It’s the beginning of June and Munich is as warm as it always is during the beginning of the summer. The sun blesses the Rathaus in the Altstadt of Munich, right alongside the Hofbräu München, one of the most famous breweries in the world. Bayern Munich have just won their fifth consecutive title and have thus broken Borussia Mönchengladbach’s old record from the seventies. It hasn’t been an exciting season at the top of Bundesliga by any means, newly promoted energy crazed bulls, Leipzig, managed to shock football Europe by finishing second, but it was never close, not at all. In another part of the famous Bavarian city, another team has just has its most exciting and turbulent months in years.
The once-great 1860 Munich, often seen as Munich’s club while Bayern have been Bavaria’s, have managed to get relegated twice in one week and now find themselves plying their shameful trade in the Regionalliga Bayern, the fourth division of German football. This has also meant that the lions from Munich have had to move away from Allianz Arena to their old stadium, Stadion an der Grünwalder Strasse. 1860 have gone from being a fallen angel in the 2. Bundesliga to absolutely nothing and their fall into oblivion can be seen as a direct product of mismanagement on a huge scale.
Hasan Ismaik is the man responsible for all of this. He’s the Jar-Jar Binks of German football, not wanted, never loved, but still there, just destroying things for everyone and his role in forming the Sechziger Mausoleum must not be underestimated. Hasan Ismaik’s incompetence and despotic nature was once seen as the future of 1860. When he came along, I vividly remember people predicting good things for the future. Sechzig signed a few players from Portuguese minnows as well as a few old Bundesliga players, Stefan Aigner and Ivica Olic, and things looked good.
However, due to financial mishap and true problems on the pitch, 1860 found themselves in the Relegation Play-Off against a rejuvenated Jahn Regensburg who, under curent Leverkusen boss Heiko Herrlich, had schocked the German 3. Liga with their speed and attacking flamboyance. Regensburg won the play-off and 1860 were finally relegated, after 13 years in 2. Bundesliga, but when Hasan Ismaik was to pay the license for 3. Liga he flunked class and left. Thus, Sechzig became a ruin, a bare reminder of their own possible greatness.
Die Gute Alte Zeit
1860 were actually formed in a brewery in 1848, but due to the Revolutionarian status of 1848 Germany, the club was dissolved and forbidden due to showcasing ’republican’ values. Yet, they managed to get back and formed in 1860 as a gymnastics club. The football part of things broke out in 1899 and an independent section was formed, which makes 1860 Munich the oldest of the two South Bavarian giants, as Bayern formed on the 27th of February 1900.
Their status as the first has often been a reminder of 1860’s actual greatness in the city of Munich. Much like AS Roma and SS Lazio, one of the two city rivals has come to represent the city, while the other the surrounding land. In Munich, 1860 have become Munich’s team. This has always been the situation and 1860 are still a grand force among people in the city of Munich as you’re actually more likely to stumble across a 1860 fanshop than a Bayern one while blessing the Munich streets with your feet.
Considering the rather turbulent nature of German football throughout history, 1860’s title aspirations have rarely been stabile. They rather quickly gained promotion to the professional leagues of German football, in their case Bezirksliga Bayern, but rarely managed to reach the play-offs. When the German football was reformed during the Third Reich, 1860 were placed in the Gauliga Bayern. They constantly reached top positions, but only won the regional championship once, in 1941. The subsequent play-off didn’t go too well as they only finished second in the second pool to finalists Rapid Wien. The following season they managed to win the Tschammerpokal, now known as DFB-Pokal as they beat dominant side Schalke 04 in the final. This was their first major national success.
The rivalry with Bayern has always been prestigious and the 1962/1963 season was a great example of that. 1860 Munich had been a mid-table team throughout the fifties, even getting relegated once, but in 1962/1963 they managed to win the regional championship. While the triumph was big as it was, this meant even more as 1860 were therefore directly included in the newly formed professional Bundesliga, a league connecting all regional Oberligas into one grand league. Due to DFB regulations, two teams from the same city was to be avoided if possible. So, 1860 got promoted to Bundesliga while Bayern Munich had to wait two years for their chance. Funnily enough, in Bayern’s first Bundesliga season, 1860 won the league. Salt in the Bavarian wounds.
The league win in 1966 was rather sensational. While a few unexpected outfits had clinched the first few Bundesliga titles, Eintracht Braunschweig and FC Köln, 1860’s title was among the most surprising. It was also going to be their only one. But this was Sechzig at the height of their ability, winning the Oberliga Bayern, reaching Bundesliga two years before their city rivals and then winning the league the same year the very same rivals got promoted to their league. I know many German football clubs who would give anything to have a five year period like 1860’s.
Their next thirty years were interesting. As a licensed yo-yo team, they bounced up and down the tables and tiers of German club football. They stayed put in Bundesliga until the beginning of the 1980s when they shockingly got relegated twice in one season. Then, they were stuck in the third division, the regional Bayernliga, for three years until they got promoted again. However, the luck and joy did not last long as they got relegated again the year after. In 1992/1993 they gained promotion once again and this time, things went well. 1860 made a return to the Bundesliga and managed to stabilize themselves.
