This means war: The everlasting divide between Ultras and Management

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The real deal: This type of scene was non existent on Saturday vs RB Leipzig

It is no secret that the Hertha BSC Ultras have several issues with the board members and executives of the club.
For over a year now many of them have made it clear that they blame members of the board for problems on and off the pitch, in particular they blame Paul Keuter, the head of digitization, a man that they believe its responsible for the club being on the path to selling its soul in order to become popular and lose its traditionalism in the process.
No Hertha fan wants to become a Premier League type club, nor do they want to follow the direction of RB Leipzig.

The problem is that some of the hardcore supporters refuse to budge or accept that there may be other and sometimes far more effective and reasonable beliefs about the direction the club should take, other than their own.
The ultras withdrew from dialogue with the board long ago, citing that their opinions and their concerns were not being listened to, catered for or even regarded by those in higher management.
With the changes brought to the club last season in their poor marketing campaign, the board stumbled backwards and then backtracked in order to rectify the issues this season. The modifications made to the marketing approach included the reintroduction of regional training for the players, dedicating each home game to a Berlin district and being inclusive of all Berliners in their approach. This was received extremely well by the supporters and seemed to be a step back in the right direction.
But as is so often with the Hertha hierarchy, they shot themselves in the foot and then equally stabbed themselves and the fans in the back by attempting to change the clubs ‘Einlauflied’ (Entrance music as the players enter the field to begin the game) from the tradition of 25 years ‘Nur Nach Hause’ by Frank Zander, to ‘Dickes B’ by Seeed.

The change itself wasn’t the sole reason supporters, be they ultras or not, were aggravated.
The reason behind the fury being directed at the higher management was down to the fact that they had failed to open any discussion with the members of the club about the change, of which was quite obviously going to seriously upset the fans.
Only the evening before,  perhaps 14 hours before the opening game at home against Nurnberg was due to kick off, were all members of Hertha BSC sent an email detailing the new structure of the organised support and build up to the game which had redacted ‘Nur Nach Hause’ and pushed it back to be performed by Zander, 20 minutes before kick off. ‘Dickes B’, a song about the city  of Berlin itself, was about to become the new team entrance song… and without approval. The outcome was as a PR disaster. The team entered the field to a chorus of boos, not directed at them but at the song.

No official statement was made and the fans were given little if no time at all to react other than create a banner which read “Nur nach Hause…Jetzt”.
The fans did not take part in the proposed build up, instead the ultras proceeded to do what they always did before a game.
And instead of bowing down to the request on the board, Nur Nach Hause was sung aloud anyway.

Within the following 24 hours the board had realised, very quickly, the extend of its own mistake, and in doing do had reversed the decision and reinstated the Einlauflied to Frank Zanders classic hymne.
It did not appease most fans.

Many Ultras or even just every day fans, find reasons to backchat the board. Whether it be small matter or something far more significant.
The Einlauflied matter was something that almost all supported backed up the ultras on, as it was something that most felt strongly about. But matters such as ‘Keuter raus’ still divide opinion. Whist this is a club of great tradition, it also cannot be stuck in the past and must move forward with the times whilst remaining true to its own values and traditions.
The reason is that some fans believe the refusal of dialogue from the ultras towards the board is a major part of the problem. The board don’t understand what the fans want because the biggest sector of them, aren’t speaking. The refusal to discuss anything means nothing of concern is ever addressed, and the board continue to work and act on their own agenda… because there’s no one else’s agenda to consider, there’s no one the stop them from acting when their ideas are not entirely beneficial for the majority.

It’s a 50/50 battle with both ends on the offensive and no one wants to back down. The management constantly has to defend itself for its decisions but the ultras refusing to attend meetings with them means there’s absolutely no one from the Ostkurve to bat them back down when they (the board) are clearly in the wrong. At the same time, the Ultras must understand that not all their demands can be met for certain reasons, whether they be financial constrains or something else. No one has it all their own way.

The debacle of Dortmund.

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The seeds of chaos: The banner celebrating 15 years of the Ultras group was violently torn down by Dortmund police without reason

Pyro isn’t legal to use in Germany. Many ultras that use them know the consequence at very least will be a four to five figure fine to the club. It’s happened on many occasions with a number of clubs and it’s nothing new.
But the boards reaction to a violent incident at the Signal Iduna park during Hertha’s away match against Borussia Dortmund, is one that has to be questioned.
If your club’s fans do something horrendously wrong, there is no way the management can defend those supporters. They have to condemn them because not only is it a requirement but defending supporters that have clearly done something illegal is just morally wrong.
In many cases’s that is exactly what has happened and that isn’t just true of Hertha as a club.
The club has been punished before for several issues regarding banners and pyrotechnics. One such banner was seemingly homophobic last season against FC Koln. The punishment was dished out accordingly and the ultras didn’t react in a disgruntled manner because those responsible were dealt with accordingly.
But the matter in Dortmund was different and was handled badly from both sides. First the management board and executives in their sanctions, then the Ultras in the Ostkurve for their own protest reaction.

