TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: Big questions in sportingly precarious times

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: Big questions in sportingly precarious times

Last Saturday, after Dortmund’s 1-0 win in the sold-out stadium in Sinsheim, a group of visiting fans drunk with victory found out why TSG Hoffenheim’s home games are rarely so well attended. With around 22,700 visitors, TSG has the second worst average of the Bundesliga behind Union Berlin, which however could sell a lot more tickets with a bigger stadium. “Everyone wants to see BVB,” explained a friendly family man to train travelers from Dortmund, “but only 16,000 came here last year against Fürth. It’s kind of clear.” However, it is not that clear. Just on Saturday, 1. FC Kaiserslautern played – one league lower – against the same relegated Fürth. In front of 40,000 fans.

The attendance record illustrates one of TSG Hoffenheim’s two big problems: outside of a small territory in northern Baden-Württemberg, few people in Germany are interested in this club. Should he dismount, the lamentations nationwide would be limited. And they are even used to malice in “Hoffe”, where they claim in their club song that “blasphemy and jealousy” “don’t give a damn”. From TSG’s point of view, the fact that even their true fans are constantly being treated to good things weighs heavier than the stigma of a retort club football must bind to itself. Which brings you to Hoffenheim’s second and biggest problem: the current sporting situation.

It is more precarious than ever before. Only twice in its first division history, which has lasted since 2008, has the club been in danger of relegation, in 2013 and 2016. Both times Hoffenheim jumped from the shovel of the second division. If this were to happen again in 2023, it would be a great relief. From eight games so far in the new year, the table 16 has won. a point – although a new coach has been at work for four weeks. But under Pellegrino Matarazzo, who replaced André Breitenreiter and scored at least in terms of atmosphere with his friendly, matter-of-fact manner, there have already been three defeats.

The first of these, against Leverkusen (1:3), was one of Hoffenheim’s weakest first division appearances. In Augsburg (0: 1) there were bright spots. And against Dortmund (0: 1) Hoffenheim played clearly improved, but still conceded the fifth defeat in a row. Players and officials are singing about a change for the better: “We still have it,” concluded midfielder Christoph Baumgartner from the BVB game. And Matarazzo, who had already coached the TSG U17s between 2017 and 2019 and then also the professionals as an assistant coach, is counting on the return of some injured people – and on logic: “Football is about results and our performance leads us to Result.”

Dietmar Hopp ironed out criticism of advisor Wittmann with reference to high transfer proceeds

Sports director Alexander Rosen recently announced after Breitenreiter’s dismissal that he would “ask bigger questions”. He may also have meant the medical department. In fact, at Hoffenheim the accumulation of muscle injuries is noticeable, as well as sometimes extremely long convalescence times. But there are other fundamental problems – although TSG is pursuing a personnel concept for which many a competitor is praised as sympathetic.

The concept envisages reselling aspiring top players as soon as internationally playing or wealthy clubs express an interest. Players who are capable of development are obliged to do so, and they can also cost a few million themselves. Traditionally, Hoffenheim also works intensively with youngsters with good staff and plenty of money. But what is the basis for continuous growth elsewhere is not going to succeed in Sinsheim for long periods of time. Under the coaches Ralf Rangnick and Julian Nagelsman TSG not only had success, their game also radiated something unmistakable that aroused curiosity. But there were also several blatant mistakes in the head coaching position.

The role of the player consultant agency Rogon, whose boss Roger Wittmann is Hoffenheim’s patron, is also regularly questioned Dietmar Hopp referred to as “friend”. Internally, Hopp has always ironed out criticism of the agency’s position of power with what appear to be good financial arguments at first glance. TSG has already been able to sell three Rogon players – Georginio Rutter, Joelinton and Roberto Firmino – to England for a good amount of money, around 40 million euros each. Always at a time that was also favorable for Wittmann.

Hopp, who is not insensitive to celebrities like Wittmann’s wife, the former tennis player Anke Huber, sitting in the same grandstand as him, is happy about such worthwhile transfers. However, it is viewed critically that Rogon players keep appearing at TSG, for whose acquisition the respective sports director has to justify himself due to a lack of sporting suitability. This sometimes caused Rosen’s predecessors to have a hard time explaining it.

All of this now seems to annoy some TSG fans. On Saturday they held up several protest posters, including one that not everyone in the grandstand might have liked: “Dare to think freshly – question Hopp and Rogon.”

Source link