END OF THE LINE: Uli Hoeness, (soon to be former) President of FC Bayern Munich and The Soccer Team

Newsflyer and Food for Thought on the Prison Sentence of Uli Hoeness

A question for the forum: If you were the judge, and you would find out that a well-known person evaded taxes in the tens of millions of dollars, how many years would you sentence him, and how should he serve his time?
When looking at the decision of Uli Hoeness, the (still) President of the German soccer club FC Bayern Munich- serving only 3.5 years in prison for keeping 28.4 million Euros worth of taxes away from the German treasury- one can dub this as an insult to the German judicial system, to democracy, and to the people living in Germany.  Evading such high amounts of taxes, the money that could easily have helped 10,000 unemployed people, or used to improve the infrastructure and education system in Germany, warrants tougher penalties. This especially as Europe has heard about scams in the US, done by the filthiest, like Bernie Madoff, who in 2009 was sentenced to 150 years for a ponzi scam that consumed billions of dollars in assets from hundreds of people affected.  Hoeness is no better than those bunches who are serving at least 50 years for their crimes. As a judge, 27 years, one year for every million squeezed out of the workers in Germany earning that well-deserved money,  is considered modest to today’s standards. But given the fact that Germany’s maximum sentence is 10 years for major tax fraud, one has to push for the maximum to show the public that even the rich and famous should set an example for others to follow and serve the same time as the common person. That unfortunately failed in this case, and many people are still asking “Why?”

On the flip side, Hoeness will cast a dark shadow on the soccer team, for despite the team winning the triple crown last year (the Bundesliga Championship, the German Cup and the Champions League Title), and there are no barriers in the way for them to repeat in 2014, that will be it for the team. While the team is still the most successful and most popular team in Germany, the tax scandal will surely lead to Hoeness to step down and another person to take over, creating the end of continuity for the team.  High-paying players will distance themselves from the team after this season, fewer people will attend home games at Allianz Arena, and many contenders, like Dortmund, Leverkusen, Berlin and Schalke (Gelsenkirchen) will line up to take some well-deserved and long awaited shots at the team on the field- not to mention the Bundesliga title for next year.  From the author’s point of view, once deemed an example and icon for future generations to follow, many will now associate FC Bayern Munich with Uli Hoeness and his secret Swiss account, where he stashed his money from others who are in need, and is now paying the price for it.  As morally conscious and liberal as Germany is as a whole, even in Bavaria, people will turn their backs on their team, showing the younger people that screwing people out of their assets is legally and morally wrong and should be punished accordingly.

While Hoeness will spend that jail time in comfort (a minimum security prison), the damage has been done already, and Bayern Munich’s downfall is set to come. Enjoy the 2014 season while you still can. The next season will be even more interesting to watch as things unravel for Hoeness and his (soon to be former) team.

Ghost goal in German Soccer!

Frage for the Forum:

Each sport has its own controversial play that causes fans to scream “FOUL!” and players to scratch their heads. Last year we had the controversial touchdown in American football, which never existed. (See links to the play and the fan reaction)  This outcry over the lack of competence among substitute referees led to the original refs and the National Football League to agree to a salary increase.

This contagion has made its way to Germany, which prides itself on a different form of football.

Already fans of one team getting the short end of the stick is demanding a recall of a goal that happened in the German Premier League game on Saturday, where 1899 Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen played ball that ended in the latter winning 2:1. Yet with this goal, which occurred in the first half of the game, may end up becoming a center of controversy that will go beyond the German Soccer League DFL and the International Soccer League FIFA!

While Hoffenheim has demanded a replay of the game, the decision to even overturn the goal seems unlikely, because of FIFA. According to the rules and regulations as stated by German channel ARD, replaying the game on the part of DFB  is only possible if the game is manipulated, doping is imminent, dangerous objects are thrown on the field which can delay the game indefinitely, if an ineligible player plays, or if the referee violates the rules in a soccer game. Unfortunately, the hole in the net on the side of the goal, where the ball from Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling foot ended up going through enroute to a goal and a 1:0 lead, does not seem to be the basis for replaying the game, according to FIFA. While DFB will investigate the goal and the miscue on the part of the referee to determine whether a replay or other measures will be needed, the decision to legitimize the measure lies solely on FIFA, and this is where the problems will occur. Already FIFA had threatened to ban the German soccer team from participating in the World Cup in 1998 for a similar case involving Nuremberg and Bayern Munich, yet having a hole in the net that is big enough for a soccer ball to fit in, plus the infamous phantom goal is considered fair in soccer?

While such an international umbrella, like FIFA, is worried about the efficiency of soccer play on the international front, such controversial calls, like this one, should not be ignored. In fact tougher measures should be carried out, like thorough inspection of the nets, ensuring that the refs officiate correctly, and lastly ensuring that miscues like this one should be avoided, or if they occur, then the ruling should be for the benefit of the teams affected. It is most likely that after this goal that the DFB will look at and modify the rules to ensure that these measures are included in the rule book.  Efficiency in the game is one aspect. Transparency and fairness are even better for the sport.

It will be interesting to see whether Hoffenheim will get their wish and replay the game against Leverkusen. If not, the team is not alone. The Green Bay Packers suffered a similar fate in American football last year when the touchdown that never was a touchdown went into the hands of the Seattle Seahawks anyway, yet changes in the rules of the game followed afterwards. It will most likely that if the ruling is against Hoffenheim happens, it will not mean that the rules in the soccer game will stay the same. They too will change, after the DFB looks at the results of the 2013-14 season to determine which ones are needed. And the infamous ghost or phantom goal will be one of the first on their agenda.

Frage for the Forum:

After reading the article and looking at the video, what would you, as a member of a professional soccer league, do in a situation similar to the one that happened in the game between Hoffenheim and Leverkusen?  Do you nullify the goal and end the game in a 1:1 tie or do you allow for the game to be replayed entirely? What are your reasons for it?

Place your comments in the Comment section or in the facebook section of the Files and see what others think about the situation.

 

Fast Fact:

1. While Leverkusen has been in the Premier League for many years, Hoffenheim is the latest team to have entered and played in the top flight league. Founded in 1899, Hoffenheim has remained the only village soccer team to play in the German Premier League, since its entrance in the 2008/09 season. It has been one of the surprising storied teams having played in the local Verbandsliga for many years before marching through the Regional and Second Leagues between the years 2005 and 2008, and performing well in the German Cup, especially in the 2005-6 season. More information on the team can be found here.

2. Ghost goals are not new to German soccer. A phantom goal between Nuremberg and Munich in the 1994 season, as well as a phantom goal between VFB Leipzig and FC Chemnitz in the following season, triggered replays on both parts by the DFB, yet FIFA threatened to ban the German soccer team from participating in the 1998 World Cup for both cases.

Link to the article can be found here.