The story of what exactly took place in Dortmund isn’t entirely clear, and that possibly why the fans reacted the way that they did and why Michael Preetz’s sanctions that were deemed excruciatingly harsh on the fans as a whole,  were so widely criticised.
Rewatching footage of the events that took place, it seems that Hertha’s second largest Ostkurve Ultras section, ‘Hauptstadtmafia’, were celebrating their 15 year anniversary and did so by displaying a large banner with their title on it.
There was nothing offensive depicted on the banner nor was there any obvious reason for the police to intervene with it. Banners in away section blocks are relatively normal, until there is something offensive displayed. According to Dortmund police, some fans were using it to shield themselves with pyro’s so they could not be detected and then identified but the fans deny that this was the case. Looking closer it seems as though the fans were telling the truth.
Previous to the reveal, ultras had released several pyro smoke bombs. Whilst it is a concern when they go off, the usual reaction is to allow the smoke to dissipate and the the flares to burn out as the stewards and police try and single out who was responsible for lighting it. Unless someones throws one at someone else with the intention to harm them, it’s never usually an issue.
But the Dortmund police began to rally and then kettle the supporters, attempting to dislodge the banner and began to attack the guest fans as they fought back to keep their banner. About 100 traveling fans then became engaged in a battle with armed policed officers who beat them back. In response, those supporters fought back as well and it ended in a small scale riot.
No one was sure why the police took the actions that they did and why they became so violent so quickly, especially considering that after the 2-2 draw, Dortmund supporters ad Ultras openly supported the traveling Hertha fans over the incident and instead turned their own blame towards the reaction of the police. No one is supporting the violent reactions of some of the Hertha supporters either, because whatever the provocation, they should never have physically fought back and inflamed the situation further.
The following week, Bayern Munich and Hansa Rostock supporters also offered open supports of the Hertha fans after the sanctions to the home match against Leipzig were introduced.

Collective punishments are never taken lightly amongst supporters. Such things affect all fans not just those involved in previous incidents. In fact the vast majority of Hertha fans that attend all home matches, were not present in Dortmund the previous week.
In reaction to the violence, Michael Preetz and the board of directors announced a ban of all stadium flags and banners ‘until further notice’ in the Olympiastadion for both home and away fans.
This meant all of the Ostkurve’s tools of the trade, other than their drum, would not be allowed into the stadium.
The punishment was not received well, and it was no surprise since the majority of those being affected by this sanction, were not even in attendance at the game in Dortmund and yet were being prevented from bringing in their own fanclub banners and flags.
Organisations that support anti racism and inclusive international fan groups that welcome supporters worldwide, were now being told that they could not openly support their campaigns for the club until the ban is lifted.
What’s more, this decision was made before any investigation had been completed on the incident in Dortmund which appeared to show the police, not the supporters, being the instigators of the violence in the guest block. Instead of targeting those handful of fans responsible for the escalation of the violence, Preetz and his board instead decided to punish the every day supporter that had nothing to do with the violence that took place.
Whilst it seems unlikely Preetz alone made this decision, he was the face of the outcome, facing even more criticism from the Ultras than before, just as this season things appeared to be being bridged.
On Thursday, a potential meeting between the Ostkurve and the board of directors was apparently cancelled without reason and little notice. The Ultras again argued their case that they are not being listened to and that the management simply do not care about them, despite their efforts to bridge the gap in the conflict before… but always on their own terms and never that of the fans.

Silence can speak volumes: The protest without voice.

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‘Against collective punishment’: This was the only banner present in the Olympiastadion on Saturday

The reaction of the Ostkurve ultras was simple.
‘If we can’t have our flags we’re not organising the support’. In other words, it becomes like a Premier League game. The singing is scattered in a huge stadium and the atmosphere is non existent.
Against a club like Red Bull Leipzig, of which has an ultras section that would never respect traditionalism like other Bundesliga would have, were never going to be silent. They were all you could hear for the duration of the game.
The problem with such a type of protest is that ultimately it does affect the players.
Whether the flags are present or not the players are far too focused on the game to ever watch the fans flying flags and banners.
But they can however, still hear you, and this time, all they could hear was their opponents singing.
Whilst Pal Dardai had prepared the players for the boycott, no player can prepare for that feeling of not being loved by your own supporters.
The lack of audible support made the Olympiastadion feel like a ghost stadium.
The decision also had a horrible impact on fans not part of Ostkurve, or part of the ultras. Some fear the retribution of the ultras and therefore followed their lead and did not sing either.
But the point they wanted to make, whilst made, was one that came at a cost.
Hertha played poorly and lost the game 3-0. Whilst it cannot be blamed on the atmosphere entirely, that boycott played a huge factor. Not just the noise… but the icy atmosphere in general was unpleasant for anything affiliated with Hertha BSC and played right into the hands of all those attached to RB Leipzig.

The cost of the loss of support is the loss of will and aggression to win.
But was this what the ultras wanted? Sacrifice 3 or even just 1 point for the team  in order to get a point across to the board?
Imagine had this been a relegation battle match… imagine the rage at losing 3-0 then.
Was it worth losing to a team everyone wants to beat because they are so heavily despised across Germany for what they (red bull) stand for?
Probably not.
Fans willing to sacrifice both points and players confidence to make a point, are to many peoples eyes, incredibly selfish.
They are other ways in which to protest that still ensure the support is as strong as it ever was.
In England, boards and management, owners and rich pigs, take control of clubs all the time and treat them like a play thing. They have zero regard for the supporters and do as they please and it’s something English football fans despise about the modern game. Fans however, never allow their support to dwindle because at the end of the day, the management and board and not the players, made the decisions that the fans aren’t happy with.
The players are not to blame when something goes wrong behind the scenes. A boycott in the style of this one is implemented on the wrong people… it’s impacting the players most of all in a situation that is not their fault.

