Meet Uli Hoeneß: German football legend and tax sinner

Meet Uli Hoeneß: German football legend and tax sinner
Niko Kovac (l), coach of FC Bayern Munich and Uli Hoeneß, President FC Bayern Munich, stand side by side during the reception by the Bavarian Prime Minister.
Uli Hoeneß, the son of a butcher, rose to fame as Bayern Munich's powerful president and a millionaire businessman who bounced back despite a spectacular own goal which landed him in jail.

He will stand down in November as club president after a glorious era of success in which Bayern won the Bundesliga title 27 times and five European Cups since he joined the club as a raw teenage player in 1970.

READ ALSO: Uli Hoeneß: A career in pictures

However, a black mark on the German's legacy was the 21 months he served in prison until February 2016 following his 2014 conviction for evading at least28.5 million in taxes.

It spoke volumes for his fearsome reputation that the German media only questioned when he would return to Bayern's helm, never whether it was morally right to do so.

His stint in jail saw the outspoken Hoeneß endure public humiliation as a fallen role model and newspaper mockery as a hypocrite who “preaches water and drinks wine”.

His comment, “criminals have no place in football”, uttered when it emerged in 2000 that ex-Bundesliga coach Christoph Daum had used cocaine, has regularly come back to haunt him.

“I know this is stupid, but I pay my taxes in full,” said to Bild in 2005, was another Hoeneß statement which saw plenty of air time.

READ ALSO: Ex-Bayern boss freed on day release

But such is his popularity within Bayern that he was welcomed back with open arms by the club he helped turn into a European powerhouse and global brand, re-elected as president in November 2016 with no other candidate against him.

Hoeneß played a key role in an extraordinary press conference in October 2018 when he and Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge lambasted the media for
what they felt was unfair criticism following poor results.

Reporters were told to expect “mail from our media lawyer” for any false or inaccurate reports.

Hoeneß' enraged expression and clenched fists showcased his unbridled pride in the club whose success over the last 40 years he played a key role in orchestrating.

Hoeneß during a trial for tax evasion in 2015. Photo: DPA

Star player

He was born in post-war Germany in 1952 into a conservative Catholic middle-class family, living in a humble flat above his father's butcher's shop in Ulm.

The teenager's passion meant his discipline and talent were noted early and he joined Bayern Munich aged 18.

As a young star player, Hoeneß, alongside the legendary Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd ller, was at the heart of the team which won the European Cup three times from 1974-76.

When a persistent knee injury forced him to retire at just 27, the club made him its youngest-ever manager. And when Beckenbauer stood down as Bayern president in 2009, Hoeneß was ready to succeed him after a 30-year apprenticeship.

Hoeneß was the driving force behind the rise of the club, which now boasts
a massive membership, state-of-the-art stadium and huge profits.

While Hoeneß is a hard-nosed business man, he also developed a culture of
helping teams in financial trouble by staging friendlies, and in 2005 lent near-bankrupt Borussia Dortmund two million euros to pay their players.

Hoeneß has gone out of his way to support players in distress — he made sure the retired Mueller was treated in a clinic when he was battling alcoholism.

Hoeneß twice narrowly escaped death, first from a serious car accident in 1975 and then a light plane crash in 1982, which killed three of his friends.

A dazed and bloodied Hoeneß wandering through the woods simply told his
rescuer: “I am cold, I am freezing.”

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