S for Stadium Lights

Photo taken on 20 July 2013

Produced for Preservation in Pink

From the Sports Arena:

Many of us have our preferences when artefacts come to mind. Some like old buildings, like cathedrals, skyscrapers and even old apartment complexes. Some are partial to bridges built of stone and/or metal and prior to 1900. And some even love the nostalgia of historic highways, long since bypassed by expressways but still exist as a reminder of how highways were built in the bygone era.  But what about stadiums and in particular, stadium lights?

Many people, like Kaitlin O’shea (of Preservation in Pink) are probably scratching their heads wondering why this author is mentioning this topic. After all, when looking at the artefacts mentioned in the online column, such as historic houses, historic bridges, and historic buildings, stadium lights would be the last artefact to ever be mentioned. But here in Germany, it is the hottest topic at the moment, as a set of stadium lights that had been providing the stage for soccer games in a small eastern German town in the state of Thuringia is about to become history.

Located along the Saale River in eastern Thuringia, Jena has a population of 120,000, two universities and two central locations for science and technology. It prides itself on the biotechnological, optical and electronic industries, and of course, the seven wonders of the city, which includes the St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Camsdorf Arch Bridge, Fox Tower and Lobdeburg Castle. The Ernst-Abbe-Soccer Stadium and its four nostalgic flood lights are considered for many the eighth wonder of the city. While the stadium, which houses a professional men’s soccer team (FC Carl Zeiss Jena), a professional women’s soccer team (USV Jena) and a regional men’s soccer team (SV Schott Jena), dates back to 1924, the “giraffe lights”, as many locals tout them to be, were built in 1974 to provide night-time games for tens of thousands of fans. They can be seen from several kilometers away from all directions, even clearly at night when the soccer games are taking place.

Photo of the Giraffe Lights at Ernst-Abbe-Stadium in Jena. Taken from the author’s home in the southern suburb of Winzerla in January 2012

Yet the days of the 70 meter tall light posts, which had been characteristic for the stadium and a favorite for many people attending soccer games in Jena are numbered. Flooding this past June, the worst since 1994, put the entire stadium and sports  complex, along with 60% of the city of Jena, underwater. Floodwaters ate away at the foundation, and up to 40% the four-legged tower supports corroded away to a point where the towers were in danger of collapse. In other words, the stadium lights needed to be removed before anyone can step back onto the soccer field, for safety reasons.

Since these towers were condemned to scrap metal two weeks ago, an outcry from tens of thousands of Jena soccer fans poured into the halls of the City Hall, where many people wanted at least one of the Giraffes to be replaced. Apart from that, the decision to take them down could not have come at an even more perfect time, as the stadium itself was scheduled to be reconstructed into a multi-sport complex. With flood damages being in the millions of Euros, with the stadium and adjacent sports complex needing over a million for repairs, questions are being posed as to how to proceed further with the reconstruction efforts, and who should pay for at least part of the financing. Already FC Carl Zeiss Jena is threatening with bankruptcy protection if they need to assist more in the project because of the team being cash-strapped, despite its strive to enter the third flight of the German Premier League. It currently is in the Regional League Northeast. And it is understandable, for stadium lights are required in order to play ball in the Regional and Premier League. While makeshift lighting will definitely be needed before the season begins in August, calls for Carl Zeiss to provide more money for the project, even if it means cooperating or consolidating with another Jena soccer team like SV Schott, will eventually reach city hall and beyond. But that’s a different story.

Eventually the city council’s decision to keep and restore one of the Giraffe Lights last week was a blessing in disguise, for many people seem to like its nostalgia and its historic value. While the majority of the buildings built during the Communist era were plain bland multiple-story building complexes, the Giraffe Lights at the Stadium belong to the few bright spots that one can take with, when remembering the days of soccer during the Cold War. It’s rather unusual and sleek design makes the stadium lights built today look like the aforementioned East German buildings. And it is understandable that a football tradition like the one seen in Jena would not like to part ways with a relict that has become typical of soccer for the region. Even reading lights resembling the Giraffes are selling like hot cakes.  But one would not think about being emotional about stadium lights like the ones in Jena, right?

Looking at the American stadiums built in the past and present, as well as the baseball and softball complexes, one would not even think about the stadium lights much as they’re either hung on rafters, or supported by a series of steel poles. In many cases, if you look at the old small township softball fields, the lights are supported by wooden telephone poles connected with wires. But if one is attached to a certain relict of history and connects it with memories that they have with certain events, like soccer or any other sport, it is especially difficult to part ways with them if the time to dismantle and scrap them is needed. For the people in Jena, a piece of history is about to become scrap for all but one of the Giraffe Lights and while new lighting will be installed once the stadium is renovated, they will still remember the days when the Giraffe Lights lit up the city at night, helping the soccer teams win at home.

This leads to the Flensburg Files’ Frage für den Forum:

1. When looking at architecture and archaeology, which relict do you like the most and would do anything to save them? Example: People love historic bridges and would fight to save them.

 

2. How important are stadium lights in terms of their historic value? Do you know of stadiums and sporting complexes that have as fancy and historic lighting as the one in Jena?

 

3. A debate on how to reconstruct the Ernst Abbe Stadium has flared up where people are debating on whether to convert the soccer field into a sporting complex (like Heinz Field in Pittsburgh) or simply remodel the sporting complex, especially in light of the flooding (please see link).  If you were a Jena resident, would you favor renovation or reconstruction and why?

 

4. (In connection with number 3), when the new lights are installed in the project, should they resemble the Giraffe Lights, conforming to the one that is being saved and will be integrated into the project?

 

5. How much money should the sporting teams in Jena contribute and should FC Carl Zeiss Jena consider consolidating with other Jena soccer teams to contribute to the cost of rebuilding the stadium and adding the lighting?

 

Photos of the dismantling of the Giraffe Lights can be seen here:

The Giraffe Lights and the western side of the Ernst Abbe Stadium during the Great Flood of 2013

 

The dismantling of the first of four Giraffe Lights commencing.

Close-up of the missing top half of the Giraffe Lights coming apart.

Bayern Munich has doped it way to the top!

From the Sports Arena

4-0 for Bayern Munich! If you add the blow-out against Barcelona during last night’s first game of the Champions League semi-finals in European Soccer to the blow-out games of four or more goals in the entire season so far in the golden anniversary season of German Soccer known as the Bundesliga, in 10 games, the Bavarian Texans from the south blew away eight teams by a score of 55-6! Two of the teams were right in FC’s Visier twice, including Hanover 96, which in two games were destroyed by a total of 11-1, including a 6-1 pasting last Saturday! Hamburg was the unfortunate victim of a 9-2 demolition a few weeks ago. Even Nuremberg was not safe.  One would think that after out-competing the teams enroute to their 24th season title with six-games left in the season that it would be enough, right?

