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Old 6th June 2007, 10:31   #1
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Default Honigsteins 2007! the good, the bad and the downright bizarre from in Germany

It's the Honigsteins 2007!

Our inaugural end-of-season gongs honour the good, the bad and the downright bizarre from the past year in Germany.

Raphael Honigstein
June 5, 2007
The Guardian

The longer the Bundesliga season went on, the stranger it became. Half the league was simultaneously fighting against relegation and for a place in the Intertoto Cup, while the desperately poor champions FC Bayern somehow managed to stay in contention. In the end, Bremen ran out of steam and got distracted by contract negotiations, and Schalke ... well, Schalke were Schalke. So it came that VfB Stuttgart, a team of youngsters, a belittled manager and two unknown Mexicans ran away with it thanks to eight consecutive wins.

Down at the other end, Gladbach paid the price for buying 376 rubbish players over the last few years, Aachen suffered from their manager Dieter Hecking's early absconding to Hannover, and Mainz, despite manager Jürgen Klopp's best efforts, couldn't quite turn it around after a terrible first half of the season. Eleven managers lost their jobs, 837 goals were scored (most of them by Theofanis Gekas of Bochum) and 11.8m people showed up. Bis zum nächsten Mal, Freunde.

Best player
Diego: 13 goals, 100 assists (roughly), a bit of magic and spades of imagination. Oh, and he pissed all over Beckham's parade to score at Wembley the other day.

Best XI
Manuel Neuer, Clemens Fritz, Fernando Meira, Matthieu Delpierre, Dede, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Pavel Pardo, Bernd Schneider, Diego, Theofanis Gekas, Mario Gomez.

Worst player
Roque Santa Cruz. Dangerous like a toothless tigress, pacy like a Fiat Punto with flat tyres, strong-willed and powerful like a stoned earthworm.

Most muddled analogy
"The duplicity of events are amassing" - Franz Beckenbauer on Hamburg's problems.

Best way to lose your driving licence
1. Claudio Pizarro was stopped by police after attending the Oktoberfest, Munich's annual beer festival.

2. Jan Schlaudraff and Aachen team-mate Marius Ebbers crashed Schlaudraff's Porsche into the hard shoulder in February. According to the police, "speeding, aquaplaning and alcohol" were to blame.

3. Bielefeld coach Ernst Middendorp celebrated the win against Wolfsburg with a few Chardonnays. A few bottles, that is. He was stopped by police and collapsed on the steering wheel. Tests later showed a blood-alcohol level of 180 millilitres.

The Herbert Fandel Award for taking German punctuality to absurd new heights
Referee Michael Weiner blew the whistle when poor Miroslav Klose was through on goal against Nürnberg.

Best night out
"Tonight we will all cry together, then we'll drink something, then we'll swap wives and then we'll cry again" - Mehmet Scholl on celebrating his retirement.

The 'Turban' Dieter Hoeneß Award for reckless self-mutilation
Thomas Doll. Hamburg's manager appeared with a Band Aid on his forehead after Hamburg's 0-0 draw with Nürnberg in December. "I ran into a door that was sadly only half open," he explained. Runner-up: Mario Gomez (for adding injury to injury), who was so upset about injuring his knee that he punched the first-aid kit really hard. And broke his wrist.

Best 'getting it roughly right but still quite wrong' prediction
"Santa Claus will not be the Easter Bunny," exclaimed Uli Hoeneß, convinced that "autumn champions" Bremen would be deposed in spring. They were. But not by Bayern.

Best backhanded compliment
"Credit to them for putting up a fight against a team like us" - Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese on beating Bayern 3-1.

Best moustache
Thomas Schaaf. A monopolist now that jeans-and-tie loudmouth Peter Neururer (Hannover, Hertha, Schalke, Bochum, etc etc) has been finally exposed as the world's most useless manager and can no longer get a job.

Best mullet
Theofanis Gekas. The Greek striker and leading goalscorer kept it real, old-school style.

Best raver's ponytail
Leverkusen's Andriy Voronin, not the answer to Liverpool's problems next season.

Best Ramones hair
Torsten Frings.

Best insult

"You claim to be a Brazilian?" - Bernd 'Schnix' Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen) to Schalke's Lincoln, who replied with a punch and got banned for five games.

Best press conference
Klaus Augenthaler's 42-second monologue. The Wolfsburg manager asked himself four short questions, answered curtly and then wandered off. A few weeks later, he got fired.

Best forward planning
"We now have a team for the next two, three years" - Uli Hoeneß, August 2006.
"It's obvious that this team will be completely rebuilt" - Uli Hoeneß, May 2007.

Best punditry
"Before the start of the season, I bet on Bayern to win the championship. In the winter break, Bremen were my favourites. Now I'm sure Schalke will do it" - Bochum's manager Marcel Koller on May 10 2007.

The Stefan 'Stinkefinger' Effenberg award for good public relations
Red-carded Timothee Atouba giving irate Hamburg fans the finger on his way out.

