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Mats Hummels on the defensive after cheering for Dortmund

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Attacked for celebrating his friend, Bayern Munich’s center-back is increasingly frustrated with (anti-)social media.

Mats Hummels of FC Bayern Muenchen talks to the media during a press conference ahead the Campions League match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Besiktas Istanbul at Allianz Arena on February 19, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Mats Hummels talks to the media during a press conference, February 19, 2018.
Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Bongarts/Getty Images

To tweet or not to tweet is a question Bayern Munich’s Mats Hummels finds himself increasingly asking after unleashing a torrent of angry responses from fans for a tweet he sent on Thursday during Borussia Dortmund’s Europa League clash with Atalanta.

“SCHMELLEEEEEEEEEE!”

Dortmund looked like it was cruising toward elimination in an anemic performance as Atalanta took a 1:0 lead, putting the Italians in a position to win on away goals. But a chaotic goal by Marcel Schmelzer saved the yellow and black for another day. In the excitement, Hummels tweeted a celebration of his former teammate and friend:

The response was anything but uniformly positive. Wade into the responses at your own peril—but suffice it to say that many Bayern fans accused Hummels of a lack of #MiaSanMia (“piss off to Dortmund!”), while some Dortmund fans still have not forgiven Hummels for transferring to archenemy Bayern. Hummels responded to the international criticism tellingly in English:

It is an ongoing theme for Hummels, who is one of the most engaged Bayern stars on social media, frequently giving impromptu Q&A sessions while traveling with the team by bus.

Hummels: media outrage all of a piece for athletes

Hummels himself had anticipated the “shitstorm,” as it has been called in German media, only days before. In an interview with the magazine Socrates (self-styled “the thinking sports magazine”), Hummels expressed his increasing frustration with the media coverage of athletes in the Bundesliga (summarized in TZ). There Hummels lamented the fact that,

Whoever addresses critical subjects unleashes a scandal. Everywhere quotes are made into big headlines. Because of this development, far fewer substantial statements will be made by players in the future; we’ll all have to content ourselves with saying nothing. Like in the NBA.

As a diehard Dallas Mavericks (or Dirk Nowitzki) fan, Hummels has heard his share of basketball platitudes uttered on NBA.tv:

A few fans might find that cool, but I have the feeling: in not a single interview does a player or coach really say what, for example, led to a loss. It’s all just empty phrases.

He thinks it’s a shame, “that nowadays very normal things can’t be said anymore without their being interpreted as hubris or arrogance.” Players in the Bundesliga are unfortunately under increasing pressure to keep silent to avoid making headlines. It takes courage, Hummels argues, to speak one’s mind in this atmosphere.

Sometimes [it’d be] probably be easier if I used stock phrases or answered with platitudes. But I still am convinced that you can explain soccer to people or at least show them a bit of what happens behind the scenes without revealing confidential information. I always take heat for doing that, but I put up with it.

It would be a great loss if Hummels fell silent in interviews or on social media or—worse—opted to avoid controversy with empty phrases. So for Bayern and Dortmund fans alike...

“SCHMELLEEEEEEEEEE!”