There is a sense of immaturity about the conflict between the fans and the management now. It’s like watching two children fighting and from the perspective of the every day fan it’s a battle of which they have to be bystanders because unfortunately,  whilst the ultras are a huge part of the club and do a lot of hard work for it, they are not the only supporters that exist within the club and there are some issues that some supporters do not agree with them about.
It happens, that’s a democracy. Not everyone in the Labour party agrees with the leaders policies but still agrees with the fundamental outset of the party itself.
But when the board refuse to acknowledge the wishes of the fans and then the Ultras then refuse to speak to the board about their concerns, you enter a stand off… and no one wins those.
Whilst one can understand what exactly it was that the Ultras were trying to achieve with their silence, making a point, the result of it could’ve been the scoreline as well as the sense of desperation and downright lowness for the players.
Imagine going out there and feeling like no one is supporting you? In your own stadium? It’s hardly an appetising prospect.
In turn, the board can look at this and consider what exactly what path they want to take from now on regarding punishments to supporters that do actually cause trouble.
Whilst the Ultras proved a point, one feels there are better ways to do it.

Behave children: The battle continues

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Criticism: Michael Preetz has been heavily criticised for his heavy sanctions of Hertha fans.

It was revealed on Sunday that the Ultras and Ostkurve were given another opportunity to speak to the board members about their concerns on Monday.
Once again they turned down this offer, and yet against the divide between the two remains and only seems to be widening as a result of refusing to speak to one another and cooperate in order to overcome their problems.
As much as both sides have a valid point they are equally to blame for the break down in communications. The Ultras need to learn they cannot have it all their own way and must compromise on certain matters whilst the board have to learn to actually listen to the demands and take into consideration the reasoning behind them.
Compromise is the key word here, because until the two can meet in the middle they will always be engaged in a battle for dominance at the club regarding influence.
By refusing meetings because its not on their own grounds and terms, the Ultras are wasting the chance to actually get their point across directly to the people they’re trying to grab the attention of.
Whilst the board is to blame, in a major part as well, for the sanction and the reactions to them, you have to consider that the response from the Ultras may not have been the best one, there were of course as always, several options. Prematch protests, anti DFB and board chants, a 20 minute silence rather than an entire game ect.
Such an atmosphere in the stadium hinders more than just the players ability to perform, it hinder reputation and from outside world it can appear that the fans look immature because they’re behaving in this manner, influencing the game, when the players were never at fault in the first place for their anger.
Refusal of dialogue is never going to help matters either. Whether the fans think it will help or not, the only solution is to at least try and speak to those in charge about their concerns and if matters still aren’t cleared up, then at least all of us can say ‘We tried’ and then the protests look more justified.
The truth remains.
Real supporters sing for the TEAM. Singing on the inside is not the same thing. It doesn’t do any good. You sing for the club itself, its very foundation. Not for the board, the management, the background staff, or even themselves but for the entire TEAM. And the team need that support. The 12th man concept really does exist. Dortmund prove that week in week out.
Against Bayern Munich, Hertha proved that too, by winning 2-0. The fans were fantastic.
It just seems with this latest stunt the Hertha board have shot themselves in the foot once again and this time they may not be able to appease supporters.
Yes the punishment was unfair. Yes a point was made… but at what cost? And at the end of the day what has it actually achieved other than a loss. Sometimes one thinks those that were silent may as well have just not turned up at all.
But should any of us being punishing the team as a result?
And how do you suggest we finally get the management and the fans to listen to one another before the divide is so large that it totally implodes?

Then again this is just how I see it.
To me the two sides are both to blame for the mess they’ve gotten into. Whilst the board can be widely criticised… the other side isn’t helping itself much either.
The two sides have to start again, if it has to be from scratch then so be it… because at the moment this divide is hurtful for the very day supporter.
Just take a look at the guy on Block P trying to make an atmosphere against Leipzig. The man is a hero.
We all need to be like him

 

As you were

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Dusted, sweet sweet revenge: HERTHA BEAT BAYERN….

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“This is a completely changed team” says the commentator on BT Sport as the second goal sails past Manuel Neuer.
There would be no comeback, no mercy this time. Hertha lead Bayern 2-0 in the 90th minute… 4 minutes of injury time passed and then suddenly it was over…
YES

You heard it correctly…

Hertha have BEATEN FC Bayern Munchen.

Friday night saw Berlin victorious over the Rekordmeister 2-0 at the Olympiastadion under the Friday night lights.
After almost 10 years of losses or draws, this is Hertha’s first victory over Bayern Munich since 2009.
And it was a sweet victory that will be talked about for a long time, even if the season goes askew.

Painful memories: The haunted past, recent history of Hertha vs Bayern in Berlin

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So close: Niklas Stark is left on the verge of tears as Bayern equalise in the 97th minute.

February, 2017,  Olympiastadion Berlin…
16:15pm:  Hertha BSC go into half time with a slender 1-0 lead over Bayern Munich. The record German champions are flustered but the Hertha fans remain pessimistic. This is Bayern after all. The lead surely could not last… could it?
16:30pm: The second half begins… the fight for a win against an almighty giant has begun… and no one expects to last the 45 minutes required of the team to keep the three points in Berlin. If only that second goal by Ibisevic had not been offside…
60mins it is still 1-0… and then 70 mins…80 mins, 85mins pass.
The fans in the Ostkurve are actually starting to believe this is entirely possible Their beloved Hertha, once a laughing stock of the capital clubs in Europe, once the favourites for relegation every season, are on the verge of achieving something quite unbelievable. They have witnessed their team play their hearts out and now the onslaught of Bayern attacks has begun… the Bavarian record holders are panicking and it is making the home supporters both giddy with humor and extremely nervous.

