Life at the Campus as four
Normally the FC Bayern Campus is teeming with players, coaches and staff. Then came coronavirus -- and quiet set in at the academy. Only four players continued to reside there during the whole period. Here they tell us how they spent those weeks, from training and cooking to unusual ways of filling the time.
Plenty of space for four
Anyone who's young and has the time can be found on TikTok nowadays. What's TikTok? It's the hottest social media app right now, a platform full of funny, short videos, where Leon Dajaku has also recently been playing around. He uploaded over 20 clips from the end of March to the end of April, showing him dancing and lip-synching, playing pranks and sketches. That's because Dajaku, the 19-year-old winger for FC Bayern II, has had plenty of time on his hands. For six weeks from the middle of March, he lived at the Campus with just Sarpreet Singh, Wooyeong Jeong and Flavius Daniliuc for company, after training was suspended and the other residents of the FCB academy returned home to their families due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Just four remained -- and they had the entire 30-hectar campus with its seven training pitches and 1,000 m²-fitness area to themselves. Normally there are 10 youth teams residing here, with 40 players living at the academy, plus the FCB Women, coaches and club staff. "Suddenly it was silent. There was nothing going on anymore. You felt a bit like you were in a ghost house," explained Dajaku. The quartet completed their daily fitness regime, sweated in cyber training, and cycled kilometre after kilometre on the spinning bikes and treadmills. "We were actually done by midday -- and then you have to look for what to do for the rest of the time," said Dajaku, laughing: "I just learned TikTok."
Use the time positively
The sudden surplus of time proved to be the biggest challenge for the four. Afternoons and evenings elapsed as if they were on a time loop. "The first days were difficult for me. What was I supposed to do with all this time now?" admitted Sarpreet Singh, 21, known as 'Saddy' to everyone. But the midfielder has learned to deal with being alone. His home country New Zealand is on the other side of the world, and he keeps in touch with his family via video calls anyway. But now the isolation has taken on a new dimension for him. "It took me a few days to accept the situation. I then tried to use the time in a positive way", he says. That meant he spent many extra hours in the weights room "so that he would be ready when it started again".
Following their instincts
Muscle training and sprints were at the top of his personal training schedule. He grins: "My body is relatively light for a footballer. That's why I've been working on becoming stronger and more explosive." He was often joined by his fellow inhabitants during the extra shifts. When athletes have a huge training area at their disposal, their instincts automatically lead them here first. "I often went to the pitch in the afternoon to do something with the ball," reports Dajaku, "Dribbling, finishing, crosses, football tennis with the other three. Just running all the time is all well and good, but you also need the ball at your feet sometimes."
The boys got creative with some football tennis.
Getting to know each other
Dajaku and Singh share an apartment at the Campus. Both came to Munich last summer, both train with the first team, both play for the second string in the third division but have also played a few minutes in the Bundesliga this season. They therefore have a lot in common, know each other well and have become even closer through the coronavirus lockdown. Singh smirks because he's witnessed how his roommate has gone stir-crazy in recent weeks. "Leon's not someone who likes spending lots of time at home. He likes to go out for food sometimes, which hasn't been possible during this period."
Singh shows off his skills in the kitchen
In fact, to start with the quartet had to take care of their food all by themselves. Only after two weeks could a cook return to the campus and prepare them something for lunch. Until then, they had to fend for themselves in the kitchen. "We all had a bit of a hard time with that, except for Saddy," reports Dajaku with a slight astonishment. "He was a dab hand in the kitchen."
Cooking course useful after all
Singh has to laugh when he hears that he impressed the others with his culinary skills. When he left home at 16 to play football, he took a cooking course at his new club in Wellington, he reveals. Who would have thought that this knowledge would become so important again? He prefers Asian cooking. "My Thai green curry is quite good."
Such dishes are also a piece of home for Wooyeong Jeong, 20, called 'Woo'. The South Korean had already worn the FCB jersey for a year and a half before he transferred to SC Freiburg last summer. In January he returned to Munich on loan until the end of the season, and became friends with Singh. The constant wrestling with the German language connects the two of them as well as the distance from their own family. "I spoke to my parents in Korea on the phone every day. They are healthy," the winger is relieved. The corona situation in his home country is also "relatively relaxed overall. Football has been played there again since the beginning of May. Korea is well on its way out of the crisis."
That's also the impression Singh gets from his homeland. "They've got the situation well under control in New Zealand. There are hardly any new infections now. Hopefully it stays that way," he reports. His family -- parents, sister and brother live in Auckland, he has cousins in England and America -- are also healthy. "We've stayed in contact, we have group chats. Sometimes we've also got together for family quizzes on Zoom" The roll of quizmaster rotates -- but who was the quiz champion? "Definitely not me," Singh promptly answers. "My cousins from America won the most. We just wanted to stay in touch and have a bit of fun together. Regardless of where we live, we're all more or less in the same situation and have the same worries and problems."
"What I missed most was family"
In Munich, the teammates on the Campus were the substitute family. "We tried to spend a lot of time together so that we had a sense of community. That was important," says Flavius Daniliuc, 19. The central defender and captain of the U19 side knows very well what family means -- at home in Vienna he grew up with five siblings. "It didn't bother me that much not being able to go out," he says, "What I missed most was family." He also kept in touch with home by phone and video, "but it's just completely different to really seeing each other."
Only Dajaku was lucky enough to see his parents once in all those weeks. For his birthday, on Easter Sunday, they came from near Stuttgart to Munich. It did him good, as it was just at this time the mood had reached a low point despite all efforts. "After the third or fourth week, there were already days when you thought: Wow, it's getting really hard," admits the Germany U18 international. "You do the same thing every day, you can't think of anything new. You keep yourself fit, but you don't know exactly when and if things will continue. You can't see family and friends. Sometimes it was enough to make you despair."
For Woo, it's given him a new appreciation for normal life. "You must be very grateful for what you've always had. I've learned that, along with patience and mind control," he says. Singh has also taken strength from a completely new experience, starting to read his first ever book! "Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby -- in German. I didn't grow up with books. It's quite funny that my first book is in German. It's a big challenge." Despite the strain, he sees reading as a "powerful but also very peaceful experience. It's helped me to stay content and happy."
Reading, training, cooking, telephoning, plus PlayStation, movies, music and TikTok -- the Campus quartet have found many ways to cope with the abundance of time. Yet all of them always missed one thing -- aside from family -- in particular: "The game, the game, the game," as Woo puts it. The joy and relief was therefore huge when in mid-April, the first slight easing of restrictions took place. First they started small group training with their teams, then at the end of April -- in the course of the first school opening -- a few more residents returned to the campus. By mid-May, 25 of the 40 academy beds were occupied again, and the reserves also started team training. A certain normality had returned. "To stand on the grass with the team was a great feeling. It's just totally different from cyber training," explains Dajaku. The right-winger, like Singh and Woo, was happy that the third-division season, in which the FCB reserves have so far impressed as a promoted side, was continued.
"Sometimes there's nothing better to do than TikTok"
Dajaku and Daniliuc in particular spent time making creative videos.
Daniliuc was also hoping to conclude his season with the U19s, but it was abandoned, with Bayern declared South German champions but the final tournament for the national title cancelled. "It's a shame," thinks the Austrian. "We've wanted to finally win the title for FC Bayern for a long time. It's what we've been training all year for." Can he take anything positive from the coronavirus period? He ponders briefly: "I've learned a few new dance moves," he jokes, adding: "Partly, at least. Because of all the videos Leon and I have been making. Sometimes there's just nothing better to do than TikTok."