Clash of cultures as Freiburg face Leipzig in German Cup final

Cultures and ideologies will collide on Saturday when fan-run Freiburg take on Red Bull-backed Leipzig in the German Cup final.

The build-up was dominated by a dispute over marketing rights, with Freiburg refusing to allow the use of its crest or logos for any joint commemorative merchandise with its opponent before the football match.

Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff accused Freiburg of “disrespect”, leading to a rebuff from Freiburg chief financial officer Oliver Leki, who said he was “irritated” by the reaction.

Leki said there must be a connection between the clubs and a strong acceptance among fans for any joint merchandise.

“If it’s not, then we’re not doing it. We already said it quite clearly seven weeks ago that we didn’t want to do it,” said Leki, who added that it had “absolutely nothing to do with disrespect.”

Freiburg’s own supporters would disagree. Freiburg fans, like most Germans, oppose Leipzig because they see it as a marketing exercise for energy drink company Red Bull.

The club was only founded in May 2009 when Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, a 78-year-old Austrian billionaire, bought local fifth-tier side SSV Markranstaedt and rebranded it with the livery of his company under the new name of RasenBallsport Leipzig. ev

It was forbidden to be called Red Bull Leipzig under the rules of the German football association, so the new name was created from the German words for turf, ball and sport to have at least the initials RB in its name.

Red Bull then funded the regular promotion of the new team to the lower leagues of the Bundesliga in 2016.

It also enjoyed state support. Leipzig’s stadium, formerly Zentralstadion, was renamed Red Bull Arena in 2010 after being modernized for the 2006 World Cup. The club agreed to buy it in 2016.

“RB symbolizes the sick system of professional football,” Freiburg supporters’ group Corrillo Ultras said in a statement on Wednesday. “Economic interests increasingly overshadow what we all love about football and going to the stadium.”

The group has called for reforms, including strict enforcement of Germany’s 50 plus 1 rule, which limits the influence of outside investors on its football clubs, an end to what it calls “financial doping” and the limiting the number of clubs managed. by businesses to ensure fair competition.

Red Bull also has franchises elsewhere: Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian league, New York Red Bulls in the United States and Red Bull Brasil.

The Corrillo Ultras have appealed to fans of their own club to become members to help fight for the values ​​of sport that is equal, open and accessible to all.

“It’s possible here,” said the Freiburg supporters. “Every vote has the same value here. They are heard in the general assembly of members. It’s football as it should be.”

Saturday’s final will be Freiburg coach Christian Streich’s 31st game in the German Cup since taking charge of the senior team on December 29, 2011.

Leipzig are playing their 32nd game in the competition after losing the final to Borussia Dortmund last year and Bayern Munich in 2019.

Streich took charge of the Freiburg under-19 team in 1995 after his playing career ended due to injury. He led it to the German Under-19 Cup finals in 2006, 2009 and 2011, winning all three. Christian Günter, Nicolas Höfler and Jonathan Schmid were among his players and hope to lead the senior team to their first title.

“It’s something very special,” said Streich, “in this fast-paced world of football.”


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