Walter Mennekes: FC Bayern forever, that's etched into me
Walter Mennekes has been an FC Bayern member for 30 years, deputy vice-president since 2016 and now turns 75 on 13 December 2022. Grassroots sport is also part of the club's DNA as the birthday boy explains. And when it comes to child protection, you have to underline every single word thickly because it is important.
Interview with Walter Mennekes
Walter Mennekes, your first contact with FC Bayern came when you spontaneously bought Mrs Rummenigge and her children drinks in the heat of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico - how much did that change your life?
“The friendship with the Rummenigge family after that experience in the chaotic stadium hustle and bustle of Guadalajara changed and shaped our own family life a lot. When I think of our holidays together, they with five children, we with three, and often Michael Rummenigge with three - when you show up with 20 people at the beach or in a pub, it's always a real party. Through this connection, my contact with FC Bayern became more and more intense - it was like a dream for me.”
What does FC Bayern mean to you?
“I've always thought FC Bayern was great. Munich has always been an important port of call in my life, for my whole family. My wife always says that I'm welcome to travel the world - but when it comes to Munich, she wants to be there (laughs). My membership, which has now lasted over 30 years, has allowed the third 'F' in my life to blossom: 'F' for family, 'F' for the firm and now 'F' for football – all in regard to FC Bayern. Without this club, I’d be missing an essential happiness hormone. FC Bayern forever, that's etched into me.”
As deputy vice-president, you are responsible for the various departments - what is particularly close to your heart?
“Youth and grassroots sports at FC Bayern München eV are also part of the club's DNA. Two thousand members are active across seven departments, especially in the youth sector and at over 100 schools. We shape the sporting image of Munich, are an integral part of the city and have a responsibility here as a club to promote sport. I see that as an important obligation.”
You were present at the Allianz Arena in autumn when members were honoured for many years of club loyalty - why is this club so special?
“Due to Covid-19, we had to do without personal honours for some time, which hurt us all. So, it was important to do them now in a nice setting of appreciation. We get a lot of letters saying that we are more than just a club because we don't just say that, we act like it. Almost 300,000 members can't be wrong.”
You are very committed to issues like child protection. Why is the Red Line initiative so important?
“Where people - especially in a sports club - want to achieve something together, closeness develops. That is desired and important. All the more reason for us all to make sure that this is not abused either physically or verbally. That’s why we’ve created a system of looking and listening. FC Bayern stands for zero tolerance, takes a preventive and offensive approach. Nobody wants to be blamed afterwards. On this subject, every single word should be underlined thickly because it is so important.”
What makes FC Bayern a family?
“There are three equally important reasons why we are recognised as a family: We are successful in sport, economically stable and socially committed in an exemplary manner, both internally and externally. I deliberately say equally weighted because, of course, we prefer to win rather than lose and we always keep an eye on our finances. But the way FC Bayern has lived up to its social responsibility for decades actually deserves another star on the jersey in my eyes. This club is also made up of FC Bayern Hilfe eV and initiatives like Reds Against Racism, not just great players like Manuel Neuer or Thomas Müller. We want to be a role model here, also for other clubs. Each of our members is an ambassador for commitment.“
Photo credit: Constantin Mirbach
The extended interview can be found in the current issue of FC Bayern members' magazine ‘51’.