Uli Hoeneß turns 70: Bayern heart remains trump card

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Uli Hoeneß celebrates his 70th birthday on Wednesday. To mark the occasion, FC Bayern members' magazine "51" visited the honorary president in Tegernsee. 

The Schafkopf cards in Uli Hoeneß’s hand are, of course, FC Bayern-branded. The heart on the one side, the club badge on the other - that's how they play in the Hoeneß household on the banks of Lake Tegernsee, in the wooden cabin in the garden to be precise. Outside there is snow, inside a furnace provides cosiness. It’s only a wooden cabin where Hoeneß likes to play Schafkopf with his friends from time to time, but you can still read a bit into it. Because that’s basically how it was over the decades in which he shaped Bayern as a player, general manager, board member and president: even if it was icy outside, with the wind and weather tearing at you, Uli Hoeneß has made sure throughout his life that it remains comfortable inside.

The best card: Bayern remains the trump in the Hoeneß household

The rounds of Schafkopf in the wooden cabin have become extremely rare during coronavirus, which the long-time Bayern supremo finds as depressing as everyone who has had to cut down on cherished contacts. “But none of that helps at this time,” he also says. “We all have to see to it that we somehow get this pandemic under control. That’s our first civic duty.”

In general it’s become quieter around Hoeneß - first his departure from active service at Bayern, then coronavirus. But two years after stepping down as president, everything has long since settled down. No two days are the same, the honorary president describes his new life, although the start of the day normally follows the same pattern. His dog Ben, a - to put it mildly - pretty central member of the family, gets him out of bed at 6:30. Both go for a walk or pick up bread rolls - “and then we have a copious breakfast”. Ben gets some bread or a piece of apple from his master, who flicks through the newspapers. Every morning, wife Susi takes into account that the dog will be cared for at breakfast. She gets up earlier and just gives Ben crispbread with quark, so that he doesn’t get too much of a good thing. “The dog is more important than me” at breakfast, she jokes.

Important member of the family: Uli Hoeneß playing with dog Ben

For Susi Hoeneß, who will have been married to her husband for 50 years this year, his retirement as FCB president has also meant a big change. She fell in love with him at school at the age of 15. “It was just his nature, his sense of what’s right and the fact he knew what he wanted. I always thought he was great,” she explains. Witnessing the couple together now is most interesting: both have strong opinions and aren’t afraid of confrontation, yet you can always tell they have an intimate bond, deep trust and immense mutual respect. “Susi’s no shrinking violet, you have to win her over with arguments,” says Uli. The greatest happiness is when you appreciate what you have in each other. “Sometimes you don't say that enough, I could still improve a bit even at my advanced age,” says Uli. It’s clear that while Ben may be more important at breakfast, afterwards the rank order is indisputable.

I am extremely grateful for everything, I want to pass that on. I think that's important in life. And values like reliability, dependability - we need them especially in today's society.

Uli Hoeneß

Family life on the whole is characterised by the fact that Uli allows a lot. When the grandchildren come round, grandpa enjoys secretly sharing some cola or a TV session. He currently likes watching Bud Spencer films with the youngest. “He always asks: ‘When are we doing it again?’” explains Uli. “And then he sits on my lap and we enjoy it.” Happiness, Hoeneß says, for him is when the family is visiting, the children are playing in the garden and everyone is healthy. “We have paradise here, and I think all of us here in Germany should be grateful more often,” he says. Gratitude is generally something that he feels when he looks back over his life – starting with his parents. His father was always up at three in the morning for the butcher’s shop, while his mother was on at Uli and his brother to be ambitious and pass their school exams. “I am extremely grateful for everything, I want to pass that on. I think that's important in life. And values like reliability, dependability - we need them especially in today's society.” Does Hoeneß regret anything in his life? Of course, he replies. “The tax affair, which I would gladly make unhappen. I regret it, I’m sorry for it.”

A shining light of the German record champions for years: Uli Hoeneß

Watching his beloved Bayern, whether it’s football or basketball, is now purely pleasure for Hoeneß. “I get really into it emotionally and enjoy wins - but I don’t have that pressure anymore,” he describes. “I used to feel it already on the night before, and after a game like the 5-0 defeat at Gladbach I wouldn’t have slept for two nights. Now I calm the others down. FC Bayern once lost 7-0 at home to Schalke with Franz Beckenbauer, and at Kaiserslautern we were thrashed 7-4 after being 4-1 up.” Continuing to attend matches is important to him in order to stay in touch. “I want to keep up with everything that I do,” says Hoeneß. “It stops the ageing if you stay on the ball. I want to try, even when I’m 80, to still be a discussion partner who keeps up to date.”

Susi finds her husband at his most relaxed when he’s drinking an Aperol spritz and smoking a cigarre on the terrace on a sunny afternoon. However, she knows him only too well. “I think he’d like to work for the rest of his life. He’s terribly attached to FC Bayern.” And yet she’s pleased about the freedom he now has and which is also reflected in little things. “He just has time for once, he doesn’t always have appointments. He has air to breathe. Now he can also take care of himself; until now he always just took care of others. I find it nice having him here.”

It stops the ageing if you stay on the ball. I want to try, even when I’m 80, to still be a discussion partner who keeps up to date

Uli Hoeneß

Hand on heart, how much does Hoeneß miss the day-to-day life of FC Bayern? He thinks long, then says: “I can say one thing for sure: I’ve always tried to give everything I have, in my mind and in my body, to get FC Bayern to where it is today. And if anyone attacks this club, I will always be there.” He bid farewell two years ago, and on visiting his house for his 70th birthday it becomes clear once again: FC Bayern continues to play a role in Uli Hoeneß’s life, and not just in Schafkopf. The Bayern heart is and remains the trump card.

Photos: © Daniel Delang