MUNICH: All the old animosity between Theo Zwanziger and Bayern Munich bosses has exploded to the surface again over the German champions’ weekend friendly in Saudi Arabia writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Last week Bayern spent a week on a midwinter training break in Doha, Qatar, where several of their players and coach Pep Guardiola took time out to attend the World Handball Championship.
They then flew on to Riyadh to beat Al-Hilal in a friendly which provoked critical comment from German politicians because of human rights concerns regarding Saudi Arabia.
Zwanziger, FIFA executive committee member who was formerly president of the German federation, lined up with the critics.
He said: “I have known for some time that at Bayern commerce is more important than ethics.”
Zwanziger, after stepping down as DFB president, was fiercely critical of Bayern bosses Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness in an autobiography. They dismissed Zwanziger and the criticisms in unflattering terms.
Clearly Zwanziger’s feelings have not mellowed with time.
Bayern chief executive Rummenigge insisted that playing in Saudi did not mean the club endorsed the recent flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi which has prompted international outrage.
Rummenigge said: “We have taken note in the past few days of a number of critical comments on the match of FC Bayern in Riyadh.
“Bayern Munich, as a club, condemns all forms of cruel punishment, which is not in conformity with human rights, such as in the current case with the anti-Islam blogger Raif Badawi. It would have been better, clearly, if we had addressed that more clearly in the framework of our game in Saudi Arabia.
“German political leaders travel to Saudi Arabia soon. They have responsibility for political policy while we are a football club but one with an appreciation about the need for human rights to be respected.
“Our club has never endorsed any form of discrimination, violence or racism and believes strongly in tolerance. Football is always at the service of international relations amid which human rights are an integral value.”
Bayern’s trip was paid for by a sponsor rather than directly by any Saudi organisation.
However, Greens’ sports spokesman Özcan Mutlu complained that the Bundesliga leaders had missed a chance “to raise a strong signal on behalf of democracy and human rights” by not refusing to play.
A further issue arose after the game when the Saudi club’s players were barred attending from an official banquet with the Bayern stars.
Club owner Prince Abdul Rahman bin Musaid called the incident “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Bayern’s media director Markus Hörwick blamed the incident on “a big misunderstanding.”