Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

For the 2016/17 season, the Bundesliga will finally have a club from former East Germany for the first time since Energie Cottbus were relegated in 2009 – the year RB Leipzig was founded.

Leipzig is where the German Football Association (DFB) was founded and, since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, had never had a team in Germany's top-flight.

But there will be no warm welcome from rival fans for Sunday's first match at Hoffenheim.

“The Bundesliga has found a new object of hatred, the RB Leipzig,” commented weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

In an extreme example, a severed bull's head was thrown onto the pitch by fans of second-division Dynamo Dresden during last Saturday's German Cup first-round away defeat.

Banners reading 'Kill the Bulls' and 'Red Bull deserves beatings' on display in Dresden were typical of those seen around German grounds when RB Leipzig play away.

At Erzgebirge Aue in February 2015, a banner compared Red Bull's owner Dietrich Mateschitz to Adolf Hitler and RB Leipzig's fans to Nazis.

The level of hostility shown towards the German league new boys is more than just petty jealousy from former second division rivals.

Some fans of Borussia Dortmund, who will be the first Bundesliga club to visit Leipzig's Red Bull Arena on September 10, plan to boycott the game.

There is little respect from within German football to the considerable feat of having earned four promotions in seven years with a team lacking star signings.

Deep pockets

“You don't have to like us, but no one will knock us off our path,” said RB Leipzig's director of sport Ralf Rangnick defiantly.

RB Leipzig is seen as the embodiment of the commercialism that the average German fans loathes.

The new kids on the Bundesliga block have endless cash reserves and are bankrolled by Austrian billionaire Mateschitz.

The club was only founded in 2009 – when Red Bull bought the licence from fifth-division minnows SSV Markranstadt – and RasenBallsport (GrassBallsport) Leipzig was born.

'RasenBallsport' is a fabricated German word, an unsubtle way of getting around Red Bull's problem that, under German Football League (DFL) rules, a team may not carry a sponsor's name.

They also navigated their way around the DFL's '50+1' rule to prevent any individual having a controlling stake in a club.

Red Bull owns 49 percent of RB Leipzig, but the remaining 51 percent is owned by employees of the Austrian drinks firm.

Such rule-bending means RB Leipzig has been dealing with hostility from within German football since they started life seven years ago.

“This club is not my favourite and never will be,” said Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke tersely.

Despite achieving Bundesliga status, the club has resisted the urge to bring in a big-name signing for their debut.

Werder Bremen's Davie Selkie joined in 2015 and was the club's top scorer with a modest 10 goals in 30 games as they finished second in last season's second division behind Freiburg.

Bayern threat

None of their internationals – USA striker Terrence Boyd, Denmark forward Yussuf Poulsen, Guinea midfielder Natby Keita or Hungary's Zsolt Kalmar – are household names in Germany.

Centre-back Marvin Compper won his single cap for Germany back in 2009.

They have an impressive youth system, which produced Bayern Munich and Germany defender Joshua Kimmich.

Their deep resources means some fans feel they could be a threat to Bayern's dominance of the German league.

“I don't want to be 80 by the time RB win their first Bundesliga title,” said Mateschitz last year, giving the club eight years to lift the German league trophy.

Bayern's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was reserved in his welcome of the Bundesliga new boys.

“It is good for the Bundesliga that there is a club from the east in the Bundesliga again,” he told magazine Sport Bild.

“But I believe that fans from the east would have been more pleased if Dynamo Dresden had done it.”

However, the Bayern boss was emphatic when asked when RB Leipzig would win their first Bundesliga title. “I will never see that happen,” he snapped.

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Is Leipzig really Germany’s ‘ultimate travel destination’?

The Saxonian city of Leipzig has been named by traveller’s bible Lonely Planet as its “ultimate” travel tip for Germany. Does the Local Germany’s knowledgeable readership agree?

The city centre of Leipzig.
The city centre of Leipzig. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild

Long a cult favourite among Germany fans, the left-wing city of Leipzig appears to now be gaining mainstream recognition after the Lonely Planet crowned it the country’s top travel destination this week.

In a new book titled “Ultimate German Travel Destinations – the top 250”, the travel publisher put Leipzig ahead of picturesque getaways such as Lake Constance and the Zugspitze as its number one destination.

“The hype that some say surrounds the city isn’t hype t all: Leipzig really is hipper than Berlin, and hotter than Munich, especially among millennials,” the guidebook boldly claims.

It goes on to lavish praise on the city of 600,000 inhabitants as “young, exciting, multifaceted – sometimes colourful, sometimes grey – and with a vibrant liveliness.”

“Everyone wants to go to the city where the anti-GDR demonstrations started,” the guidebook continues. “It is the home of Auerbachs Keller (made famous by Goethe and Faust); it’s the city of street art and wave gothic festivals; and its artistic scene at the Baumwollspinnerei is second to none.”

READ ALSO: A love letter to the eastern German city of Leipzig

‘Not cooler than Berlin’

Reaction to the list among the Local’s readership was mixed.

“It is a beautiful city and it’s easy to navigate. I find it hard to say that it’s cooler than Berlin, though. Berlin simply has more,” one reader told us on Facebook. “It’s the kind of place where people find their ‘spot.” I think most people in Leipzig know about most places in Leipzig. It’s a much smaller city. That may just be a more favourable lifestyle for some.”

Praise for Saxony’s biggest city ranged from admiration for the beauty of its architecture (particularly its train station) to the vibrancy of its arts scene.

Others suggested that Leipzig is indeed overhyped and that it can’t compete with natural wonders such as the pristine Königssee in the Bavarian Alps.

Lake Constance wins silver

Lake Constance, the country’s largest body of fresh water, came in second on the list.

The authors praised the southern See, which borders Switzerland and Austria, for “the many beautiful spots on its shores: Lindau, Meersburg, Überlingen, Constance and more – often surrounded by lush orchards.”

A regatta on the Bodensee in September 2021. Photo: dpa | Felix Kästle 

Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall came in third. 

“It’s impossible to imagine the Hanseatic city’s skyline without this glass work of art, which soars into the sky above the harbour like a frozen wave,” the book notes.

Also in the top ten were the Wattenmeer, which is a huge nature reserve on the North Sea coast, Berlin’s museum island, the sandstone hills of Saxony, and Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze in Bavaria.