Preview: Uli Hesse, “Creating a global Superclub”
There is no shortage of books about FC Bayern Munich. How did you come up with the idea to write a chronicle about the club?
These books are not rare, in German, but as far as I know there is no English book that goes into detail about FC Bayern. That’s remarkable, considering how many international followers the club has generated in recent years. So I had the idea to offer this book at the beginning of 2013. German football was all over the news, because the whole world wanted to know how to get two teams in the Champions League final without a Russian oligarch or a stinking rich sheikh. And now the punchline: the idea didn’t go ahead! Instead I published a rework of the German book “Tor!” at the end of 2013. A couple months later, in the summer of 2014, a literature agent contacted me out of the blue. He said, an English publisher is planning a book about Bayern Munich, but the author left the project. Could I help out? That seemed like a twist of fortune for me and I instantly accepted the offer.
What do you think have been the decisive elements/events or individuals in Bayern Munich’s history? What has made the club what it is today?
In the book I cover the founding of the club and I talk about how some of the reoccurring aspects over the 116 years of the club have already been noticeable from the very beginning. For example how the founding fathers were creative, educated, liberal people, who had something of a cosmopolitan background. At the same time these people were stubborn in a positive way. This mixture of progressiveness and stubbornness has not diminished to this date.
The significance of Kurt Landauer is appreciated and the common knowledge that FC Bayern Munich would be a different club without Uli Hoeneß. Nevertheless the crucial events beyond doubt happened in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At one point in the book I write that the 1950s have been somewhat neglected due to obvious reasons, but that one could argue that 1958 was the most important year in the history of the club. If not for a couple of events in that year, the golden generation would not have been possible.
The early years of the club in particular have been publicly discussed recently. What is your point of view concerning the proceedings at FC Bayern before and during the time of the Nazi era?
That is such an interesting topic, because to most of my readers – the Bayern fans from abroad – this history is probably completely new. When I published “Tor!”, in the beginning of 2002, even a couple of German fans approached me to tell me they have never heard the name Landauer before.
By now that has completely changed, at least since the tifo by “Club Nr. 12” [remembering Landauer]. Since then new material about this topic has been constantly published, but as a non-historian I think that nothing has been able to cast a completely new light on the matter. Like Christoph Biermann recently analyzed so well in the German football magazine “11Freunde”, this historian’s dispute is predominantly a dispute between historians who just can’t stand each other.
Modern day FC Bayern is transforming into an internationally operating corporation more and more. How do you rate this development, which by some is perceived as an alienation from the original roots?
Of course I know that many fans get the impression that this development was radically accelerated under Guardiola. I talk about that in my book, because the reader – in my opinion – cannot understand FC Bayern, as long as he doesn’t grasp the importance of finding the right balance between honest down-to-earthness and a deliberate taste of megalomania. As soon as the scale tips to one side, this creates a problem.
Nevertheless I think – as someone with a professional view from distance – Bayern Munich is still managing this balancing act better than many others, maybe due to their vast experience with it. In Dortmund, for example, the exact same discussion is taking place right now. The active fan scene there is highly disgruntled with the direction in which their club is heading.