Harry Kane gazes at you with the expression of a fellow countryman who has just spotted a familiar face in a foreign place. The grin, the firm handshake, and the instant discussion of cricket and England’s presence in India, all convey a feeling of mutual comfort and a sense that we are now on more familiar territory.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, I find myself in Kirchweidach, a small Bavarian village with a population of 2,000. Surrounded by picturesque landscapes, it is a quintessential Bavarian village with green pastures, frosty air, and charming homes adorned with BMWs. In the distance, the snow-capped peaks of the Alps add to the scenic view. However, it is important to note that this is not Walthamstow.
Kane is participating in a yearly trip for Bayern players to visit one of the many supporters’ club branches located throughout Germany. This particular club is owned by fans rather than a country or private investors, highlighting a significant contrast.
All of the people are wearing Bayern Munich shirts, except for one person who is wearing an “Kane” England shirt. Lederhosen are plentiful, Weiβbier is being served, and it is only 9:30am. However, they have been waiting in line since 8:30am to get into the cozy dining room of the nearby hotel, and Kane is not expected to arrive until 11am. The 18th-century Catholic church with a domed roof stands prominently in the small village square, chiming optimistically. It is likely that there will be fewer people in attendance today. The Hotel Gasthof zur Post is very crowded.
Fanclubs of Bayern in different parts of Germany have requested the club to assign them a player. The Kirchweidach branch stood out by sending a humorous video and has been chosen as the winner of the Bayern lottery. As a result, they have been given the opportunity to have the England captain on their team. There is a possibility of receiving another player a decade from now, if they are fortunate. This is a remarkable and unique moment for the village.
Kane concurs, in the privacy of their hotel room, that the past two hours were quite wild and unforgettable. It was a positive kind of crazy.
We are familiar with Captain Kane: he is sensible, dependable, and somewhat introverted. However, during this particular event, he was wild, unpredictable, and completely out of character. Kane was enthusiastically singing along to Bavarian chants, participating in the traditional Bavarian wedding custom of seasoning soup (symbolizing his union with Bavaria), and playing a unique version of curling using large litre beer steins instead of stones. He also took part in a game that we cannot comprehend, which involves tapping a nail into a barrel and ends with loud cheers and Harry emerging as the winner.
“Harry! Harry!” the crowd chant manically. It’s hard to do it all justice to how well this is going down. He tells the local media later that one of the reasons for coming to Germany was to embrace the local culture. In which case, this is a no-holds-barred Bavarian bear hug.
Kane excels in all of these tasks. He is responding to inquiries from nearby elementary school students. Who does he consider his top teammate? (“Eric Dier.”) Does he have a lot of money? (“Yes!”) What kind of animal does he like the most?
The man responds innocently to a sudden wave of negative reactions by saying “lion.” It turns out that the lion is the symbol of rivals 1860 Munich. Without hesitation, he prompts them to ask the question again. This time, he replies “a dog” and the crowd erupts in approval and laughter. Despite already having a good reputation for scoring 23 goals in 19 games in the Bundesliga, he continues to impress. He spends 45 minutes signing autographs and taking selfies to ensure that everyone has a happy day. We are told that another Bayern star had done the same in the past, but looked bored throughout. However, Kane never appears bored. He may be surprised at times, but he is always fully engaged.
After all the chaos and excitement, discussing England’s win in India feels like a safe haven of our unique English cultural quirks. “They actually won?!” exclaims one person as they share the news of the incredible victory. The representative from Bayern is confused when Tom Hartley’s seven wickets are brought up in conversation. Meanwhile, Kane has been keeping up with the game online, in between participating in a nail-hitting competition and singing along to songs.
On the previous evening, while returning from Augsburg where Kane scored once more in Bayern’s 3-2 victory, bringing them within two points of the top team Bayer Leverkusen, the coach filled with Bayern supporters was heard chanting “Harry Kane! Harry Kane! Harry Kane!” He may not be Gazza, but the excitement in Germany is sincere.
“It’s a truly unique experience, and moments like this really remind you of how valued you are,” he explains. “This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity like this. You often see fans at the stadiums, but here we are an hour and a half away from Munich, so it feels even more special. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the reception I’ve received has been incredible, and I am truly grateful for it.”
Prior to his arrival in Germany, it was common knowledge that Kane was a talented player. However, he has surpassed expectations and is currently on track to break the Bundesliga’s all-time goalscoring record, previously held by Bayern legend Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski himself had broken Gerd Müller’s record.
Kane expresses his gratitude for being compared to other names, especially in his first season. He feels that this recognition is a sign that he is doing well. There is a hint of relief in his response, as he never could have predicted such success. He explains that he is someone who likes to handle things calmly and adapt as needed. It is a different experience for him to be playing in a new country where he doesn’t know the language, but he is grateful that many people speak English. Adjusting to this new environment is not easy, but he is taking it one day at a time and slowly learning their customs and ways of doing things. He finds the current situation, which is unique and not something he experienced in England, quite enjoyable.
Kane has the ability to constantly surprise others. Despite appearing to have a stable life in London with his wife Katie and four children, he made a unexpected move to Germany. He will be promoting Children’s Mental Health Week through his foundation in the upcoming week. Beyond his consistent goal-scoring talent, there is more to him than meets the eye.
His family recently joined him, and it appears that the children are already picking up some German customs. They have started school and have gone skiing on the past few weekends, which has been beneficial for them. They have also made friends with parents at the school and teammates’ families. Over time, it begins to feel like home. People often inquire about the major differences, but many of the daily activities are similar. While they miss their friends and favorite activities from home, they are adapting to their new surroundings and making it their home.
I find the idea of skiing interesting, although it seems that £100m strikers are not allowed to participate. “I haven’t gone yet, but I do plan on watching them. They seem to really enjoy it. They might even learn the language before me.”
Although everything seems to be going well, it’s important to note that we are in Germany and Bayern is expected to win the Bundesliga. They have won the title for 11 consecutive years. On the other hand, Kane is known for never winning a trophy.
“It is challenging to emerge victorious, and this season serves as a prime example of that. There are high expectations for Bayern to win every season, but it has been a difficult one so far and there is still a long way to go. The Champions League presents its own challenges, with Lazio being our next opponent in the next round. The competition seems to be wide open and there is no clear frontrunner, but there is still an expectation for us to come out on top. While it may be different, I relish the opportunity to compete for titles. This season, we are in a strong race for the title and I hope that by the end, we will be the victorious team.”
This is the main reason why we are here. At Spurs, it was common for us to only have fourth place as our goal by February. In contrast, at Bayern, the real season is just beginning.
We are discussing the Ballon d’Or awards and Fifa’s The Best, where Kane has not been highly ranked. He placed 19th in last year’s Ballon d’Or. However, it is possible that his move to Germany and involvement in top end-of-season games, as well as leading England in the upcoming Euros, may change the overall perception of him. Kane acknowledges that while he has had great individual seasons in the past, the lack of team trophies may have hindered his chances of winning awards. He believes that individual awards are achieved through the success of the team and hopes to win the Bundesliga and Champions League with his team, as well as the Euros with England, in order to be considered for these awards.
He stops. “You’re familiar with me: I prefer not to dwell on those things. My focus is on leading my team to victory and I will continue to do so during the summer with England.” He is known as Captain Sensible, even amidst the chaotic atmosphere of Bavaria.