Wanja talks to his children, today about…
a visit to the earth
One day, the eldest came home unusually late and the brothers also thought they had not seen him outside today, on their favourite football pitch. His shoulders sagged a little, his gaze was lowered, he seemed slightly depressed. So the father asked what had happened to him?
Slightly hesitantly came the answer: “Dad, I’m sorry, I should have asked before so you wouldn’t worry, but curiosity got the better of me and I spontaneously decided to pay a visit to Earth. I wanted to see for myself how the game is played, what happens before, during and after a match, what the spectators are like and how they react, and what the atmosphere is like. I also wanted to have a look at pre-match reports and post-match reports, uninfluenced, the experts’ assessment, the interviews, all that appealed to me.”
“Oh, dear, but you could have asked me? We could have gone together or you could have gone with your brothers or, even if you had wanted to go alone, do you think I would have refused?”
“Hmm, no, I don’t know, I just felt guilty, just having been so interested in it, maybe also because it could have meant I doubted your descriptions and words? I did it, it may have been a mistake, I apologise, it won’t happen again and I’m back unharmed, I want to go to my room now, I’m ashamed.”
“No,” objected the father, “you won’t get off so cheaply now. Now you must at least tell us, as a small gesture of apology and remorse, ok?”
“All right,” he began, in front of the assembled family, “it wasn’t as bad as you said.”
“What?” everyone marvelled, as if from the same mouth, and one asked the question that anyone else might have asked, “Are you saying it was fun?”
“No, I didn’t say it like that. It wasn’t that bad means it wasn’t EXACTLY AS bad as Dad told it. In fact, it was a lot worse.”
It would be bad to say at this point that everyone was relieved. Nevertheless, the degree of surprise subsided. “What was it like then? Just tell me from beginning to end.”
“Yeah, well I was going to set up the whole day for it. So I borrowed a phone, installed the apps that were needed and watched and listened to the previews, from early morning, on the pay TV channel that was all about it. All you had to do was buy a day ticket and you could watch everything. There was a match day coming up in the Bundesliga.
I had received tickets for the match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha BSC. I wanted to go there, so I took the train from Berlin, where I landed on earth, and followed everything on the train on my mobile phone. Mind you, the so-called fans of Hertha were on the train with me.”
Every now and then, a short pause to speak was appropriate, presumably in every lecture, because otherwise, as written, it poured over you in a desert of lead, as spoken, in a torrent of words, in which the essence perhaps fell by the wayside? Of course, such a lecture is also suitable for the speaker to allow his words to settle, to take a sip of water himself and to give a little space for possible interposed questions. “What was it like on the train?” was a possible one, now asked, but it was merely highly banal in character and meant that the audience was now ready to listen to the continuation. So: the attention was there, coupled with the interest.
“The fans were quite loud, but not aggressive. However, as the alcohol consumption increased, they became louder and louder and one did not have every reason to feel comfortable at all times. This was probably the case for all the other passengers on the train: they preferred to say nothing and let what was happening around them happen. Above all, the fans were saying to the outside world: why don’t you start complaining about us? They were not overly eager to hear what would be embodied by the phrase ‘then you’ll see…’, which is spared here. So better to keep quiet and remain inconspicuous.
So I looked at my mobile phone and made an effort to be able to understand and follow the preliminary reports. But I was not afraid.”
“So what were the fans like with each other? Tell me about it.”
“I didn’t think it was that bad. There was just more and more drinking, but they were quite entertaining, had lots of stories to tell each other – which you inevitably overheard from time to time and at increasing volume – but they were united by the fact that they were all for Hertha, everyone was friends with everyone else anyway, just because they also wore the scarf. That already had something to do with culture.”
Okay, brothers and father understood. “And how were the preliminary reports? What did you hear, observe, learn there?”
“It was already from the mood that they wanted to somehow create tension or some kind of anticipation. But that didn’t work very well. For example, I noticed that there was always talk about this or that team having to win today. I couldn’t understand that. Because I wondered what would happen to the opponents and whether they should be indifferent, and to what extent the media and their representatives, who are supposed to be neutral, would lean towards the side that supposedly had to win, and furthermore, what consequences they would have to fear if they did not live up to the requirement of having to win, and in general, whether one hoped to increase the level of tension by making such a requirement?
