FOOTBALL fans around the world will have been thrilled to watch Bayern Munich defeat the once mighty Barcelona 8:2 in the quarter finals of this year’s delayed Champions League, writes historian Alan Roberts.

This week. Bayern are celebrating winning the competition for an impressive sixth time following victory over Paris St-Germain. In Germany they have won the top domestic league, the Bundesliga, for no fewer than 29 times.

Bayern Munich was formed in 1900 when a group of footballers left a local gymnastics association to form their own club. Three years later an ambitious fifteen-year-old called Ludwig Hofmeister would play his very first game in goal for the club. The ground and facilities were very rough and ready. Hofmeister recalls that regardless of its condition the players’ kit was thrown into a large chest, which was dragged out the following week for the team to use again.

Matters improved rapidly and soon the team had its first international player and coach, a Dutchman called Willem Hesselink who taught them to play ‘cultured’ football. He was followed by English businessman Thomas Taylor who was the first coach to organise proper training sessions.

Hofmeister himself worked full time as a bank official, but his team Bayern Munich began to win various competitions around the Bavarian capital.

Matches against English professional teams were less successful. The first match was a 5:2 defeat by Sunderland in 1909 when the German team was said to have gained the respect of their English guests, but matches against English opposition resulted in some heavy defeats including a 7:0 loss to Blackburn Rovers the following year.

Hofmeister nevertheless came to the attention of the selectors of the German national team and played twice for his country. In the first match in 1912 Germany lost 3:2 at home to the Netherlands, and in April 1914 Hofmeister let in a further four goals in a drawn match against the same opposition. This would be the last match Germany would play for six years. The Great War had started.

Second Lieutenant Ludwig Hofmeister originally joined a Bavarian infantry regiment, but later transferred to the Royal Bavarian Air Force where he was deployed as an observer engaged in reconnaissance missions to help direct artillery fire against the enemy’s positions. Hofmeister was captured in April 1918, and was admitted to Skipton Camp the following month.

Roughly one tenth of the camp could be engaged in playing football. A photograph of the footballers in the camp shows 46 prisoners dressed in their best sporting attire, including a noticeably thinner Ludwig Hofmeister in an open-necked shirt.

The finest sportswear could be bought at a price from Mr James in the canteen or camp shop, but an alternative was to use the blue and green shorts produced by the up-and-coming brand of Tünnerhoff, launched by the airman of the same name in Hut 18.

The German book regrets that, with just three or four teams each comprising their full quota of eleven players, the element of competition was lacking, and that the football players constituted something of a closed community.

The real venom was reserved for the matches between the officers and men.

In the matches between officers and men you could see much more of a passionate desire to win, but this was achieved with a fierceness which stemmed from the most unsportsmanlike depths of the soul.

The officers in the camp outnumbered the enlisted men by four to one, the enlisted men were twice as likely to have been wounded in battle and of course the officers had German international Ludwig Hofmeister in goal.

Hofmeister had celebrated his 200th game for Bayern in 1912, the year when he was made club captain. He left Bayern to spend the season before the war with Stuttgart Kickers, but returned to play for Bayern Munich after the war.

His status as one of the senior players was dutifully recorded in one of the club’s histories. In early spring 1919 matches had been postponed until later in the year because of the after-effects of the revolution, but that is a story for another day.

Strangely, artefacts and papers connected with the Skipton prisoners continue to appear for sale. A set of four certificates relating to Hofmeister’s time in the Bavarian air force was sold by auction for several hundred pounds recently, and earlier this month a (broken) pocket watch engraved ‘Ludwig Hofmeister 1905 Fussball-Club Bayern München’ was sold online. The watch itself was a later model, but the case itself may have been genuine. Whatever the truth of the matter, it seems that Hofmeister who died in 1959 has gone, but is certainly not forgotten.