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Out and about

Fan club visits prompt euphoric response

Manuel Neuer and Hermann Gerland were on tour in their home state of North-Rhine Westphalia, David Alaba went to visit his fellow-countrypeople in Austria, Karl Hopfner drove to South Tyrol, and Bastian Schweinsteiger made it to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Alpine foothills. As for Pep Guardiola, he travelled to Greding to the north of Ingolstadt. The Bayern stars and personalities were spread far and wide around Germany and beyond after training on Saturday as they undertook the now traditional programme of annual fan club visits.

“In the first instance we play for our fans,” said Guardiola at the reception laid on by the “Greding” fan club, who pulled the star attraction as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations. An audience of 280 came to enjoy a wonderful afternoon for themselves and for the Spaniard. A host of kids jumped at the chance to fire questions at their coaching idol: for example, one youthful fan wanted to know whether Guardiola’s own children play football. Yes, said Pep, his son, “although he thinks Germany is too cold.”

Xabi Alonso in Langenpreising

Happy, smiling faces were everywhere in a relaxed, family atmosphere. Guardiola handed out autographs to everyone who wanted one and set aside a great deal of time for souvenir snaps. The curious fans wanted to know how he feels about being at FC Bayern. Very settled, the Spaniard replied, although mastering the Bavarian dialect is proving a touch tricky: “I still have problems understanding German.”

Two-time Champions League winner Xabi Alonso was the guest of honour at the event staged by “DieLangenpreisinger 10”, a club based around 50 km to the north-east of Munich. After a welcome speech by fan club chairman Tomislav Denic, the world and European champion opened his debut visit with a lengthy question and answer session, revealing in the course of the dialogue which other FCB man he would most like to be: “Robert Lewandowski. I’d really like to score a few more goals, but for that I’d have to be a striker,” Alonso grinned.

“Welcoming a great player like Xabi Alonso here to us is a huge honour,” chairman Denic said to the 200 or so FCB fans in the room, as the Spaniard was named a “Miembro de honor” (honorary member) of the “Langenpreisinger 10”. Alonso was asked whether the fact he had already won the Champions League with Liverpool and Real Madrid might be a good omen for the current European campaign: “I hope so. And we’ll do everything we can to have another successful season,” the midfielder said.

As always, the visits were a real treat for the supporters, as the chance to get so close to an idol is a rare and special one. Captain Philipp Lahm was the guest of “1. Oldie FC 2000 üFü.in Munich, where he drew the winning lots in a tombola, the €1200 proceeds going straight to the player’s charity foundation. The 2015 programme of fan club visits was once again a resounding success.