The standout feature of the last week’s Bundesliga action was the eerie silence that accompanied the first 12 minutes and 12 seconds of games across the country in the top two divisions.
The impressively orchestrated fan campaign (which will continue until clubs meet to discuss proposals on 12 December, hence the 12.12 timing) is designed to show the German Football League what the consequences for the atmosphere at games might be if they continue with changes designed to increase stadium security, and has been mostly well received.
It did however leave two managers somewhat confused: Dresden boss Ralf Loose rather missed the point when he complained that the atmosphere was “worse than at a match behind closed doors”, while his HSV counterpart Thorsten Fink is clearly fully focused on his own affairs, and had assumed it was a protest at the team’s poor performance in Dusseldorf a few days earlier.
The fans fear that those in charge will look to instigate English-style all-seater stadia, and many at the top of the game in Germany are on their side. Dortmund director Hans-Joachim Watzke is one of those in favour of the status quo, and this week he reiterated his faith in the Ruhr club’s decision not to convert terraces into more lucrative seated areas.
However, after the team escaped the Allianz Arena with a 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich on Saturday, meaning they remain 11 points adrift of the leaders in third, faith in a title challenge seems to be fading: “Bayern are unstoppable this season,” said Watzke.
All is still to play for at the other end of the table, where 16th-placed Hoffenheim parted company with manager Markus Babbel on Monday.
The 4-1 loss at home to Werder Bremen the day before was their fourth defeat in a row, and Andreas Mueller (the club’s general manager, who probably cheats at FIFA, Pro Evo and Football Manager) decided the time had come to “press the reset button and start again”.
Babbel’s long-term replacement will not be appointed until after the winter break, but the early favourite is Jogi Loew’s mini-me assistant Hans-Dieter “Hansi” Flick. The opportunity to pick his own clothes might be enough to tempt Flick back to the club that sacked him in 2005, otherwise Schalke assistant Markus Gisdol is also in the frame.
In any case, it will be another un-merry Christmas for Babbel, who has now lost three jobs in a row in the month of December.
However, it’s not all bad news for former Liverpool defenders in the Bundesliga – a slightly fortuitous 1-0 win at home to Nuremberg (the on-form Stefan Kiessling was offside as he netted his ninth league goal of the season) saw Bayer Leverkusen, co-managed by Sami Hyypia, cement their place as primary “Bayern hunters” in second.
Accurately described by their midfielder Lars Bender as the league’s “lurkers”, the Werkself have attracted little media attention but have won six of their last seven matches domestically and are the only team to have beaten Bayern at the Allianz Arena this season.