November 28, 2017

Hannover's return is going well but fans are not happy

Hannover's return to the Bundesliga could hardly have begun better. The newly-promoted side kicked off with a win at Mainz then beat Schalke at home. Ten points from four games put them top of the table and while there was a dip after that, the 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in October highlighted how far they have come. But fans are anything but happy.

Hannover president Martin Kind is pushing to gain ownership of the club and break from the 50+1 rule that ensures members retain a controlling influence. The club's supervisory board has already voted to sell to Kind. All that remains is to apply to the German Football League (DFL) and they will become only the fourth club to abandon this tried-and-trusted model.

For some fans, it is akin to the death of the club and is why they are refusing to celebrate the team's goals. The boycott shows no signs of ending. Tobi Riemer hosts a podcast about all things Hannover and is as attuned as anyone to the frustrations of the fans. Results have made some impact but the animosity remains. There are much bigger issues at stake.

"It is a very bad situation at the moment," Riemer tells Sky Sports. "Nobody is really happy. The ultras are still very angry and 99 per cent of them are involved in the boycott but it is important to make it clear that it is not only the ultras who are protesting. Many of the normal fans not affiliated to any supporter group are joining the protests too.
                     Kind must go! Hannover fans voice their opinion about the president

"It is not the majority. I would say it is 25 per cent of the people in the stadium but the remaining 75 per cent are doing little to create much noise so the atmosphere is poor. The mood does improve a bit when Hannover are winning but without the ultras it is not the same. Thankfully, I have not seen anyone come to blows yet. Let's hope it stays that way."

For Hannover's new sporting director Gerhard Zuber, the situation is a frustrating one. No matter what the players achieve on the pitch, the problems will remain, with head coach Andre Breitenreiter saying it is like playing 34 away games. "Of course, it has made it really very difficult because we do not have any support from the ultras".

"The president's plans are a bit unusual and there have maybe been mistakes on both sides, so the situation is very difficult. It is a big problem now and it will be a big problem in the future. But all we can do is play the games and try to be successful. We hope and pray that the supporters will return but the fan is a special species."

Zuber only arrived at Hannover in the spring along with Breitenreiter and general manager Horst Heldt. The trio had previously been together at Schalke and quickly went to work. Promotion to the Bundesliga was duly completed and the trio set about transforming the playing side of the club on and off the field. He is understandably proud of how it has gone.

"We knew how difficult it can be to get promoted but we changed everything," adds Zuber. "We changed the youth department, we changed the head coach, we changed the whole scouting department. We changed a lot but the club gave us that freedom to change everything and it seems we are being successful so far.

"We brought in six new players in the summer and we knew that every player had to be a success and function within the team because without them the structure of the team would not be good. Nearly every one of them is playing." In fact, record signing Jonathas got the winner against Schalke and new forward Ihlas Bebou scored twice against Dortmund.

"Jonathas was the biggest commitment because €9m had never been paid out by Hannover in the past," says Zuber. "We scouted his position very carefully and I think we got the right man because he has everything. He is big, a good finisher with a good record, and he is a nice guy too. For us, he is maybe the most important player aside from Ihlas Bebou.

"We got Bebou from the second division. He is also a very talented young player. He is very fast and we will have a lot of fun with him. We knew that we needed his speed in attack so we targeted players who were extremely fast. Bebou is a player I knew well from Dusseldorf because I live there and I saw him 30 times live so I knew exactly what we were buying.

"The other ones were important transfers too because they were the ones with Bundesliga experience. Guys like Pirmin Schwegler in the heart of our team have also been very important. At the end of it all, we are doing well and hopefully we will collect a lot of points. Maybe we can finish in the top end of the table. That would be very good for us."