Of course, the family members were mostly already familiar with such considerations. Nevertheless, it was exciting to hear this account of the experience. What was the point of the permanent “have to”?
The boy continued: “When we got off the train at the main station, we noticed how many people came out of the compartments who were already very drunk, all of them recognisably fans, often carrying bulging plastic bags in which most of the drinks had probably already been emptied, but the bottle deposit seemed too valuable not to redeem. Every now and then, fan chants were intoned, which also spread the mood at the station “keep quiet and get out of the way, don’t say the wrong word and don’t wear the wrong fan clothing”. However, these fans were very soon pushed in a certain direction by police officers, so far peacefully, but in such a way that it became clear that they would only have to move along these paths. The fans seemed to know this already and went along with it. However, one had to wonder to what extent the game of football could still have any meaning for most of them? Also due to the already clearly excessive alcohol consumption at this point.”
“Since the fans had now been diverted, one could get to the stadium fairly normally and undisturbed. You also met plenty of Frankfurt fans, but they were peaceful and mostly isolated and not yet intoxicated. Outside the stadium, the groups got bigger and they were also accompanied or monitored by the police, right up to their fan blocks.”
“So far it still sounds quite normal? At least in a way that it was quite well organised and you didn’t have to fear for your life?”
“Yes, that’s true, yet of course the question remained to what extent one would even go along with it as a neutral spectator or would repeat such an experiment. Apart from me, there was hardly anyone neutral in the stadium. In this respect, objectivity is limited. I found that a bit worrying. This became apparent regularly during the match when I was assessing situations, always looking around to see how those sitting around me were reacting. Depending on the situation, they either silently accepted the situation if their own team was at an advantage, or blew their whistles if their own team was supposedly at a disadvantage. The whistles alternated with wild abuse, sometimes directed at the opponent, sometimes at the referee. So although I was in a block that was kept neutral as far as it went, i.e. not criss-crossed with fan scarves and jerseys, most were clearly recognisable for their team, which logically was the home team.”
“I would still understand that as well. Why wouldn’t you be for the team that represents your city? That would be the case here most of the time? The question would still be why you judge the situation as you say: always interpreting pro your own team.”
“Yes, I thought about that too. Only there were the game situations on the field for that. And they were mostly not clear to judge one way or the other, so not for me, because from my point of view mostly both players fouled in the duel. I don’t know who fouled first or more, but I would say that it was usually the defender who started. But it happened often enough in midfield. That is, in the neutral zone, and even then there was hardly ever a cleanly conducted duel. Most of the time, both players broke the rules. In this respect, the whistles were not to be judged or perhaps not even unjust in total, but it was also logical that both fan camps were always mutually upset about the current decision. One could partly agree in the sense: why now against my player? The whistle could have been blown the other way round. In that sense, they were even a little right with their whistles or reactions. To put the problem in a nutshell: there is perhaps a principle of equalising justice, but it is difficult to make a fan understand this. He is annoyed at the situation because it was interpreted in a disadvantageous way. And he is right to do so at that moment. He is not aware of the other situation that favoured him or has forgotten it at that moment. From a purely human point of view: understandable.”
“But that is something like what we have already discussed together here?”
“Right. I could now see it confirmed live. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t believe it before. Still, it makes a difference when you see it right in front of your own eyes.”
“Good, so how was the game? Was it exciting, was it fun, how did it end, how many critical and important decisions were there, how did the spectators react?”
“The atmosphere was always slightly tense, from all sides. It was kind of like a powder keg that was about to explode. One wrong decision and it would have happened. Whereby the reactions of the guest fans were of course even more striking. It was 0-0 the whole time, there were few good goal scenes, and whenever it was close, because of offside, the flag went up, whereupon the fans of course regularly went berserk. It didn’t matter whether the decision was right or wrong: you could never have judged that from the stands, just as you could never have judged a foul. For the only neutral fan like me, it was quite clear: for safety’s sake, the flag is raised. Then at least the goal can’t be scored that causes the kettle to overflow, the barrel to explode. Because it would be certain that one side of the fans would see this as unfair.
