Sour grapes or a case of paranoia? Whatever the reason, top officials at German soccer club Bayern Munich are furious about rival Werder Bremen's 6-0 victory over Hamburg this weekend.
Hamburg's Björn Schlicke, left, with Bremen's Brazilian forward Ailton, during the one-sided game.
It seems that reigning German soccer champions Bayern Munich have more than a six point deficit to overcome to regain their dignity and retain their title.
A trip to a psychotherapist may be in order for a number of the club's most senior officials after comments made by the club manager and chairman hinted at feelings of paranoia creeping through the corridors of power at Germany's biggest club. The apparent manifestation of a collective persecution complex marred a victorious weekend which kept Bayern in touch with league leaders Werder Bremen.
Rather than concentrating on the fact that Bayern's 2-1 win over bottom club Cologne kept the heat on the top team as this year's close championship race goes to the last three games, Bayern Munich manager Uli Hoeness preferred to focus on the "peculiar" way Hamburg SV rolled over for Bremen on Saturday.
Ignoring the possibility that Werder had produced a stunning performance to beat Klaus Toppmöller's side 6-0 on their own turf, Hoeness stopped short of claiming Bremen's win in Hamburg had been rigged, but he was nonetheless crushed by the outcome.
Bayern coach bemoans outcome
"I don't understand it. It's catastrophic that such a thing can happen," fumed the Bayern manager of 25 years at a press conference. "That was really disgusting of Hamburg. Their performance was a disaster and a real shame Hamburg decided the championship a few years ago by losing 5-0 in Bremen."
In the 1993/94 season, Bremen overtook Bayern on goal difference one game before the end of the season thanks to a 5-0 triumph over Hamburg before sealing the championship with a final-day victory. Hoeness had obviously not forgotten or forgiven that event.
It was a popular subject among conspiracy theorists at the time that Hamburg had done their close rivals a favor for the sake of pride in the north of Germany and to help prise the Bundesliga crown away from Bavaria. Far from making such an obvious and explosive point himself, however, Hoeness questioned Hamburg's commitment in a game which ultimately helped to extend Bremen's superior goal difference to twelve over second-placed Bayern.
"It's very peculiar for HSV to allow themselves to be slaughtered in such a way," Hoeness (photo) told reporters. "That isn't fine. The people responsible at Hamburg have got to ask themselves whether that's right in this phase of the season."
Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld reacted more mildly, but also suggested that Hamburg had not tried very hard. "A team who sound so confident before such a game should have more to offer in the game itself," Hitzfeld said.
Far from "fair play"?
Bayern Chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge was not so forgiving. The former World Cup winning player called the Hamburg performance "absolutely unacceptable" and suggested that the spirit in which HSV lost to Bremen was "far from fair play."
It was apparent in his comments that the long-standing animosity between Bayern and Hamburg had not only been festering in his colleague's office at Bayern's central headquarters. "We are still extreme annoyed. This is a damn scandal," Rummenigge railed. "It has done gigantic damage to German football and the league."
Hamburg SV coach Klaus Toppmöller (photo) revealed his shame and embarrassment at Saturday's result. "Our performance was absolutely embarrassing. No-one should lose like that. I'm very very disappointed," the former Bayer Leverkusen coach admitted. "There is nothing to say after such a performance. What hurts most is that we have harmed other clubs, in this case Bayern Munich. There was so much hanging on that match, it's all so unbelievable."
Toppmöller did not deny the accusations of unprofessionalism coming from Bayern and said: "HSV is not average for nothing. This is the low point of my career as a coach." The HSV coach is now expected to demand funds for new players in the summer, complaining that the attitude of current players is suspect.
Clash of the titans
Back in Munich, talk soon turned to revenge and the match which could be seen as the championship decider. Bayern and Bremen meet at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday in the biggest game of the season. If Werder win, their lead will be unassailable, if Bayern are victorious then the season will once again go to the wire.
"We are even more ready for them," said Rummenigge. "The team knows what is required. There will be no special treatment."
Hoeness knows a comprehensive victory is the only remaining way of taking the championship down to the final two games. "We will find out in that game how nervous Werder are. We will also see who the best team in Germany are," Hoeness said. "Now, we have to wipe the floor with them."