Best excuse
"It was too loud" - Bayern defender Daniel van Buyten on the lack of communication with colleague Lucio after the 3-2 defeat in Dortmund.

Most interesting explanation for crap performances
"We need more arseholes" - Mark van Bommel after Bayern's 3-0 capitulation in Nürnberg.

Most obvious explanation for crap performances
"The players have a **** mentality" - Borussia Dortmund's sporting director Michael 'Susi' Zorc.

Most unexpected crap performance
"We don't come here shitting ourselves. I've had a look before" - Jürgen Klopp, Mainz manager, before his side's 4-0 defeat in Munich.

Best sausage-related incident
The VIP lounge of second division Offenbach's Bieberer Berg had to be evacuated after a sniffer dog became very interested in a suspect package. In a classic Germanic twist, the box turned out to be full of sausages and a bit of ham.

Best non-sausage-related incident
Unknown pranksters stole a giant banner from Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park. Fans from Bochum or Schalke were suspected, but there's still no trace.

Best ambition
"We want to be champions, too. We just don't know in which century" - Thomas von Heesen, Bielefeld manager. He resigned after seven games without a win in February.

Best joke
"Total domination" - slogan on Schalke's pre-season training shirts.

The Pippo Inzaghi award for the most insidious dive
Iranian Mehdi Mahdavikia going down against Dortmund like singing bird shot over southern Italy.

The Pippo Inzaghi award II for loving your mother, very, very much
Halil Altintop (Schalke), on finding a girlfriend now that his cohabiting twin brother Hamit is off to Munich: "No, mum's still there."

Most thrilling espionage drama
"One day the mole will make a mistake and then we know who he is" - Schalke captain Marcelo Bordon on the ultimately unsuccesful hunt for the tabloid informer in the dressing room. A few days later, Gerald Asamoah, who had gone public with some complaints, broke his leg. And Frank Rost, the only leading player not represented by the shadowy Rogon agency, was surprisingly sold in the winter. Nothing was heard of any moles thereafter. Coincidence?

The Vinnie Jones award for homoeroticism in football
Stuttgart's Ivorian left-back Arthur Boka, for a perfectly executed "wedding tackle" on Hannover's Arnold Bruggink.

Best advice
"He has to stop whining and clench his buttocks together" - Dortmund defender Christian Wörns on his Madrid-bound team-mate Christoph Metzelder, who was being booed by his own fans.

Deepest defending
Energie Cottbus. "We would have had to play all the way to the advertising boards to get behind their defence," said Klaus Allofs, Bremen's sporting director.

The Nayim-from-the-halfway-line award for long-range goals
Diego. For floating one in from 62 metres against Aachen. No, keeper Nicht wasn't in goal at the time. Beautiful nonetheless.

Best form of dissent
Willy Sagnol to referee Markus Merk: "Ref, we'll substitute."
Merk: "I don't see your sub."
Sagnol: "No, we're substituting you."

Best fan dissent
Fed up with Schalke's lacklustre performances, the long-suffering folk in the Veltinsarena decided to remain silent in the match against Bayern for the first 19 minutes and four seconds (1904 is their founding year). Even when Peter Lövenkrands scored after 13 minutes, there was only a muted response. Six minutes later, the protest was over and the stadium suddenly erupted. Visibly shaken by the deafening noise, Bayern let Levan Kobiashvili immediately add a second in the 20th. The eeriest moment of the season but, like most things Schalke, ultimately futile. Bayern came back to draw 2-2.

The Ashley Cole Award for super secretive contract negotiations
Miroslav Klose and Werder Bremen had a gentleman's agreement that he could move to a big club abroad. Unfortunately, his young and inexperienced agent couldn't get the phone to ring so in the end the only option was to look south. Klose and Bayern met in a Hannover airport hotel, predictably got caught, but not punished. Even though Klose admitted sitting down with Hitzfeld and Hoeneß, the German FA and league saw no reasons to charge them. They believed Bayern's explanation that the meeting had only taken place for "informational purposes".

Most profound analysis
"We've rarely lost a game when we kept a clean sheet" - Oliver Kahn.

Most appropriate question
With Bayern 2-0 down at Schalke after 45 minutes, Felix Magath shouted at his players: "There is no effort and no tactical discipline." Mark van Bommel shouted back: "Tactics? What tactics?"

Most unlikely sound-bite from a German manager
"Tactics are something for bad players" - Felix Magath.

Most bizarre press conference

Ex-cocaine addict Christoph Daum, who had just come out of surgery, chose the foyer of a Cologne hospital to declare the he couldn't take on the Köln job. Behind him, patients were shuffling along in their morning gowns with Zimmer frames and drips in their veins. Daum changed his mind a few days later.

And finally ... Chelsea's rationale for signing Bayern reject Claudio Pizarro explained
"When somebody thinks they should get Shevchenko money, they have to play like Shevchenko" - Bayern vice-president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on turning down Pizarro's demand of €4.2m salary after tax.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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