Albeit, they were in rather immediate danger of relegation back to the 2. Bundesliga, their manager Werner Lorant made a few great signings. Towards the end of the 1990s, the likes of Thomas Hässler, Abedi Pele and Davor Suker were signed and became fan favourites. This was a tactic used by many fiscally undervalued sides- to sign old stars at the end of the careers, players whose ability would be enough for the club, but whose wages wouldn’t go through the roof. It’s a shrewd tactic and it worked wonders as 1860 stayed put in Bundesliga for ten years, even reaching the Champions League play-offs in 2000, which they lost to Leeds United.
One must understand that Bundesliga football is a success for a club of 1860’s economical structure and capability. To be able to play Bundesliga for ten straight years, only years after playing Bayernliga must be seen as an achievement for the minnows of Munich. However, soon enough, things went south.
The downfall of Munich 1860
When 1860 were finally relegated to the 2. Bundesliga in 2003/2004, club president Karl-Heinz Wildmoser took the extremely controversial decision to move into Bayern’s newly constructed Allianz Arena, a move that would play a big part in the downfall of 1860. The economical repercussions of this move were to be felt a few years later. The club president Wildmoser was finally sacked after bribing allegations regarding the rent of the Allianz Arena. The fans of 1860 hadn’t been supportive of the move and had even called it a ’sell-out’. It seemed like they were correct.
In 2005/2006, 1860 had a rough season. They barely escaped relegation to the third divison and experienced some true financial difficulties. However, courtesy to city rivals Bayern Munich, who bought 50% of 1860’s stadium shares, thus relieving 1860 of some of the high stadium rent, ’Sechzig survived. In Germany, every club has to show an ability to go plus over the course of a few years in order to obtain a professional license. After Bayern chipped in, DFB were happy to allow a license for 1860. But 1860 Munich’s financial difficulties didn’t stop there. Nor did their problems on the pitch.
Die Löwen went through a grand bunch of managers during the last years of the 2000s. Not one was able to even bring some minor success and 2. Bundesliga became their hunting ground for the time being. They seemed to rely on using old players as managers, for example trying former national team player Stefan Reuter, but none of these showed signs of prominence in the role.
In 2011, insolvency loomed over the Bavarians once again, but this time the fans were in no way willing to allow Bayern to help, albeit they offered it. Bayern offered 8 million euros to help 1860, which was the exact amount needed to escape bankruptcy. In the end, Hasan Ismaik, the second coming of Jar-Jar Binks, saved the club as he bought the majority of the shares for 16 million euros. Ismaik’s voting right was of course restricted, due to the institutional regulations and the 50+1 rule, stating that a club must be controlled by the members and not by a company or alike. Hasan Ismaik was seen by many as the saviour, yet, many were worried that the despotic behaviour he began to show would be the final nail in the coffin in the mausoleum.
The sporting crisis continued. Sechzig came very close to relegation in 2015 when their centre back Kai Bülow saved them in the dying moments of the play-offs against Kiel, through a header in front of almost 60.000 fans in the Allianz Arena. This wasn’t even the beginning of the end. This was the end of the end, the end of the road, the final stop before reaching the final target. 1860 were impossible to save and through Ismaik’s further mismanagement, the club was thrown into risks of insolvency and chaos, finally getting relegated through his gouging of Sechzig values.
1860 are now stuck in the Sargasso, with life-boats and everything, and seem to be completely unable to get out. There seems to be a feeling of forlornness at the club, they’ve been abandoned by the competent, left in the hands of money-hungry mad men. It’s as sad as it’s interesting, as tragic as it’s a good example of what happens when one club is controlled by a delirious scoundrel whose greed is grand enough to shatter the hopes of a whole region.
In German football, there has always been an irrational scare for shareholders and especially shareholders in majority. This scare is based upon the many downfalls of clubs where a shareholder has mismanaged the club into oblivion. It seems like most traditional and old German clubs are truly afraid of falling into oblivion, they’re afraid of becoming naught. This scare was, for me at least, irrational. It was based on circumstances and there were no good examples in German football where a shareholder has been the main reason of downfall. With Hasan Ismaik, that irrational fear became rational, at least for me.
It’s become evident that German clubs in no way are immune to the incompetence and narrowmindedness of greed and even though the traditional hype at times might become rather irksome, we must remember the fate of 1860 Munich, we must recall the actions of Hasan Ismaik. Sechzig’s precedent is important for the future of German football. Now most sceptics have something to actually consider in terms of despotic examples in German football. Maybe the traditionalists of German football, those being against commercialism, aren’t as pusillanimous as previously considered. Maybe they’re just right.
1860 is one of few club cases in German football that can be deemed as close to hopeless. They’ve been drained of money, drained of hope and now they sit at the bottom of the professional pit, trying to pay their players while facing and losing against the second outfits of 2. Bundesligists. Sadly, this great club will need many years to recover from this mishap and the once shattered dreams of the whole region will need time to rebuild. When they do and when Die Löwen do return, one might only hope that they’ve learned their lesson. First, have your own stadium. Second, keep your funds in check. Third, and this might be the most important, do not let shady businessmen control the club. Not ever.
Bayern Munich will have to wait many years for a real local rival to return. While most teams in German football would have done anything to have five years like 1860’s in the beginning of the sixties, no team in the world would like to switch with them right now. Still on the verge of collapse, trying to cope with a difficult situation in a sturdy world without patience or competence. It’s a long walk to freedom now, 1860, and you’ve only got yourself to blame.