So he is still enjoying the job? "I am enjoying it because the club is a sleeping giant," he says. "There is a lot that can be achieved. In the past, a lot of mistakes have been made but there is the possibility for change and the hope that we can be really successful in the future. The most important thing is that we are playing very well and we are playing good football."
Hannover's return to the Bundesliga could hardly have begun better. The newly-promoted side kicked off with a win at Mainz then beat Schalke at home. Ten points from four games put them top of the table and while there was a dip after that, the 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in October highlighted how far they have come. But fans are anything but happy.

Hannover president Martin Kind is pushing to gain ownership of the club and break from the 50+1 rule that ensures members retain a controlling influence. The club's supervisory board has already voted to sell to Kind. All that remains is to apply to the German Football League (DFL) and they will become only the fourth club to abandon this tried-and-trusted model.

For some fans, it is akin to the death of the club and is why they are refusing to celebrate the team's goals. The boycott shows no signs of ending. Tobi Riemer hosts a podcast about all things Hannover and is as attuned as anyone to the frustrations of the fans. Results have made some impact but the animosity remains. There are much bigger issues at stake.

"It is a very bad situation at the moment," Riemer tells Sky Sports. "Nobody is really happy. The ultras are still very angry and 99 per cent of them are involved in the boycott but it is important to make it clear that it is not only the ultras who are protesting. Many of the normal fans not affiliated to any supporter group are joining the protests too.
                     Kind must go! Hannover fans voice their opinion about the president

"It is not the majority. I would say it is 25 per cent of the people in the stadium but the remaining 75 per cent are doing little to create much noise so the atmosphere is poor. The mood does improve a bit when Hannover are winning but without the ultras it is not the same. Thankfully, I have not seen anyone come to blows yet. Let's hope it stays that way."

For Hannover's new sporting director Gerhard Zuber, the situation is a frustrating one. No matter what the players achieve on the pitch, the problems will remain, with head coach Andre Breitenreiter saying it is like playing 34 away games. "Of course, it has made it really very difficult because we do not have any support from the ultras".

"The president's plans are a bit unusual and there have maybe been mistakes on both sides, so the situation is very difficult. It is a big problem now and it will be a big problem in the future. But all we can do is play the games and try to be successful. We hope and pray that the supporters will return but the fan is a special species."

Zuber only arrived at Hannover in the spring along with Breitenreiter and general manager Horst Heldt. The trio had previously been together at Schalke and quickly went to work. Promotion to the Bundesliga was duly completed and the trio set about transforming the playing side of the club on and off the field. He is understandably proud of how it has gone.

"We knew how difficult it can be to get promoted but we changed everything," adds Zuber. "We changed the youth department, we changed the head coach, we changed the whole scouting department. We changed a lot but the club gave us that freedom to change everything and it seems we are being successful so far.

"We brought in six new players in the summer and we knew that every player had to be a success and function within the team because without them the structure of the team would not be good. Nearly every one of them is playing." In fact, record signing Jonathas got the winner against Schalke and new forward Ihlas Bebou scored twice against Dortmund.

"Jonathas was the biggest commitment because €9m had never been paid out by Hannover in the past," says Zuber. "We scouted his position very carefully and I think we got the right man because he has everything. He is big, a good finisher with a good record, and he is a nice guy too. For us, he is maybe the most important player aside from Ihlas Bebou.

"We got Bebou from the second division. He is also a very talented young player. He is very fast and we will have a lot of fun with him. We knew that we needed his speed in attack so we targeted players who were extremely fast. Bebou is a player I knew well from Dusseldorf because I live there and I saw him 30 times live so I knew exactly what we were buying.

"The other ones were important transfers too because they were the ones with Bundesliga experience. Guys like Pirmin Schwegler in the heart of our team have also been very important. At the end of it all, we are doing well and hopefully we will collect a lot of points. Maybe we can finish in the top end of the table. That would be very good for us."

So he is still enjoying the job? "I am enjoying it because the club is a sleeping giant," he says. "There is a lot that can be achieved. In the past, a lot of mistakes have been made but there is the possibility for change and the hope that we can be really successful in the future. The most important thing is that we are playing very well and we are playing good football."