The bully and the geek… Dortmund in Hoffenheim

Once upon a time there was a smart computer freak, a former amateur footballer, who found passion in a sector far, far away from his biotope. The smart computer freak had a lot of money, because he invented something that made him rich. So he invested the money in a new hobby – a football club named TSG Hoffenheim. He also put the number “1899” in the name to pretend that there was something like tradition. And he really started to (you have to say it harshly) piss off the traditional clubs in Germany.

The tale found its culmination in 2008, when TSG 1899 Hoffenheim shook up German football by earning promotion to the Bundesliga. Many clubs, also Borussia Dortmund, lost against a bunch of first class footballers who were bought (for millions) and formed the years before. Hoffenheim even won the winter title in 2008. It really seems like a story a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Aggression against Hopp

Dietmar Hopp, the man who created Hoffenheim's success.
Dietmar Hopp, the man who created Hoffenheim’s success.

The “so called” geek, Dietmar Hopp, inventor of SAP, is actually a really nice guy and did a lot of good things apart from Hoffenheim and SAP. He really was surprised about the antipathy he had to face during the first season in the Bundesliga. This aggression against Hoffenheim and Hopp was present in almost all over the stadiums in the Bundesliga. The traditional clubs on the one hand feared the (it seemed in those years) endless financial power and on the other hand the start of an era of clubs in possession of reckless billionaires from Asia or Russia. To be honest, Hopp is neither an Asian nor reckless. Hoffenheim is his personal club, he played for when he was young. Nevertheless Hoffenheim was, is and will always be seen as a soulless and boring project and nothing like a “real football club”. Many fans in stadiums expressed their antipathy against this club and Hopp and it seems that the aggressive rejection by fans of Borussia Dortmund created something that was not there before. Borussia Dortmund became the one real rival. Everybody really hates Hoffenheim, but Borussia Dortmund seemed like the main bully for the “geek” Hoffenheim.

A story in three acts

Anti Hopp

In 2008 Borussia Dortmund was like a wounded predator. They had talents, they had the best stadium in Germany but they endureAnti Hopp IId the hardest time in the history of the club. Jürgen Klopp came to Dortmund and Hans Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc worked on the resurrection of the Schwarz-Gelben. Many managers and officials of other clubs spoke against Hoffenheim and Hopp. Particularly the “so called” traditional clubs who had a long history could not stand a project like “Hoppenheim”. The protests of the TSG came immediately. Jan Schindelmeiser, manager of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in 2008, spoke one daunting sentence that was like the symbolic beginning of the enmity between TSG and BVB. “If you want to see tradition you should go to Dortmund, if you want to see good football you should go to Hoffenheim.” The first match between TSG and BVB ended 4:1. The following years the match was not really interesting from a sporting point of view. Dortmund became the best club next to Bayern and Hoffenheim slipped into an uninteresting and middle range club of the Bundesliga. But Dortmund Fans never stopped to express their hostility against Hopp and Hoffenheim. The slogan “Dietmar Hopp you son of a b****” still is very popular. Hopp even tried to proceed against. For American readers the situation may be difficult to understand. In the USA (from my point of view) it seems normal that clubs are founded out of the blue with the help of billionaires. In Germany it is not and the antipathy against Hopp and Hoffenheim, VfL Wolfsburg with VW and the “evil empire of the devil – RB Leipzig” is something that endangers the tradition and the 50+1 rule, which seems to belong to German football like beer and being good in penalty shootout. It’s simple … without Hopp there would be no Hoffenheim. So Hopp (and his like in Leipzig/Salzburg/New York – Mateschitz) is to blame.

Anti Hopp III
“With a little help from my friends…”

The shouts against Dietmar Hopp brought Hoffenheim’s facility manager to a creative invention. He wanted to stop the evil scorn by the Dortmund fans in 2011 and built sound system above the guest stand that could create a sound with 130 decibels. About eleven Dortmund fans suffered an acute hearing loss during the game and had to be treated. All fans pressed charges against Hoffenheim. In 2013 Borussia Dortmund had the chance to shoot TSG Hoffenheim back to the second Bundesliga. Before the last match Hoffenheim was in danger to descend to “Liga 2”. What happened? Dortmund were in lead for about 60 minutes. The fans celebrated the failure of the “project TSG”. Then referee Jochen Drees awared two penalties to Hoffenheim. At least one of them was very, very debatable. Then in the extra time Schmelzer scored the 2:2. But it was not given. Lewandowski was offside. Well he wasn’t, but the referee said he was. The fans (not only Dortmund fans in the stadium, again almost every fan of a traditional club) felt deceived by “Fußballmafia DFB”. It was the last part of the story of “the bully and the geek”. For now.

…and now?


On Wednesday Borussia Dortmund will play in Hoffenheim. BvB have started the season with historic perfection, and beat Bayer Leverkusen with 3:0 on Sunday. It was a perfect match for BVB. They were faster, more aggressive and showed once again an enormous passing efficiency. Borussia Dortmund right now reminds itself of the autumn of 2010. Leverkusen was the second real barrier (after Mönchengladbach) for Thomas Tuchel and the team. They did well. No, not well. They played perfectly. The offensive is effective –  Aubameyang (6), Mkhitaryan (3), Kagawa and Reus (2) more and more are becoming a unit. Hofman, Ramos and Januzaj are brilliant substitutes. Weigl and Gündogan together with Hummels and the wingers Schmelzer/ Ginter built up the game. And Sokratis… I just have one sentence for this guy. “THIS IS SPARTAAAA!”. (For me he is the best transfer in the last few years.). And Hoffenheim? Acuallty there is nothing much to write about Hoffenheim. As I said before. In 2008 they had no fans but good players. Now they have no fans, good players who forgot to play well and a faceless and soulless image that there is nothing to write about. Their only point thus far came from a draw against Darmstadt, and they almost earned a draw in Munich before losing Friday to Mainz 05. It seems that Hoffenheim’s insecurity has grown from game to game and they will barely be able to stand against the Borussia Dortmund of the last weeks.

The end or another story

…there is no sporting rivalry, because one club is too bad. One problem that occurred the last years and that for example Bayern-Fans had to endure long before is the so-called Top-Game-Price. Hoffenheim charges about 55€ for an away match ticket for Dortmund fans. The active fan scene will boycott the game. This problem (from Dortmunds point of view) has nothing to do with the antipathy that BVB-Fans have against Hopp. It is a problem that goes much deeper. The clubs of Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund are categorized in category A – that means the fans have to pay (in this specific example) 55€ for a seater in Hoffenheim. Fans of Mainz or Schalke (category B) only have to pay 22€. So the question of Dortmund-Fans is “55€ for a ticket in Hoffenheim. Are you out of your mind?” Now (a very late update) it seemed that the boykott worked. Hoffenheim assured Borussia Dortmund that they will donate about half of the 55€ from Wednesday’s match. In the future Hoffenheim won’t categorize Dortmund and Bayern in category A. A little success for the initiative of football fans “Kein Zwanni für’n Steher”.

To be honest. Many fans in Germany would rather see VfL Bochum, 1.FC Kaiserslautern, 1. FC Nürnberg or 1860 München in the Bundesliga than TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. And I personally am not fond of this club. So maybe Borussia (bully) will push TSG Hoffenheim (the geek) into a deep crisis on Wednesday.

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Dennis Liedschulte

Dennis works as a journalist and author of fictional novels in Germany. He is a regular visitor of the German Bundesliga. He worked for several newspapers and online magazines and reports directly from Germany for Follow at @NummerSieben7