Wrong!  Add a key player, like Mario Götze who decided to leave Dortmund for Munich after this season and a scandal involving Uli Honess, the team’s president for tax evasion and smuggling money in Switzerland, and we could see something unfolding in a fashion which makes Lance Armstrong’s confession to his doping escapade look like a dwarf!  And Armstrong was a professional cyclist before being defamed for his actions, setting up the stage for many cyclists to fall after him, like a domino effect.

In the era of pursuing people evading taxes and creating tax oasis, the news involving Honess is huge, for he had been touted as the man with morals, being straight and honest. Many players made a career at FC Bayern Munich, riding their way to many international cups and German Bundesliga championships, adding them to their resumès. Götze is looking at that particular opportunity that Dortmund had had last season when the team won the season title in Germany and is the other team competing with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.  But the tax scandal has raised many questions of whether FC Bayern Munich has other skeletons in the closet. After all, a team that has almost always sat on top of the throne did not do it the hard way. Something is a bit fatty there.

Perhaps one should have someone like Charlotte Lindholm, the police commissioner from Hanover who is also a Hanover 96 fan check it out. After all, like the other teams in the Bundesliga and those being promoted in the elite league, like Hertha BSC Berlin in the upcoming soccer season, Hanover 96 is trying to find ways to figure out whether FC Bayern’s successes were real or flawed. If the latter is the case, then even though it will not create defame in a degree similar to Penn State University’s college football program because of the child molestation scandal that was revealed in 2011, Lindholm’s first and foremost character will be Honess. Even if he was to resign to save FC Bayern’s face, both he and the team are not safe from the potential backlash that could come out of this scandal, one of possibly many that may come from the deep south of Germany.

Flensburg Files Fast Facts:

1. Commissioner Lindholm is from the German TV Krimi Series Tatort, which provides viewers on Sunday night with a new case from one of over 20 different cities, each of which has two detectives on the case. Lindholm is played by Maria Fürtwangler, who ironically originates from Munich.

2. FC Bayern Munich set the season record for winning the German soccer regular season title in the earliest fashion possible- with six games left in the season- two weeks ago. The team is on course to win the Triple Crown, which includes the Champions League Title and the German Cup (DFB Pokal). The Files will keep you posted on whether they will achieve this- also a record in itself.

3. Yet Uli Honess is feeling the pressure of stepping down as President. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as the majority of the German population (63% in one poll) would like to see him resign and face tax evasion charges. Whether this will happen remains open at this time. However, speculation may exist that the soccer team may have some other flaws that have been stuffed away for some time but will eventually be made open to the public. More on the tex scandal here.

4. For those who did not know: Penn State Nittany Lions football was sanctioned after reports of a sex abuse scandal forced Joe Paterno to step down in November 2011. He died the following January. Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s assistant football coach pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and was sentenced to life in prison in October 2012. Three other men involved are awaiting trial for covering up the scandal. The football team was forced to vacate all its wins between 1998 and 2011, plus its football titles and recruitment scholars and is facing a four-year ban from post-season competition, known as the Bowl Games. This was the worst scandal in sports history as of present…..

Flensburg Files Haliburton Guessing Quiz:

In connection with an upcoming article on Munich, how many towns in the United States carry the name Munich? And where are they located? I know one for sure and it will be the focus of an article on German-named villages in the US. Stay tuned! :-)

Flensburg Files News Flyer 5 September 2012

There were a lot of events that happened while I was on hiatus for a few weeks, two of which were spent back in Flensburg and the surrounding area with my family. Most of the events have a zero at the end of each number, marking some events that should not have happened but they did. However some high fives are included in the mix that are deemed memorable for Germany, and even for this region. Here are some short FYIs that you may have not heard of while reading the newspaper or listening the news, but are worth noting:

Rostock-Lichterhagen:

22-24 August marked the 20th anniversary of the worst rioting in the history of Germany since the Kristallnacht of 1938. During that time, Lichterhagen, a suburb of Rostock, the largest city in Mecklenburg-Pommerania in northeastern Germany was a refugee point for Roma and Vietnamese immigrants. However, it was a focus of three days of clashes between residents and right-wing extremists on one side, and the refugees on the other. Fires broke out in the residential complex where the refugees were staying, causing many to escape to the roof. Hundreds of people were injured in fighting, while over 1000 were arrested, most of them right wing extremists originating as far as the former West Germany. The incident cast a dark shadow over the city and its government for not handling the issue of foreigners  properly, let alone having trained police officers to end the conflict. It also set off the debate dealing with the problem of right-wing extremism in Germany, especially in the former East Germany, where neo-nazis remained underground until after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Over 70% of the refugees affected by the violence left Rostock after the incident. President Gauck attended the 20th anniversary ceremony on 24 August and spoke about the dangers to democracy.

More info on the incident can be found here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_of_Rostock-Lichtenhagen; http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16194604,00.html

 

Munich:

Today marks the 40-year anniversary of the Munich Olympics Massacre. A Palestinian terrorist group stormed the a house where 11 Israelis were living, held them hostage and later killed all of them as the police tried to set them free. It overshadowed a then successful Olympic Games, which was the first for Germany since hosting the Games in 1936 in Berlin. Germany was in the process of reconciling with the Jews after the Holocaust, only to be reminded painfully through the event that it had a long way to go in order to become a multi-cultural state and be able to mend its relations with the Jews. Since that time, the country has long since healed from the wounds of the terrorist, the relations with Israel and the Jewish community have improved dramatically, but memories of the event are still there and will not be forgotten.  Info here.

The famous slogan that was found throughout all of Sonderburg. Better luck next time.

Aarhus:

Every year in Europe, there is a city that is nominated as a Capital of Culture, based on the cultural diversity and economic state. During that year, a variety of festivals and events marking the city’s heritage take place, drawing in three times as many people on average than usual. While this year’s title goes to Maribor (Slovakia) and Guimares (Portugal) and the hosts for 2013 goes to Marseilles (France) and Kosice (Slovakia), Aarhus (Denmark) outbid Flensburg’s Danish neighbor to the north, Sonderburg to be the 2017 European Capital. It is the second city in Denmark to host this title (Copenhagen was the Cultural Capital in 1996). Had Sonderburg won, it would have joined Flensburg to host the event, which would have made Flensburg the fourth German city to host the event. Both cities will continue with joint projects to draw in more people to visit and live in the region. Berlin (1988), Weimar (1999) and Essen (2010) were the other German cities that were Cultural Capitals since the initiative was approved in 1985. More information here:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Capital_of_Culture

Mirror reflection of Gluecksburg Castle. Photo taken during the 425th birthday celebration.

Low attendance at the open-air church service due to hot and humid weather.

Gluecksburg:

The castle of Gluecksburg, located northeast of Flensburg,  celebrated its 425th anniversary during the weekend of 18-19 August, with concerts and an open-air church service. Attendance was low due to warm and humid weather, plus it had celebrated the 12th annual Beach Mile a weekend earlier. The castle was built to house of the Royal Family of King Christian IX of Gluecksburg-Sonderburg, whose family bloodline covers five countries including the UK and France. The Castle was vacated after World War I when the Royalty was forced into exile but was later converted into a museum. The castle is one of a few that is surrounded by a lake, making it accessible only by bridge. More information on the castle will be presented in another separate article.

