Franck Ribery gave a teary-eyed farewell speech to the Bayern Munich fans at the end of the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign, but what did the Frenchman mean when - hand on heart - he signed off with the words "Mia san Mia!!!!!"? And, no - he wasn't speaking French.
Ribery was actually reciting Bayern's club motto - the Bavarian variation of the German, "Wir sind wir" - or, in English, "We are who we are."
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"Mia san Mia" is a phrase that has its roots in the 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was later used by German politician Franz Josef Strauss - chairman of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) from 1961 until 1988 - before being adopted by Bayern during the 1980s.
According to club insiders, it gained traction during the Bavarian giants' run to the 1987 European Cup final when former players Hans Pflügler, Hansi Dorfner and Ludwig Kögl would incorporate the words into a post-match celebratory song - usually belted out whilst dancing atop a table or bar.
Bayern lost the final 2-1 to Portugal's Porto in Vienna, but gained an apposite club motto which has become synonymous with their rich history, unprecedented success and winning mentality.
"Mia san Mia stands for the complete will to succeed," explained homegrown Bayern star Thomas Müller. "That's how we manage to turn games round so often. There's no middle ground, only wins.
"Mia san Mia stands for a hardcore winning mentality with a good dose of self-belief, but without any arrogance. Whoever wants to win has to work hard for it. It's the same as for professional footballers.
"The best footballers always play for Bayern. Everyone gives it their all in training. Anyone who can't get on with the idea is in the wrong place. It's something we all try to teach the younger players. There's nothing that's more important."
A motto and philosophy that permeates the club at all levels, "Mia san Mia" has spawned 16 'golden rules', which were published for the first time as part of Bayern's 110th anniversary celebrations in 2010. They are also encased in an unmissable poster box on a corridor wall on the way to the cafeteria at Bayern's Säbener Straße training base, serving as a daily reminder of the club's proud ethos to all who pass by.
The 16 principles are:
1) Mia san ein Verein – We are one club: We are all formed by the club’s history, we are all involved in its development and we share the same values.
2) Mia san Botschafter – We are ambassadors: Everyone, whether player, staff or fan, builds the image of the club. It is therefore the responsibility of everyone in the club to always live by the club’s values and contribute towards a positive image of the club.
3) Mia san Vorbilder – We are role models: The players and the staff act as role models to their fans. The younger players look up to them, wishing to follow in their footsteps. Accordingly, the fans too should be role models for fans of other teams. We should not be sore losers, or hooligans, and we should always support our team, in good and bad times.
4) Mia san Tradition – We are tradition: This is pretty self-explanatory, and for me one of the most important. We should be proud of our tradition and history, both on and off the field. Among others, one can find Bayern’s opposition to the Nazi regime, the way we treat and respect our players and help them when they are in need, and our financial discipline.
5) Mia san Innovation – We are innovation: We should always seek new ways to improve our sporting, financial, traditional, philanthropic image.
6) Mia san Selbstvertrauen – We are self-belief: We have high expectations of ourselves and always aim high. We believe in our quality and we fear no one. We aim to win every match and we will attack and defend courageously as a team.
7) Mia san grenzenlos – We are diversity: We accept everyone, regardless of race, religion and beliefs. We believe we can learn from cultural diversity and our values our shaped by it. Here, Bayern’s motto is linked with the European Union’s motto, 'United in diversity'.
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8) Mia san Fußball – We are football: Our club unites people from all walks of life thanks to the beautiful game. Let us not forget our origins. FC Bayern was formed by Franz John and other members of the gymnastics club Münchner TurnVerein 1879. They left the team because it did not give importance to football and refused to allow its footballers to join the German Football Association. They formed Bayern on 27 February 1900.
9) Mia san Respekt – We are respect: Mutual respect between players, coaches, board members and fans is fundamental for the club to remain successful.
10) Mia san Freude – We are joy: The players are doing what they love. They must be happy to play for Bayern and not simply mercenaries who are there for the money. Bayern is also a source of entertainment for its fans. However, we must accept defeat when it happens and not spoil others’ joy.
11) Mia san Treue – We are loyal: We pride ourselves on the loyalty of most of our players. We are loyal to players coming out of our own youth academy and give them all the chances they deserve. We are loyal to our past players. And we must be loyal as fans, through thick and thin.
12) Mia san Partner – We are partners: In victory and in defeat, we are in this together and will support each other no matter what.
13) Mia san Heimat – We are home-loving: We are proud of the city of Munich and will do our best as a team to keep enriching its history.
14) Mia san Motor – We are dynamic: We are not conservative and stuck in the past. We are dynamic and innovative. We will try new things in order to improve and remain on top, but our values should never be forgotten.
15) Mia san Verantwortung – We are responsibility: We have a responsibility to set an example for others. We are responsible for our own actions, possibly even in our failures. This is evident in our recent failures.
16) Mia san Familie – We are family: Most importantly, we are one family, sharing in everything for the rest of our lives. Once a Bavarian, always a Bavarian.
"Mia san Mia" also resonates deeply with its followers. The 75,000-capacity Allianz Arena – which displays the motto in large letters on the west stand – is always a sell-out, while fans travel to away games en masse without fail. They get to enjoy world-class football for their troubles, and the players receive some of the best backing in the world.
In turn, captain Manuel Neuer & Co. maintain close links with their supporters, including the 291,000 official members – the most of any football club in the world. One of the highlights for players and fans alike is the annual Christmas visits.
It’s one of Bayern’s most popular and proudest traditions as each member of the first-team squad, the coaches and even senior figures such as president Herbert Hainer and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge spend a day at a local fan club, travelling around Germany and even abroad.
It allows supporters to get up close and personal with their footballing heroes, ask them questions, take selfies and most of all enjoy some pre-Christmas fun with gifts and traditional local activities such as “Baumstamm nageln” – hammering a nail into a tree.
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Team visits to the city’s famous Oktoberfest also help strengthen local bonds, reinforcing the Mia san Heimat principle as proud representatives of Munich. That has, of course, been shown most clearly on the pitch where Bayern have become a domestic and international force.
With 30 German league titles – 29 in the Bundesliga era – and 20 DFB Cup honours, they are by far the most decorated club in Germany, and let’s not forget their six European Cup/Champions League titles.
Yet Bayern also has a long history of solidarity with other German clubs, particularly when they fall into financial difficulty, having lent a helping hand to their old rivals 1860 Munich, St Pauli, Hansa Rostock, Kaiserslautern and even Borussia Dortmund down the years.
The club's policy of putting the fans first has also kept ticket prices down. Bayern may be one of the most successful football teams in the world, but it is still possible to get hold of a season ticket at the Allianz Arena for as little as €140, which works out to around €8 per game.
Eight consecutive Bundesliga titles have left Bayern and its supporters in little doubt of who they are on the pitch, but they are also profoundly aware of their identity away from football. At Bayern Munich, “Mia san Mia” is much more than just a slogan, it is a way of life.
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