If one were to list out the names of “Legends” that have graced the ranks of FC Bayern München in one capacity or another throughout her glorious history, then it might not be any exaggeration to claim that an entire book could be written.
A multitude of heroes have etched their name in the folklore of the club’s past as moments mixed with magic have given rise to memories that have, and will, last a lifetime. Let’s take a moment to turn back the clock and pay tribute to a few of those imperious characters that have defined Bayern, and try to find out if there was anyone who could be defined as “the most important person in the club’s history”.
It started way back on February 27th, 1900 when a group of 11 rebels broke away from the Munich gymnastics club and went on to form the team we know today – FC Bayern München. The leader of the gang was a man named Franz John. Without him, it could well be argued that there wouldn’t be any Bayern to support.
Back in the early days, 2 special coaches left their mark to be forever remembered, namely: The Englishman – William Townley, who was the first ever professional coach in Bayern’s history, and The Austrian – Richard Kohn, who won Bayern her first ever German title in 1932.
One of the most special men would undoubtedly be Kurt Landauer, who serves as a symbol of Bayern’s struggle (and triumph) against the Nazi regime that plagued Germany. Bayern who were targeted as a “Jew club” were persecuted by the Nazi party and forced to suffer. Players fled and the team was eventually close to demise.
Kurt Landauer was the erstwhile President of the club, who also happened to be a Jew. He tried to remain in charge of Bayern for as long as it was possible before eventually leaving the country. However, once a Bayern man always a Bayern man.
After the war, Kurt Landauer returned to the club and oversaw her slow progress back into the big time. He served as the ultimate symbol of the triumph against the oppression; that no matter how destructive the forces of evil were, we never bowed.
Wilhelm Neudecker who was the President of the club from 1962-1979 also deserves special recognition, and he is rightfully regarded as the “father of the modern FC Bayern”.
Amongst the players who have scribbled their names into the hearts of the fans, there are far too many to name, but to honor a few, we shall try our best:
Franz “The Bull” Roth was an exceptional player who had the uncanny ability to score goals in important European matches. His goal in the 1967 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Rangers earned Bayern her first ever European triumph. He also scored against Leeds United and St. Etienne in the 1975 and 1976 European Cup Finals, earning the club her 2nd and 3rd titles in that competition.
Franz Beckenbauer needs no introduction. The Kaiser was an integral member of the team that dominated Germany and Europe, achieving success that many dream of but only a few ever realize. There are quite literally no words that can express how important this man was for the club.
Gerd Müller scored and scored and scored and scored some more. He averaged a goal virtually every single game throughout his long and illustrious career, and is often regarded as the greatest goal scorer in Germany’s history and perhaps even in World football.
Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck is a legend for not just his brilliant play, but also the moment of all moments when it comes to Bayern and European Cup finals. With 119 minutes on the clock, Schwarzenbeck had the ball and ambled forward into enemy territory with Bayern trailing Atletico Madrid by a goal to nil.
Müller begged for the ball but Beckenbauer screamed for him to take the shot. To the agony of Gerd, Schwarzenbeck listened to The Kaiser’s advice, and the ball flew past half a dozen legs before at long last coming to a halt in the back of the net.
That goal enabled the only replay of a European Cup Final which Bayern won 4-0 (Gerd Müller netted a brace). Had that goal never arrived, there is literally no telling whether Bayern would be a successful club today or not.
At the risk of becoming boring and with a long list of players of who all simply cannot be mentioned, perhaps now is the time to fast forward to some of the greatest names.
From Klaus Augenthaler to Kuffour, From Matthaeus to Jeremies, From Maier to Kahn, From Breitner to Lahm, and From Rummenigge to Elber; the story of FC Bayern München tells the tale of a vast number of world class players who have helped shape the destiny of Bayern into what we see in the here and now.
However, with that being said, there is one man, who in this author’s opinion, absolutely towers over every single name that has been and can be mentioned. That man is: Uli Hoeness.
Ulrich “Uli” Hoeness was born on 5th January 1952 in Ulm, but has been associated with Bayern since 1970 when he signed a professional contract. This would mean that the connection between Mr. Hoeness and FC Bayern would now be 44 years old, much older than quite a few fans of the club.
As a player, he was quite good although it’s hard to say that he was one of the greatest. However, he did have some splendid moments that just add to his legendary status at the club.
In 8 and a half year’s worth of service as a professional footballer, Hoeness scored 86 goals in 239 league games. He won 8 trophies in this period, including 3 German and European Championships. Intriguingly, in the 1974 European Cup Final (replay) against Atletico Madrid, Hoeness had one of his greatest ever performances in a Bayern jersey as he contributed 2 goals in a 4-0 win.
However, in the 1975 European Cup Final against Leeds United, Hoeness suffered a vicious knee injury from which he never truly recovered. Although, he and the team did go on to win the match, if that were any consolation.
As an International, he represented West Germany 35 times (scoring 5 times) and went on to win 1 World Cup and 1 European Championship.
However, these are mere footnotes compared to the reason why he is regarded as the single most influential person in the history of FC Bayern München.
