Hardly any district is so shaped by football as Giesing, the home of the 1860 Munich team. Between Grünwalder Stadium and traditional football pubs, authentic football culture is still thriving here. This is particularly clear on a typical match day, when locals walk to the stadium en masse and the entire neighbourhood is filled with the noise of the fans.
One balmy summer evening in 2017 turned into a real people's celebration. The fans had been waiting 4333 days for it to come. That evening, thousands donned blue football shirts and lederhosen to make a pilgrimage to the century-old Grünwalder Stadium in the heights of Giesing, some carrying children on their shoulders or with tears running down their faces – “Finally my boy can see 1860 Munich in their true home.” For the prodigal sons had returned: the TSV 1860 Munich players would be back where they belong, and no longer in the Allianz Arena football stadium which they had shared with city rival FC Bayern.
Following the fall from the second to the fourth division, 2000 new members signed up, and only 200 left.
Oddly enough, this day of rejoicing was the result of a relegation that threatened the club's existence. The club had tried to play alongside the very big teams for a decade, and they had crashed and burned in doing so. Their homecoming 3:1 win against Wacker Burghausen was celebrated in the fourth division – amateur, not professional football. At first most fans did not care. “Out of the arena” was something they had always wanted to sing as they took the game back to the ‘Sechzgerstadion’ – one of the least refined football locations in the Republic.
It is bordered by twee garden fences on the south side and houses on the east, and residents have been watching matches from their window sills since the post-war years. Now they would be able do so again, for example from the famous ‘VIP lounge’ – which is in fact a skylight window. The euphoria unleashed by the return of the ‘Lions’ to their home district was even measurable in 2017: following the fall from the second to the fourth division, 2000 new members signed up, and only 200 left.
There is probably no other club so bound to a district as TSV 1860 Munich, which was playing home games on Grünwalder Strasse right back in 1911. Their local identification is so strong that for the majority of fans the club's home is more important than the official league – in fact, the Sechzgerstadion does not meet Bundesliga requirements. This is part of what makes the Lions such a fitting part of an area that would rather be defined by its down-to-earth character than must-see Munich attractions.
There is probably no other club so bound to a district as TSV 1860 Munich, which was playing home games on Grünwalder Strasse right back in 1911.
So to get to know Munich from its natural side, visitors here are best off visiting the Grünspitz green city park after a ‘Sechziger’ home game. By summer 2021, the team had celebrated a promotion and the stadium was constantly sold out. The pandemic has meant an additional forced break of 511 days before fans were allowed inside the stadium, and to frequent the surrounding areas after the final whistle.
The season kick-off closes as an exciting 1:0 win against the Würzburger Kickers, and everything quickly falls back into place: beer is flowing in the pubs, with Trepperlwirt right opposite the stadium and Riffraff, towards Silberhornstrasse U-Bahn station the favoured choices of dyed-in-the-wool supporters. Some only get themselves a ‘Weghoibe’ beer to go, so they can take it to the Grünspitz for a thorough post-match analysis.
Hundreds of people stand around, joyfully knocking beer glasses together with much laughter. It seems like everyone has known each other forever. Many are from Giesing, though a few come from further afield. Erich, from Switzerland, tells us how he became a real fan on a visit to Munich in 1994. He says that there was a “mythology” about 1860 Munich. The long-distance supporter himself notes: “While they were playing in the Olympiastadion and the Arena, I wasn’t here as often. I was so excited when Sechzig dropped down a league, as it meant they would play in Giesing again.”
A young guy in a felt hat passes, carrying with him a life-sized cardboard figure with ‘Resi Stenzia’ written on it. This made-up name intentionally suggests the Latin word for resistance, and has been adopted as the name for a local icon that the Untergiesing Action Group is proposing: a bronze statue of a fictional female worker to stand as a monument to this district’s traditional roots. This campaigner was also, however, a very active member of the highly notorious Cosa Nostra group of 1860 ultras.
Next to him stands ten-year-old Silas, who is here with his father. Talking about his trip to the stadium, he thinks it’s just amazing “that you can cycle here in ten minutes.” He's been there often and can recite every detail of his seat (“Stehhalle stand, block O, row 17...”) and he tells us that he thinks the Sechzger’s stadium “doesn't look like a toilet bowl”. This is a reference to more modern football arenas.
“While they were playing in the Olympiastadion and the Arena, I wasn’t here as often. I was so excited when Sechzig dropped down a league, as it meant they would play in Giesing again.”
He goes on to tell us, scowling earnestly, that his friends at school are “mostly glory supporters”. Of course we know what he means by that: Bayern fans. Silas is wearing a white T-shirt that says “Red bastards”. We ask if his dad brought him up to be a Lions fan. Absolutely. But young fans like Silas show how important it was for the club to return to Giesing: he would never have cycled to the arena, and he wouldn’t feel any connection with it – unlike the stadium, which he has even given a presentation about in school.
“Things have been good for me here again since 2017,” says none other than Axel Dubelowski – known locally as the Löwenbomber or ‘Lions’ bomber’ – echoing the sentiments of other locals as well as long-experienced bouncers at the city-centre Atomic Café. Dubelowski lives in Untergiesing. As a point of honour, in summer 2021 this man in his late 40s had viewed 1171 games played by his favourite club via app. For the Würzburg match though, he was not in the Stehhalle stand like Silas, but back in the Westkurve for the first time. “It's even more like coming home,” he says happily, because it brings back memories of his youth.
He does not think much of the big-man mentality that briefly took over at the club. “At that time, you hardly met anyone you knew as you walked through the arena. These days, when you come to Giesing before or after a home game, you meet so many people who you also want to see again. I think that's great,” says Dubelowski.
Legend has it that renowned player Franz Beckenbauer opted to join FC Bayern because he had been slapped by a Sechziger at a youth tournament.
There are certainly some fans who find a local club too provincial. They'll say, “We're not FC Giesing – we're the great TSV 1860, who won the German Championship in 1966!” But on Grünspitz, people just like to be ordinary. Perhaps the Sechziger would be more successful today if ‘Der Kaiser’ had opted for the Blues rather than the Reds at the time – legend has it that renowned player Franz Beckenbauer opted to join FC Bayern because he had been slapped by a Sechziger at a youth tournament. He was born only a few hundred metres from the stadium and Grünspitz.
It's true that FC Bayern also has its roots here, and their second team also plays at Grünwalder – but anyone visiting his old home at Zugspitzstrasse 6, for a souvenir photo, will usually discover an 1860 Munich sticker on the doorbell. Beckenbauer may well have been the best German footballer of all time, but Giesing is forever blue.