1) A little history
What stands for Juventus Turin in Italy, stands for Hertha BSC in Germany. The old lady, Hertha by name. Of course, as a Berliner you have had a special relationship with this club from an early age. It was certainly out of the question to close your mind as a child to the euphoria of the club’s re-promotion in 1968. It goes without saying that in the first year after that, you cheered along as often as you could in the stadium – since even footballing commitment was not always possible – and it goes without saying that you joined in the celebrations when the club was assured of staying in the league.
Hertha had an average attendance of over 40,000 that year, which was not only unique, outstanding and unsurpassed for a long time, but also underlined how great the longing was in the (then already perceived) capital for first division football. How great must have been the disappointment – which struck even as a child of 12 – when not only did Hertha’s Gesundbrunnen pitch have to be sold off bit by bit in those years, from memory for DM 11 million, but in addition the club was almost bankrupt, despite the high spectator average and despite the extra millions, but that it also became involved in the unspeakable Bundesliga scandal, in 1971, when they had only drawn two home games in the entire season and had lost none, had 3rd place safely in the bag, but had not lost a single one. They had third place safely in the bag, but on the last matchday lost 1-0 to Arminia from Bielefeld, who were in the relegation zone. As a child, you just couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t possible under normal circumstances, this disappointment coupled with the certainty, which soon became a fact, that something had been done to the result, that everything simply couldn’t have been done properly, no matter how much you tried for one day to interpret Zoltan Varga’s shot from the crossbar for Hertha, which was seen on the sports programme, as meaning that he couldn’t have ruled out the ball going in and what would have happened then?
Just as they tried to talk themselves into it, the conviction grew that after a successful 1:0, two goals should have been conceded and that this, just like the first, could be easily fixed if there was the will to do so. It wasn’t that you couldn’t hear the fleas coughing or the nightingale chirping beforehand, no, Bielefeld had already scored a win at Schalke beforehand, when, still in strange benevolence-based cluelessness on the part of the commentators, you couldn’t believe how the Schalke players not only stood in a really friendly guard at the conceded goal to 0:1, but at the same time could hardly suppress the laughter in their faces. No, something stank to high heaven in the state … But one would never have thought it possible of the hitherto beloved Hertha, it simply couldn’t be, it was as if the murderer in the crime scene had been the commissioner at the end.
Well, Hertha was broke and had cheated. How was love supposed to be maintained now? Especially as one had to assume that there was a lot of mismanagement on the part of those responsible. Hertha bumbled around in no-man’s land in the table for years, the sinners were all excluded, surely bitterly regretted their behaviour, but still they could not undo it. A Bundesliga match in December against Duisburg, for example, took place in front of fewer than 4,000 spectators sometime in the 70s. That was the best indication of the situation around Hertha, the document of the squandered credit, not only of the author.
2) Side effects of betting…
This little back story – which could of course be extended at will – is only intended to explain the by no means foregone supporters of the person writing here. The relationship was at least always divided, even if one went to the stadium for quite a while in the 80s, experienced the second league times there, and even the failed attempt to return from the third league to the second, on that very evening in 1987, when Bayern lost the European Cup of Champions against FC Porto, and Hertha lost at home to FC Remscheid and was thus condemned to another year of third division.
Well, history should be over now. Objectivity has long since inevitably taken hold, to which one is obliged if one wants to earn money with sports betting. Here, it is not followership that counts, no, on the contrary, here you have to be prepared to hawk your affections for 10 euros, let alone bet higher amounts. To put it even more simply: you’re in favour of the one who brings you the dough, and often it’s the one no one else wants, and thus the odds are inflated. Sometimes it can be Hertha, sometimes it can be the opponent, it doesn’t matter or it is to be adjusted on a daily basis, sometimes for whole months or even seasons, only to be completely against it the following season. That’s the life of a player, and you should get used to it as soon as possible: no preconceived allegiances, or rather you have to be ready to change parties very quickly. This may even be necessary during a match.
3) The current situation
This should be about Hertha’s situation in the relegation matches against Düsseldorf. They played well in the first leg, but lost 1:2. They could have scored 2:0 long ago, bad luck got in the way, Düsseldorf only played halfway decent after the 1:1, which is understandable because they suddenly had the self-confidence Hertha had lost due to the shock of the equaliser, which really hadn’t been announced.
In the second leg, they were clearly the better team in the first half, despite the early goal. There were several situations where they simply lacked the necessary luck to score. After the sending off, which I’m sure Hertha felt was overly harsh and unjust – apart from a lot of decisions that had gone against them before, even if usually insignificant ones – they didn’t really manage to build up a decent game anymore. Düsseldorf managed the 2:1 in a phase when Hertha only ran forward desperately. The long interruption of 5 minutes after the 2:1 may indeed have been partly triggered by Hertha fans who wanted to provoke a stoppage of play, but Düsseldorfers were guaranteed to be there as well.
