When I first started reading sports books that weren’t just focused on Irish or British stories, Tor!: The Story of German Football was one of the first that opened my eyes to the wider world of sports writing. A detailed and engrossing history of German football, it’s definitely one for the sports history nerd rather than the casual premier league fan (needless to say I loved it).
Surprisingly, Uli Hesse didn’t publish his next book on German football for 13 more years. Bayern: Creating a Global Superclub tells the history of Bayern Munich, the undisputed biggest club in Germany and one of the true global superclubs that competes for the Champions League (almost) every season.
The club’s origin story is interesting and well-told. Disgruntled players broke away from the local gymnastics club to ensure football got the attention they felt it deserved. Of most interest is the clubs early openness to foreigners and its Jewish connections which saw it suffer during Hitler’s reign. This could have been covered in more detail – especially as it’s not a short book. Hesse alludes to mixed views on whether Bayern were victims or not and I would definitely like to read more about that period in the clubs history.
Its remarkable to think that Bayern weren’t invited into the inaugural Bundesliga in 1963 but within 10 years had won it 3 times and be about embark on an incredible run of 3 successive European Cups.
Throughout the book, Hesse tracks the key figures who helped turn the club from a normal Bavarian team into a global institution – players, coaches and administrators, and the likes of Uli Hoeness and Franz Beckenbauer who played multiple roles with such impact.
One fact that jumps out from the book is the relatively small impact that individual managers/coaches have had on Bayern’s historical development and achievements than players and administrators have had. For instance, no-one would consider 2 time European Cup winner Dettmar Cramer in the same category as Brian Clough, Pep Guardiola, Alex Ferguson or Arrigo Sacchi – all fellow 2 time European Cup winners who had much greater personal influence and impact on the clubs that they managed.
Hesse approaches the book with the stated aim of being dispassionate about a club that German football fans either love or hate. He definitely achieves this, and a lot more. Bayern is meticulously researched and packed full of detail. It’s a really interesting and enjoyable read. Like Tor! however it may too full of detail for many readers (and incomprehensibly detailed for those without any past knowledge of Bayern). Some readers may find there is too much emphasis on match report style recounts of long forgotten matches and others may wish there was more coverage of the recent era. However, I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes a bit of football history.
Hesse’s latest book, Building the Yellow Wall: The Incredible Rise and Cult Appeal of Borussia Dortmund was just published (in English at least) this week and is one I’ll be picking up.