Why RB Leipzig is a breath of fresh air

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When eponymous Austrian energy drink company Red Bull took over the licence for German fifth division club SSV Markranstadt in 2009, it set an ambitious target of eight years for its newly-minted Rasen Ballsport Leipzig to qualify for the Bundesliga. 

On the back of a progressive brand of high-intensity attacking football, a ruthless churn of managers and support staff, and a rumoured initial budget of $100 million to spend on the squad, the club achieved the target a year early and qualified for the UEFA Champions League - by finishing second - for good measure. 

With a stable squad - RBL fended off Europe's elite clubs to keep hold of star midfielders Naby Keita and Emil Forsberg - six new players and a formidable attacking game-plan, Leipzig is poised to go one better this year and wrest the title from a Bayern outfit that seemed bereft of ideas and down on form in the pre-season. 

A charmed, trophy-laden run through the lower divisions, an attractive attacking style, a recruitment philosophy that promotes youth and boisterous home support in an area starved of success would seem like all the ingredients for a football fairytale.

But for the majority of Germany's traditional football elite, RB Leipzig is a nightmare. 

As Philip Oltermann pointed out in his Guardian column, the main reason for the fans' beef is that RB's exorbitant membership fees undermine the spirit of Germany's exalted 50+1 membership structure. This essentially gives voting members 50 percent of a club's ownership - effectively signing it over to the fans. Many clubs have low membership prices but not RBL, where, Oltermann argues, people have to fork out up to $1000 for a non-voting membership.  

The club may have a corporate whiff that hangs over the competition like a wingsuit glider defiantly slurping the product of his parent company, but the associated villainy it was cast on RBL is a breath of fresh air in a league that was becoming increasingly predictable. 

Sure, people moaned about Bayern Munich's prolonged dominance like a sibling may whinge about his beloved big brother winning all the lounge room wrestling contests. They may not always like it, but there's an immense pride at the Bavarian club's industrial-like dominance. In RBL, there is a genuinely despised villain giving fans fresh incentive to support the opposition. 

Often the most beloved heroes are defined by the villains they must overcome. Whether you agree with the general sentiment that RBL isn't in the spirit of german football, there's no denying the club's mere presence lends the Bundesliga an air of theatre and intrigue on and off the pitch. 

 


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