TSG can look back at ten moving years in the Bundesliga. What first comes to mind when you hear “TSG Hoffenheim – ten years in the Bundesliga”?
Dietmar Hopp: “It’s staggering how quickly the time has passed by and how eventful these years have been for TSG.”
How do you feel when you look back at the past ten years?
Dietmar Hopp: “Overall I’m very proud that what I envisioned happening twelve years ago has worked out. Reaching the Bundesliga was the reward for our efforts, which began back in the 90s when I started to support the Hoffenheim youth teams. Our dream back then was for the men’s team to play in the fourth division. Then the ambition became the third division. At the same time, we set up a youth system, which was very successful. That resulted in the youth A-team being quickly promoted to the Bundesliga, with the B- and C-teams also playing in the top divisions which existed at the time. That gave us a bit of a luxury problem because we were producing talents who we couldn’t keep.”
That’s why the first team should be the goal for the young players. This resulted in an impressive promotion to the Bundesliga. How did you find the first game in Cottbus?
Dietmar Hopp: “I wasn’t there in person, but Energie Cottbus had had an impressive season before and they were a strong opponent. In addition, we had to play away from home in our first Bundesliga match. I was only hoping for a draw and we went on to win 3-0. It was sensational.”
That first season had many special moments. Which do you still look back upon fondly?
Dietmar Hopp: “The home game against Hamburg on the 9th matchday was very special. Hamburg came to Mannheim, where we were playing our home games at the time, on top of the table and we beat them 3-0.The match against Borussia Dortmund, which we won 4-1, was similar. The top clubs had big problems against Hoffenheim every season. The game against Bayern Munich also sticks in my memory of course. I received messages of congratulation shortly before the final whistle; however, Luca Toni then grabbed a goal right at the end, which was really unlucky and frustrating for us. Despite that, it showed what Hoffenheim were capable of and it was an accolade which got Uli Hoeneß worried about TSG (laughs).”
TSG Hoffenheim’s playing style idolised across Germany
Dietmar Hopp: “Ralf Rangnick was an excellent coach and motivator. He created an ambitious strategy when we were in the third division and brought in a style of football which was brand new at the time. This attacking football and the pressing were inspiring to watch at the time.”
The so-called “Miracle of Dortmund” came in the 2012-13 season. That must certainly be another a great memory...
Dietmar Hopp: "It was an amazing escape – we were practically already relegated before the final matchday in Dortmund, but BVB must have had their Champions League final against Bayern at Wembley the following week on their minds – thank God. Fortunately, it went our way, otherwise we wouldn’t now be talking about ten years of Bundesliga for TSG."
Has there been a player in the last ten years who you’ve grown to love in particular?
Dietmar Hopp: "My first thought would be Sejad Salihovic, not just because he scored the two deciding goals in Dortmund back then – he’s a really likable person, with a powerful shot, who scored some spectacular goals from free kicks. He was, and remains a fan favourite here at TSG, which was clear to see when he came here a few weeks ago with HSV. Our fans gave him a standing ovation as he was brought on, they didn’t boo him, which might have been more normal at other clubs. He’s earned himself an honorary place at our club."
Looking ahead now, what do the next ten years have in store for TSG Hoffenheim?
Dietmar Hopp: "I’m confident we’ll keep playing a big role in the Bundesliga, as long as we keep going along the same track. Financial fair play is a matter of principle for us – TSG have to be financially self-sufficient. We can’t take any risks that might lead to us being financially dependent – we’ll continue to make sound judgments with regard to our finances."
With that in mind, what role do SAP play for TSG Hoffenheim?
Dietmar Hopp: "I have a close relationship with SAP, because, as you know, I was a founding member of the business. SAP have accompanied TSG right from the start, at first with smaller donations to improve our work with the youth teams. Following our promotion to the Bundesliga, SAP became a sponsor – a sponsor for strategic cooperation. SAP became TSG’s primary sponsor about four years ago, but not the kind that invests oversized amounts of money – they can’t be compared to Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, or Bayer in Leverkusen."
Thank you very much for your time, Dietmar Hopp.
This interview was taken from the film “TSG Hoffenheim: 10 years of Bundesliga", which will be released this summer.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking back at the last ten years of TSG Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Get excited!