Created on 01-05-2019 at 08:50 AM
It seems fitting that Uli Hoeneß began his service as FC Bayern general manager on 1 May of all days. It was exactly 40 years ago that the then 27-year-old moved into his office at the Säbener Straße facility. Mayday is a public holiday in Germany and much of the world, but 'holiday' is an unknown word to Hoeneß, who knew there was lots to tackle in his new role. 'Labour Day' was a guiding principle, not a day of rest.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, then FC Bayern player, now chairman and for many years Hoeneß’s partner in the club’s leadership, still remembers the day: “Uli stood in front of us in a grey jacket. He told us what we already knew: he was our new manager.”
A new era
No one guessed that a new period was about to begin - an era that will probably never be matched in the footballing world. "Uli Hoeneß was a stroke of luck for FC Bayern. Not just as a player but as manager, president and chairman,” said Franz Beckenbauer on the day of the anniversary. “What the club is today and the values for which it stands, are to a large extent thanks to him, his specialist knowledge, his involvement, his competence. We can count ourselves lucky to have him.”
Hoeneß was “a pioneer for FC Bayern,” said Rummenigge, “he had to reinvent the club to a certain extent. Very few fans have any idea how the club was run 40 years ago,” the CEO continued: Twelve employees, 12 million Deutschmarks in revenue, 8 million marks of debt. “The world of FC Bayern was not as mighty as it is today - but as manager Uli was sharp, inventive and always on the go.” Bit by bit, FC Bayern grew, and kept on growing.
Netzer’s support at a difficult time
Günther Netzer, a former Germany team-mate of Hoeneß’s who also switched from playing to management at Hamburger SV, has an important story which he has never told before - until a conversation with fcbayern.com. When Hoeneß survived a plane crash in 1982, the Hamburg sports chief got in the car and drove to the hospital in Hanover. "When I sat next to his wife Susi by the bed, everyone was surprised," he said. "I thought it was important, despite all the competition, to be there at such a difficult moment. Uli is a fighter, hard-hitting, but I know he would’ve done the same for me. "
Netzer still remembers what he said back then: “I said to him that I was there for him if he needed anything - and that we were all very, very happy he had survived the crash.” A good 40 years later Netzer believes: “The whole of German football and FC Bayern in particular would be a lot more boring without Uli Hoeneß - and certainly not as successful.”
Standards set in football and beyond
Hoeneß’s strongest commitment is to FC Bayern retaining its family reputation. “He was always a friend of the team, even as a young manager, and that hasn’t changed,” said Rummenigge. “Even late at night you can go to him with a problem, no matter what it is.” His critics would love to overlook that, thinks Netzer: “Uli was depicted as an enemy from the start, and he didn’t care, because his own reputation wasn’t as important as that of FC Bayern. He fights for his club and risks being a villain - that is true greatness in my eyes.”
"He's FC Bayern's biggest fan"
According to Rummenigge, the 67-year-old has barely set any limits for his club. The CEO feels he has been "Bayern's biggest fan for over 40 years.” When Rummenigge and Beckenbauer joined the club’s leadership team in 1991, the trio worked “like mad - we lived football day and night.” They flew to Manchester to learn about sponsorship and to Amsterdam because the Ajax academy was so renowned. “We travelled the world to make FC Bayern a leading European club - and to this day, during a match Uli and I discuss football from the first to the 90th minute.”
Recently, in the 5-0 win against Dortmund, Rummenigge had reason to smile again at the way Hoeneß celebrated each goal – the CEO imitated his companion during fcbayern.com’s conversation in his office: “He celebrates like a... well not like a little child... but like a little boy. That’s how he’s always been. Bayern is his life.”