 

50 Years of Soccer in Germany:

Germany is now in its second month of the three-tiered German Bundesliga season, which marks its 50th anniversary. Initiated in 1962, the league featured 16 teams that originated from five different leagues in Germany, including ones from Muenster, Berlin, Munich, Dortmund and Cologne. The league now features three top flight leagues (the top two featuring 18 teams each and the third league (established in 2008) featuring 20 teams). To learn more about how the German Bundesliga works and read about its history, a couple links will help you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fu%C3%9Fball-Bundesliga

http://www.dfb.de/index.php?id=511741

A couple articles pertaining to German soccer is in the mix, as the Files did a segment on the problem with German soccer. The first two can be viewed here:

Part I

Part II

What was that? I’m being photographed? Well then, here you go!

Flensburg Files now on flickr:

Available from now on, the Flensburg Files is now available on flickr, together with its sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Just type in FlensburgBridgehunter12 and you are there. You will have an opportunity to view the photos taken by the author and comment on them as you wish. Subscriptions are available. The Files is still available through Twitter and Facebook where you can subscribe and receive many articles that are in the mix. One of which deals with a tour of the Holnis region, which is in the next column.

The Problem with Soccer in Germany Part 2: Fan Behavior- How the German Soccer Leagues should crack down on fan violence

Could basketball and handball surpass soccer as the most favorite sport to watch in Germany? It may be the case, after watching this basketball game between Bayreuth and Oldenbourg in the German Basketball Premier League in Dec. 2010. Bayreuth lost a heartbreaker on its home court 85-84.

Going to a soccer game on a Saturday at a German soccer stadium is a ritual for at least 10 million fans. For 90 minutes they enjoy the company of their friends and family, cheering for their favorite team, booing at the referees for making a wrong call, singing and supporting their team with slogans and fan waving, and when their favorite team scores the winning goal, they race to the entrance of the locker room, cheering and congratulating the team on a job well done.
Yet looking at soccer in Germany this year, the scene presents a rather different story. Instead of cheering for their team, fans are taunting them even if they lose, throwing firecrackers and smoke bombs in the stands and on the field. Fights are breaking out between the fans of both teams, while some are chasing the fan bus, throwing stones at the windows and harassing the driver. And the most climatic event to signal the end of Premier League Play was on 16 May in the relegation play between Hertha BSC Berlin and Fortuna Duesseldorf, when thousands of fans stormed the soccer field to celebrate Duesseldorf’s promotion to the top flight league and Berlin’s relegation to the second tier league- but with two minutes left in regulation! It took 20 minutes to bring the fans back to their seats before the game could continue, which had contain so much chaos, and as a consequence, involved the German government afterwards. While the team from Hertha filed a complaint and demanded that the game be replayed, it fell on deaf ears on the part of the German Soccer Federation (DFB) and the DFB Supreme Court. Still, it is a cause for alarm in Germany as the problem with fans, the team and even the law enforcement has reached a point where tougher measures will have to be made before the start of the 2012/13 season.
Normally one will see such fan behavior in American sports, as millions of viewers have seen some events that have led to questions about the role of fans and athletes. The best example can be found in the event on 19 November, 2004 at a basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, where a brawl among the players gave a fan an incentive to throw an object at Ron Artest, who raced into the stands to beat him up. Other fans and players jumped in and a minute later, the court was loaded with people throwing punches and kicking each other. The game was called off with less than a minute left. Artest and at least 10 other players other received suspensions of up to a year; the fan instigating the attack was banned from attending any professional basketball games at the place where the brawl took place- Detroit-for life.
In Germany, many people take pride in the country’s sports, whether it is handball or basketball. While watching a game in each sport in the last two years- a basketball game in Bayreuth (Bavaria) and a handball game in Flensburg, the mood of the fans was spectacular, as there was cheering and jeering, people meeting new people, and there were no firecrackers thrown in the sporting complexes, let alone fans running onto the court to hinder a game. Even the cheerleaders and the DJs managed to involve the fans and provide them with a spectacular show, to make the trip to the game worthwhile. An example of such sportsmanship between the fans and the players, were found in a game between SG Flensburg-Handewitt and Gummersbach on 27 April, 2011, a game which Flensburg won in a seesaw match 29-25.

Yet the fan problem in German soccer has become so dire that the DFB, German soccer leagues, the federal government, police and its labor unions, and other parties are coming together this summer to discuss ways to crack down on fan violence. Already conclusive is the fact that fines and sanctions against teams, whose fans instigated the violence, have had very little effect on curbing the violence. Banning fans from attending any soccer games, as has been stressed by German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich after the disastrous  game between Duesseldorf and Berlin may not be the most effective as fans can find creative ways of entering the soccer stadium masquerading as someone else and causing trouble there as well. The police and its union have strongly recommended that each of the 54 top flight teams and the DFB provide security fees and take points off the standings for teams instigating the violence. Yet many teams may not afford high fees for security, and for some who are cutting costs in order to compete, security is one of those aspects that has been on the chopping block.
The most viable solution to the increase in fan violence is to combine all the variants and add a five-year ban from competing on the national and international level, leaving them stuck in the Regionalliga (the fourth league) to set an example for other teams to clean up their act and be square with their fans, while at the same time, demand that each team entering the top three leagues to have strict security measures in place for every game and tournament. This includes taking finger prints and facial scans from each fan entering a sports stadium and having a database for them so that they can be tracked, scanning them for all forms of firecrackers and any materials that could potentially cause a fire, and even involving the German military at places where violence is the norm at the soccer games. In the case of the 2012 season so far, that would mean cities like Frankfurt and the surrounding areas, Cologne, Berlin, Dresden and Karlsruhe, where reports of violence have been recorded the most, would have military presence.  A record of the violence during the 2011/12 soccer season can be found here. The last part is a common practice in regions prone to violence, like the Middle East and Africa, yet it seems like the trend has arrived here, which makes more law enforcement through the police and army a necessary and not a luxury.  Should teams not afford strict security measures, they would not be allowed to compete in the top three leagues.
In the event that violence breaks out during or even after the soccer game, a “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule should be enforced on all teams, keeping track of the record of violence committed by fans of the teams as well as scrutinizing the teams that are unable to control them. First strike means fines in the six digits and three points taken off, second strike means doubling of fines and six points taken off and the third strike means automatic relegation one league lower. If the event happens the fourth time, a five-year ban should be imposed. This rule is based on a law in the US dealing with drunk driving that was passed in the 1990s, which exists in most of the states- first strike meaning heavy fines, second strike meaning revoking the driving license and the third strike meaning jail time, in some cases, permanently. Yet its origins come from America’s favorite past time sport, baseball.  A ban from attending any soccer game for those committing the violence should be enforced, but the responsibility of keeping order at a soccer game lies solely with the two teams competing with each other. Therefore, one should consider the punishment for each insubordination a punishment for all involved.  While these measures are probably the harshest and it may contrabate the Constitutional Laws, resulting in the involvement of the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe on many occasions, but given the sophistication of the violence committed at German Soccer games, if even the German government is stepping up pressure for action, then the situation is at the point where inaction is no longer an option.
If there is a silver lining to all the violence, especially at the end of the season, it is fortunate that there have been no deaths or severe injuries reported. But it takes a tragedy to change that. It may not be the one similar to the infamous soccer stadium fire at Bradford City (in the UK) 0n 11 May, 1985, but one death will change the way we think about the game of soccer in Germany. We have already seen that in other places, as one can see with the violence at a soccer game at Port Said in Egypt on 1 February of this year, where over 70 people were killed. Unfortunately, Germany has taken one step closer to the danger zone and should the violence persist by the time the whistle blows to start the next season, we could see our first casualty recorded, regardless of which league game it is. When that happens, it will change the face of German soccer forever to a point where if there is a soccer game, the only way we will see it is on TV…….. as a virtual computer game!

