Created on 2022-01-05 at 15:18 PM
We met in October 1966 at a training course for the South German representative team in Karlsruhe. When the double rooms were allocated, we - I’d just turned 15, you were still 14 - were by chance standing next to each other - and became inseparable. For years we shared a room, I always took the train to the courses from Freilassing via Munich to Ulm, where you got on - and stayed with you for a few hours on the return journey until the last train.
We got on straight away because, despite having completely different interests and somewhat differing views, we were joined like twins when it came to fundamental views such as desire, commitment and hard work. Our magnet was mutual respect: we knew we could rely on each other 100 per cent, on the pitch and in life. Our upbringing meant we both had to grow up early - you had to help in your butcher’s shop, I managed my everyday life independently even as a child with two parents working full-time. It was only logical that we started a flat share when we moved to FC Bayern in 1970. By that point we were like an old married couple and knew what made the other one tick.
For some months as a player, you had a habit of taking scales with you everywhere and standing on them 10 times a day. I'll never forget how, in March 1973, before the European Cup quarter-final against Ajax, we were ready to leave and you tore off your clothes in one fell swoop, weighed yourself and declared: “Paul, I’ve got a great feeling about today!” We lost 4-0. When we got back to the hotel, I said to you: “Either you throw these scales out of the window right now, or I'll do it!" That was the end of the matter.
We were so closely connected in thought that we also made important phone calls to each other, negotiated and made decisions. Like before the 1974 World Cup, when you agreed with a publisher that the two of us would publish a book together. Your sales pitch: we would sign every copy personally. I thought to myself: Whatever, let's just sign a few thousand copies. In the end, there were exactly 307,500 books. Months after the World Cup, I was still getting stacks of the inserts sent to Madrid.
We didn’t lose contact during my three years in Spain. On the contrary: we visited each other every few weeks. You soaked up my experiences at Real, which already had over 600 employees back then, like a sponge. During that time, the idea grew to turn FC Bayern into a second Real Madrid, a global club - that was our shared dream.
During all these years, there was not one bad word; the first big dispute we had was in January 1983, when you were general manager and I decided to quit at the end of the season. You couldn't understand why I ended my career at just 31, at my peak, because you yourself were forced to quit at 27. “Play as long as you can. It's the best time of your life,” you always preached to your players. Yet your fate was FC Bayern’s great fortune: you left your mark on the club like only Gerd Müller did with his goals. And for me, too, this dispute was life-changing at the time. In hindsight, I am infinitely grateful to you because otherwise I would probably have embarked on a career as an official, which would have counteracted my early retirement - after all, I wanted to be free of football.
The fact that I sometimes publicly attacked you and FC Bayern was due to the fact that both you and the club were always important to me - and still are today. I criticised some decisions because I was the only one who dared to counter you. I wanted to draw attention to things for the good of FC Bayern. If I didn’t care, I wouldn't have bothered at all.
Dear Uli, I am glad that we both came to our senses and woke up. It would’ve been bad if we couldn’t still enjoy our journey together now.
For your birthday, I hope you have a genius idea for your own personal wish, so that you, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and I achieve something great once more. And since I’ve always been a few months ahead of you in age, I can assure you: even the 70th doesn’t hurt.
Members’ magazine “51” paid Uli Hoeneß a visit for a big birthday interview: