Tickets for Manchester City-Bayern Munich match at Lambeau Field go on sale Friday
GREEN BAY – Manchester City fan Gordon Hintz and Bayern Munich fan Mike Leischner are among thousands of soccer fans who eagerly awaited today's announcement that their teams will play in Lambeau Field in July.
"I don't try to miss opportunities to go to Lambeau Field for any reason," said Hintz, a Democratic legislator from Oshkosh who was a soccer fan long before he became a lawmaker.
The Green Bay Packers and the European soccer giants on Monday announced the teams will stage a friendly — an exhibition match — at 6 p.m. July 23 at Lambeau Field, the gist of which leaked at the end of March.
Ticket prices for the Manchester City-Bayern Munich match at Lambeau Field
Tickets for what they are calling the USA Cup range from $35 to $160 and will go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday on Ticketmaster.com for Packers season ticket holders, and at 10 a.m. Friday for the general public. Buyers are limited to eight tickets.
Sales to season ticket holders and official supporters of Bayern and Manchester City will begin May 3 at 10 a.m. in their local time zones.
It is recommended that fans who do not already have a Ticketmaster account, set one up before they try to purchase tickets. That's especially important when tickets are in high demand.
A dream for Manchester City and Bayern Munich fans in Wisconsin
Seth Harnishfeger of Toledo, Ohio, a Manchester City fan, was at Lambeau in January for the Packers-Minnesota Vikings game and is eager to get back.
"I'm going to do everything I can," he said. The Vikings game was very cold, but he enjoyed being embedded with fans who were cheering for the same team as he was.
"It was awesome. Everything lived up to expectations," he said.
Seeing two superb soccer teams play at Lambeau Field checks off a couple of boxes, Leischner said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Manchester City, also called Man City, and just City if you're among other committed soccer fans, is in the English Premier League, and it is, in fact, one of the league's premier teams. Bayern Munich is the top team in Germany's Bundesliga.
Each team has a surprising number of North American fans who came about their fandom in ways that resemble descriptions of how European fans came to love the Green Bay Packers.
Hintz, during his junior year in college, studied in York, England, where Leeds United was his regional team, but Man City was his "I hate Manchester United" choice.
"I guess my original, 27-year-ago-decision to get a Manchester City jersey was primarily a protest against Manchester United," Hintz said. "It was sort of the height of Britpop and (the band) Oasis is from Manchester and they are City fans, so there is probably an element of a 21-year-old living in England who embraced that."
Mike Leischner's family hosted an exchange student from Germany when he was in elementary school. They stayed in touch for many years and one Christmas he received a Bayern Munich shirt.
"It had branding on it that said 'Rekordmeister,' which is German for record champions," he said. "They explained to me, 'yeah, these guys are the best team ever. They are even better than the New York Yankees, or anyone else.'"
It was about 1998 and mostly pre-internet, so being a fan took work, but he was intrigued.
"I was like well, sweet. That's cool. They've got a really cool name, they've got a really cool nickname," he said. "I guess if I'm going to be a German soccer fan, I'm going to be a Bayern fan."
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Adam Bartels of New Prague, Minnesota, was introduced to soccer by Leischner. Bartels grew up in a very German part of Minnesota, so Bayern Munich seemed a logical choice.
"It was one of those things, one of those subliminal things where I saw the Bavarian flag all over the town of New Ulm growing up," Bartels said.
The flag is incorporated into the team's logo and Bartels said they had players who were fun to watch.
It might seem ironic to soccer haters, but boredom led Seth Harnishfeger of Toledo, Ohio, to becoming a fan.
"I can thank COVID for that because during quarantine, with no sports, with being bored, I found myself watching a lot of YouTube ... seeing a lot of soccer moments," Harnishfeger said.
Younger than the others, he had immediate access through videos, the internet and streaming services, where Man City caught his eye. "I consumed all that media and it was like a fast track to be a superfan for them."
Unlike Hintz, the others did not grow up playing soccer. Bartels and Harnishfeger credit EA Sports' FIFA video games with learning the rules and game play.
Learning the game
Leischner learned the old-fashioned way. By the time he was in college, access was becoming better. He would watch Champions League matches on Fox Sports Net and listen to veteran announcers Martin Tyler and Derrick Rae.
"You would start to see that there's reasons, there are tactics behind why the ball's being passed back, behind why that cross is getting put into the spot where it's getting put," he said. "There's actual strategy, there's actual athleticism to this because when you've got a 40-yard cross going over the field, that's not different than throwing 40 yards across the field in (American) football and being able to put it right there on a dime."
Hintz and Leischner appreciate the two big differences between soccer and American football, the constant action and fixed game time.
"The complaint they have about American football is the stop and starting," Hintz said of European soccer fans. "I think the American football fans' complaint is nothing happens even if the clock is running.
"While I understand both things, and I enjoy both sports, soccer is all about spacing. A big difference between watching it on TV and watching it in person, it allows you to see the whole field, watch how players move, think about the shape of the 10 men on the field and how they are setting up to play."
Leischner likes that games are two hours and then you can get on with your day. "It's not like baseball, which goes three-to-who-knows-how-many-hours. Football is about three hours, that way."
He and Bartels joked that once they started watching MLS soccer (the American league), football seemed slow.
"In the American football games there's what, 14 actual minutes of action, if not even that," he said.
Manchester City's ascendance
When Hintz became a fan, Man City, founded in 1880, was not the power it now is.
"It was sort of the working-class, down-and-out bad team that would sort of go up and down between the top-level league and being relegated to the lower division," he said. "A lot has changed since then. Primarily, incredible foreign ownership that has elevated them to one of the most successful teams in the world."
Since luring coach Pep Guardiola from Bayern Munich, Man City won three of the last four league championships and is one point ahead of Liverpool this season.
Bayern Munich, founded in 1900, has had 31 championship and 10 runner-up seasons since the Bundesliga officially launched 58 years ago. This year it won its 10th consecutive Bundesliga championship. It also won six Champions League cups among other accomplishments. Guardiola managed Bayern from 2013 to 2016, before moving to Man City.
"We are really fortunate to have two global powers come to the mecca of American football, but I think they recognized that Lambeau Field really is a global stadium destination for whatever sport is there," Hintz said.
The last time the two teams played one another in the United States was 2018 at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium in an International Champions Cup match. Man City won 3-2.
Fans are involved
It remains to be seen how fans will approach the game at Lambeau. Soccer at European matches is an interactive experience. It's standard for fans in Europe to sing and chant throughout the game, much more than do fans at American football games.
"The fact that you can be around camaraderie like that, singing Mia San Mia, which translates to 'we are who we are,' Bayern's rallying cry, that's kind of whipped cream on the top," Leischner said.
While it's likely that soccer fans will fill most of Lambeau Field's seats, Bartels believes some fans who don't know they are fans yet will be converted, as he was.
"I think it's going to open some eyes like it did for me back in 2012," he said. "If someone goes into it, that might be the kind of thing that gets them hooked and all of a sudden they become a soccer fan."
Harnishfeger introduced a friend and fellow Packers fan to soccer and that worked out, to a point.
"I've been trying to get him into soccer because I don't have any friends who are into it," he said. "He said, 'I'll look into it.'
"And he decided to be a Liverpool fan."
Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/.