In a truly bizarre scene, Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim refused to play the final 10 or so minutes of their Bundesliga match on Saturday in protest of vulgar signs directed at Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp.
The signs, unfurled by Bayern’s fans in the second half, referred to Hopp as a “son of a whore,” according to Bundesliga reporter Archie Rhind-Tutt.
As a result, Bayern players pleaded with their fans to take down the signs, and the match was stopped several times before both teams decided to just kick the ball around aimlessly. Bayern held a 6-0 lead and ultimately won by that scoreline when the referee blew the final whistle.
Here’s a look at the on-field protest, via FOX Soccer:
Don't see this every day...
Bayern and Hoffenheim played keepy-uppy for the final 10 minutes in protest of the Bayern fans who interrupted the game with hateful banners directed at Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp pic.twitter.com/hOODJnWvqf
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 29, 2020
Why Bayern Munich fans are mad at Hoffenheim’s owner
Hopp has been targeted by opposing fans before, as the billionaire has pumped tons of cash into Hoffenheim since 2000 and overseen its rise from the fifth division to the Bundesliga. While that kind of spending is much more commonplace in American sports, it’s frowned upon in Germany, which has a rule written specifically to protect against it.
The so-called “50+1” rule states clubs will not be allowed to participate in the Bundesliga if commercial investors hold over a 49 percent stake, and therefore own as much or more than the club’s “members,” meaning dues-paying fans. In recent years, however, clubs like RB Leipzig have circumvented the rule by stocking membership with employees or allies of the owner’s company.
In Hopp’s case, Hoffenheim’s members voted to approve him for a majority stake back in 2015, and the club was granted an exception to the 50+1 rule by the Bundesliga. Other clubs have an exception too, but fans revile Hopp and Hoffenheim, considering them inauthentic and symptomatic of everything wrong with modern soccer.
So Bayern and Hoffenheim’s players banded together on the pitch in defense of Hopp, and afterward, Bayern executive chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge joined Hopp on the pitch, where they applauded in unison with the players.
Why won’t players take this kind of stand against racism?
Of course, this all begs the question: If players are willing to go to such lengths to defend billionaire owners, why can’t they do the same for black players when they’re targeted by racist abuse? Soccer has been plagued by racist incidents in recent months, and the ugliness has extended, by some measure, to the teammates that have tried to convince the victims to keep playing instead of taking a stand with them.
While Germany has endured less high-profile racist incidents than other countries, it has not been immune. A recent verbal attack on a player in the third division prompted other fans to chant “Nazis out” at the perpetrator, while German star Mesut Özil also retired from the national team in 2018 and alleged racist treatment at various levels over his Turkish descent.
That’s arguably the biggest problem in soccer, along with the sport being wielded as a tool to sportswash the corrupt and often cruel actions of its biggest power brokers.
To be fair, neither was really taking place in Hoffenheim on Saturday. There also wasn’t much at stake, with the contest already decided.
Players made their stand anyway. It’d help to see them do it to address more serious issues.
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