By Oliver Trust
While the German Bundesliga has witnessed several scandals since its founding in 1963, this week’s internal revolt of FSV Mainz players represents a new level of confrontation.
This Tuesday, the squad refused to attend training after 32-year-old Adam Szalai was excluded from the team due to what the club termed sporting reasons.
“This is a new level of escalation,” team manager Rouven Schroeder commented after coach Achim Beierlorzer unsuccessfully asked the team to start training.
“Mainz will, from now on, always be the club where players refused to follow the coach’s instructions and refused to train,” Schroeder added.
While club officials said the case is solved after talks with the team and Szalai, coach Beierlorzer’s reputation seems damaged beyond repair.
Media reports speak of deep divisions between him and his players.
Several media say Szalai unsuccessfully tried to convince the club to stick to its promise to pay back the wage cut implemented due to financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the club denied any connection to financial reasons, media assume Szalai has become the second Bundesliga player to have been fired due to wage cut discussions.
A few weeks ago, Union Berlin striker Sebastian Polter was suspended following a corona-based wage dispute.
In Mainz, Hungary captain Szalai is said to have raised the issue of deferred payments the players were promised when they waived their salaries during lockdown with the club’s board on behalf of the team.
Szalai was placed on an individual training program but refused to stay away from team training, and joined practise sessions of the club’s under-23 team.
His agent Oliver Fischer announced the player wouldn’t accept the club’s decision and may take legal action to be allowed to return to regular training. According to Fischer, Szalai refuses to leave the club.
As a result, the team decided to go on strike to express its solidarity with Szalai, who is highly respected among fans and staff.
There have been several instances of players challenging a Bundesliga club in such a manner in recent years. Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both went on strike to force Borussia Dortmund to allow their transfers to Barcelona and Arsenal respectively.
Last week, second division striker Philipp Hoffmann refused to play for his team Karlsruher SC after he had told the club his plans to join Union Berlin.
In 1979, Bayern Munich players refused to accept Max Merkel as their new coach and threatened to go on strike.
In 1984, the 1. FC Nuremberg squad informed the public after coach Heinz Hoeher held a training session at 6am to punish his team.