Promoted Leipzig brush off critics to go top of the table
By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - Promoted RB Leipzig always expected their first Bundesliga season to be a turbulent affair but they seem to have gotten more than they bargained for with their sensational start that has seen them go top of the table after 10 matches.
Hated by many German soccer fans for their rapid rise through the ranks, from the amateur leagues to the Bundesliga in just seven years, thanks to cash from owners Red Bull, the club had braced for vocal opposition this season.
From silence in the stands as a form of protest, to constant mocking chants, fans in Germany have vented their anger against Leipzig, a club created in 2009 after energy drinks maker Red Bull bought the licence of amateur club SSV Markranstaedt.
The club is an exception to ownership rules in Germany where individuals cannot buy a majority share of a team unless they are the single biggest investors for an uninterrupted 20-year period.
But due to the ownership structure of Leipzig, billionaire and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz was able to circumvent that rule, earning further wrath from soccer fans.
"We at Mainz 05 see ourselves like the exact opposite of Leipzig's pompous soccer project," Mainz 05 fans said in an online forum on Sunday prior to their game against Leipzig as they called for fans not to boycott the game.
"What grew gradually in Mainz was a forced process in Leipzig within seven years. A participant in the Bundesliga was bred solely for the purpose of advertising."
But after Leipzig's 3-1 win against Mainz on Sunday it was clear for many that the only East German team in the league meant business.
With an unbeaten performance so far, Leipzig -- the league's youngest team with an average age of just over 23 -- are joint top of the table with champions Bayern Munich, second only on goal difference, thanks to their quick pressing and attacking game.
"For us it is important to see where we have deficits," said Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl on Sunday. "We are a long way away from playing like a top team."
Despite their success so far, Leipzig will, however, be no threat to Bayern's dominance in Germany any time soon, said sports director Ralf Rangnick.
"I think no one can threaten Bayern over an entire season," Rangnick, one of the architects of Leipzig's success, said. "As long as they continue doing their thing nothing will happen. For us it's important that we do our own thing."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)