Professional footballers have a lot in common with children – well, at least the FC Bayern boys do in any case. On the one hand, they’re unpredictable, moody, and have real difficulty concentrating on one thing for 90 minutes, as shown by their poor 1:1 performance against a much weaker Nuremberg side last week. Then again, just like children, they can be fresh, creative and full of innocent pleasure, which is what the Bayern team was like yesterday as they stormed to a 5:1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.
The 29th match day of this Bundesliga season was a day of big-name duels. There was Frankfurt-Bremen, Stuttgart-Kaiserslautern and Mönchengladbach-Cologne, all of which were fights between relegation candidates – the latter, of course, was also something of a local Rhineland derby.
There was the Bavarian derby duel, too, with Munich up against Nuremberg. Attention was focussed pretty much exclusively on Bayern’s president Uli Hoeneß, though, who had had a real go at the club’s own fans last week after they gave him some flak for wanting to save TSV 1860, the other Munich club.
It’s been a dramatic few days, and as I write, a whole locker-room full of coaches is facing the sack, jockeying to try and find other teams or biting their nails about their first ever trip to the dole office. In fact, the kind of frenetic behind-the-scenes wrangling that’s been going on in the last couple of weeks is something of a novelty for most Bundesliga fans: Van Gaal, Magath, Veh, Skibbe, Littbarski, Dutt, Tuchel, Heynckes – 8 out of the 18 club trainers in Germany’s top football league are making more headlines than the teams they coach.
Just what was Bayern president Uli Hoeneß thinking? Or, more to the point, was he thinking at all? It’s certainly hard to believe that Hoeneß, in his time a national squad member and now former general manager of the best club in German football, had his brain in gear at all.
It’s been a week now, and football journalism has been talking about almost nothing except FC Bayern München. It all started on 29th October, when Hoeneß gave Louis van Gaal a verbal drubbing after the side’s victory on that day: he accused the Dutch coach of being “completely impervious to criticism”, of not doing enough to encourage all the members of the squad, and of not having prepared a plan in case important stars got injured.