Hertha managed to score the 2:2 rather by chance, which resulted in another 3 minute interruption. In purely mathematical terms – the BILD documents these interruptions – a minimum of 8 minutes should have been added, plus the normal two minutes that should actually be added for goals and substitutions (abroad it is usually 3 or 4, only in Germany is there less). 10 minutes of injury time would be the least that Hertha would have to expect now. Since the goal was scored in minute 85, there was still a quarter of an hour to play. Another goal in a normal game is quite realistic, even if the team is shorthanded. You have to take into account that Düsseldorf could get weak in the knees. They were already so close…
The indicated injury time was now 7 minutes. A joke, as just explained. You can feel that on the pitch, but there is another fact: the ball boys didn’t give the ball to throw-ins anymore, suddenly they all disappeared, no matter if Hertha or Düsseldorf had the throw-in. In addition, there is another problem: in the case of very long injury times, it is easy to convince oneself, there is no additional injury time, which, however, especially in this (long) time, is piling up abundantly. In other words: the game hardly took place in injury time, which was taken care of by the Düsseldorf players and the ball boys, and one should not be surprised that resentment or aggressiveness gradually creeps in among the Herthaners. After all, you just want to play football and be allowed to score a goal, provided the ball was once in play. Instead, there are only interruptions, things just don’t go any further, and no one there to protect and support you.
It is incomprehensible here that these arguments are not put forward at any point. First of all, the game did not end regularly. A multiple interruption of the game ensures that the person who still needs something (as opposed to the person who is satisfied with the current result) cannot possibly find the rhythm of the game again. The opponent, on the other hand, has the opportunity to regain control of his nerves, which could well become tense, overstressed, fluttering in the heat of the (continuing) battle.
The game was interrupted shortly after minute 95, which means that at least two minutes of the indicated injury time are still to be played. Under no circumstances should this be less than the 7, which was already clearly too little. If now 90 seconds is decided, this value is a farce, this is a slap in the face of the Hertha players, this is really absolutely unacceptable. First, only 7 minutes are played instead of 10, which would have been the minimum. Then the ball just doesn’t roll any more and that’s really only down to the opponent, the ball boys and the referee, who simply offers no protection for the Berliners. He doesn’t make sure that you can continue to play.
If you now think of some kind of penalty that the Düsseldorfers would simply be entitled to after the crazy storming of the pitch long before the final whistle, on top of giving Hertha the chance to find their way into the game when it resumed, to build up a similar tension that was perhaps present in the final minutes of the game, since there was certainly still some hope and certainly felt that a nervousness (now long gone) had set in at Düsseldorf, then the 90 seconds ordered by Mr Stark seem not only like a joke but like a declaration of victory. It is tantamount to the immediate final whistle. And indeed, in the (less than) 90 seconds then still played, you can see that there was not a single opportunity to build up an attack. It was a farce.
Mr Stark, the referee, was responsible for this farce. It is understandable that the anger of the Hertha players was directed against this man. He declared one team the winner without giving the other a fair chance. Whatever was said beforehand or what prompted him to do so: that was not a sporting decision in the game.
So if Hertha wanted to contest the result, they should please refer to it. They refer to a dismantled penalty spot and non-existent corner flags. This argumentation is more than shaky. And: the fact that the Hertha players are being blamed for their behaviour and distanced from it in the argumentation, and that this is being presented as incorrect and false, does not make the chances of success any better.
There was a huge injustice perpetrated on Hertha here. Of course, vigilante justice is not the answer. It’s just that you can’t just whistle as you please and always remain convinced that you are untouchable. The players, from whom maximum passion and maximum commitment are demanded on the pitch in a game of movement, can hardly be punished for reacting emotionally to the ridiculous decisions. You can hardly suppress that.
They also, as far as could be judged (and heard and seen) only asked for at least two minutes even in the long stoppage, usually three, which would have been the minimum (and then still clearly too little). The fact that Mr. Stark did not get involved in this proves a partisanship at this moment. If the players now accuse him of cowardice, you can safely sign off on that – or simply attribute the decision “Düsseldorf is going up, no matter what you do” to him. It is understandable that people would react aggressively to this if it were articulated in this way, and it was perceived as equivalent to such a decision.
But if it was really “only” cowardice, then he will just have to live with such an accusation. He, Mr. Stark, had announced after the second interruption that if there was another incident, it would be stopped, that he had no other option. When the next serious incident happened, he did nothing. So he was convinced that he would only get out of the stadium in one piece if he blew the whistle again. And that is far from enough of an accusation: in truth, he would only get out of the stadium in one piece if Düsseldorf had been promoted. That’s exactly what he made sure of. Yes, cowardly fits.