ZDF Sport Documentation: The Hopp Cause – It’s Complicated


Updated March 29, 2021, 8:33 am

“An absurd spectacle what was being done.” Jan-Henrik Gruszecki, long-time member of the Dortmund ultra scene, sums up what happened in Sinsheim on February 29, 2020.

One column

of Christopher Giogios

We remember: after insulting banners by Bayern fans against Dietmar Hopp, the party was almost broken off. The last few minutes degenerated into a staged solidarity between the players and Bayern officials and the patron of TSG Hoffenheim. The media outrage is taking on unexpected forms: Comparisons with racist incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. The relationship between clubs, associations and active fans has reached a new low.

In a ZDF sports documentary by Jochen Breyer and Jürn Kruse, which is well worth seeing, the events and their history were rolled out. Worth seeing because for the first time the fans have their say. Above all, with the participation of Gruszecki, who today works in an advisory capacity at BVB, and two members of the Ultras from the Schickeria Munich, a point of view is presented that had previously disappeared in public.

The escalation of the conflict is complex

The position of the fans is clear: Yes, there were insulting chants and banners against Hopp, who is a symbol of commercial football. However, he had driven the spiral of escalation himself through numerous legal measures. Penalty orders due to vicious chants and banners, which have always been common in the fan curve? The reintroduction of collective punishments for entire fan scenes? All of this was perceived as breaking a taboo. Even Uli Hoeneß, who was regularly exposed to hostility during his time as Bayern boss, has to admit with a smile: “All in all, I survived it.”

But if, in addition to Hoeneß, Hopp’s lawyer Christoph Schickhardt and DFB vice Rainer Koch, absolute hardliners have their say, you get an impression of which worlds collide in the stadiums. There is talk of “locking away” criminals for a day (Schickhardt) or smuggling undercover investigators into the curves in order to smash ultra-scenes from the inside (Koch). The documentary traces how Dietmar Hopp has tried since his entry into the world of professional football to suppress unpleasant criticism with the sharpest means – with the active support of the DFB.

New insight: clubs and the DFB knew about the protests

These and other statements by the actors provide a good basis for forming an individual opinion on the events – they speak for themselves.

The film also provides a new insight that is important for the public: the reaction of the representatives from Bayern and Hoffenheim, the interruption of the game by the referees and the excitement of Sky commentator Kai Dittmann were anything but spontaneous.

Rather, all those involved knew days beforehand that protests against a collective punishment for Dortmund fans due to anti-hop chants were planned. Collective punishments that were actually suspended by the DFB as a sign of readiness for dialogue. How much the DFB threatened to break apart from this conflict is shown by the remarkably frank statements of ex-President Reinhard Grindel. With a smile, he states that his chosen path of willingness to compromise with the fan scenes was, in retrospect, probably more promising than the tough course of Koch and Co. He is not wrong.

Has the media allowed itself to be captured?

However, the film lacks one decisive factor: the role of the media. An interview is being conducted with Sky commentator Kai Dittmann. His statement, however, is downright bizarre: Dittmann admits that his non-spontaneous tirade against the Munich fans (which he branded as enemies of democracy and civilized coexistence) was due to the framing during preliminary talks with club representatives. But what kept him from getting more information at the time remains his secret.

Even the maker of the film, Jochen Breyer, could have dealt more critically with his role: After all, it was he who first interviewed DFB President Fritz Keller and then Dietmar Hopp, or rather, provided a stage, immediately after the events. Critical inquiries? Nothing. It also speaks volumes about the self-image of Hopp and Co. when Uli Hoeneß accuses the journalist Breyer (!) That he is now also listening to the Ultras. Breyer at least made it clear in a very open statement on Twitter that he regretted his role at the time.

The conflict has certainly not yet come to an end. There are also legal proceedings against individual fans who go to the next higher instance.

Conclusion: The argument is about much more fundamental things than the person Hopp. It’s about extremely different ideas of how football should look in the future. With current topics such as the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 or the introduction of the Super League, there will also be plenty of explosive in the future. Hopefully the coverage will look like it did on Saturday night more often.

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was asked about his son during a press conference, he fought back tears. © DAZN

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ZDF Sport Documentation Hopp Complicated


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