A special but almost forgotten president
However, his story is not well-known in the English speaking world. There is no English translation of his Wikipedia page, and although Bayern did feature him in a recent article, there is little other information available in English.
Angelo Knorr was president of FC Bayern in 1906-07, 1908-09 and 1910-13. In a relatively short space of time, he had a huge impact on the club. He was the first to appoint an English trainer, and to organise matches against English clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur. He was a forward-thinking and well-respected president, and a mentor to later president Kurt Landauer. In his short time as president, he was so well loved that he was made an honorary member of FC Bayern.
But there was something about Knorr which was deemed unacceptable by the society in which he lived. Today this would be something associated with pride, but in the 1910s, it was something that caused scandal and shame. Knorr was a homosexual.
When he was arrested becaue of his sexuality in 1913, his colleagues at FC Bayern were questioned. Nobody said a thing about Knorr’s homosexuality, but rather spoke of all of the wonderful things he had done for the club. Over 100 years ago, members of FC Bayern were able to see past their president’s (at the time, illegal and taboo) sexual tendencies, and see the loyal and talented friend and colleague instead.
His story does not have the happy ending befitting a successful club president. He was committed to an institution, subjected to cruel psychological testing, and eventually was forced to leave Munich. He led a quiet life away from his home city, married a woman in a marriage of convenience, and died at age 50, broken and depressed.
Knorr was a talented Chemist (the best in his University class), a progressive football president, a loyal friend – but most importantly he was a human being, who just happened to feel something that was considered abnormal for his times.
Thankfully we know better now, and at the end of January, FC Bayern decided to give the annual Day of Remembrance a special LGBTQ+ focus. Manuel Neuer wore the rainbow captain’s armband, and messages of love and support for the community were spread from the club’s social media accounts. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. When Bayern post about their efforts against homophobia, there is sadly always a noticeable slew of homophobic comments that follow. But it is encouraging to see a huge amount of support for Bayern’s progressive stance as well.
Bayern has a history of being progressive. One of the values is “be successful, but never forget the weak”. This can be seen in the club’s charitable giving, but also in the way the club vocally and repeatedly supports members of society who are oppressed, in need, or on the outside. Bayern’s respect for the LGBTQ+ community follows on from the valuable work they have done (and indeed, continue to do) to acknowedge and remember victims of the Holocaust, to promote women in football, and to support disabled people.
In our modern society, the cruel way that Angelo Knorr (and countless other LGBTQ+ people throughout history) were treated is thankfully a thing of the past. That is not the case throughout the world. Any acknowledgement by a global force such as Bayern Munich is a helpful catalyst for awareness, and perhaps eventually even change. On his birthday, and this day of love, let us remember Angelo Knorr and all of those around suffering because of who they love, and join with Bayern as they say “nie wieder!”, never again! to intolerance.