17:15pm: Hertha BSC are leading the record champions FC Bayern Munchen 1-0. Captain Vedad Ibisevic had given the Berlin side a 1-0 lead, scored in the 21st minute after a free kick from Marvin Plattenhardt was launched into the box and the captain got his toe to it. Since then, they have managed to keep a firm grip on the lead for the entire 65 minutes that have followed. Rune Jarstein has made several remarkable saves to keep out the Bavarian’s. It’s the 90th minute of the game and Hertha have defended the magnificently throughout the afternoon and look set on course for a hugely valuable victory over Bayern, the first since 2009.
The fourth official holds up his board… 5 minutes added time.
The faces of the home fans turn a shade of grey… some remain optimistic, but the majority know what’s coming. In fact the optimism is hollow, even those that believe outwardly, know in their heart of hearts, that Hertha are about to lose their fingertip grip on the three points they deserve.
The 5 minutes pass… the fans are whistling, urging the referee to blow his final whistle… but he doesn’t. Hertha have the ball in midfield, with no danger being posed by the opposition. 15 seconds after the 5 minutes should’ve been over, Bayern regain possession, down the wing Peter Pekarik makes a foolish challenge and the free kick is awarded near enough next to the corner flag but just outside the penalty area.
Bayern’s keeper Manuel Neuer arrives in the box. 11 in the danger zone it is now or never for Bayern… and of course the inevitable happens.
The ball is played across the penalty area to Arjen Robben, but the shot is blocked on the line by Maximilian Mittelstadt. Had it hit him any harder it would’ve bounced out and away. Any softer and he could’ve cleared it himself.
But it didn’t and it bounced straight out to Robert Lewandowski, who struck it… it flew past frozen Rune Jarstein, and Bayern got their undeserved equaliser.
Cue the commentators ‘They are never beaten’ comments… but also cue the absolutely livid and understandable reactions from the players and supporters of Hertha BSC. They flew into a rage at the referee and the players of Bayern Munich who’s completely classless and arrogant reaction was met with external outrage from the likes of Jarstein and Ibisevic.
The captain shunned Neuers attempt at a handshake when the whistle did blow, with the Bayern keeper knowing full well the Bosnian was already furious, trying to gauge a reaction.
Whilst Hertha had managed to prevent Bayern from doing what they set out to achieve in winning, they had inevitably been robbed of a deserved three point by the incompetence of the referee. Whilst some players continued raging, Niklas Stark, the Hertha number 5, crumbled to the floor, almost in tears. He, like John Brooks and Maximilian Mittelstadt, could not believe what had just happened to them. Heartbroken, exhausted and inside completely distraught, the fact they had taken points off the champions didn’t matter… because they had deserved to win.
As Pal Dardai later called it “the Bayern bonus” cost the deserved winner three points. Meanwhile, Bayern celebrating as though they had won the match was not making matters any better, their arrogance was oozing in their own reaction to the game, of which they deserved nothing from.
It had to be said, the following week Hertha hosted Eintracht Frankfurt. The same number of substitutions had been made, possibly even longer injuries had occurred and the score was a 1 goal separation. The officials added just three minutes and ended the game as those three minutes were over.
Had Hertha been 1-0 in front against any other club in the league, there would never have been 7 minutes of injury time. To add insult to injury the Bundesliga media was making a deal out of Lewandowski’s strike being the latest ever scored in the Bundesliga and even two years later FC Bayern’s social media were gloating about the goal.
Revenge would be sweet for the likes of Niklas Stark, who seemingly took the draw very hard.

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Unfair: Rune Jarstein was livid with the referee for allowing 7 minutes injury time to be played. Way more than the allotted 5 minutes.

October 2017, Olympiastadion Berlin…

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Let’s go!: Ondrej Duda scores to start the comeback from 2-0 down.

16:35pm: Robert Lewandowski has just doubled Bayern Munich’s lead over Hertha BSC. Niklas Stark was out-muscled at the back and caught out, forced into a position where Karim Rekik couldn’t help him… 2-0 down having started the second half of the game brightly, Hertha were now really up against it and the arrogance of the Bavarian’s was about shine through in a way that put Hertha in a fashionably good light.
So much talk a season ago about how Bayern ‘Never give up, are never beaten’ with their ridiculously late 97th minute equaliser (Addressed by the stadium announcer just before the Aufstellung) and this time it would be Hertha to show their grit and defiance.
Of all people, it would be Genki Haraguchi to get a nomination for assist of the season.
Almost immediately after Lewandowski scored, the ball ended up at the Japanese internationals feet as he managed to weave through not one but two world cup winning Germany internationals, skipping past Hummels and Boateng, leaving them on their backsides, as Haraguchi entered the penalty area and then unselfishly skimmed the ball across to the open Ondrej Duda, who simply couldn’t miss as he put the ball past Sven Ulreich in the Bayern goal. (Ulreich had been covering for Neuer for the majority of the season as the Germany national team goalkeeper had been injured in training resulting in a broken foot).
2-1 and it was game on. It was also Duda’s first ever goal for the club. Simple, but important.
Now the players and fans of the Hauptstadt club had a sense of belief. Bayern had shown they were frail at the back. Only the week before, Bayern had allowed a 2 goal advantage to slip at home in Munich to Wolfsburg.
They were about to repeat the feat in Berlin.
Marvin Plattenhardt’s free kick shot on goal went just wide and Kalou had a shot saved straight at Ulreich, Hertha’s attacking momentum began to build… they smelt blood and they wanted desperately to equalise.
Another free kick just moments after Duda’s goal, provided a huge opportunity.
It wasn’t a fantastic cross into the box from the number 21 but an error in judgement of the flight of the ball from Bayern’s Tolisso led to the ball dropping to the feet of Salomon Kalou….and Kalou didn’t miss.
He slotted the ball under the body of Ulreich and into the back of the net. The Berlin crowd went wild.

