The Säbener Strasse gym was transformed on Tuesday, with the walls covered in large white hangings, plump red and white balloons suspended from the roof, and an interior decor scheme comprising market stalls with fresh produce and lovingly prepared Bavarian beer garden tables and benches. It was a foretaste of the Oktoberfest, which starts three and a half weeks from now.
Naturally, there was a special reason for the makeover in the sports hall, as the club had prepared a surprise party in full Bavarian style to mark the 60th birthday of deputy chairman Karl Hopfner. The headquarters staff appeared appropriately clad in traditional dirndls and lederhosen, a worthy tribute to the long-serving finance wizard.
“I knew nothing about it. This is a wonderful surprise," the clearly moved Hopfner commented, “it's a real honour." At the same time, he (jokingly) expressed apprehension “that something’s taking place here which I don't know about. That gives me cause for concern."
Hopfner himself didn't want a big celebration, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in his speech, “and naturally, we respect this wish. This is a small, internal event, a working lunch and especially a working drink." The only purpose of the “field test and dry run," continued Rummenigge, “is to help calculate the average cost of future festivities of this nature."
President Uli Hoeneß also gave a speech, reviewing the club's astonishing growth over the last 30 years since Hopfner took up the job of managing director. “Whether we were buying bootlaces or Ribéry," revealed Hoeneß, “Karl Hopfner was always involved. Nothing fails to cross Karl Hopfner's desk." Hoeneß singled out one of the most important attributes possessed by his long-standing partner: “Be important, but not self-important."
The party, held under the motto ‘59+1’, attracted a number of VIP guests, including League Association president Dr Reinhard Rauball, his deputy Peter Peters, Bayer Leverkusen CEO Wolfgang Holzhäuser, DFB general secretary Helmut Sandrock, and European Club Association general secretary Michele Centenaro, all of whom came to Munich expressly to congratulate Hopfner in person.
Cake and birthday song from stars
The attendees also included former Bavarian First Minister Dr Edmund Stoiber, the FC Bayern members’ club committee with Hoeneß, Prof Fritz Scherer and Bernd Rauch, and Hopfner's fellow executive board members Rummenigge, Matthias Sammer and Andreas Jung. The agreeable afternoon included delicious Bavarian specialities and brass band music.
A moving and emotional film portrayed Hopfner's achievements for the club, while laughter was occasioned by cabaret star Django Asül. To round off the afternoon, the first-team players presented the deputy chairman with a three-tier cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’. It was certainly a highly successful “working lunch" for the long-serving official, who will assuredly not forget his birthday in a hurry.