Frankfurt was the slightly better team and put on good pressure for a while. Nevertheless, there were few chances to score. Sometimes a long shot, sometimes a successful cross, sometimes even a header came through, but the goalkeeper was able to intercept it easily. The Hertha counter-attacks were rare, but you had the feeling that it was a tactic. The score is 0:0, no harm done. The result is okay, speaks for us, maybe a chance later on? There were about four critical and controversial situations in the penalty area, regarding penalties. There was a lot of action in the stadium. Hertha was involved once. For me, it was a clear penalty after a handball, but it seemed that even the video assistant could find a fly in the ointment or could not expose the omitted whistle as a clear mistake. The players got quite upset, which logically spilled over into the stands. Suddenly, the bengalos started, some of which even flew onto the field. You could hardly see anything, the game had to be interrupted briefly until the smoke had cleared and the bengalos had been removed from the field. But calm did not return, especially as the Frankfurt fans in their block now also became loud and at first only booed the Hertha fans, but later added invective.
For a while, the football took a back seat. It was understandable, however, that the Frankfurt fans reacted in this way, because in the three critical situations on their side I would have expected a whistle as well, or at least I would have been fairly certain that they were guilty of foul play. Two of them were before the Hertha scene. So: they already had reason to be upset, as they should have been given a penalty long ago or much sooner. Here, too, it was easy to see: overall, injustices do not cancel each other out when you try to set them off against each other. Both felt disadvantaged – and, if I am to be completely honest: both with some justification. It just doesn’t work that way, that was clear to see. The mood in the stands did not improve at all, rather it became more and more aggressive, and that was no coincidence.
When Frankfurt got the penalty in the third critical scene, I rather had the impression that the referee did it to get out of the stadium in one piece. The police would take care of the visiting fans, and the home fans would be reconciled in the event of a victory. And so it was: the 79th minute penalty was converted. The 1:0. Hertha tried a bit more, changing offensively twice as well, but Frankfurt got the result over time.”
“Why do you say ‘brought it over time’? How did they do it?”
“Well, the ball was hardly rolling. The fans agreed with their actions. It was 1-0, there was no more forward play. Instead, they went towards the sideline several times, where they stepped on the ball and waited until an opponent approached. As soon as the opponent poked at the ball, they let themselves fall. The time spent on the ground was prolonged, feigning an injury or cramp, at the same time probably claiming that the referee had just given you a foul whistle and that you were justified in staying on the ground because your opponent had caught you so badly. Any means were justified. The Hertha fans only whistled because of this behaviour of the Frankfurt players, the Frankfurt fans whistled partly about the attacks – so they went along with the dirty play — partly about the Hertha fans and later about the referee who let the game go on for so long although they had only substituted two players in the indicated injury time of three minutes, apart from all the other little games, and yet he still did not blow the whistle after 3:24. There was no real Hertha attack to be seen any more. They only hit the ball forward wildly when they happened to have it for a moment, but then it was immediately lost again because the defenders used their special rights but a controlled build-up of play was no longer possible anyway. In other words, the three minutes of stoppage time could have been saved. But at some point they were over, brought over by Eintracht.”
“That sounds really scary. You should actually ask people: why are you doing this to yourselves? But the Frankfurt team might have been satisfied after all, thanks to the victory?”
“Yes, uh, no, so the game wasn’t good, a single goal, hardly any chances, it was a victory, sure, what is asked for. But the impression was not that they had much joy.”
“And, how did you get back to Berlin?”
“For the return journey, a simple trick helped me: I bought a Hertha scarf and a beer and thus remained unmolested. So I was able to watch “All games – all goals” in peace in the dining car, on my mobile phone, with headphones, of course.”
“So, how were the games, how was the judging?”
“There weren’t many goals. Fourteen in total in the six games. Of course, with the highlights, it’s not so noticeable. Goals are scored, in a certain rhythm and time periods, where you don’t get impatient. Nevertheless, it was noticeable how many discussions there were about rule interpretations. In practically every game there were one or two decisions like the one in Frankfurt: close, controversial, not resolvable with video assistants, offside and penalties, and almost all of them went against the strikers. There was always some reason why it was judged that way. In the case of some not given penalties, which were judged by the video assistant afterwards, I heard something about ‘residual doubts’, so that he could not bring himself to take the penalty there either. And the atmosphere in the stadiums everywhere was similar to that in Frankfurt. Everywhere there are controversial scenes where the spectators, taking turns, whistle. For example, there was also a goal that was given by the referee.