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Mar 12, 2014

Ribery: Bayern players behind Hoeness

Franck Ribery has declared the Bayern Munich squad's support for club president Uli Hoeness as he stands trial on tax evasion charges.

Hoeness' trial enters its third day on Wednesday, with an expert witness claiming on Tuesday that the former Bayern and Germany forward owes 23.7 million euros in unpaid taxes stemming from an undisclosed Swiss account -- far more than the 3.5 million euros originally claimed in the court's bill of indictment.

The 62-year-old was, however, in the stands of the Allianz Arena, draped in a red-and-white scarf, as usual for his team's successful Champions League last-16 second leg fixture against Arsenal.

Ribery told reporters after the 1-1 draw -- which saw Bayern through 3-1 on aggregate -- that the European champions' players all give their embattled boss their backing.

"We're following events," Ribery said. "Uli Hoeness is a very important person for us. He's a great man for this club. We're with him.

"We're going to keep our fingers crossed that things go really well for him. But anyway, we need him. You can't envisage Bayern without Hoeness. It was important to get a good result, to qualify for him. We're all behind him."

In the wake of recent revelations during the trial, several German politicians have called for Hoeness to resign from office.

“I am shocked over the true scale of the tax evasion,” Thomas Opperman, the parliamentary group leader of the governing Social Democrats told agency dpa on Tuesday.

The opposition parties in the German Bundestag where equally shocked, with Anton Hofreiter, the parliamentary group leader of the Green Party telling Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung: “At least now it is time for Hoeness to resign from his Bayern offices.

“The role-model function of sport has already been extremely damaged by Hoeness.”

The second opposition party in the Bundestag, Die Linke, also called for Hoeness to step down.

Bernd Riexinger, the head of Die Linke, said: “There is no way he can stay at the top of FC Bayern. To go clean means to resign.”

Hoeness is also the chairman of the executive board of Bayern Munich AG -- the club's holding company -- which has continued to back him.

As a player, Hoeness was part of the West Germany side which won the 1972 European Championship and the World Cup two years later, and was also a member of the Bayern squad which won three consecutive European Cups between 1974 and 1976. 

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