 

 

Flensburg Files Fast Fact

Thestadium fire at Bradford City was (supposedly) caused by someone dropping a cigarette into the wooden bleachers full of rubbish, causing a fire that engulfed the stadium in less than five minutes. 56 people died in the fire and over 260 were injured. The fortunate part was the fact that no barriers to the soccer field were in place, like it is in today’s soccer stadiums in general, which allowed most of the fans to escape through the soccer field. It was a tragic end to the team’s promotion to the second tier of the British Premier League. The stadium was rebuilt in several phases (finishing in 2001), including replacing the wooden bleachers with steel and concrete. Since the fire, a ban of wooden bleachers have been enforced both in Britain as well as the rest of Europe.

 

Flensburg Files’ Fragen Forum:

After reading this article and watching the clips, here are a couple questions for you to mull over and discuss with other readers:

1. How would you approach the problem of fan violence in soccer stadium? Which measures are the most effective in your opinion: fines and other sanctions against teams, finger print scanning and keeping a database of the fans, point reduction in the football standings, banning teams with fan trouble from competing in certain leagues, or a combination of some of the measures? If none of the suggestions work, what would you suggest?

2. Do you think handball and basketball will surpass soccer in Germany in terms of popularity? Or will soccer remain a household name, like America has its household name sports of American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey?

3. Do you think fan violence is a universal problem in sports or is it focused on selective sports?

 

Please submit your answers in the Comment section, which is here after this article.  Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you readers!

 

 

 

 

 

Kiel finishes perfect season in……

HANDBALL!!! Each professional sport has its celebrity teams, no matter where you go. In the US, we have the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers in American Football, while in basketball, we have  the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics, just to name a few. In Germany, we take pride in our household and globalized sport, soccer. There we have the likes of Bayern Munich, 1899 Hoffenheim, Mainz and Frankfurt. But we also have another sport that has been gaining popularity in the last decade and has recently made news because of a feat that is unthinkable, but was accomplished. That sport is handball, and the team that has made headlines recently was one located in the far northern part of Germany is Kiel. A capital of Schleswig-Holstein and located one hour by train southeast of Flensburg, Kiel is famous for its city center and Horn harbor, where ships from Scandanavia and the UK come to dock. The city is also famous for its handball team, the THW Kiel Zebras. Established in 1904, the team had won 17 German Handball Premere League Titles, seven German Cup championships, and two Champions League titles (2007 and 2010). Apart from its northern rival, the SG Flensburg-Handewitt, it also has rivals in the Berlin Foxes and the SV Hamburg team.

This year, the Zebras wrote the history books in handball. The team went undefeated in regular season play, winning its 18th German Premere League Championship, finishing well ahead of second place Flensburg-Handewitt and third place Berlin. That was completed with its final game against Gummersbach, winning the match 39-29 to win its 34th game on 2 June.  This followed its eighth German Cup Championship a month earlier on 5 May, narrowly defeating Flensburg-Handewitt 33-31 in a hard fought match that ended in a complete 3-game sweep of its northern rival.  And finally, at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne on 27 May, Kiel defeated Athletico Madrid (Spain) 26-21 to win its third Champions League Title.  No other handball team has ever won the triple crown up until THW Kiel’s accomplishment of the impossible. However, the Zebras join other teams in German and European sports in the ranks of the Triple Crown winners. For instance in soccer, both FC Bayern Munich (men) and FFC Frankfurt (women) have won the triple three times on three separate occasions, but the Glasgow Rangers in Scottish soccer has won the Triple in men’s soccer seven times, the last time it happened being in 2003. More interesting is the fact that Kiel’s feat surpasses even the failed attempts of any German basketball team to win the Triple. Maccabi Tel Aviv has won the Triple five times, the last time being in 2005.

This leads to the question of what the triple crown is. If a team wins a triple, like Kiel has done this past season, then it means that the team won the regular season championship, the national cup and one championship on an international level. This is only applicable in sports that receive international recognition, which are soccer, basketball (in Europe), volleyball, ice hockey (in Europe) and now handball. It does not apply to any American sports, although it did host the internationally popular Lewis Cup in professional soccer from 1925 until its last championship in 1963. There, Fall River Marksman (Massachusetts)  and Brookhattan (New York) won Triples consisting of the Lewis Cup, the National Cup and the American Soccer League Championship in 1930 and 1945, respectively.

With Kiel entering uncharted territory, the next task is to go for a repeat of the Triple, which is next to impossible to do. Teams that have fallen to the Zebras in all three competitive championships are gearing up to take revenge on the team, including its northern rival from Flensburg, which might give the team its first defeat since SC Magdeburg defeated them on 4 May 2011, 30-24. But nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how Kiel will defend all three titles and make history even further, perhaps even eclipsing the soccer teams of Bayern Munich and FFC Frankfurt.

 

The Flensburg Files would like to congratulate the two Schleswig-Holstein handball profis on their successful 2012 run- SG Flensburg-Handewitt for its second place finish and most importantly, THW Kiel for its perfect season. Since both have qualified for the Champions League in the coming season, we would like to wish them best of luck in the international competition and all the best in the next season.

For those wanting to know more about handball, here is a simple guide to the game, which you can click on.

 

The Problem with Soccer in Germany Part 1: Overview

People have their favorite sports that they love to watch. In the US we have our traditional sports of baseball, football, ice hockey and basketball, but we also have our state-of-the-art type of sports as well, like bungee jumping, skateboarding, karate, etc.  In Germany we have handball, basketball and especially soccer. Why especially? Like in other European countries, we take to soccer like church-goers take to the Bible. We watch the German Bundesliga games every Saturday and Sunday and for many, they become emotionally attached to their favorite teams. Yet the events that have occurred in the last two weeks have raised the question of whether German soccer has become a dysfunctional sport, where the relationship between the fans and the soccer teams have become as frigid as the Winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 respectively, where money is the determining factor to keeping an elite team in the elite league, and cities that deserve to be in the Upper House have been denied and others with financial and management issues should be relegated to a local soccer team to be cleansed of their troubles. Professional players are emigrating to other countries and the most disturbing development is the fan behavior at the soccer games, which has reached the point where a potential disaster is in the making, waiting to strike at a moment’s notice without any way of averting it.

