"Couldn't pay salaries": When Uli Hoeneß saved BVB from total bankruptcy

Season 2004/05: BVB doesn't know what to do other than ask Uli Hoeneß for help when they are in dire need.

"Couldn't pay salaries": When Uli Hoeneß saved BVB from total bankruptcy

Season 2004/05: BVB doesn't know what to do other than ask Uli Hoeneß for help when they are in dire need. And indeed: Bayern's money saves Borussia from going under - and then Aki Watzke comes and works for free!

Almost all the lights went out in Dortmund in the 2004/05 season. And what was particularly bad for die-hard BVB supporters in retrospect: the constant burning of money had driven Borussia into the arms of FC Bayern. The people of Munich helped BVB out of the deepest jam with money. Uli Hoeneß remembers: "When Dortmund didn't know what to do and couldn't pay their salaries anymore, we gave them two million for a few months without security."

Certainly an act of extreme embarrassment for the BVB board. But what hardly anyone knows anymore: In the early 1980s, Borussia helped the struggling district clubs FC Schalke 04 and VfL Bochum financially when they were in dire need. BVB transferred 1.1 million marks to S04 for Rüdiger Abramczik for the 1980/81 season and thus saved Schalke's license. Just a year later, Jupp Tenhagen moved from VfL to Dortmund in tears. Former VfL President Ottokar Wüst remembers: "And then Reinhard Rauball said: 'Send us Tenhagen and we'll send you a million marks.' Otherwise we wouldn't have existed the next day."

Many years later, the time of President Gerd Niebaum and manager Michael Meier finally came to an end in Dortmund. The liabilities grew every day by an unbelievable 72,000 euros. And in terms of sport, things didn’t go at all in the first half of the season either. After the 17th match day, BVB was only 14. A fan poster best expressed the mood in Dortmund: "It's dark in the basement, turn on the light!"

In Germany people laughed about BVB. Comedian Michael Mittermeier scoffed: "What do BVB and Karstadt have in common? Both are broke. But Karstadt has the better sports department." Hans-Joachim Watzke became the new managing director at Borussia. He worked a full-time job at BVB, but didn't earn anything with it. According to his own statements, Watzke gave up his entire salary because of the empty coffers at his employer. And that's not all. He also paid all the costs for petrol, telephone and overnight stays out of his own pocket: "At the moment I bring almost 2,000 euros with me every month!"

Otherwise, it was the season of personalities. The season had not yet started when one of the big Bundesliga stars was already threatening to leave. Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn handed it. In his opinion, the coverage of his private life went "grotesque". The "Bild" newspaper even asked: "Is Olli Kahn breaking up?". Bavaria's CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was angry and tried to have a de-escalating effect - appealing to the national well-being: "If this continues, he will be systematically driven out of the country. Oliver Kahn is a great fighter. But he's only human, who has a sensitive point. You are slowly but surely driving him away, one of the few beacons of hope for the 2006 World Cup." But Kahn stayed!

Another went. Reiner Calmund resigned in June: "I've always been at the forefront for 27 years, always on my toes, always in charge, whether in youth, marketing or professional areas. That's how I lived for the club. I have to say now: I'm flat! I can't give 100 percent anymore. I can't take this burden anymore." His conclusion after this long time as an employee of Bayer 04: "We started in the rabbit hutch at the Haberland Stadium, we've made it from being a relegation contender to becoming an international player. Bayer was a part of me. In terms of pay, I've always been in a relegation zone "When we won the trophy in 1993, I earned 150,000 marks. I also made jumps, but that ended at 350,000 euros. That's less than number 20, but I'm that crazy. But I'll also be financially secure in the future . I want to thank Bayer for that."

And another went and came back quickly. After seven years, Bixente Lizarazu left Bayern for Marseille in the summer. Finally back in the permanently sunny south, finally living close to home again - everything seemed perfect. But after less than six months, Lizarazu was back on the pitch for Bayern. When things didn't work out in Marseille, he remembered Uli Hoeneß's promise that he was welcome to come back at any time. Old love never rusts. Now he was back home, at Bayern Munich. Only his former shirt number, the 3, they had already given to Lucio. Anyway, as Lizarazu explained: "Now I'm '69' because I was born in 1969, I'm 1.69 meters tall and weigh 69 kilos. Okay, I used to weigh 69 kilos. To be honest: That's quite a few years ago."

The quote of the season came from Leverkusen coach Klaus Augenthaler: "If a player can hold the ball up ten times today, he's done with signing his first contract." Oh, by the way, Bayern Munich became champions. 14 points ahead of FC Schalke 04 at the end of the 2004/05 season. The celebrations on Matchday 31 in Kaiserslautern (4-0 win for Bayern) took place without Oliver Kahn. The goalkeeper stayed in Munich and was replaced by Michael Rensing. After this - especially privately - so stressful season for the national goalkeeper a welcome break. After all, the big end was still to come for Oliver Kahn!

(This article was first published on Saturday, December 24, 2022.)