January 11, 2017 / 3:45 PM / 7 months ago

Hoeness still respected but more humble after prison time

3 Min Read

Bayern Munich's Uli Hoeness arrives during the annual general meeting of the German Bundesliga first division soccer club in Munich, Germany, November 25, 2016.Michaela Rehle/File Photo

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness feels that he has not lost any respect among his peers but has become more humble and less outspoken after serving time in prison for tax evasion.

Hoeness was jailed from June 2014 until February last year for tax evasion when he was released after serving half of his 3-1/2-year term. He was re-elected unopposed as Bayern president in November.

The 65-year-old former West Germany international, who from early 2015 was allowed out of jail during the day, said the ex-Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was among those who wrote to him while he was in prison.

"So far, it has been as it was before, I have received letters from important decision makers in football," he told reporters at the Alpensymposium, a business and politics conference in the Swiss resort of Interlaken.

"I think I still have a relatively good reputation in the international football world which appears not to have suffered." Hoeness, first elected as Bayern president in 2009, stepped down after being convicted in March 2014 for evading 28.5 million euros ($29.87 million) in taxes.

Until then, he had frequently railed against soccer's governing body FIFA, among other issues.

"I still have my opinions but I don't air them so much in public, especially when it involves politics," he said. "It has naturally changed me, I have become more reflective, tolerant and humble."

He promised that he would not authorise any books about his experiences.

"You can imagine that I've had many offers to write the real story of the last three years but I would never, ever do that because I had so many intense experiences and it's better they stay within me, they were so unbelievable," he said.

"I might share them with my family or my friends over a glass of wine... it gives me goose-bumps." Hoeness said he was uneasy before his re-election but was moved when he was given a five-minute standing ovation on entering the room.

Bayern said that 6,986 members had voted in favour of Hoeness resuming his tenure, 108 voted against and 58 abstained.

"That was an overwhelming experience and it was a great show of trust for me and I hope over the next few years to be able to justify it," he said. Hoeness was not afraid to duck other issues, however.

He said he was "not a fan" of FIFA's decision, made on Tuesday, to increase the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams and repeated a recent remark that he wanted to hear "more German" in the Bayern dressing-room.

"I simply don't believe the there are 48 very, very good teams in the world," he said. "At Bayern, more German needs to be spoken in the changing room," he said. "I would like as many Germans as possible to play for us.

"Arsenal have played matches without a single English player and that for me is unimaginable.”

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Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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