It began in 1979 when Uli Hoeness was appointed as the Commercial/General Manager of Bayern. At that time, Bayern were in a financial crisis and success was hard to come by.
It is extremely hard to express just how scary a situation this truly was. Think about all the teams of the past who were great but would later become a shell of their former glorious selves or would fade away entirely due to the crisis of money. Whether it was Moenchengladbach or Nottingham Forest, there are plenty of teams who can testify to the importance of being financially sound while harboring a strong team on the pitch.
Hoeness was determined to save Bayern from such a disaster. He aimed to make Bayern a force to be reckoned with on the pitch but also find stability in the financial aspect of the club. With time as a witness to his deeds, he has succeeded… magnificently.
To find that financial stability, Hoeness’ first major decision as the General Manager was to authorize the sale of star striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to Inter Milan. The money from the sale effectively wiped away all debts, and Bayern have never operated in the red ever since.
However, it wasn’t just enough to be free from debts; it was perhaps even more important to increase the earnings. In this aspect, Hoeness has been acknowledged as a true visionary. He knew the value of commercialization far before the sport would become the money minded craze it is today.
He foresaw the steps that would pave the way to Bayern becoming the no.1 team with regards to money earned through commercial revenue. Smart sponsorship deals and recognizing the value of a having a global image, Mr. Hoeness led the way for other German clubs to follow.
And yet, it just doesn’t end there, for monetary success was just a part of the equation. Under Hoeness’ guidance, Bayern have been the only constant in the history of German football. Great teams have come and gone – with the likes of Hamburger SV, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart amongst others having all tired to become the ultimate force, and while they have undoubtedly had their moments of success, only Bayern has ever survived the vicious onslaught of time and has remained consistently at the very top of the mountain.
But getting away from football for a second, it’s hard to not take into account what a brilliant human being Mr. Hoeness truly is, and how undoubtedly his virtues have been instilled into the blood of FC Bayern München.
To get the elephant out of the way, we will not shy away from his major wrong either. He suffered an addiction with regards to the stock market, and would ultimately evade taxation by creating an account in Switzerland which catered to this addiction.
However, one wrong deed simply cannot wipe away a lifetime of good. But even before we get to that, it is also important to note that Mr. Hoeness is undoubtedly sleeping in the bed that he has made. He has paid back all the amount that was owed along with the fine imposed, and has not been shy to admit his mistakes and rectify them.
Putting that aside, what about the good that he has done?
Keeping in line with finances, it is also very important to remember that Uli Hoeness has given Millions of Euros to various charities. And yet, that seems again like a very small part of what makes him truly special.
The real greatness of Mr. Hoeness lies in how he has taken care of people. On a broader scale, he has helped with the integration of immigrants in Germany through football. With him at the helm, Bayern have gone out of their way to help out a multitude of clubs such as Dressden, St. Pauli, Pahl, Fortuna Sittard, Borussia Dortmund, and so many others, while at the same time playing benefit matches and raising money for people who have been affected from natural disasters.
On a personal scale, Hoeness has saved so many lives that it’s hard not to feel overawed by the mere aura of the man.
It was Mr. Hoeness who saved Gerd Müller from his alcohol addiction and guided him to a new life, by giving him a purpose (setting him up as a coach of Bayern’s youth team which he still is today). He is known to have sat by the beds of injured players and not left their side, giving them hope for a better tomorrow, but has also gone even further in some instances when the situation demanded.
He made sure that when (former player who did not succeed) Breno was put in prison, the doors to Bayern still remained open to him in some capacity (as a coach to the youth team) to ensure that he would pull through the difficult time. More tellingly, during the time that Breno was in prison, Hoeness still paid his salary to his wife and child, so that they never had to fear what would happen tomorrow.
When (bright prospect of the youth team) Hojbjerg came to Hoeness and broke down in front of him, telling him about the condition of his father who was suffering from cancer, Hoeness immediately made phone calls and ensured that the elder Hojbjerg would be treated for his disease by the best doctors in Germany. Today, the senior Hojbjerg who was supposed to pass away in 6 months has a great chance to survive thanks to of course, the brilliant doctors who have treated him and the compassionate heart of Uli Hoeness who immediately guided him to them.
Hasan Salihamidzic often recalls how Mr. Hoeness would set up BBQ brunches in the past for the players, and even said that he genuinely regards him as a “second father”. When Uli Hoeness said that he wanted FC Bayern to be a family club, he not only meant it but also led by example.
Today, we are who we are because of the hard work of an enormous number of legends who came together to create something very beautiful, but perhaps none quite so important as the man who loved Bayern like his own child – Mr. Uli Hoeness.
Whether it is Bayern’s incredible financial situation that has come without the support of any rich sugar daddy or the star studded team that has world class players or prospects in every position, or the altruistic and philanthropic nature of the club that goes beyond the call of duty whenever a situation demands, the foundations were all laid by Mr. Uli Hoeness.
We are a club that has been cast in the image of this great man, and there can be no better conclusion to this article than the words of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who perfectly described Mr. Hoeness’ position at Bayern, “He is the Master of the Universe here”.
Mia San Mia.
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