BERLIN: Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich launch their 2019/20 season as German Cup title holders in the first round this weekend, but the traditional season curtain-raiser will be overshadowed this year by a string of scandals rocking football in Germany.
While coaching prodigies Julian Nagelsmann and David Wagner make their dugout debuts for RB Leipzig and Schalke respectively, other clubs such as Chemnitzer and Hamburg are reeling from scandals involving neo-Nazis and alleged identity fraud.
Borussia Dortmund kick off proceedings with a visit to third-division side KFC Uerdingen on Friday.
The match reunites 2014 World Cup winner and former Dortmund fan favourite Kevin Grosskreutz with his old club while providing coach Lucien Favre with another opportunity to test new signings Mats Hummels, Nico Schulz and Thorgan Hazard.
Favre’s spruced-up squad beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the German Supercup last weekend to pile the pressure on last season’s league and cup winners.
Bayern have been less active than Dortmund in the transfer market, and the lack of high-profile new signings prompted criticism from star striker Robert Lewandowski as the club chases Manchester City winger Leroy Sane.
Ahead of Bayern’s trip to fourth-tier side Energie Cottbus on Tuesday morning, the heat is already on perennially under-fire coach Kovac.
Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig travel to Osnabrueck on Sunday after Wagner’s Schalke visit Drochtersen/Assel on Saturday.
Former Huddersfield Town manager Wagner is hoping to breathe new life into crisis-stricken Schalke, but his preparations have been overshadowed by a racism scandal involving club chairman Clemens Toennies.
Toennies, 63, stepped down for three months on Tuesday following widespread outrage over comments he made about Africa during a speech last week.
Schalke are not the only German club to have been hit by a racism scandal recently. On Monday, third-tier side Chemnitzer sacked first-team captain Daniel Frahn over his alleged association with far-right fan groups.
Frahn’s dismissal was the latest episode in a long-running controversy over neo-Nazis in the Chemnitzer fanbase, and according to Bild newspaper, police fear that far-right fans may stage protests during Sunday’s cup clash with Hamburg.
Second-division Hamburg are themselves engulfed in a media scandal after doubts were raised over the identity of their Gambian midfielder Bakery Jatta.
Bild newspaper claimed Jatta, who reportedly came to Germany as a refugee in 2015, entered the country under a false identity, changing his name and claiming to be two-and-a-half years younger than he really was so that he could register as a minor.