MÜNCHEN/ARNHEM – After 23 duels, Bayern Munich enjoys an 18-point lead over Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig and has never had such a big lead in the Bundesliga after this number of matches. Der Rekordmeister is imperturbably heading for the 28th country title in club history, making it by far the most successful club in the country. What not many people know is that 116 years ago a Dutchman was at the basis of the great Bayern.
By Chris Meijer
Today Bayern Munich is the football club with the most members: 290,000. Last season, the Southern German club had a turnover of 587.8 million euros: only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United are doing better. Also in the Soccerex survey, which looks at the players’ group, money on the bank, fixed assets, potential investments by owners and net debt, Bayern Munich is one of the ten richest clubs in the world. The beginning of wealth, success and power can be traced back to 1902, when the club had been in existence for two years. In 1900, eleven men divorced from MTV Munich, which was originally a gymnastics association, but since 1898 also had a football branch. During a members’ meeting it was decided that MTV Munich would not join the South German Football Association, after which eleven dissatisfied members decided to set up Bayern Munich.
Two years later Willem Frederik Hesselink arrived in Munich. In his native town of Arnhem, he had been involved in the founding of Vitesse in 1892, which initially started out as a cricket club. Soon there was also football and Hesselink, a son of a wine seller and a diplomat, played in Vitesse’s first match against Quick Nijmegen,”Nobody had a certain place in the team. Each member was asked where he would prefer to play in the team. I myself replied:’ it doesn’t care’, to which I was stuck in the least beloved place, outside the left, of course. That was no disadvantage for me, because now I was obliged to use my left leg especially and I had a lot of advantage later on. Even so, that I was indifferent to whether I had to shoot left or right,”said Hesselink on the Vitesse website.
Hesselink grew into one of the star players in the team at Vitesse and became notorious for his hard shot, which gave him the nickname Kanon. According to legend, goalkeepers risked a broken wrist as they tried to turn the shots of Hesselink. A goalkeeper would even have died once because a gunshot from the Kanon came on his chest, but this story has never been confirmed. Incidentally, Hesselink had several talents, because he was also Dutch champion jumped, won the Gelders championship at 1500 meters and won the Gelders championship with a few players of Vitesse Dutch champion tug. In 1898 he became an almost Dutch champion with Vitesse, but the decision competition for the title against the Amsterdam RAP was lost with 4-2.
At the age of 21, Hesselink left Arnhem for Leiden, where he studied chemistry. During his studies he played for the Royal HVV in The Hague, with which he became champion of the Netherlands in 1900 and 1901. As a player of HVV Hesselink made 66 goals in 54 duels. In 1902, the born Arnhemmer decided to continue his studies in chemistry in Munich, where he studied at the prestigious Ludwig Maximilians University. In addition to chemistry, Hesselink also studied philosophy in Bavaria. In his new residence he also wanted to continue playing football, which started the search for a club. Soon Hesselink met Bayern Munich, which was only two years old and originated in the Schwabing district. The neighborhood of writers, artists, doctors and other intellectuals Hesselink did.
At that time Bayern was able to use the leadership of Hesselink. He became the first foreign player of Bayern Munich and soon the Kanon in Bavaria made just as much impression as in the Netherlands. Partly thanks to Hesselink, Bayern, which at that time only played a regional role, became increasingly successful. At some point he was not only a player of the club, but also a trainer. From 1903, his duties were extended with the chairmanship of Hesselink, who took over from founder Franz John. At the time he returned to his birthplace Pankow to start a photo studio there. It was immediately clear that Hesselink, who almost always wore a knitted blue hat, would become his successor. The organizational talent of the Dutchman had always stood out.
Under the Hesselink regime, Bayern merged with Münchner Sport Club, giving it the current club colours red and white. Until that merger Bayern played in blue and white. During the chairmanship of the Dutchman, the club’s membership grew enormously, while also laying the foundation for youth education. In the three years that Hesselink was at the helm of Bayern, the level rose dramatically. Incidentally, the Kanon, who was also called the Doctor, was also a player and trainer during his presidency. Franz Beckenbauer is the only one who also held these three positions at Bayern Munich, although he did not do so at the same time as Hesselink. It has to be said that the dividing lines between these functions were considerably smaller than at present.
As a player, trainer and chairman of Bayern Munich, Hesselink made his debut in May 1905 in Orange, which won 4-0 from Belgium on that day in Rotterdam. A few months later, in January 1906, the gavel was handed over to Kurt Müller, after a conflict had arisen between older and younger members of Bayern. Hesselink obtained a doctorate in chemistry and philosophy in Bavaria and left southern Germany behind. After having lived in Frankfurt for another two years, he returned to Arnhem, where he set up a forensic laboratory. He grew into a specialist in the field of blood tests, fingerprints and written comparisons and was regularly called upon as an expert witness in murder cases. He then worked as director of the Food Inspection Service and wrote various health books.
After Hesselink had returned to the Netherlands, he joined Vitesse again. Until 1915 he played for the Arnhemmers. When he hung his soccer shoes on the willows at the age of 38, Hesselink was already Treasurer of Vitesse. In 1917 he also took up the chairperson’s hammer in Arnhem, and he was to hold that post until 1922. Hesselink was declared honorary chairman of Vitesse in 1962. Eleven years later he died, at the age of 95. One little blemish on his glorious career as a player, trainer and chairman was that’ his’ Vitesse had not yet won a prize at that time. During his career, Hesselink was a few times near the championship, but up to three times it went wrong in the decision making game. Last season, 44 years after the death of Hesselink, his mission was completed. In 2017, Vitesse won his first prize in club history: the KNVB cup. Hesselink will undoubtedly have looked on from above with satisfaction and pride.