Bundesliga Anecdotes – Konietzka the Vegetarian, Magic Magath and Daum’s Burning Coals

In this 50th season of the Bundesliga it is well worth taking some time off from the hectic match days and to have a look at some of the personalities whom in the past have contributed greatly to the excellent reputation of Germany’s top flight.

This is an article about some of the most charismatic coaches the league has ever seen. You will not be surprised to find Felix Magath right up there, but what if I told you that he probably isn’t the worst (or best) of them?

The piece is based on (and the quotes translated from) an article brought in Danish newspaper Politiken on March 20th 2012.

Timo Konietzka – the man who scored the first ever Bundesliga goal – died this year at age 73. Not only was his death shrouded in controversy, as he ended his days in a Swiss assisted suicide clinic after sipping a beer, but both his days as a coach and as a player made him a well-known character.

From Konietzska’s second managerial stint at Bayer Uerdingen from 1990-91, Danish wingback Jan Bartram certainly remembers his first day on the training ground.

“The first training session with Konietzka was on a very cold, windy and dark fall day. We were wearing a couple of shirts, long sleeves and long pants. Out on the field stood the coach in shorts and a t-shirt, ready to run along. He had replaced all the balls because – as he said – we were obviously not able to play with the old ones.”

The players were sent back into the dressing room to change clothes but they soon were to find out that the dress code wasn’t the only thing Konietzka had an opinion about.

“He demanded that the food we ate should be vegetarian as he himself was a vegetarian and obviously knew what was best for us.”, Jan Bartram told Danish newspaper Politiken whilst remembering the never-ending runs after defeats, where no one was told when or where to stop.

However, Konietzka isn’t the only coach Bartram remembers from his time in Bayer Uerdingen. His debut at the club was in an away match at Hannover 96 and the man in the managerial seat was Rolf Schafstall who at the tactical meeting before the match wasn’t in his best mood.

“You guys are ridiculously bad. You are worthless. I won’t even bother to tell you anything. You can decide for yourself what you want to do!”, Schafstall said and left the room. At the match he was present on the bench where he didn’t mutter a word. You can decide for yourself if this was a stroke of genius or not, but Bayer Uerdingen trounced Hannover handily winning the match 5-0.

Former Schalke 04 coach Rudi Gutendorf (who since became a well-travelled national coach) ordered his players to turn up at the training ground at 6 in the morning, to convey to his players what the lifestyle of the regular people, the fans who partly paid the players’ salary, was like.

The legendary Max Merkel was not impressed by the ability of his players at 1860 München. He ordered the players to start one of his training sessions by continuously shaking their head from side to side. After a couple of minutes one of the players asked: “Coach, what is this about? Is it strengthening the neck muscles?”. Merkel’s dry reply: “This is what you should be doing if anyone ask if you have the ability to play football!”.

More recently Christoph Daum (now at Club Brügge) was known to be rather creative in his managerial style at Bayer Leverkusen. He let the players run over burning coal and pieces of broken glass to prove their courage to themselves and to their teammates and thereby gaining more confidence.

At FC Köln Daum put up banknotes beside the tactical chalkboard, thereby raising the bonus for a victory by five times, as an incentive to the players before a big match. This trick was adopted by Danish national coach Morten Olsen (a player under Daum at Köln) when he was managing Brøndby IF before a UEFA Cup game against Bayer Leverkusen. The Brøndby-players did get the result they desired and went through to the next round – and they got their hands on Olsen’s money…

This piece wouldn’t be complete without a story about Felix Magath. With so many to choose from it can be hard to settle on one specific episode, but as a manager of VfB Stuttgart, Magath told the players to show up for training the day after a loss and asked them to stand in a circle on the field. There he let them stand stagnant for 90 minutes in 1 degree weather as a punishment for the performance the day before – where movement obviously had been lacking.

There are certainly many other anecdotes and stories of great men in the Bundesliga. Feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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Martin Krag is a football writer and analyst living in Denmark. He covers German football for BetXpert.com and runs the Danish language Bundesliga blog www.bulibold.dk Follow Martin on twitter @martinkrag

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