The Flensburg Files will present a series on The Problem with German Soccer, which will focus on the following topics that will be presented during the summer months with some solutions on the part of the author, based on information collected both written and orally. Here are some topics that will be presented that will provide the audience with an opportunity to look at the problems facing soccer in Germany and its potential to spread to other places where the sport has established a fan base, like the US and Canada, as well as those in southern and eastern Asia and parts of Africa, just to name a few:

The Fan Problem: In light of the recent events this past season in places, like Rostock,  Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt, fan rowdiness has taken new forms to a point where the teams are having difficulty controlling them and the German Soccer League (DFL)’s attempts of sanctioning them have proven futile. This segment will feature the gravity of the situation and present some solutions to make soccer a fun and safe sport to watch.

The Financial Problem: In order to host games in the upper leagues, teams have to have sufficient liquidity in order to compete. Yet in recent years, teams are having problems coming up with financial support in order to even survive. Using the examples of Hansa Rostock and TuS Koblenz this segment will focus on the problems facing these teams and how they are struggling to survive.
The Management Problem: Tied in together with the financial difficulties the soccer teams face, this segment will focus on ways teams can effectively manage themselves without having to change personnel.

The East-West Problem: It is amazing that after 22 years we still have this issue even in sports. Here, we will focus on the difficulties of the soccer teams in eastern Germany (the former GDR) keeping up with the western counterparts.

And lastly, we’ll look at cities of the past and present whose soccer teams have risen and fallen from the top. This has been divided up into three segments: The shooting stars, The fallen stars, and The Has-beens- meaning the teams that used to be powerhouses in the past but have since been a memory.

The goal is to address these problems to the public and encourage ways to support German soccer in a positive way and make this a sport for people to watch and have fun. This includes encouraging good sportsmanship and stressing the importance of solidarity in the sport. After all, German soccer is a very popular sport that many people around the world watch and it would be a shame to see its reputation tarnished due to its destructive patterns that we have seen in recent times, some of which has a recipe for disaster if they persist without any concrete measures to stop them.


As we are still on the same page, here are some interesting events, most of which will be mentioned in the series:

Dortmund grabs a double.  For the first time ever in the history of German soccer, the soccer team Borussia Dortmund won a double championship. It had won the German Erstliga Title two weeks before thanks to some key victories over Bayern Munich, Mönchengladbach and Schalke, just to name a few. On 13 May, it completely swept the series against Bayern Munich in the German Cup (German: DFB Pokal) but in a fashionable way: a 5-2 spanking over the team which had won seven out of the last 15 cups and won the regular season title nine times since 1997. Congratulations to Jürgen Klopp and his team for accomplishing a monumental task.

Podolski goes to Arsenal (London). One of the key players of the 2010 German soccer team as well as the German team FC Cologne, Lukas Podolski signed an unlimited contract at an undisclosed amount to play for Chelsea in the British Premier League beginning next season. The move was perfect timing as Cologne finished second to last in the standings and therefore must play in the second league in the 2012/13 season. Arsenal London has won 13 Premier League Titles (including the last one in 2003/04) and holds the record for being in the Top 5 standings of the Premere League, it has just finished its 16th straight season near the top. Podolski started his career at Cologne before going to Bayern Munich in 2006 and played for three seasons before returning to Cologne.

Hansa Rostock saved from bankruptcy. Once the darling of soccer in eastern Germany and the last team to win the soccer title and the national cup for the now defunct East Germany (GDR) in 1991, Hansa Rostock used to plague many traditional soccer teams until it faced financial trouble and was forced to relegate in the second and third leagues. On 9 May, the Rostock City Council voted unanimously for a financial package to provide partial debt relief for the beleaguered soccer team, whose debt had soared to 8.5 million Euros. At the same time, a financial shot of 750,000 was given to the team to play in the Third League in the coming season as the team finished dead last in the Second League. Had the city council voted against the measure, the team would have been forced to file for bankruptcy, which would have resulted in an automatic relegation into the fourth or fifth league. Worst case would have been the team being liquidated, which would not have been the first time it had happened. Saxony Leipzig, which had played mostly in the fifth league since its inception in 1991, was liquidated last year as it was unable to support itself financially. In addition, Bayern Munich, one of Rostock’s archrivals in the Erstliga, will travel to the city to face the team in a benefit soccer game sometime in 2013.

Relegation Games end with a bang! Sanctions being considered. In the first three tiers of the German Bundesliga, there is a relegation game where the team finishing third to last in an upper league takes on the team finishing in third place in the league lower than that. The concept has worked wonders since 2010 but this year’s relegation games have come at a price. For the first time in 15 years, Jahn Regensburg (which played in the third league) and Fortuna Düsseldorf (which played in the second league) are being promoted to the second and first leagues after downing Karlsruhe SC and Hertha BSC Berlin respectively. However both games were overshadowed by violence, fireworks, and in the game between Berlin and Düsseldorf, fans running onto the field with two minutes left in the game forcing the referees to stop match for 20 minutes. The DFB is investigating each incident and sanctions are pending. The two incidents are part of a list of other incidents which has plagued the 2011/12 season and has forced the DFB to look into tougher guidelines for fan behavior in general. More on that in the next article on the problem with German soccer.

Flensburg Files News Flyer 29 November, 2011

It’s Christmas time and with that come the Christmas Markets, the Glühwein, the Presents, and lots of events that have been going on the last few days, which warrants the Flensburg Files News Flyer- designed to provide the readers with a chance to find out more on what is going on in Germany that is not normally seen in the media mainstream. Themes like this one may be of some interest to you:

 

Yes to Stuttgart 21

After five years of protests, legal action and campaigns which involved virtually everyone on all levels of government, the citizens of Stuttgart made their point clear at the polls on Sunday: they would like to finally go forward with Stuttgart 21 once and for all.  According to the final polls, over 48.2% of the people voted for the project, while 41.8% were against the project. That means the German Railways can proceed with the construction project, consisting of 20km of underground rail line with an underground central railway station located underneath the present-day railway station located above ground. When completed in 2021, the old railroad station, which currently sees 240,000 passengers going through every day, will be converted into residential areas, and thus will help ease the housing crisis the city has been seeing in the last decade. The project started in 2002, but was met with delays due to protests because of increasing costs of the project combined with concerns that the environmental surroundings combined with much of the city’s historic buildings would be destroyed in the process. The project has involved not only the local and state governments but even the federal government in Berlin, whose majority of the politicians favor the underground station. The prime minister of Baden-Wurttemberg Winfried Kretschmann was even against the project but favored a public referendum. While he has accepted the decision, it does not come with no strings attached- the costs for the project must be capped at 4.5 bn Euros ($5.1 bn).

