This weekend was all about the Swiss francs and German Franks. First, news broke that the Bayern president, Uli Hoeness, had reported himself to the authorities for tax evasion in January. The 61-year-old admitted to having an undeclared account in Switzerland and paid back €3m to the Finanzamt (Inland Revenue). Whether that will be enough to stave off a criminal prosecution remains to be seen but as a figure of moral authority, Hoeness has certainly been hurt by this development. "I can't talk about matters that are subject to judicial proceedings," he said on Sunday, before threatening to sue those papers that had engaged in "excessive reporting" with legal retribution of his own.
It's not excessive to say that the story has hit Germany hard. The country's chancellor, Angela Merkel, professed herself "disappointed" with her (former?) friend – federal elections are coming in September, you see. The opposition party SPD are keen to politicise the case to their advantage, and on television a haphazardly thrown together mass of the semi-informed, non-informed and always, always "deeply affected" have begun debating the issue with the kind of expertise and sure handedness you'd expect from a toddler sifting through the product of his first ever potty session.
After a no-show in Hannover, where Bayern strolled to a 6-1 win without a host of regulars – "I don't have a B-team," insisted Jupp Heynckes, a little tetchily – Hoeness will be back in situ for Tuesday's meeting with that other FCB side from Catalonia. The players seemed pretty unperturbed at the press conference on Monday. But what was supposed to be the night when Bayern, the club that Hoeness built, assume their position at the apex of European football, now comes with a bit of foreboding for himself. It makes little actual sense but that's how football works in the age of "the narrative": an army of journalists will be ready to blame him personally should Bayern fail to get a good result against Messi and co.
Fortunately, a few hundred thousand Franks were moved in an altogether less controversial fashion on Sunday afternoon. The Grundig Stadium saw the 256th Frankenderby, the oldest in German football, between Nürnberg and Greuther Fürth. As much as the Nürnberg players and officials had tried to downplay the occasion beforehand – "What good is it to win the derby if you go down?" the keeper Raphael Schäfer had sneered pre-emptively – their coach, Michael Wiesinger, didn't hide his frustrations after the 1-0 defeat by the nearly-relegated Clovers. "It's totally annoying, it hurts, it's awful, it's a shit feeling," said the 40-year-old, who now has to wait a little longer for discussions about his future.
The general manager, Marin Bader, had promised to open negotiations once FCN had reached 40 points. They're still stuck on 38. Dreams of Europe will remain just that.
Maybe the home side's great run since the winter break – they had only lost against Bayern and Dortmund in 12 games – had seen them underestimate the opposition somewhat. Before kick-off, a six-year-old child told the stadium announcer that Nürnberg would win 6-0. But then, a succession of strong tackles as well as very compact defending thwarted Wiesinger's men. And Fürth got going. The 19-year-old Johannes Geis hit the corner of the net from distance with his weaker left foot in the 27th minute. "I think it was a nice goal," said the midfielder and product of Fürth's youth system. Others thought it was a rather outstanding goal, worthy of a winner in any game.
The strike was "pudding for the legs of the Nürnberg players," wrote Nürnberger Nachrichten, in a sense that it made them wobble. A lack creativity in open play seemed to be the bigger problem, however. Once again, it became apparent that their excellent results after the turn of the year were chiefly the results of well-executed dead-ball situations. Frank Kramer's men stood firm with a bit of luck and plenty of hard work. The final whistle brought angry jeers for the home side and scenes of jubilations for Fürth, who celebrated as if Bild's "Frankenmeister" title wasn't just an imagined one.
Hundreds of supporters greeted the team bus upon arrival in the city centre. The party lasted for a few hours. For Fürth, the result salvaged some much-needed pride after a pretty drab debut season in the Bundesliga. "It's a great win for those who have been repeatedly told that they play well and fight passionately but that they're just a bit short," said Kramer. "It was for our heads: to see that we can actually do it," added the midfielder Edgar Prib. An added bonus of the result was that Nürnberg couldn't claim to have relegated their local rivals. Fürth are still not down, mathematically. Their next task is to win against Hannover on Friday night, to avoid the sorry record of going through a whole season without a single home win.
Going back down to Bundesliga 2 is inevitable, however, and no one believes an instant bounce-back can be guaranteed. The best players will of course depart; what's more, the Fürth president, Helmut Hack, doesn't pay the kind of wages that will guarantee instant readmission to the top flight. Maybe the all-powerful CEO of a local food and cosmetics company needs to usher slightly less autocratic structures in order to keep the club growing. But these were worries for another time. Sunday will have created enough good memories to last a few years. It finally felt easy to be Green in Franconia this season.
Talking points to come soon.
Results: Gladbach 1-0 Augsburg, Leverkusen 5-0 Hoffenheim, Frankfurt 1-0 Schalke, Bayern 6-1 Hannover, Hamburg 2-1 Düsseldorf, Dortmund 2-0 Mainz, Bremen 0-3 Wolfsburg, Stuttgart 2-1 Freiburg, Nürnberg 0-1 Greuther Fürth.