gdh82 wrote:I see Hertha got an important away win over the weekend in what looks like a difficult return to the top flight. How's it going to end, Alex?
Well, actually, it ended bitterly, with a possibly scandalous decision by our Football Association (DFB). The turning point of the season was in November: Our coach was Markus Babbel (Ex-Bayern defender) and his contract was running out this summer and the bastard decided he didn't want to stay. For him Hertha was just a stepping stone to make it to a bigger club (=with more money to spend). He didn't care the fans loved him or anything. Naturally, the management was unhappy about that and fired him in December.
The season went downhill from then on, from a safe midfield spot we sank further and further and only just managed to avoid outright relegation, ending up third from bottom. That means a Play-Off vs the third best team of the 2nd division, Düsseldorf, for the last place in the top division. It was going to be tough, because Hertha had been playing really badly towards the end of the season.
The first match was at home and Hertha was actually playing pretty well all things considered, went up 1-0 at half-time and Düsseldorf only threatened our goal in the first few minutes of the game. But just after we missed a big chance for a 2-0 lead Düsseldorf equalised with a solo effort and suddenly, we were 1-2 down after yet another own goal.
So we had to win in Düsseldorf, away goal rules like the UEFA uses. After less than 30 seconds, we were 1-0 down. Which shouldn't really matter and the team took it well, dominated the match, scored the equaliser and looked like they would win. But then we had a player sent off and shortly after that were 1-2 down again. That prompted the Hertha fans to go apeshit, lighting up the illegal flares and throwing them onto the pitch, the Düsseldorf fans for some reason joined in and did the same, causing a break of a few minutes for everybody to calm down. After 85 minutes, Hertha equalised and only needed one more goal to stay in the first divison and knew they had more than 10 minutes because of the delay, the ref decided on 7 minutes injury time.
What happened then I believe has never happened before in German football. Because all the security guards and policemen had assembled in one corner of the stadium where Hertha and Düsseldorf fans had thrown the flares, hundreds of people from the rest of the stadium decided to climb down, stand right next to the pitch, waiting to storm it for the final whistle. The ref ignored this, which I could not understand, maybe they were waiting happily to celebrate, but what if Hertha scored? And then they stormed the pitch like lemmings after a few thought the final whistle had blown, even though at least 2 more minutes had to be played. A few hundred people at least. The teams had to flee and the fans took apart the pitch, somebody actually dug up a penalty spot, others took the corner flags... but the ref decided he was going to end the game no matter what, waited over 20 minutes until the pitch had cleared, brought the teams out again and blew the final whistle early, I'm pretty sure he didn't want to risk Hertha scoring another goal.
Hertha went to the courts and lost twice, that could be considered a scandal. The first decision was simply poor, any lawyer would have ripped it apart. But the higher court was no better. Obviously, the judge had seen the TV footage and yet the whole hearing was that Hertha was asked to prove that the team was put at a disadvantage. And the case was thrown out because according to the judge Hertha failed to prove that. How do you prove the obvious? How can you not say that the fans standing right on the egde of the pitch for several minutes - after these fans had already shown a tendency for violence and disorder 20 minutes early - were a threat and that a 20 minute break is a bigger disadvantage for a team that has to score that the opponent?
I believe that the German FA just wanted to protect its best referee. Stark is the German ref for the European Cup this summer, he refeered the Europa League final a few days before this match. He could have broken off the match and Düsseldorf would have probably lost a court case and Hertha stayed in the league. Our old "grand ref" Markus Merk said in an interview he would have ended the match, he has done it once in a similar situation and that Stark should have reacted sooner, a single fan on the edge of the pitch is one too many, let alone hundreds.
Even the missing corner flags and penalty spot alone would have been ground enough for a rematch, they are obligatory according to the rules and Stark and his team failed to notice they were missing, he had to admit. And yet the courts say that's fine, it's the refs decision on the day and the decision stands. So even if his decisions go against the rules set up by the association, it's worthy of protection.
So, anyway, Hertha most probably will have to play in the 2nd division next season. What also upsets me is the many articles which say Hertha deserves the relegation and deservedly lost against Düsseldorf. Ok, yes, we played a horrible season, but not as horrible as two other teams, Cologne and Kaiserslautern, which took the last two positions on the final table. And while I wouldn't go as far as saying Hertha dominated the two Play-Off games, we were at least equal, unlucky to lose the first game, unlucky not to go up 2-1 before we had a player sent off in the second game... so how can you say we deserved to lose? And call Hertha sore losers for even taking this to court, not only is it in the best interest of the club, it's absolutely correct in any case and many law professionals believe both courts made a wrong decision and certainly had bad explanations for their decisions. After this you really have to ask: What mistake would a ref need to make for a (anything but independent) court to overturn his decision? Do players need to be beaten into a bloody pulp for a court to say "ok, the team was put at a disadvantage"?