 3-0, behind a pair of goals from Robert Lewandowski and another from fellow newcomer Sebastian Rode.

With the game all but decided late in the second half, one fan rushed the field and did what all proper pitch invaders of this day and age try to do - take a selfie with a player!

Javi Martinez was the fan’s chosen target, though he clearly wasn’t quite sure how to react:

Later on Sunday, towards the end of AC Milan’s brutal 5-1 loss to Manchester City, a pair of fans emulated this act, bee-lining it to Mario Balotelli for an on-field selfie (and a hug!)

This was the result:

Great day for pitch invaders!

26
Jul

Bayern Munich’s Lewandowski scores cheeky goal in preseason test

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Something tells us that Robert Lewandowski will bring Bayern Munich fans lots of joy this season.

Earlier this week, the former Dortmund man found the net in his very first game as a Bayern player. Then, on Saturday against Borussia Moenchengladbach, he goes and does this:

Come on!

That little moment of magic gave Bayern a 1-0 lead over Gladbach in the preseason Telekom Cup. The defending Bundesliga champions would later go on to win in a penalty shootout and advance to the final.

Vine via Twitter/@demarkesports

25
Jul

Bayern Munich present new away kit featuring Dutch flag?

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Bayern Munich revealed their new away kits for the upcoming season on Friday, and while undeniably sharp, they do have a rather peculiar look to them.

The red and blue horizontal stripes across the white shirt draw strong comparisons to the Dutch flag!

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What, did Arjen Robben design these? Is former Bayern manager Louis van Gaal somehow going to take the credit?

Images via fcbayern.de

22
Jul

GIF: Lewandowski scores in first test as Bayern player

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This summer has produced yet another arms race between the elite clubs in Europe. Real Madrid signed James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, Barcelona scooped up Luis Suarez, and Chelsea reloaded with the likes of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas.

Bayern Munich? They’ve been rather quiet, but for good reason.

The German champions did their best business back in January, when it was announced that Robert Lewandowski would join them on a free transfer. You’d be forgiven to have forgotten about him, since he couldn’t star at the World Cup and all.

But on Monday against third-division side Duisburg, in his first test as a Bayern player, the Polish goal machine announced his arrival with an impressive goal:

GIF via Pies