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Level terms: Salomon Kalou fires past Ulreich to level the game at 2-2 coming from 2-0 down.

It was 2-2 and it was deserved. Hertha had not allowed the 2 goal deficit to break their spirit and now the game was level with still 30 minutes at least to go.
2-0 and given little chance of getting anything out of the game, the Berliners had proven that by not giving up, this team were capable of pegging back the biggest club in the country.
It remained level until the final whistle. The boot was now on the other foot, Hertha were celebrating a draw like a victory, the difference being that Hertha are not a club used to either coming back from 2-0 down or frustrating the champions.
Carlos Ancelotti had lost his job as Bayern coach the week they played in Berlin, but that should never be an excuse as to why the favourites did not emerge from the capital city with 3 points.
Hertha were by no means the better team during that game nor did they deserve more than a draw, the point is that being 2-0 down to a club like Bayern is, whilst no shame, a situation not many come back from, but the fighting spirit of the Berlin side showed they were capable of something more than just being ‘an obstacle in the way of another 3 Bayern points’. Whilst they didn’t really challenge for any European spots or titles in 2017/18, Hertha were on their way up, building towards the future, as seen in their next encounter with Munich in Berlin.
They were the only side not to concede in the reverse fixture at the Allianz arena, the only side to stop Robert Lewandowski scoring at home. Rune Jarstein and Jordan Torunarigha produced two of the performances of the season of any player in the league. It was some feat, Hertha had remained unbeaten for their last three encounters with Bayern, even if the 1-1 draw in 2017 had hurt.
It was a sign of things to come despite a disappointing season in 2017/18 that resulted in a bottom of the group Europa League exit and a mid table finish. The two draws with Bayern were something to savour from the season along with the 0-3 away win in Frankfurt. But things had to change for there to be a chance of progress, and so Pal Dardai and Michael Preetz began to concoct a plan, that would truly see the ‘future belongs to Berlin’ motto, become something that may well be achievable.

 

Spieltag: The game no one expected to win

Under the stars: The Olympiastadion become a spectacle on Friday evening against Bayern

No one ever expects to beat Bayern Munich.
No one.
Especially since in the early stages of 2018/19, they had been unbeaten and won all 4 of their opening games.
That was to change during an Englisch Woche, that saw Hertha lose to Bremen in a dreary match on a Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday little Augsburg took the first points of the season off Bayern in the Bavarian derby.
No one had expected Augsburg to walk away from the Allianz with anything other than their heads down in disappointment. But the little Bavarian side fought back against a rather lackluster Bayern side that had not boasted the likes of Lewandowski in the starting 11. Niko Kovac was saving his ‘best team’ for the meeting in Berlin on Friday night.
In some ways it was mark of respect from Kovac against the club he’d spent two stints of his career with, a native Berliner, Kovac could be deemed more of a Hertha legend than a Bayern one.
But Bayern’s lack of creativity and finishing proved costly, as Felix Goetze, little brother of World Cup winning goalscorer Mario, managed to bundle the ball over the line after an uncharacteristic error from Manuel Neuer.
There is always a sense in Berlin when Bayern comes to town, that ‘There is not better or worse time to play them’.
Last season they had just sacked their coach, they had also lost a 2-0 lead the previous week to Wolfsburg and lost 3-0 in the Champions League to Paris St Germain. Despite that there was the argument that they would want to prove themselves in Berlin therefore any game against them would be doubly difficult.
This season the situation was almost identical, as they’d dropped points against Augsburg and would be determined to rectify their mistakes, as well as having a near enough full strength squad with James and Lewandowski returning.
No one gave Hertha a hope in hells chance of getting anything out of the game. Not the pundits, not the bookmakers, even many supporters were pessimistic, although there was the odd gleeful joke about it actually happening. Even after the 1-0 lead to Hertha, Bayern were still favourites to win the game according to the bookies.
The midweek loss to Werder Bremen had served as a steep learning curve for Pal Dardai and his team, the defense had to be more compact but with Marko Grujic missing and Fabian Lustenberger clearly out of sorts in the defensive midfield position, it saw the return of Per Ciljan Skjelbred to that holding midfield role.
No one could’ve predicted that he’d be a candidate for man of the match.

