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FC Bayern History, Part I

The Early Years: Foundation & First Title

FC Bayern Munich is one of the most successful and storied soccer clubs in the world but it had very modest and turbulent beginnings. In Part I of our series looking back at the club’s long history, we glance at FC Bayern’s origin story, its formative years and the foundation that was laid for future success.

On February 27, 1900 at approximately 9:30pm, eleven disgruntled members of the MTV München 1879 sports club left the Bäckerhöfl Inn in Munich. The reason was a dispute among its members over the future of its soccer division. The club, primarily focusing on gymnastics and not on the up and coming and oft-criticized game of soccer, refused to allow its soccer contingent to join the association of south German soccer clubs (SFV). Led by Franz John, those eleven members would ultimately form what is now FC Bayern Munich. Blue and white were chosen as the club’s first colors.

Having relocated to a restaurant not far from the Inn called Gisela, FC Bayern Munich came to life and John was promptly elected its president. Under his lead the club joined the SFV. The team was finally realized and played its very first match in March that year, beating 1. Münchner FC 1896 by a scoreline of 5:2. Two years later Bayern played future rivals, TSV 1860 München, for the first time and won 3:0. FC Bayern had arrived.

Identity and Climbing the Ladder

As so many soccer clubs did back then, to continue its development and grow the team's resources, FC Bayern entered into mergers twice early in their existence. In 1906, they first merged with Münchner Sports Club and adopted white shirts and red shorts as a result, colors that remained to this day. By 1908 the club had more than 300 members, and in 1910 attacker Max Gablonsky became the first FC Bayern player to be called up to the German national team.

The second merger occurred in 1919 with Turnverein Jahn, a gymnastics club. Back then it was common practice for gymnastics clubs to incorporate soccer clubs or for them to merge despite conflicting interests. In 1923 and 1924, however, a nationwide separation and distinction between soccer and other sports including gymnastics was instituted, and FC Bayern Munich became and remains independent to this day.

All the while, FC Bayern quickly became one of the most successful teams in the state of Bavaria, winning several regional championships in the 1910s and 1920s. National success, however, still eluded them. In that department they faced stiff competition from 1. FC Nürnberg and Greuther Fürth which not only won the Southern German championship ten times between them but were also arguably the two best teams in the country at the time, winning the national title a combined seven times in the 1920s. 

Breaking the mold

But FC Bayern, under long-time president Kurt Landauer, had a strategy to challenge that dominance. Landauer hired English coach, William Townley, as the team’s first professional coach in 1914. Townley had already won the championship with Karlsruher FV in 1910 and again with Greuther Fürth  in 1914 and 1926. The club continued its tradition of hiring British coaches with Jim McPherson and won the Southern German championship for the first time in 1926 and repeated in 1928 under Hungarian coach Leo Weisz. They came up short on the national level again however, reaching but losing in the semi-final in 1928. Bayern were getting closer and closer.

The breakthrough came in 1932. A year earlier, the club hired Austrian coach Richard Kohn who brought with him talented striker Oskar Rohr from VfR Mannheim. Bayern lost the Southern German championship final but again qualified for the national championship. There, Bayern faced the already five-time national champion, Nürnberg, in the semi-final, but Bayern prevailed with Rohr getting on the score sheet in a 2:0 win.

Awaiting Bayern in the final was the Eintracht Frankfurt side that beat them in the Southern German championship final. Thousands of fans made their way to the city of Nürnberg to support Bayern in the final, and the club even picked up the cost for overnight stay and tickets for some.  Rohr opened the scoring in the first half through a penalty before Franz Krumm put the result beyond doubt 15 minutes from time to seal Bayern’s first national title. It was also the first national championship for a team from Munich, and it would certainly not be the last.