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Culture

Is Bayern Munich about to Self Destruct?

They had it all: European Cups, Bundesliga championship titles and the adoration of millions worldwide. Now Bayern Munich faces its biggest test - holding the team together despite public rows and loss of form.

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Where did it all go wrong?

What is happening at Bayern Munich? The biggest soccer club in Germany crashed out of the European Champions League tournament in the first phase and has been rocked in recent weeks by a series of events that have torn at the very fabric of the team's spirit.

Once a beacon of German sporting discipline and success, Bayern now look like a brawling pub team with little direction or leadership on hand to stem the tide of poor results and dissent.

The usually Teutonic professionalism of Bayern's personnel has slipped this season with bickering and bad behaviour creeping into the regimented set-up of the team. The most recent, and high profile offender is goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn.

Kahn defies coach to play golf and party while injured

After tearing a thigh muscle in the 2-1 European Champions league defeat at Milan earlier this month, the talismanic Kahn angered his manager Ottmar Hitzfeld by playing golf on the following Saturday, while his team mates were struggling to a 3-3 draw with mid-table hopefuls Hanover 96 in the Bundesliga.

Oliver Kahn, Nationaltorhüter

Kahn strutted his funky stuff while on Bayern's casualty list.

Things got worse between captain and coach when Hitzfeld discovered that Kahn had followed up his round of golf by partying the night away in a number of nightclubs, eventually rolling home at 5.30 the following morning.

"If you get injured, you must work on getting fit," Hitzfeld said, promising to fine the iconic player. "A visit to a disco is not necessary in that respect."

Kahn was missing from the team that crashed out of the European Champions League tournament this week at the feet of Spain's Deportivo La Coruna. However, his deputy Stefan Wessels is likely to make way for the returning Kahn on Saturday when Bayern travel to Werder Bremen - that is, according to Kahn, "unless I have a golf tournament to play".

Results and performances have also cast a dark cloud over Munich's Olympicstadion. Bayern may be sitting at the top of the German first division at the moment but the coveted mantle of European Champions will once again elude them this year.

Early European exit heaps pressure on Hitzfeld

Pressure is building on coach Hitzfeld after the most humiliating exit in the club's history. The 2-0 defeat by La Coruna eliminates Bayern from the top European competition in the first round with only a solitary point to the club's name. This compounds the misery further as Bayern will not qualify for the losers' consolation - entry into the UEFA Cup - as only the third-placed team qualifies for the silver riband competition.

"We damaged the name of Bayern Munich," said Hitzfeld. "We were very weak."

Germany's press was quick to sound the death knell of Bayern's European adventure. "Night of Shame," cried Bild Zeitung, Germany's best-selling newspaper in a banner headline. "It's over, gone, adios! The all-or-nothing match in La Coruna turned into a night of shame. The most humiliating moment ever for the famed Bayern Munich side. It was a cowardly performance from a team that doesn't deserve anything better than an early farewell."

"A confused and harmless Bayern team left the Champions League with a humiliating first round track record," wrote the German daily, the Berliner Zeitung.

"They were crippled by the pressure on them to win," said the Berliner Kurier. "It's a super disaster for Bayern."

Ze Roberto FC Bayern München gegen Nenad Miskovic vom Partisan Belgrad

Munich's Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto has failed to inject the samba beat into Bayern.

It's a scenario that the Bayern bigwigs could scarcely imagine when the season kicked off just over two months ago. Optimism was high with the signing of rising German stars, 47.5 million euro ($46.7m) Michael Ballack and Sebastien Deisler, plus Bayer Leverkusen's highly rated Brazilian Ze Roberto.

Star-studded individuals have yet to gel

The team that boasted an embarrassment of riches is now simply embarrassed. 'Player of the Year' Ballack has scored just once in Europe and has had more fitness tests than goal scoring attempts since joining Bayern. Deisler has been injury plagued throughout his career and remains unavailable until January. Ze Roberto has also frustrated with sporadic performances and the side as a whole has not gelled into a cohesive unit.

Patience is wearing thin in the boardroom and famous names in the Bayern hierarchy have become tired of biting their tongues. Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who had made the bold statement at the start of the season that this year's side was the club's best ever, rounded on his team after their defeat on Tuesday.

"I'm disappointed, angry and dissatisfied at this disgraceful display. We're making simple errors. This isn't Bayern Munich."

Failure rips a financial hole in Bayern's coffers

Rummenigge, a hero at the club during his playing days, told Reuters that the first-round exit, just 17 months after Bayern won the Champions League, would tear a hole in club finances, suggesting some players might be sold. The club will lose out on some 30 million euros ($29.5m) they had been relying on in ticket sales and television rights. "This leaves behind a big financial hole that we will have to close somehow," he said.

Ottmar Hitzfeld

Ottmar Hitzfeld: Job hunting?

The blame for the current crisis is being passed around faster than the ball on match days. The coach seems to think it's down to the players: "It was shameful the way we were eliminated and I will have to have a close look at some of my players."

Bayern's commercial manager, Uli Hoeness, has other ideas: "There are no more excuses for the trainer."

In an attempt to shut the floodgates, Munich's unemployment figures may have to increase by one in the coming weeks.

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