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Milking a steak: steakgate, Ribery, and the scandal that wasn’t (isn’t)

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Bild really wants you to be angry at Franck Ribery. Will someone please tell them that this story is already well-done?

19 December 2018, Bavaria, München: Soccer: Bundesliga, Bayern Munich - RB Leipzig, 16th matchday in the Allianz Arena. Franck Ribery from Bavaria laughs before the game. Photo by Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty Images

ONLY JÜRGEN KLOPP CAN SAVE BAYERN NOW!

Wait, what!?

That’s literally the headline of Bild and Sport Bild’s latest op-ed by Raimond Hinko in his column “Meine Bayern.” In an open letter to Bayern Munich’s contingent of players on the German national team, Hinko describes how they have arrived in Qatar ready to prepare for the Rückrunde, Liverpool, and Dortmund only to be “overwhelmed completely by surprise by the Franck Ribéry affair, as if a tsunami had washed you away in the training camp in Qatar.”

While Bayern actually is preparing for the Rückrunde in Qatar, and fans are full of anticipation over the outcome of the ongoing transfer stories of Lucas Hernandez and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Bild and friends remain stuck in their own fantasy world of last week’s news — where the only story that matters is Franck Ribery’s golden steak and his profanity-laced rant against the critics and hypocritical journalists who publicized their outrage over it.

Although, alas, Bavarian Football Works neglected to write up Salt Bae’s carving of Franck’s golden calf, we dispatched the story of its aftermath — Ribery’s epic, and understandable, tirade — and the sequel (a hefty fine by the club) in a whopping two days. But what do we know? BFW is just a fan blog, after all.


A threat to soccer!

The big boys at Bild, though, just can’t move on. The coverage has been non-stop. The bosses must suspend Ribery, Matthias Brügelmann argued. When Bayern obviously did no such thing, he followed it up the next day by alleging that merely fining Ribery is a sign of Bayern’s moral bankruptcy (Armutszeugnis).

Bild even had the answers as to why the club didn’t simply “fire” him! Why, you ask? Because Uli protects him! Because Bayern needs him on the pitch! And most definitely not because the scandal is being totally overblown by a hostile magazine!

And now Alfred Draxler wants to explain to us “Why Ribery is a threat to soccer!” (Spoiler alert: Ribery’s golden steak illustrates how soccer has abandoned the common man, the fans. Ribery, like the bling-bling gang on the national team, threatens to alienate all of us.) And Ribery is also apparently a threat to good taste, since Bild also surveyed several celebrity chefs, who unanimously criticize Ribery, the steak, and Salt Bae. (Who could have seen that coming?) What is Dubai all about again, anyway?


Ribery out!

And surprise, surprise, Bild readers demand Ribery’s expulsion” — with a whopping 75% majority! On Twitter, Bild advertised the story with the question, “Why won’t Bayern answer THESE questions?” Gasp! Which questions? Namely:

  • Will Ribery have to make a public apology? If not, why not?
  • How high is the fine, and when will he have to pay it?
  • What happens with the money? To what institution will it be donated?

I think the real answer is because Bayern (like Ribery and his critics) does not owe Bild anything — but since Bayern’s only response was effectively “no comment,” Bild asked several of Bayern’s sponsors what they think about the scandal. The answers are delightful:

Adidas: “We do not comment on the behavior of other players on or off the pitch.”

Allianz: “We continue to maintain the good custom of not commenting publicly on the affairs of our partners.”

Audi: “FC Bayern has already reacted to the behavior of Franck Ribery.”

And Qatar Airways did not even dignify Bild with a response.


So much worse than racism

It is Raimond Hinko’s open letter to Bayern’s national players (Bild/Sport Bild), however, the op-ed whose headline I quoted at the top of this article, that represents the absolute worst that Bild has to offer. In this breathtakingly tone-deaf essay that trivializes the serious issues raised by the Özil scandal (and never really answered by the DFB), Hinko writes to Bayern’s national players as if Ribery’s “steakgate” now threatened to derail Bayern Munich’s season entirely:

You can judge best what devastating consequences such an affair can have on a team. You witnessed how the subject of Mesut Özil swept away all other topics leading up to the World Cup. I do not want to brand Özil as the scapegoat for the World Cup here; he was blindsided when he posed for a photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The echo, though, reverberated far beyond [Germany’s] World Cup knockout in the group stage. The Özil spectacle had to serve as the alibi for the failure of the national team. Even today.

“Now,” Hinko continues, “the Franck Ribéry affair threatens to succeed the Mesut Özil affair. Only everything is much worse.”

Now this non-scandal threatens to overwhelm the Rekordmeister. Only Jürgen Klopp can save Bayern now! How? If Bayern can just hold out until February 19 and March 13, the club might survive. Klopp is an even bigger story — bigger than Ribery, and presumably even bigger than Özil! Kovac is having the team practice a back three, so he doesn’t suffer his “Waterloo” there... like Napoleon?


The self-important, indignant, yet ultimately vacuous commentary of Hinko epitomizes for me what is really at issue in this silly debate about Franck Ribery: when a story becomes more about the reporters covering it than the incident itself. How will Jürgen Klopp save Bayern? By distracting all the journalists, Bild included, from their latest bête noire.

If that’s all it will take, then the outrage over Franck Ribery’s angry reply to his French critics (the entire message was in French and aimed specifically at them — not Bild after all) is really just a means to an end: a bigger readership, views, profits. And I haven’t even linked all the stories related to Ribery that Bild has run, let alone the versions in Sport Bild.

Former Bayern captain and now commentator Stefan Effenberg has said (AZ) Bayern could be more transparent about the details of Ribery’s fine. That’s fair — although it would not surprise me if Bayern kept silent at this point out of spite over the hysterical coverage the story has generated.

As for Bild and that indignant 75% of their readers, Effenberg says, “Whoever now is calling for his suspension or expulsion has never played professional soccer.” Bild knows better.

Let’s move on.