Kanako Mori is one of them. Several years ago, the freelance desktop publishing designer from Tokyo expressed her love for FC Bayern and the Germany national team on her personal blog. More and more fans followed suit, which prompted the 41-year-old to found the FC Bayern Tokyo Fanclub.
“Until then, Japanese people were keeping their fingers crossed for Bayern in secret and I thought that was a great shame,” said Mori. In 2008, the Tokyo-based fan club was born, gaining official recognition from the Bundesliga club a year later.
The guild has grown and now boasts around 70 members. The oldest is over 60 and remains very proud to have witnessed Franz Beckenbauer in person, when he took part in a friendly match back in the 1970s. The youngest was born in 1992, “like David Alaba”, noted Mori with a smile.
The greatest obstacle facing Mori and the gang, though, is the time difference. It's a problem not unique to Japan, but one shared by other Bundesliga fans outside of Europe and Africa. Japan is eight hours ahead of Central Europe in the winter, which means that a 15:30 kick-off in the Bundesliga starts at 23:30 in Japan, while a 18:30 game begins in the early hours of Sunday morning. Most sports bars in Japan are no longer open at that time and the underground rail network is also closed.
“Even if we would like to, we can't all get together each weekend to see the games,” said Mori. “But we do try to meet at least once a month to watch a recorded programme.”
"Mia san mia!"
In spite of Borussia Dortmund’s success in the past two years, and in particular the impact made by global superstar Shinji Kagawa, the FC Bayern Tokyo Fanclub members' love for FC Bayern is unbroken. Or rather, the toils of seasons past make the joy at winning the title this year even greater.
Mori’s Facebook page has been inundated with similar sentiments: “The 2010/11 season and 2011/12 have just been struck from my memory”; “The suffering of the past two years was just a period of suffering before the birth of a golden era, which will now hopefully last a long time”; “Mia san mia!” ;“This Bayern is the strongest football team of all time!”; “Argh, I want to celebrate on the Marienplatz with them...”
Desperate for Wembley
“So far, I only know of one member who is going to the Champions League final at Wembley,“ said fan club chairlady Mori before the final. Understandable, especially given the packages put together by tour operators are expensive to say the least. Furthermore, it is traditionally very difficult for the Japanese to take holidays in a culture where doing extra, unpaid work is respected.
Still, one member wasn't about to let that get in the way of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wembley on 25 May, explaining: “I don’t have a ticket or flights, but I desperately want to experience the final live at Wembley and I’m working fervently, both logistically with my employers and also financially - it’s really painful, but I can bear this suffering for our FC Bayern!”
It came as no surprise then, that the FC Bayern Tokyo Fanclub were delighted to see their side put and end to their recent trials and tribulations in Europe's premier club competition en route to a historic quadruple.