Mar 2, 2020 - Sports

Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim refuse to finish match after fans protest billionaire owner

Photo: Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim refused to play the final 10 minutes of their match on Saturday in protest of derogatory signs directed at Hoffenheim's billionaire owner Dietmar Hopp.

The backdrop: Hopp, who co-founded German software giant SAP and played for Hoffenheim's youth team, has pumped gobs of money into the club since taking over in 2000, fueling its rise from the fifth division to the Bundesliga.

Between the lines: "While that kind of spending is much more commonplace in American sports, it is frowned upon in Germany, which has a rule written specifically to protect against it," writes Yahoo Sports' Joey Gulino.

  • Hopp was granted an exception by the Bundesliga, and while other clubs also have exceptions, fans consider Hoffenheim the most "inauthentic and symptomatic of everything wrong with modern soccer," adds Gulino.
  • This weekend was not the first time Hopp has been targeted by opposing fans, and similar protests have been levied against RB Leipzig owners Red Bull, who are accused of using the club as a marketing ploy for their energy drink empire.

The big picture: This story serves as a great reminder of how much sports culture differs globally. As leagues like the NBA continue to expand, it's worth remembering that while the language of sports is universal, sports fandom — and the role that money plays in sports — is not the same from country to country.

"I understand this can be a hard thing to process for a lot of people in [England] because the culture is so different. I think what Hopp has done is to our mind not wrong at all. ... German fans see it as unnatural that a wealthy individual makes a club bigger and better than it should be. That's just part of the German football culture."
Soccer writer Lars Sivertsen, via BT Sport

What to watch: If players are willing to make a statement like this in support of a billionaire owner, hopefully they'll start to do the same for their black teammates who continue to be targeted by racist abuse.

Go deeper: The world's wealthiest soccer clubs

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