Berlin was full of little red pock marks. The invasion had begun.
It is widely known that when Bayern come to town, the stadium is as red as it is blue and white. Whilst there is a reserved away fan section, the neutral areas of the Olympiastadion become clogged up with Bayern supporters many of which just make the quick trip from Brandenburg to Berlin. The majority of those in red in Berlin, are not from Munich at all. It somewhat aggravates the Hertha supporters, who take massive pride in displaying their blue and white stripes.
It takes a huge amount of strength whilst at the S Bahn station not to say something untoward to anyone in the opposite colour. Red is not a welcome colour in Hertha territory, whether it be from Union fans or Bayern, they may well just equally hated in the district of Charlottenburg (Or any other area other than Kopenick).
If it’s not the fact the Berlin based Bayern fans support a club miles away from their home that angers the Hertha supporters, it’s certainly the arrogance that accompanies those of a Munich persuasion. The sheer number of times the Rekordmeister have found success makes many Hertha fans stomachs churn, the belief that three points is a given right not something you fight for infuriates people, the fact that now winning a title in Munich has become somewhat boring (judging from the reactions of the last 6th straight title win by their own players) and that even scoring goals just seems to be an every day chore, are a number reasons that Bayern and their fans are widely disliked across Germany.
But this season something has changed. In the early stages of the season, there is a title race. Bayern, Dortmund, Werder Bremen, Hertha BSC, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach have all had decent starts to the season. In fact, at the time of writing, Dortmund sit top of the pile and Hertha are level on points with Bayern, only in third position down to goal difference.  Had they won 3-0 at home on Friday night, Hertha would be sitting second leading on goals scored and would’ve gone into Saturday as league leaders.

The match was still regarded as a “topspiel” despite Hertha being in 4th spot and Bayern being top on Friday night.
The likes of Javairo Dilrosun were certain to cause problems with the aging Bayern defenders. But there was a strange optimism in the air in the Olympiastadion… perhaps not with the belief that victory was possible but because Hertha had been playing good, attacking and above all, interesting football.

In the team, Marvin Plattenhardt had been left out and switched position with Maximilian Mittelstadt. It was for a good reason. The young defender was now back in his natural position at leftback having been utilised against Nurnberg as a winger/forward. Plattenhardt’s demotion to the bench asked questions of Dardai as to why he’d dropped his top left back, however he had also spoken about rotation and justified his decision by remarking that Plattenhardt had just recovered from injury and played a lot of minutes this season.
In for the injured Marko Grujic was Per Skjelbred. It was his first start of the season having even struggled to make it into the matchday squad let alone the starting 11.
Otherwise it was a more or less unchanged side to the one that started against Borussia Monchengladbach. Kalou had returned to start in place of Palko Dardai who had started against Bremen but no effect on the game and Vedad Ibisevic remained in the starting 11 over Davie Selke.
The major change came in the goalkeepers position as Rune Jarstein, the day before his 34th birthday, carried his injury from the Bremen game into Friday night, meaning that number 1 Thomas Kraft would be his replacement to face his old team.

The changes proved to work. Unlike the midweek defeat to Bremen, the midfield was compact with Arne Maier and Per Skjelbred keeping the likes of Sanches and James quiet.
As predicted, Dilrosun and Lazaro were causing issues for the Bayern defense.
Bayern were however the ones creating chances. Boateng’s header was directed just wide as Kraft could only watch it fly over the bar.
The dominance of possession from Bayern wouldn’t save them however. On the 25 minute mark a perfect cross from the right hand side was met perfectly by Vedad Ibisevic only for Manuel Neuer to make a fantastic save to keep it out.
The rebound fell to Salomon Kalou who attempted to control the ball on the byline only for Jerome Boateng to fly in with a completely needless challenge tacking Kalou’s legs from beneath him whilst getting nowhere near the ball. Kalou went down, the referee was left with no choice but to award Hertha a penalty.
6 in 6 games was correct…. however this time the penalty was in Hertha’s favour and unlike those conceded there was no question over this one. Boateng had attempted to play the ball, however that is what all defenders do… it is a question of whether to retrieve and win the ball that determines whether it is a penalty. In this case it was stonewall, Boateng got nowhere the ball and took Kalou out instead.
It fell to the captain Ibisevic to take the spot kick. When asked why he had not taken it, despite being the regular taker, Kalou responded with ‘Vedo has been on a streak lately, it only seems right he keep that going’.
The ‘Vedator’ obliged. He smashed the ball past Neuer who dived the wrong way to give Hertha a 1-0 lead.

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Opener: Vedad Ibisevic slams the ball past Manuel Neuer

Deserved on the balance of play? Perhaps not, but Bayern were sloppy and were making errors as well as failing to take the chances they were creating themselves.
Not long after the opener, Arjen Robben missed a glorious opportunity to equalise but his shot went high over the bar.
Lewandowski was being kept mightily quiet and Bayern were being frustrated by a brick wall Berlin defense.
Matters were made much worse for the champions as Kalou and Lazaro combined for a fantastic doppelpass, Lazaro managed to get in around the back and cut the ball back to none other than Ondrej Duda, who smashed the ball so fast past Neuer that he barely had time to blink.
The number 10 had done it again, 5 goals for the season, and ironically, he’d scored what could possibly be a winning goal against the same team he’d scored his first ever Bundesliga goal against.
2-0 up at half time and this was no what either Bayern or Hertha were used to. Now for the next 45 minutes, Hertha would not have to defend a slender one goal lead over the best team in Germany, instead Bayern would have to score early and produce and almighty all out attack on the Berliners.
But the Berlin wall stands firm in the form of Thomas Kraft, Per Skjelbred, Niklas Stark, Karim Rekik and Arne Maier who knew their task for the second half would be to keep the glittering Bayern attacking prowess at bay.
They did so brilliantly, keeping out the likes of Lewadowski and making his role almost non existent. James had no luck either finding it impossible to break through.
Kovac made changes, bringing on the likes of Thomas Muller to try and at least get a foothold in the game and a chance to snatch a goal to get back in it.
It proved fruitless, and the introduction of Sandro Wagner didn’t do much to help matters either. Not only was he met with a chorus of whistles and jeers but he also did absolutely nothing to bolster the Bayern attack either.

