Berlin (AFP) – Bad blood was stirred in the build-up to Saturday’s German Cup final between Freiburg and RB Leipzig after a row over the seemingly innocuous matter of a commemorative scarf for supporters.
Traditionally, the rival clubs each allow their logos to be used on a scarf which fans wear to the cup final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
However, Freiburg opted not to give permission for their crest to appear on the neckwear for this year’s final.
Freiburg’s finance officer Oliver Leki hinted at bad blood by telling broadcaster SWR they would have done it if there was “a connection between the clubs”.
Leipzig managing director Oliver Mintzlaff claimed Freiburg’s stance was “disrespectful”, which Leki refuted.
“We had made it clear weeks ago that we didn’t want it,” said Leki, insisting it was “nothing to do with a lack of respect.”
Like Freiburg, RB Leipzig are bidding to win the German Cup for the first time, but the clubs have very different backgrounds.
– Rapid rise –
Leipzig are bank rolled by Red Bull, who founded the club in 2009 by buying the licence of fifth-tier club SSV Markranstaedt and changing the name.
RB Leipzig are unpopular among German football fans who see the Saxony club as simply a marketing tool for the Austrian energy drinks giants.
There is also an element of envy at Leipzig’s phenomenal success story.
Starting from the fifth tier in 2009/10, Leipzig quickly scaled Germany’s football pyramid with four promotions in seven years to reach the Bundesliga in 2016/17.
They have twice finished runners-up in the league and now reached three German Cup finals, losing to Bayern in 2019, then Dortmund last season.
They also made the Champions League semi-finals in 2020, losing to Paris Saint-Germain.
Current coach Domenico Tedesco steered them to the last four of the Europa League this season before Rangers knocked them out.
“We are happy that we are different. Yes, we are not a traditional club, but in 50 or 70 years that won’t be the case,” Mintzlaff recently told Sport1.
Leipzig’s success has not gone unnoticed in Freiburg, where Leki says there is respect for “what has been achieved” on the pitch.
Both Leipzig and Freiburg threaten to upset the Bundesliga’s established order as rivals to Bayern, Dortmund and Leverkusen.
From Germany’s picturesque Black Forest, Freiburg is a traditional club founded in 1904, who spent six of the last 20 seasons in Germany’s second tier.
Now they are on the rise.
– ‘Indispensable’ Streich –
Under Christian Streich, the Bundesliga’s longest-serving current coach who took charge in 2011, Freiburg started this season unbeaten in their first 10 Bundesliga matches.
They narrowly missed out – to RB Leipzig – on a Champions League spot for the first time, ending up sixth to go into the Europa League.
Captain Christian Guenter and defender Nico Schlotterbeck, who joins Dortmund next season, both earned call ups for Germany.
The row over the cup final scarf cooled by Friday with both coaches talking up their opposite number.
Leipzig boss Tedesco said reaching the German Cup final is simply “confirmation” that Freiburg are now a “top German club” under the “indispensable” Streich.
The Freiburg boss returned Tedesco’s compliment and Streich made it clear he “knows who the top clubs in the Bundesliga are” pointing to Leipzig’s fourth-placed finish.
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