Links: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/stuttgarteinundzwanzig100.html;

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15561178,00.html;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgart_21;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgart_Hauptbahnhof

 

http://www.bahnhof.de/site/bahnhoefe/de/sued/stuttgart__hbf/daten__und__fakten/daten__und__fakten__.html

Guttenberg pardoned for plagiarism; eyes comeback in 2013

In a decision which has raised eyebrows of many who question its legitimacy and morality, the prosecution has decided not to press charges against the former defense minister, Karl Theodore zu Guttenberg. While the University of Bayreuth stripped him of his doctorate title in March of this year because of the 23 passages he did not cite in his dissertation, the prosecution considered these counts a misdemeanor. That combined with his donation of 20,000 Euros (more than $26,000) to a charitable organization led to the decision of not starting the legal proceedings against him. Guttenberg is currently residing in the USA with his family, but is eyeing a political comeback in 2013, the same year as the federal elections in Germany. Whether it will help Angela Merkel in her bid to be reelected as German chancellor remains to be seen. But the public seems divided on his decision to return to politics; especially as many of his fellow colleagues from his own party, the Christian Socialist Union have been pursued for similar charges. More on this story will follow.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl-Theodor_zu_Guttenberg;

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15550956,00.html

 

Dynamo Dresden Mistreated by the German Soccer Federation for Hooligan Incident

Soccer coaches, sports experts and even directors of regional soccer leagues have been heatedly criticizing the DFB, the soccer federation in charge of the top three leagues in German soccer, for harshly punishing the soccer team that is currently playing in the second highest league (Zweitliga). The  federation recently sanctioned the team located in eastern Saxony by banning them from next year’s DFB soccer playoffs for allowing hooligans to be out of control during the playoff game against Borussia Dortmund, the game which the team lost. In addition, the team was also fined in the tens of thousands of Euros.  Many experts consider the punishment too harsh, yet problems involving hooligans and their actions during the soccer game; especially in the eastern part of Germany has resulted in harsher measures in an attempt to crack down and teach the teams a lesson on sportsmanship among players and fans. While fines and barring fans from attending games have been effective, this sanction, harsh or not, may be one of many measures that could be the norm in the future should the problem with hooligans persist, together with subtracting points off the standings board in soccer and possibly forcing the team to be relegated a league down, the latter of which has not happened just yet.

Link: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15506337,00.html

 

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15492412,00.html

http://www.dfb.de/index.php?id=503058&action=showSchema&lang=D&liga=dfbpokm&saison=11&saisonl=2011&spieltag=2&spielid=1011&cHash=cf8f91551a43c946258aad946166df0f

http://www.mdr.de/sport/fussball_bl/dynamo-reaktion100.html

 

Jena proving its reputation of being a cosmopolitan city

Located east of Erfurt and Weimar in eastern Thuringia, Jena is not only known for its optical industry (for it is home to Jenoptik and Carl Zeiss) but to the eyes of many foreigners (Americans included) the city of 120,000 inhabitants (20,000 being students) is known as the black hole- once you visit the city tucked away in the Saale River Valley, you do not want to leave. However according to the German public TV station ZDF in a recent documentary, the city is home to right-wing extremists; especially four terrorists who are in custody for 10 counts of murder of several foreigners and a police officer. In an interview with an author from Munich, who wrote a book on this topic, it was concluded that the university city is part of the fear zone, which has plagued the eastern half of the country, and a spawning point for potential neo-Nazis. This reportage has angered the city so much that a petition is being carried out demanding that ZDF retract its comments about Jena and apologize to the city or it is done for them by the German government, which owns the channel together with ARD. Furthermore, a concert to help the city fight right-wing extremism is taking place this Friday with many celebrities taking part, including Peter Maffay and Udo Lindenberg, where tens of thousands are expected to attend. The Flensburg Files will cover the topic of right-wing extremism in 2012 to determine which part of Germany is worse regarding neo-Nazis: the western or eastern parts of the country. While the eastern part of the country has seen its share of attacks committed by neo-Nazis, reports of the rise of neo-Nazis and attacks and parties have been reported in Bavaria and northern parts of the country in the past 2 years. Furthermore from the author’s experience living in Jena, the city has been more open to foreigners than in other cities its size in the eastern part of Germany and has zero tolerance to right-wing extremism. It even chased the neo-Nazis out of the city many times for trying to host the Festival of the People (Dt.: Fest der Völker), at least three times until the decision was made to host the event elsewhere in 2007.  And contrary to the pictures shown by the media, there are some bright spots to Jena that others do not see, some of which will be presented in photos when the Flensburg Files does a tour of the Christmas markets this year.

Links to the story: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15563635,00.html;

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6659757,00.html;

http://www.mdr.de/brisant/zwickauer-trio204_zc-d3f5b083_zs-199ad683.html;

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/medien/zdf-macht-osten-zur-no-go-area/5888310.html

 

http://www.jenapolis.de/2011/11/wir-erwarten-eine-offentliche-entschuldigung-des-zdf-mindestens-bei-allen-burgern-jenas/

 

Sebastian Vettel wins Formula 1

For the second year in a row, we have a German champion in Formula One car racing. Sebastian Vettel took the crown despite his second place finish in the last race of the season in Brazil. Born in Heppenheim (near Frankfurt/Main), Vettel started his career early in 2007, having won his first championship last year, the first German to do that since Michael Schumacher won his last championship in 2001. This year, Vettel smashed many records, among them, having started at pole position 15 times, one greater than Nigel Mansell in 1992, and winning eleven out of 15 in 16 races this season. He also recorded an unprecidented 122 points, putting the competition in the dust.  Congratulations to Vettel and may you start another long streak of championships like your former counterpart did.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Vettel

 

Neuner considers early retirement

It is very rare to see a sportsman retire in the mid to late 20s to even early 30s unless you are Randy Moss, the wide receiver who played for five American football teams, including the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots. Perhaps Magdalena Neuner can learn from his example of when to say when, as the biathlete from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (located in the Alps south of Munich) is considering retirement after the 2011-12 season. The reason for this decision is her will to pursue other interests. While the decision is not yet final, the 24-year old, like Randy Moss, has won several championships on the national and international levels, including 24 World-Cup gold medals, finishing in the top three 45 times and won two Gold medals in last year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Yet health issues combined with interest in doing other things in life has gotten her to consider her future beyond this season. Should Neuner decide to call it quits after this season, then it would definitely be on a high note as one of the most successful biathletes in the history of winter sports. Best of luck to you no matter what your decision will be.

