FRANKFURT: Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich played out a bizarre finals to their Bundesliga clash after a lengthy delay because of an abusive banner in the crowd.
Bayern were 6-0 up when their travelling fans unfurled an offensive banner about controversial Hoffenheim president Dietmar Hopp.
Coach Hansi Flick and most of the players pleaded – angrily in some cases – with the fans to put it away. Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and board member Oliver Kahn – both former players – also attempted to talk to the ultras.
Referee Christian Dingert eventually took the players down the tunnel and the game was suspended for about 20 minutes.
The match eventually restarted from 77 minutes, with fans told it would be abandoned if the banner appeared again. Bayern’s and Hoffenheim’s players then just kicked the ball between themselves – with goalkeepers not in their goals – to get the game to its conclusion.
At the final whistle, 79-year-old Hopp, Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and the players stood on the pitch and applauded Hoffenheim fans in a show of solidarity.
Billionaire Hopp is a divisive character in German football, having bankrolled Hoffenheim up from the fifth tier to the Bundesliga between 2000 and 2008.
In 2015, Hopp was allowed to take a majority voting share – one of three exceptions to the 50+1 rule which means members must own more than half the shares in their club.
The other two Bundesliga teams to not be owned by fans – Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg – were both founded as works clubs.
Bayern’s fans are not the first to protest against Hopp. The previous weekend a similar banner from Borussia Monchengladbach fans saw their Bundesliga game delayed.
Earlier this month Borussia Dortmund fans were banned from away games against Hoffenheim for the next two seasons.
Flick, who managed Hoffenheim from 2000 to 2005: “That has nothing to do with football. It can’t continue like this. It’s time to act. We need to stand together and cannot condone it.
“I grew up here and I’ve known Dietmar Hopp for over 20 years. I’m sorry for him as he’s done so much for society. Every single one of these troublemakers probably has someone in their family who has profited from what Dietmar Hopp has done – when it comes to cancer research, for example.
“We need to stand together and fight these troublemakers, these idiots. It’s a dark day for FC Bayern. Both clubs made a very big statement today.”
German football league chief executive Christian Seifert: “The continuous animosity towards Dietmar Hopp has been unacceptable for some time and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. There are no excuses.
“Everyone involved – players, officials, Hoffenheim and Bayern board members and the majority of the people in the stadium – reacted to this situation in an exemplary manner and sent out a clear statement that this sort of thing will no longer be tolerated. This type of hatred can have no place in football. That has to be the aspiration of German football as a whole.”
Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: “I’m deeply embarrassed, particularly for Dietmar Hopp. Football reared its ugly head. The moment has come for the whole of German football to stand together. For too long we’ve turned a blind eye to what’s been going on in the stands.
“After what happened today we need to rethink things and we need to fight it with everything we have. We filmed everything and will come down heavily on our fans and bring them to justice. These people have no place in football stadiums.”
Hoffenheim manager Alfred Schreuder: “Everyone’s incredibly disappointed with what happened. Dietmar Hopp has done so much for the region and for us. We’re sad and we feel very sorry for him. The behaviour of the two teams was very good. It’s embarrassing when something like that happens. We’re not talking about thousands of fans, just a couple. What Dietmar Hopp has done with his career is special. Nobody deserves that.”
Hoffenheim captain Benjamin Hubner: “I think the referee reacted correctly. He stopped the game initially before taking us into the changing room. I hope we made a statement today. That’s what football should do – it connects people. I think it was a historic game. We should all build on that.”
Serge Gnabry volleyed home a Thomas Muller cross before Joshua Kimmich doubled their lead. Teenager striker Joshua Zirkzee slotted home from six yards out – his fourth goal in four Bundesliga games.
Philippe Coutinho scored twice before Leon Goretzka added a sixth. But those goals will just be a footnote on this game – even if the result is allowed to stand.