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Kahn suspension

Hitzfeld: It was time to lay down the law

Ottmar Hitzfeld has faced the media almost every day in his long and distinguished career, but the Bayern boss can rarely have appeared as focused and tense as he did just after midday on Wednesday while waiting to address a packed news conference at the Säbener Strasse. The General was preparing to reveal the reasons why he has suspended Oliver Kahn for Saturday’s match in Berlin, and fined the club captain a hefty €25,000.

“It was time to lay down the law, so that every player knows how he is expected to behave while he is at Bayern Munich,” Hitzfeld explained, “the fact it’s Kahn hurts me personally, but I was forced to react.“ The coach himself used the phrase “draconian penalty” to describe the punishment handed down in a personal meeting with Kahn ahead of Tuesday training. “He understood and accepted it, and apologised. As far as I’m concerned, the matter is closed.”

Kahn to remain captain

Hitzfeld emphasised that Kahn, who missed Wednesday training with back pain, was not being stripped of the captaincy, and would return to the team for the UEFA Cup meeting with Aris Salonika: “The situation is very clear. I’ve been very, very satisfied with him down the years, I have lots to thank him for, and the club has lots to thank him for. Olli has always been a role model, and he should strive to continue as a role model. I want him to remain an influential personality.“

Hitzfeld cited two cases in which Kahn had failed to fulfil his obligations to the club. First, the 38-year-old explicitly criticised certain team-mates in an interview published on Monday. “This cannot be allowed to happen, or we’ll have a madhouse here,” Hitzfeld commented. Second, Kahn chose to make an early departure from Saturday’s team Christmas party, leaving Mark van Bommel to step in and deliver the traditional captain’s speech.

Kahn ‘neglected duties’

“His behaviour at the Christmas party was unacceptable. The captain can’t be leaving early to go home or anywhere else without prior agreement. As captain, Oliver Kahn must act as an example to the team, because his team-mates take their lead from him.“ The keeper had blatantly neglected his duties in this case. “If I turn a blind eye, how would I be able to discipline players who know the captain’s allowed to get away with it?” Hitzfeld asked.

However, the General made it crystal clear that Kahn’s punishment was a warning to the entire team. “We’ve had a few negative headlines, and I’ve stood and watched for long enough. This signal is intended for internal consumption. Every player must understand the need for comradeship and unity if we are to achieve our goals, and we’ve set our sights high this season,” Hitzfeld declared.

Hitzfeld to introduce code of ethics

For this reason, the coach has decided to draw up a code of ethics during the mid-season break, establishing priorities for players at the club, and laying down rules for behaviour in public. The code will be used specifically as a guide for the playing staff. “It will encourage some of the players to stop and consider their responsibilities to Bayern Munich, in public and in the dressing room.“

Hitzfeld hopes the new measure will assist the widely differing personalities in his multi-cultural squad to adhere to a consistent line. “We’re definitely still a team in transition, and we’ve not yet experienced the highs and lows which help you grow together,” the coach reasoned. The 58-year-old is determined to re-focus the club’s energies back onto football: “We need to put an end to the turmoil. We simply can’t afford sideshows,“ he concluded.