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magdalena_Neuner#Olympic_Games

http://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/sport/Magdalena-Neuner-startet-in-den-Weltcup-und-denkt-ans-Aufhoeren-id17729071.html

 

 

Note from the Author: The Christmas Markets have started already throughout all of Germany, and this means a tour of some of the finest towns with the best markets with the goal of attracting many tourist-wannabes to the region the next time they consider a flight to Germany. The Flensburg Files has a couple in mind that are worth visiting and will post Jason’s Pics during the month of September. Where exactly? It’s being kept a secret for now, but you’ll see once they are out in the public open. Stay tuned….

First you walk, then we talk!

Like many of us, I had my favorite teams to cheer for when I grew up in rural Minnesota. In the summer, there were the Twins in baseball; the winter time consisted of split shifts between the Timberwolves in basketball and the North Stars and later the Wild in ice hockey; and in between, we had the Minnesota Vikings in American football. We had great seasons, cheering for our favorite players and demonizing the rivals, taunting them while they were chased out of the Metrodome and Target Center. We had dismal seasons where we demanded coaching and player changes so that we had a better season the next time around. And nine times out of ten, one losing season was followed by consecutive winning records and playoff appearances.

That was until just recently when greed, the strive for bigger stadiums and losing records combined with indifference among the players and ownership caused me to lose my appetite for one of the teams from Minnesota, the Vikings.

Since 1995, there have been calls for a new stadium with a retractable roof to replace the Metrodome, which was built in 1981 and has housed the Vikings since the 1982 season. Yet with every plea for public money to fund the project, it gets blown in the face with either other more desperate pleas to spend money for other projects, losing records and big disappointments, threats of  relocating, or all three, the third variant being the most poisonous as it results in the loss of fans and respect for the team.

The latest round of backfires involves these three variants and this one could doom the team and force its relocation to Los Angeles. The current owners, the Wilf family, are threatening to move the organization to the City of Angels as the city of 10 million has been in demand of a new professional football team since the mid-90s and has every facility at its disposal. The state is trying to find ways to keep the team in the state but is faced with opposition from those refusing to pay higher taxes for a new stadium- especially when measures are passed without a referendum, as was attempted in Ramsey County, and attempts to keep the team in Minneapolis in neighboring Hennepin County have fallen on deaf ears to date. And its latest marketing campaign to round up support from state representatives blew up in their face this past Monday when Green Bay pasted the team 45-7 sending them to a 2-7 record in a season where the record of three wins out of 16 set in 1984 is in serious danger of being broken because the team has overpaid and overrated players who cannot protect a rookie quarterback who is the only one actually playing- not learning the lessons of last season when they finished last at 6-10, six games fewer than the season before that!!!

So what is the next move now? Faced with a chronic recession consisting of 9% unemployment and one in three families struggling to make ends meet, the last thing everyone needs now are higher taxes to fund a team that is in limbo and dysfunctional and its overpriced stadium. Keeping silent for too long, I have one word of advice to the organization: “Shut up and play some ball! Then we can talk!”

Looking at the teams in every level of sport, each one has received support for a new venue when they had successful seasons- comprising of winning records, playoff appearances and even championships. For one soccer team in the German Bundesliga, 1899 Hoffenheim, a club located in the extreme southern part of Hesse between Mannheim and Stuttgart, it has been because of yearly marches through the lower leagues and all the way up to its current place in the premier league. A small town of 3,400 inhabitants, its rise to fame started in 2000 when it won the Verbandsliga, the then fifth lowest league in the German soccer ladder, and every year up to 2008, its ascension was annual, raising the eyebrows of many who watched them, and with that came more fans and investments until the team reached the top. Then it received a new stadium, not just because of their success, but because their own venue was too small to host so many people. The end result of these two reasons was investment from mostly the private sector and from the German soccer organization. To this day, the recipe of success is being repeated in places like Leipzig (where it has been missing a top league team for over 20 years). As for the team itself, Hoffenheim has been a real pain to many of the traditional teams from Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin, for every team in the Bundesliga has lost at least one game to this new powerhouse. That is just as amazing a feat as its ascension from a small league consisting of villages trying to establish their own team and place in the world of its most beloved sport.

Even some teams in other sports who have had constant success but problems with venues will eventually receive a new one because the support from the public is strong. This applies for the handball team, SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the German Handball Premier League. While Campus Halle sports complex, located on the campus of the University of Flensburg has been their home since 2003, a change of ownership combined with too high expectations in rent and other fees and other issues with transparency could result in the team severing their contract and looking for a new home. And given their success being in the top 6 combined with a pair of championships and success on the international level, FH has enough support from their fans and the city of rum for a new venue.

While the Vikings had their share of success with two winning seasons, including a 12-4 finish in 2009-10 and a run to the NFC Championship, it is not enough to convince the state of Minnesota that money is needed for a new stadium; especially given the hardship the people in the state and the country are still facing since the 2008 economic meltdown. And 2012 could be a repeat of 1968 in terms of turmoil from the public with political and economic implications on the country and the world being sky high. The Minnesota Vikings picked the worst possible timing to be demanding for a new stadium or leaving town, and with two straight seasons of losing records (combined with more to come) has resulted in many like me to be indifferent, saying “Take your team and go to LA, but never come back here to Minnesota ever again!” It is really sad that sports today have become more of a money factor than one where we see real athletes do their work on the field, and many of us are really fed up with that. This goes beyond the embarrassment that the Vikings faced Monday night against the Packers in what was supposed to be the battle of cross-state rivals.

It is obvious that the Vikings will hit rock bottom after this season and a complete makeover is inevitable, beginning with the players and ending with sacking the head coach. But perhaps these changes should also include the ownership, as the current ones are threatening to move the organization to L.A. without even thinking about what Minnesota needs in reality. Proposals for public ownership of the team and the Wilfs receiving the minority have already been presented, and it may be the only remedy to force the family to see reality and take a few steps back on the stadium issue, or put the team up for sale, which would be a blessing to many who want to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, its home for 51 years.

While it is inevitable that a new stadium is needed in the future, given the current situation with the team and the state, now is not the time to act on the stadium bill. It can only be implemented if the economic conditions have improved over time, and the same applies for the team and their performance. It does not necessarily mean the Vikings should follow the same recipe as Hoffenheim, Flensburg or even some of the teams in the state- like the Minnesota Twins in baseball. But realistically, if the team can pull off at least three consecutive seasons with winning records with playoff appearances- two of which must include victories- then we can discuss the need for a new stadium. Until that happens, the team is in dire need of a complete makeover with a new objective, new principles, and new personnel. And this can only happen when the 2012-13 season starts, which is as soon as the last seconds of the fourth quarter of the last game of the 2011-12 season run out, regardless if they break the 1984 record for the least number of wins in a single season or not.

Links: http://www.sg-flensburg-handewitt.de/de/aktuelles/aktuelles/news-anzeigen/article/hallensituation-stellungnahme-der-vereinsfuehrung-der-sg-flensburg-handewitt.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TSG_1899_Hoffenheim

 

 

 

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