FRISCO, Texas – For a young, up-and-coming soccer player, FC Bayern Munich is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Bayern – the current German and European champions – boasts one of the best academy systems in the world and has developed some of the game’s top players. Now, FC Dallas Homegrown defender Justin Che has earned the chance to join that system after agreeing to a five-month loan deal with FCB’s second team, Bayern Munich II, competing in the third tier of German soccer.
“For me, it’s an amazing experience that can change my future,” Che told FCDallas.com. “It’s a big step for me where I can learn a lot from some of the best players and coaches out there. They can teach me a lot of things in my position, as a player and as a person in general.”
Che joins Bayern II after impressing during a two-week training stint last month as part of FC Dallas’ Elite Player Development partnership with the German giants. The partnership allows FCD to send a select group of its Homegrown players to Munich during the offseason to benefit from extra training sessions at the much-lauded Bayern Campus. Che was one of six Homegrowns included in the annual trip this year.
“It’s important to highlight what a great partner Bayern has been to allow our players to have an experience training with one of the top clubs in the world,” said FC Dallas’ Technical Director André Zanotta. “In Justin’s case, we wanted to see how Bayern would evaluate him and see his tools and progression in his career. And the feedback was that we got was extremely positive and they asked us if they could have Justin on loan.”
For Che, the loan opportunity came as a more-than-pleasant surprise.
“Coming on the trip, I wanted to do my best and show what I had. I knew there was a possibility I could stay based on my performance. But I wasn’t really thinking that it would for sure happen. When I came, the coaches liked me and saw how I played. They wanted to keep me and as I kept showing and proving what I could do, things started moving faster and more talks started happening. On the last day of January – which is the close of the (transfer) window – I woke up and saw an audio message congratulating me that I had been loaned here for five months. I was kind of in shock and disbelief like ‘this is really happening.'"
Despite his understandable excitement, Che is doing his best to remain grounded. The defender only signed his first pro contract with Dallas last October after starring for the club’s USL affiliate North Texas SC during the shortened 2020 season. And, at just 17 years old, Che is aware that this opportunity is also a challenge for him as a player and person.
“It’s a big opportunity that I’ve always dreamed of—playing at one of the top clubs in the world. And it’s happening. But at the same time, being 17 and so young, I’m thinking to myself ‘wow, I’m already moving out. Away from family and friends and everything back home that I’m leaving behind.’ So, when the message hit me, all these little things started settling in and reality started checking with me. But my main goal is soccer and becoming a professional player with the best of my ability. So, this is just another step to that.”
Moving across the world as a teenager – even temporarily – is a tough prospect. But Che has a handful of advantages on his side. Che estimates he’s “75-85%” fluent in German thanks to his mother who was raised in the country (which is also why Che holds a German passport, making his loan move possible to begin with). Also, his maternal grandparents still live in Mannheim, Germany, a 3-hour train ride from Munich.
Challenges aside, the loan is a massive learning opportunity. Che has only played 16 professional games and will now be competing alongside Europe’s elite under the watchful eyes of Bayern’s coaching staff. In terms of development, there are few better places to be worldwide.
“For Justin, it’s important to be on his own and out of his comfort zone in a new environment with new teammates and a different coaching staff,” Zanotta said. “So, this will help him mature, help him develop as a person as well. On the sporting side, training with high-level players and high-level coaches, facing a different type of game will also help Justin’s progression.”
“I think it’s a huge benefit,” Che said on FCD’s partnership that opened the door for his loan. “Many kids across the world dream of something like this. It’s something that kids look forward to in the (FC Dallas) Academy. They can say ‘I want to work this hard to achieve that.’ I think it’s a big step and something that kids can look forward and realize the blessing and wonderful opportunity that they have being in a club that has a partnership with Bayern. If they continue working hard then anything is possible.”