When Werner Gegenbauer was asked about his last re-election as president of Hertha BSC, how long he intends to hold this office, he referred to his colleague Rolf Königs. Königs celebrated his 80th birthday in August, has been president of Borussia Mönchengladbach since 2004 and has apparently no plans to resign.
Gegenbauer will be 72 next week and has at least fourteen years at the helm of the Berlin Bundesliga club Hertha BSC. But – it is now clear – that is how it will be. In the last few weeks, months and years, Gegenbauer has received much criticism for his leadership and has resisted this criticism more or less defiantly. The fact that he has now decided to leave office prematurely and of his own free will deserves at least respect. Because this decision averts further harm from Hertha.
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Gegenbauer was most recently at the center of a power struggle with investor Lars Windhorst, whose effects have weighed on the club – and in all probability would have weighed on him even more. Both sides accuse the other of unfair methods.
Regardless of who is right: the crucial thing is that there would no longer have been a pacifying and thus also satisfactory solution to this dispute, which had long since reached a personal level. Gegenbauer’s voluntary withdrawal enables Hertha to adapt to the strained relationship with Windhorst.
Fourteen years, a lot of mediocrity
Fourteen years as president is an impressive time, and yet it becomes difficult to talk about an era that shaped Gegenbauer. Above all, they lack sporting successes. Hertha were promoted twice to the Bundesliga during his tenure – but only because they had been relegated twice before. The rest was more or less mediocre.
A president likes to be blamed for things he is not responsible for. Gegenbauer was not responsible for the day-to-day business, either to hire or fire the head coach, or to find a new right-back. But the chairman sets the framework within which the operational management moves.
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Above all, Gegenbauer’s endorsement of sporting director Michael Preetz over all the mistakes had an almost tragic tone. As if the president of Hertha would prove with all his might to his former friend and later enemy Dieter Hoeneß that he was wrong in assessing his successor (“Michael Preetz, he can not”).
A presidency with unfulfilled hopes
And then, from the very beginning, Gegenbauer’s presidency will go down in the club’s history as a presidency with unfulfilled hopes. There was a certain logic behind the idea of installing him at the top of the club: an entrepreneur, successful and yet accommodating, original Berliner with wit and sometimes a little rusty charm – and above all with the best connections to the decision – creators from The policy.
Gegenbauer was considered a genius to pull the strings, but measured by this reputation, Hertha clearly did not get around enough in the end. Times have just changed, and Hertha’s helpless behavior when planning a new stadium showed that many things can no longer be decided through official channels between friends as in old West Berlin.
Of course, Werner Gegenbauer would have loved to see the opening of this stadium still in office. Nothing comes of it now. It is not the only wish that remains unfulfilled.