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Hoeneß: Hard work matters more than luck

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Hoeneß: Hard work matters more than luck

Postby FCBayernNews » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:40 pm

On 5 January, FC Bayern president Uli Hoeneß celebrates his 60th birthday. fcbayern.de continues the countdown to the milestone event with part two of a major birthday interview, dedicated to the role and importance of luck. We asked Hoeneß to reflect on the light aircraft crash in 1982 from which he was the sole survivor, and to reveal a crucial conclusion from his youth, the realisation that success depends on hard work

Birthday interview with Uli Hoeneß, part two:

fcbayern.de: Uli Hoeneß, looking back over your life, would you say you're a naturally lucky person?
Hoeneß: I basically wouldn't say I'm especially lucky. What I think is that a great deal of work lies behind the many things I've achieved. Obviously, I've been lucky from time to time. For example, at the end of my playing career, if I'd gone to Hamburg rather than Nuremberg, I don't know whether I'd have ended up as a general manager. I definitely wouldn't have my sausage factory in Nuremberg. Or if I'd stayed in Munich, who knows whether I'd have got caught up in the drama between [former FCB president] Neudecker and the team. If so, I'd never have become manager. And obviously, I was incredibly lucky in the plane crash [on 17 February 1982].

Do you have any memories of the crash?
None at all. That's basically another piece of good luck. I was on my way to Hanover for the international between Germany and Portugal ahead of the 1982 World Cup. I took Helmut Simmler, one of my best friends, along with me. I was sitting at the back on the right, with him on the left. Just before we left the Säbener Strasse, someone from Hamburg SV rang up and asked whether we were flying to the match, and whether their financial director Naumann could fly with us? Of course, no problem! But he didn't show up. So the big question is where would I have sat if he'd flown with us? There was only one seat on the plane [a six-seater Piper Seneca] where the passenger survived: at the back on the right!

What do you know about the flight?
It was a totally uneventful flight. We were flying over Nuremberg, and I fell asleep. After we passed Nuremberg, I know nothing else until I woke up the next morning at five o'clock in hospital in Hanover. My wife and Paul Breitner were sitting next to my bed.

Why did the plane crash?
The pilots were making a final approach, and may have forgotten to reset the lever which adjusts the fuel mixture. When you're at altitude, you use a different mixture compared to when you're flying low. The last words on the black box were: 'We have engine trouble!' The plane brushed some trees and broke apart towards the front in the centre. I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. The search and rescue teams only found us an hour later. A hunter, who'd been listening in on police radio, found me wandering around the aircraft in a daze. I told him my name and address, but I know nothing else about it.

When did you next board a plane after that?
Crazily enough, it was a week later, when I had to get back to Munich from Hanover. Fortunately, even when I contemplate it really hard, no memories of the crash ever resurface. Nowadays, I'm uneasy onboard a plane, but I have no fear.

How often do you think back to the crash?
To begin with, I used to stage a minor celebration on 17 February. But at some point I said to myself: are you mad? You're celebrating, but three people are dead. I've not marked the occasion since.

Let's talk about the young Uli Hoeneß. What was your most formative experience as a youth?
That you get nothing for free. I witnessed my father working away at three o'clock in the morning in the kitchen of our little butcher's shop. I saw my mother making us breakfast, before working as a sales assistant in the shop, and then doing the accounts at the weekend. At Christmas, if we only sold eight of our ten geese, Christmas Eve wasn't much fun. The mood was always dependent on the business. And at 10 o'clock on Christmas Eve, everyone collapsed into bed because they were exhausted. The realisation that you have to work hard for success definitely shaped my character.

As you've said, although you sometimes need a bit of luck, success is based on hard work.
There are still a few folk out there who think we [at Bayern] inherited money from some rich aunt in America or won the lottery at some point, but it's not true! We worked very hard for our money. Let me just remind you: when I came to Munich in 1970, the number one club in the city was 1860 Munich. When the Bundesliga was formed [in 1963], 1860 were in it and Bayern weren't! We've worked hard for everything we have now.

Could you have achieved what you've achieved at Bayern if you'd opted for a different club?
Looking back on it now, I do believe I'd have been capable of a certain amount of success somewhere else. However, I'd always have been lacking the final emotional tie. To be genuinely good, you have to be emotionally attached to your club. You have to commit your soul to it. I was still finishing school when I came to Munich. I crossed into the city, and my fan belt snapped. That's how it all started. Then, at the age of 23, when I had my first serious knee injury, I realised I wouldn't be playing until I was 35. I never wanted to coach, because my dream was to be a general manager, preferably with Bayern Munich. And I had another stroke of luck, when Mr Neudecker appointed me to the job at the age of 27.

Looking back, would you say you've bent the rules on a few occasions?
No, because it was never inhumane. Borderline possibly, but never inhumane. For example, when we lured Lothar Matthaus away from another club. Naturally, you have to meet secretly with the player and his agent. It's not always as simple as asking: 'My dear Helmut Grashoff [former Borussia Mönchengladbach general manager], please will you give me your player?' He'll say no, and you slink away with your tail between your legs. You'll never get anywhere that way.

So you've never shied away from conflict situations?
I'm a fan of constructive conflict. As a young general manager, I was known to ruffle a few feathers. After all, I had to fight tooth and nail for the club. There were fights on the way up. I exchanged blows with Grashoff, and with [former Werder Bremen general manager] Willi Lemke. That's still ongoing, and there were others too. But the bigger we've become, the more influential and independent, the more a feeling has grown in me and other personalities at the club that we must give part of it back. When you're the big guy, you have to help the little guys. It's no accident that you find clubs in the first, second and third divisions who we've stepped in and helped in an emergency at some point.

Coming up on January 4: the third and final part of our major birthday interview with Uli Hoeneß.
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