You say goodbye – we say hello
Sat, 02/09/23, 09:00
A visit to Kane’s old home
Captain of England, record goalscorer, national treasure - and now a Bayern man! What does London think about Harry Kane’s spectacular transfer to Munich? We asked around in the Tottenham Hotspurs heartland and enjoyed the start of the season there with British Bayern fans.
Tottenham's main street is as bustling as ever on this sunny Friday. The area is a working-class London neighbourhood - down-to-earth, a bit messy, and exceedingly diverse. At the Turkish restaurant, the grill sizzles; next to it, the owner of a Jamaican jerk chicken store stands smoking by the door. The smell of frying oil wafts out of the fish-and-chips stall. In the middle of it all is the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A few dozen fans, some wearing club jerseys or carrying flags, walk around the massive structure, others stand in line waiting for a tour. It seems like a normal day in Tottenham - but only at first glance.
The game after the game
Just around the corner from the stadium, a huge mural of Kane is emblazoned on the wall of a building. Just a week ago, he was still Spurs' biggest star, on his way to becoming the Premier League's all-time top scorer - an idol for tens of thousands here in North London. "He's one of our own" is written white on blue on the mural. The painting was only unveiled in May, but as of 12 August it has already been superseded. Kane is no longer scoring for Tottenham. "HERRy Kane" was the headline in the Mirror, the Daily Mail reported on "Kane-mania" in Munich, and the Sun asked anxiously whether Henry Edward, the youngest son of the new Bayern striker, might one day play for Germany. There’s no question it was the deal of the decade. The fans in North London are initially calm. "We'll get over it," says Kane Vanner, who is walking down Tottenham High Road.
He is 25 years old, wears a Tottenham T-shirt and has a wild growth of hair. He doesn't quite understand his namesake's switch, though. "He was a hero here, he was idolised!" He could gladly say more, but he needs a beer now, says Vanner, and leads the way to the Bricklayers Arms. Like every pub here, it is a fan pub. Black and white pictures of past Tottenham stars decorate the walls, pennants with the club crest hang above the bar. Vanner and his friend sit down in the back with two pints. "Sure, Kane will probably win some trophies with Bayern," he says. "But for English fans, that doesn't mean very much." On the other hand, he says, the transfer revenue is very welcome: "I expect Kane to come back at some point. But I hope we are strong enough without him."
Rob White shows more understanding. The 59-year-old is also sitting in the pub and has Tottenham in his blood – literally. His father John White was part of the team that led the club to its greatest successes in the 1960s. A picture of him hangs on the wall in the Bricklayers Arms. White Sr. was killed by a lightning strike when he was only 27. His son now sits on the board of Tottenham's official supporters' trust. "Some fans don't understand the move to Bayern," says White. "But if you look at the European football superpowers, Tottenham just can't compete with Bayern." He painfully recalls the 7-2 defeat to the Munich side and rues. "From a financial point of view, the deal may make sense for us," he says. "But money is not everything. Kane is the best striker of his generation. His departure makes us weaker."
“Another Stein, please”
Exuberance and excitement, on the other hand, a few hours later at London Bridge, about ten kilometres further south. The Bermondsey Bierkeller, located under the bridge, is a slice of Munich in the middle of the British capital. In the anteroom, rustic beer mugs hang from the ceiling, on the black-painted walls you can read Oktoberfest slogans like "Another Stein, please". A waiter is wearing lederhosen. Daniel Sprich, a tall man in a Bayern jersey, has grabbed a large beer at the bar. "I still can't believe it," says the German ex-pat, who has lived in London for more than a decade. "Normally English footballers don't leave the island. The fact that Harry Kane, the English skipper, is now playing for Bayern is unbelievable." Sprich is 41 years old and has been a Bayern fan for over 30 years. The 1991/92 season was the first he followed with heart and soul, Manni Schwabl was his idol. He arranges his everyday life with his team's fixtures.
That's why he's sitting here today in the Bermondsey Bierkeller, to watch the opening game of the new Bundesliga season live. He's here a bit early, but the rest of the Red Dragons are trickling in. The Red Dragons are a Bayern fan club in London, founded ten years ago. They’re a colourful bunch. Among the 45 or so members are many Germans, a handful of English and lots of other nationalities. From time to time, they fly together to Munich to the Allianz Arena. And of course they watch their team's games together. Since last year, the Bermondsey Bierkeller has been their new home. Half an hour before kick-off, Paul Wheeler limps into the room. The chairman of the Red Dragons is currently on crutches - damaged meniscus, the result of an awkward attempt at dancing at a stag party. "The past few weeks have not been easy for me, because I have two hearts," he says and begins to roll up the sleeves of his jersey. One arm is emblazoned with a Bayern tattoo, the other with a Tottenham tattoo.
„The fact that Harry Kane, the English skipper, is now playing for Bayern is unbelievable.”
The fact that he became a Bayern fan is somehow also thanks to the club from North London. His favourite player was Jürgen Klinsmann, and Klinsi played for Spurs before moving to Bayern in 1995. "That's where my love for Bayern Munich comes from. I was just ten years old when the club became my German team," says Wheeler. "Kane's transfer is a huge loss for Spurs," he says. Still, he is sure the team has enough talent to replace him. "As for Bayern, Kane is just huge. Not only is he an exceptional player, but he's also the England captain. He's something of a national treasure here." This will not least promote the interest of English fans in the Bundesliga. Wheeler is sure that Kane fits the Bayern team like a glove: "He is the natural and logical successor to Lewandowski. Kane fills the hole we've had in the centre of attack so far."
Kick-off is at half past seven local time. The Red Dragons - exactly 11 Bayern fans have come today - fall silent and gaze spellbound at the screen. The first cheers come after just a few minutes. Leroy Sané has scored - after fine setup by Kane. But actually everyone here is waiting for the new No.9 to score his first goal. Some Red Dragons are biting their fingernails, others are scratching their chins. Losses of possession and fouls on Bayern players are commented on with scowls. It is a somewhat tense atmosphere. At half-time, new beers are immediately fetched and the shop talk starts. Kane is too much of a midfielder, one of them says, and that's no way to break through Werder Bremen's robust defence. Second half. After 15 minutes, Kane comes closer to scoring his first Bundesliga goal, but the ball goes just past the post.
In the Bierkeller, the DJ plays pop classics like "Walking on Sunshine" and "Stayin' Alive". Paul Wheeler and Daniel Sprich get carried away with a little dancing. Good atmosphere all around. But still the goal is missing. Then, in the 74th minute, redemption. Kane scores, and the 11 fans in the Bermondsey Bierkeller make the vault shake with their deafening cheers. "I knew it!" shouts one. All is well now, then Bayern score two more goals. What a start to the new season. "I was already very emotional," says Wheeler after the game. "He's not my Spurs boy anymore, he's my Bayern boy now. It does feel weird. But I'm so happy."
Photos: Ryan Thomas
This article is part of the latest edition of Bayern members‘ magazine ‘51’