Re-elected Hoeness relishes Leipzig rivalry

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness being re-elected at the Bundesliga giants' annual general meeting. He has tasked himself with seeing off the challenge of pretenders to the throne RB Leipzig.
Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness being re-elected at the Bundesliga giants' annual general meeting. He has tasked himself with seeing off the challenge of pretenders to the throne RB Leipzig.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN • To chants of "OOOLLIII", to a standing ovation, to backslaps and hugging, Uli Hoeness was re-elected Bayern Munich president on Friday, the only candidate in the election at the German football club's annual general meeting, with 97 per cent votes cast.

The scenes were as emotional and remarkable as they had promised to be. But not everything during the evening went to plan.

A bulletin came from Hoeness' home province of Baden-Wuttemberg, where RB Leipzig had blitzed Freiburg 4-1 away from home.

Leipzig went six points clear of Bayern at the top of Bundesliga thanks to their victory, deepening the sense not all is quite as it should be for Germany's Goliath club - who also surrendered any chance of topping their Champions League group after they were surprisingly felled by Rostov on Wednesday.

The previous weekend Borussia Dortmund won a first "Der Klassiker" against Bayern in five attempts.

Bayern returned to winning ways by beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 on Saturday, but they are still three points behind Leipzig.

The Bayern members would have re-elected Hoeness anyway: he is their former playing star and general-manager and in many senses father of their club.

But, in football, current context always rules and the feeling in the Audi Dome was of a patriarch returning in a family's moment of vulnerability.

Hoeness was imprisoned in 2014 for evading more than £20 million (S$35.6 million) in taxes but has paid back his arrears and was released early on good behaviour.

"Leipzig is very hungry. A young team. They can run a lot and play good solid football. Their manager (Ralph Hasenhuttl) we know well (Hasenhuttl finished his playing career in Bayern's reserve team). We'll have to see how we deal with this situation," Hoeness said.

"In the winter break they will sign some more players. The more I think about it, it is good to have really good rivals. Good for us and for the competition."

Leipzig, funded by the Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull, have risen from the fifth tier to the German league summit in seven years and their model is to invest in upcoming stars. Their squad's average age is 23.

Hasenhuttl, nicknamed the "Alpine Klopp", previously performed miracles with Ingolstadt while promoting a high-speed, counter-attacking style.

Leipzig, unencumbered by European football, are being dubbed the "German Leicester".

At the AGM on Friday, there were continual tributes from the stage to Bayern's former manager Pep Guardiola. It was uncomfortable for the current manager Carlo Ancelotti, who was in the front row of the audience but left before the four-hour AGM ended.

Hoeness was among the Bayern top brass who reaffirmed their backing for the Italian.

It was not quite the dreaded vote of confidence, but the fact they needed to do so served to underline Bayern's blip.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Re-elected Hoeness relishes Leipzig rivalry'. Print Edition | Subscribe