Schweinsteiger: Just Another Fan or Agent Provocateur?

The tabloids have since time immemorial engaged in the business of muck-raking, then taking that small molehill-sized pile of muck and making a mountain out of it.

The case has been little or no different with the story of Germany’s heroic World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger and the “controversial” video footage of him singing an insulting song about Borussia Dortmund in a crowded bar with a number of supporters of his club FC Bayern München – and one individual who, as it turns out, was not such a big fan.

In an otherwise inconsequential story that would do the rounds in the German media – with the fires being unnecessarily stoked by the likes of the Bild-Zeitung – a video would circulate of Schweinsteiger singing a song that has in recent years become a common refrain among supporters of FC Bayern. The sort of repetitive chant, like many repetitive chants directed at opposition teams, that can be construed as tipping onto the side of offensive.

As a Bayern fan who has sung that very same song myself on many occasions I couldn’t see what the problem was or indeed is – here is a player, revered by supporters of Die Roten as the team’s Fussballgott, simply engaging in a well-known fan chant with those who appreciate him for his exploits on the pitch.

Well, except the person who saw fit to film the scene at what was clearly a private gathering and release it to the public domain – with no real aim other than to puncture the spirit of goodwill that had developed during the recent World Cup in Brazil.

Schweinsteiger would take the criticism for his first publicized foray onto the singing stage firmly on the chin and immediately apologize for his actions – mentioning his new post-Campo Bahia friend and BVB stalwart Kevin Großkreutz in the process. Großkreutz, for his part, would see the banter as what it was – apology accepted. Borussia Dortmund themselves would offer a statement that would humorously suggest that the FC Bayern man take some singing lessons. So, in all, as far those in the middle were concerned, the molehill had been calmly patted down and smoothly flattened out.

Not so with the press, who have continued to push the story around in the hope of making more mileage from it. The truth is that most genuine Dortmund fans – their ultra-sensitive hipster contingent excepted – won’t really care. Instead, they’ll themselves be busy inventing a whole new catalog of chants in preparation for their next meeting with the team from München to add to the rather suspect Zieht den Bayern die Lederhosen aus.

The World Cup is over, and everyone is starting to get back to domestic affairs. FC Bayern and Dortmund – and Schweinsteiger and Großkreutz – will be up against each other again in the final pre-season DFL-Supercup showpiece at a crowded Signal Iduna Park. Will the Dortmund fans on the famous Gelbe Wand have a few words to say about Bayern and our beloved Basti? Well of course they will, and Bayern’s fans will have no qualms in serving up something just as pithy or rude in return. Nobody from the Südkurve is going to sing words of encouragement when someone in a yellow shirt touches the ball.

On the other hand, that might work as an even better wind up. Maybe instead of BVB, H***nsöhne every time a Dortmund player touches the ball, Bayern fans should perhaps sing Hoch soll er leben – a close German equivalent of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.

Was Schweinsteiger wrong for singing the song? That’s a matter of debate, and really comes down to how passionate you are as a fan. It’s all part of the emotion, the hysteria, the madness that takes place at that given time after a few Weizens. In that crowded bar in that scratchy footage, Schweinsteiger was no longer a player but simply a fan. A fan singing a popular terrace chant with other fans who happened to be in the room with him.

I have no doubt that some Dortmund players have sung songs about Bayern at private parties: the only difference is that nobody has decided to film it and vindictively release the footage to the scandal-hungry media. That said, as a Bayern fan would it bother me if I saw some scratchy musical footage of a slightly merry Großkreutz or Marco Reus doing the rounds on the internet? Absolutely not. Given Großkreutz’s proud reputation as a hardcore Dortmunder, BVB fan and former Ultra, I would expect to find a good number of anti-Bayern songs in his own personal repertoire from his time on the terraces.

During the recent Pokalfinale, the entire room I was in would throb to the loud strains of Ladi-ladi-ladi-ladiohh, BVB, H***nsöhne. There would be some Dortmund interlopers at the back of the bar trying their best to respond in kind, but that would be as tasty as it would get during a tension-packed evening. It was football terrace banter, and nothing else.

Would one really walk up to a Dortmund player in the street and call him a son of a bitch? Of course not. Well, unless he throws a Döner at you.