RB Leipzig have put the brakes on Bayern Munich’s march to yet another Bundesliga title by beating them 2-1. Rising stars Naby Keïta and Timo Werner were on the scoresheet for the Saxony-based club, who have taken a major step in the log-jammed race for second place in the Bundesliga. The division currently sees five clubs, including Leipzig, separated by just six points.
However, despite Bayern’s dominance over many years, this result will not be received warmly by many a Bundesliga fan. RB Leipzig have arguably received more vitriol and hate from opposing fans than any other team in the Bundesliga.
It’s a shame that this is the case, because it has been a remarkable few years for Leipzig.
In 2016-17, the season after they were promoted from the 2. Liga, they stunned the football world by finishing second to Bayern in the Bundesliga. They proceeded to prove that this result was no fluke by again competing for a Champions League spot this season.
However, many fans, especially those of other Bundesliga teams, hate Leipzig and all they stand for because they feel that the presence of a team with such obvious corporate ties is “corrupting” the Bundesliga, and football in general.
While I would say that measures need to be taken by the authorities to curb the fact that clubs with more money currently have a disproportionate advantage, I also believe the disdain for Leipzig is both unwarranted and hypocritical.
Look at a club like Bayern. Their stadium is named after Allianz, who is also their jersey sponsor. Bayern Munich also only sell their shares to certain people selected by club authorities in order to benefit their brand and thus maximise their profits. Do they not also represent the commercialisation and corporatisation of football?
In the Bundesliga, there are teams whose stadiums are named after the likes of Opel, Commerzbank, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, while some of their jersey sponsors include SAP, Gazprom, and Emirates.
The only difference is that Leipzig are being far more open about their commercial side than any other club. Other than that, there is absolutely no difference between what Leipzig and other clubs are doing.
Hence, it is utterly hypocritical for the fans of other Bundesliga clubs to criticise Leipzig when their own club is likely doing much of the same.
It’s also not as if Leipzig have followed in the footsteps of PSG or Manchester City and bought star after star with their new-found money.
Their best players are Liverpool-bound Keïta, Werner, Kevin Kampl, and Emil Forsberg – not exactly a list which will strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams.
Yet, it is this unlikely group which has surprised many by leading Leipzig to the heights they have reached.
Although they may be owned by a large commercial enterprise, on the pitch, Leipzig bear none of the hallmarks of such a team. Indeed, they are more like the “model team” many fans dream about – a carefully built, egoless, well-balanced squad that have achieved much success over a short period of time.
And unlike PSG and Manchester City, Leipzig will never attract superstars anyway.
Leipzig is a small-market team. The city of Leipzig is an unglamorous, rather average city of under 600,000. Contrast this with the vibrant metropolis that is Paris, or, in spite of its small population, the happening, somewhat hipster-ish atmosphere in Manchester.
Almost no footballers in the prime of their careers would want to come to Leipzig, even if Leipzig were able to offer a large salary. This is because they would not want to live in Leipzig.
Football fans, and indeed sports fans as a whole the world over, were collectively in awe and admiration when Leicester City won the Premier League title in 2016.
Yet, despite their gaudy, commercialised exterior, RB Leipzig have also achieved a great deal in much the same way, but have attracted almost universal criticism and condemnation, especially from fans of other Bundesliga teams.
It’s time to drop the hate and embrace Leipzig. They may not seem like it on the surface, but when it comes right down to it, they are many of the things that their haters actually want to see in a football club.
Eu Weijun works at FMT.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.