 

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Cushion: Ondrej Duda fires past Neuer to give Hertha a 2 goal advantage before half time.

Wagner’s antics of celebrating in the Ostkurve when scoring against Hertha when he was at Darmstadt, having been an ex Hertha player, wrecked any relationship he had with the supporters. His arrogance is seen as ‘typically Bavarian’, he began his career at Bayern before they deemed him not good enough and has been on the run around Germany since. He has since proclaimed himself to be ‘Germany’s best striker’.
It was only at Hoffenheim that he actually proved to be a decent forward, when Bayern poached him as a backup to Robert Lewandowski, and Wagner seemed only too content to sit on the bench, make a handful of substitute appearances and still able to claim a Bundesliga winners medal for the little effort.

But for Bayern the night only became more and more frustrating. As time passed Hertha’s defense would not budge, it remained strong and intact and Bayern found it impossible to break it down despite the 72% possession they had. But again, possession does not win you games, what you do with it does. You could have 28% possession and still be the victor, which is exactly what Hertha did.
Pal Dardai once stated that “It does not matter what chance you create, if you don’t capitalise on those chances, if you don’t take those chances and make them count, you do not deserve to win”.
This was a good way to describe Bayern’s performance here. Saying “You should’ve won” is different to saying “You deserved to win”. You can only claim to deserve it if something from the outside interferes with it… for example a terrible refereeing decision… or adding 7 minutes of injury time for no apparent reason.
Hertha retained the ball defensively and then when out of possession, managed to smother any attack thrown their way. Bayern kept pressing and Hertha kept pushing them back. Back and back again until they just seemed to run out of steam.
Dardai made his own changes too. Davie Selke replaced Vedad Ibisevic, who handed the captains armband to Skjelbred, early in the second half.
The change was intended to use Selke’s pace as an advantage to any counter attack that may present itself as Bayern began to pour forward in a blitz of attacks.
It worked, Selke managed to create a handful of difficult chances which he sadly couldn’t take to improve on the two goal cushion. But he didn’t need his attacking qualities to help win the game. Instead, the entire 11 became an all out defense, blocking anything coming their way.
Thomas Kraft made two incredibly vital saves to deny Bayern a way back into the game, but the 4 in front of him were already doing a stellar job at keeping Ribery, James, Lewandowski, Robben and then Muller quiet.
To put it into perspective, in the first half Bayern had no shots on target and in the second the only two that they did were saved by Kraft. Anything else was blocked.
But as long as the game clock continued there was always a chance for Hertha to throw their valuable lead away despite having a two goal advantage.
Bayern’s last throw of the dice was to push Manuel Neuer down for a final corner, as he had done in the World Cup, and just like the world cup, Neuer failed to make any kind of impact as the ball as cleared and almost put into an empty net for a third Hertha goal. Sadly for Hertha, the ball was picked up by Neuer in the nick of time but time was out for Bayern. The final whistle, at the end of a 4 added minutes, was blown.
Hertha had done. They had inflicted Bayern’s first loss of the season on the reigning champions and with it, obtained three points to put them level on points, it was now only goal difference separating the two sides and Dortmund had the chance to go top of the table if they beat Leverkusen the following day… which they did.

It was delirium, complete jubilation for Hertha players, coaches and fans alike. This is the best start to a season Hertha BSC have had in their 126 year history, and now to accompany victories in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 and a win over the tricky Borussia Monchengladbach, Pal Dardai has finally beaten Bayern Munich. His record against the Muncheners is impressive. 1 loss, 3 draws and now a victory.
The fans reaction was one of pure joy, having been so close in 2017 with the last minute equaliser, the latest ever in the Bundesliga, then a comeback to make fans proud last season at 2-2, a 0-0 draw which an achievement in Munich an now this, the first victory over Bayern since 2009, almost a decade ago when Pal Dardai was still a player for the club. Now as a manager he has been the mastermind behind one of the best wins of his tenure. The victory against Gelsenkirchen was sweet, but this was something else.

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Together: Hertha worked incredibly hard for their victory over Bayern and celebrated in style with the fans

More than you will ever now: Why does this victory mean the world to Hertha BSC?


Everything: The win on Friday meant a hell of a lot to Pal Dardai.

