presented by
United we stand

‘Together we can beat anyone’

The children in the stands wouldn’t let up. They were still shouting “Ri-bé-ry, Ri-bé-ry!” as 10 minutes went by, then 20, then 30. Finally their loud demands met with success as Franck Ribéry, who had been working out in the fitness centre of the Al Maktoom Stadium, came outside and immediately found himself surrounded. The autograph of Bayern’s dribbling ace was highly sought after by the around 100 Dubai schoolchildren who had been invited to attend the Reds’ training session on Thursday afternoon.

It was not only the hearts of the children, who after the training session zealously collected autographs from the other members of the team, that were beating faster yesterday afternoon. Even the players of the Dubai first division club Al-Nasr, on whose pitch Bayern were training, were as excited as small children. They greeted every player with a handshake, gave each of them a club scarf, and beamed as they posed for a joint team photo. Al-Nasr coach Frank Pagelsdorf presented Louis van Gaal with a commemorative plate.

No odd men out

Bayern were themselves in very good spirits in Dubai, and the mood among the players could not have been better a good week before the start of the second half of the season. “We’ve all been working well, putting in a lot of effort but enjoying it too,” reported Mark van Bommel, “The atmosphere is really good. There are no odd ones out – everyone gets along with everyone else.”

There’s also an evident rapport between the coach and his team. “Van Gaal is working in a very focused way,” said the Bayern captain. “There’s an idea standing behind every exercise that we do, but when you’re not winning it can be hard to grasp that idea. Lately we have been putting into practice what the coach wanted, and everyone was able to see that it was working. The atmosphere is very positive.”

Strength in unity

That the Munich team are going into the second half of the season as a united group could be a decisive factor in their quest for cups and titles. Other top European clubs like Real Madrid or Barcelona may perhaps have a few better individuals than Bayern, says Van Bommel, “but as a team we’re capable of beating them. When we’re all playing in harmony, nothing is impossible. We can beat anyone.”