The tour guide gave us a big smile. He imagined we were two chiquititas from South America whose team was going to face his home team in South Africa. When he later heard we were Indian he looked very perplexed and wondered why we were taking a tour of the Allianz Arena.
I am not a major football fan but when I saw the Allianz Football Arena rising like an egg shaped space shuttle on top of the hill, I was intrigued. I was also spurred on by my daughter who is a fan of nearly every sport on the planet. It was a cold dreary day with a high wind chill factor and stringy rain. Like vain desi women we were hopelessly under clad and shivered as we trudged the kilometre from the metro station. We just made it in time for an English tour of the Arena. Everyone in the tour was around half my age and had twice my fitness level. After a film of fifteen minutes on the making of the stadium which bored everyone but me, we had to climb 181 steps in a minute because the six and half feet giant guide had very long legs. I concentrated on yogic breathing and tried not to wheeze or turn into an embarrassing shade of purple. The guide asked us very seriously if anyone suffered vertigo for we were being ushered into one of the higher seats of the stadium which had a view close to seventy degree of the field to the horizontal. The architects had managed to construct a stadium to seat 66000 people plus 4000 standing seats without a single beam to obstruct the view. To ensure proximity to the field the seats were placed an alarmingly increasing angle to the horizontal.
We moved on to the locker room where the local F C Bayern fans apparently swoon, faint and get delirious. The guide was dismayed at the lack of reaction of English speaking junta. We saw the exercise rooms, massage rooms, pool, VIP enclave, sponsor gallery and Fan club area. We moved to the press conference room and were allowed to pretend while friends and family took corny photographs. We moved on to the place where the players step down from their coaches and first meet the press before a match. We even walked down the path to the point where the teams enter the field but we were not allowed to step onto the grass which is apparently laid out and changed every year.
The two football clubs of Munich used to practise and play in the 1972 Olympic stadium in the city. They requested the original architect of the Olympic stadium to make modifications to modernise it, which he refused. The people of Munich went on to a referendum and by an overwhelming majority it was decided to build a new stadium, the foundation of which was laid in 2001 and completed in 2005. The stadium was built at a cost of Euro 340 million and used only funds from the clubs and corporate sponsorships.
As we walked away exhilarated from the stadium after one and half hours we realised what made football such an all encompassing game for the masses. My Tennis crazy child grumbled that she could not tour the Wimbledon club or Flushing Meadows. We had visited a golf museum close to the lovely St. Andrews links but there is no tour of the facility. Such an inclusion can only increase revenue, brand equity and popularity which eventually translates into heavier purses for the players and their sponsors.