Ryan Gibson, also known as Bayern Ryan is a highly unique Bayern Munich fan from Clover, South Carolina in the United States. His grandfather of German origin served in the US military toward the end of WWII. In Ryan’s words, his grandfather returned to Germany “to fight the evil that had taken over his home”.
Ryan’s own extraordinary life story began on December 15, 1982. He was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma, a rare eye cancer on February 6, 2016. His best option of survival was to amputate the afflicted eye. He did so in March of that year, replacing it with a Bayern logo some two months later.
Destiny struck again on New Year’s Eve of 2017/18 when a car accident severely damaged his legs. Hearing of his problems and his devotion to the club, Bayern helped with some of his medical bills.
In May 2019, Ryan came to Munich and lifted the German Bundesliga trophy with Franck Ribéry.
I had the pleasure of interviewing him on Tuesday:
Denis Knezovic: You kind of embody the Bayern spirit more than I’ve ever seen anyone do. How did you become a Bayern fan?
Ryan Gibson: I became a Bayern fan through my grandfather and father. My grandfather and father were in attendance for many matches in the mid to late 60s until the 70s, when they moved back to the US. My father was born in Heilbronn then moved to Munich. My grandfather’s family is from Munich and that is pretty much how I was born into the Bayern Munich family. My mother’s family is from Franconia (Bayreuth, Germany) so Bavaria is in my blood.
D.K: You pretty much supported them all your life, then?
Ryan Gibson: Pretty much. It wasn’t easy to do until the internet. Once that time came it made it much easier to follow them.
Before that it was international calls from family, that didn’t happen often. Besides that, it was letters or taped matches mailed. And we all know how long mail takes to get to the US from Germany. So, before the internet, it was always information weeks or months after the fact. Technology has made it tremendously easier to follow the club and to connect with more fans. For years I was made fun of because there weren’t many Bayern fans in small- town, South Carolina, USA.
D.K.: Wow, amazing! How did you manage to stay interested during the early years?
Ryan Gibson: My grandfather’s stories. We talked every now and then about Bayern. We would watch World Cups when they were televised here and even went to one in the US in 1994.
D.K: How would you describe getting diagnosed with cancer?
Ryan Gibson: That period in my life seemed like a transition from one version to a new one because a diagnosis like that brings a lot to the surface. You find out you aren’t invincible. You realize you no longer have control of the time on this earth, and you need to start putting out the best you. Once I got that diagnosis, I made a promise to my grandfather to do all I could to make the world better. Some days I have failed in that promise, but I always try to do the best I can. I am only human so some days I live up to it. I just made a vow that day to live on my terms and haven’t looked back since.
D.K.: That’s a great attitude to life, is the cancer fully cured?
Ryan Gibson: No, it has gotten worse in some ways. I cough blood daily and my immune system is not working properly.
I don’t normally let many know what is with that, because I am living on borrowed time. So, I just keep that close to the chest. I don’t want to alarm anyone or add any sadness to friends. They have their own issues in their lives to add that to them.
D.K.: But Bayern keeps you going?
Ryan Gibson: Yes, they are pretty much all I have. I fail at romantic and a lot of friend relationships and no matter what Bayern Munich, its players, and fans stand eternal. They are the only constant in my life, the opposite of the physical and mental ailments that haunt me on a daily and hourly basis. I find my strength from the players, club and the family I have made through this amazing club.
D.K.: Was meeting Franck Ribéry and holding up the Meisterschale your best memory as a Bayern fan?
Ryan Gibson: Holding the Meisterschale was nothing in comparison to meeting Franck Ribéry.
Meeting him was a culmination of two journeys in life finally meeting.
His story and journey through life drastically impacted me and the way I looked at my cancer, eye, accident and life period.
Besides my grandfather, no one has had a larger impact on making me the man I am today then Franck.
Nothing could compare to meeting him and speaking to him. The moment I hugged, him every bit of the emotion I have held since my diagnosis poured out and I completely broke down and he was there to say “everything will be ok, my friend don’t cry”. He kissed my cheek and I instantly felt better.
D.K.: Thanks, and all the best!