“We are the capital club, the Hauptstadt team… but we are in no way the most successful”. It has to be said over and over again.
Unlike other European cities like Paris, London, Madrid and Milan and even likes of Copenhagen, Belgrade, Zagreb and Moscow, Berlin has not always had a top flight, success of a football team.  In fact, Hertha BSC have often been subject to taunts because they’ve been relegated more times than they’ve won a title. Berlin has been left time and time again, without a top flight club, the only capital in Europe’s big leagues not to have one. That is no history. Hertha have been in the Bundesliga for five straight seasons and it looks to stay that way.
Whilst Berlin is the political and designated capital of Germany, Munich is often seen as the football capital. Many suggest that Hertha and Berlin are jealous of the success of Bayern Munich but football fans across the country will tell you otherwise. Success is one thing, but the arrogance to consistently buy players that no other club in the country can afford is quite another, especially when those players tend to be from clubs that could be future rivals.
Take the last few seasons for example. The fact players like Lewandowski and Goretzka joined on a free is immaterial. Players know that by defecting to Bayern for no money leaves their previous clubs with no cash made from the signing and weakens the opponent whilst making Bayern stronger.
Robert Lewandowski left Dortmund, the club that virtually made him the superstar that he is today, on a free. He could’ve joined any club in world at that point, but instead Bayern chose to snap him up because it bolstered their offense whilst weakening Dortmund’s side. Lewandowski helped BVB win two titles and the DFB Pokal as well as get to a Champions League Final which they lost to… yep you guessed it, Bayern.
Mario Goetze was a youngster lured by Bayern’s cash and success, as he joined them just days after the UCL Final at Wembley in London. Dortmund at the time were Bayern’s only major rivals in the league. Goetze later returned to Dortmund claiming that moving to Bayern was the biggest mistake he’d ever made.
Mats Hummels also made the jump from Dortmund to Bayern despite addressing the media insisting he had no interest in joining the Bavarians again, having been at their academy as a boy.
Dortmund began to drop off as a rival, instead in the following seasons, no one could touch Bayern. Last season the closest contender ended up being Schalke, who allowed Leon Goretzka to leave Gelsenkirchen to join Bayern on a free. Bayern were not in need of Goretzka but knew full well that luring him to Bavaria would weaken one of their potential rivals. It proved correct, Schalke so far this season have been incredibly poor.
It proved the same story with Hoffenheim, who in 2016/17 and 17/18 were chasing Bayern down with good performances.
Sebastian Rudy, Niklas Sule and Sandro Wagner, Hoffenheims best players, jumped onboard the goodship Bayern leaving Hoffenheim weakened. Rudy was constantly on the bench in his stint at Bayern and is now a part of the Schalke team for the 18/19 season.
This approach angers Bundesliga fans alike. But it also serves as frustration to other clubs who feel they have zero chance to compete when Bayern Munich have almost double the value in their squad as anyone else.
This season, Hertha beat Bayern, but the value of the two squads was quite remarkable. Hertha’s squad is valued at £123 million. Bayern’s is valued at over £800 million. The 8 fold increase goes to show that clubs like Hertha, Bremen, even Leverkusen and Dortmund, have little chance of competing against Bayern when they cannot afford the best players.
Instead Hertha’s tactic is to turn to youth, their own home grown players, develop them into something they want in order to fit their system… it is something that Munich lack in their team. Instead they choose to buy players once they’re developed. As soon as an emerging talent is quite clearly going to stick, Bayern will start racking up the offers in Euros to entice them to join the red side of Munich.

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Never far to travel: Red is not really a welcome colour in the Olympiastadion. Many Bayern fans do not hail from anywhere near Munich

Such an attitude and sometimes a lack of respect towards their Bundesliga opponents means that other German clubs have zero respect for the reds when they come to town. It also means that the bookmakers and the pundits give smaller clubs like Hertha zero chance of getting a result when they play each other.
The pressure is unknowingly therefore, on Bayern to perform. If Hertha lost, it would be expected and no big deal, but if the result were any other, it would be a triumph like no other and proof that sometimes discipline and youth can be successful, without the need to be rich and in the light of glory.
Bayern fans claim “You have to support them when they lose”. Problem is that is practically never, for Hertha it is a different story… they lose a lot more often. It takes a lot more effort to continuously support them.

The reason perhaps this means more to Hertha than anything is that although not beating Bayern since 2009 was one thing, the Berliners have been seen as somewhat in the shadow of Munich for decades. Hertha have won zero trophies, they have barely even played in European competition. In contrast Bayern have won it all and winning the league title alone last season was seen as a ‘disaster’ and ‘disappointment’ to them. Hertha would dream of winning any title, the fact Bayern were disappointed with just one sort of makes the Berliner’s blood boil with rage at the arrogance.
Berlin is not regarded as a football city in the wider perspective of football fans despite having dozens of smaller clubs and being steeped in tradition. If you ask anyone on the street in England to name a German football club they will more than likely say Bayern Munich, because it’s the only one they know. They have probably never heard of Hertha BSC, but the start to season has brought Hertha into the limelight, just a little. Now they may well be known as ‘that team that beat Bayern on Friday night’. But it’s a title they will take.

It also means more to several of the players that took part in the 2-0 victory.
Niklas Stark, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Vedad Ibisevic, Salomon Kalou, Per Skjelbred Thomas Kraft,  as well as benched Marvin Plattenhardt and Fabian Lustenberger were all part of the team that played in the 1-1 draw in February 2017 which saw Bayern equalise with the last kick of the game in a minute of the match that should not existed. The scenes at the end of the game were unsavoury, as Ibisevic, Plattenhardt and Jarstein were seen arguing with the referee, Ibisevic and Jarstein then had a quarrel with Manuel Neuer and Stark and Mittelstadt were left exhausted and devastated. To be so close and have a deserved victory snatched away is extremely painful.
A year later and although the comeback from 2-0 down was somewhat of an act of revenge that 1-1 draw still stung in the back of the minds of the players and all those fans in the stadium that had witnessed the latest ever Bundesliga goal. It didn’t help that just prior to the match under the Friday night lights, that Bayern’s social media accounts were mocking Hertha by posting about the 97th minute goal from two seasons back, seemingly mocking the team in blue and white.
It would be sweet sweet revenge for Hertha.
It had been a long long wait for the supporters who not only saw a win against Bayern but a clean sheet and a deserved win from a hard working, determined, unified team that gave their hearts and souls in a game that suggests that this current team are shaping up to be one to watch in the future.
A number of the players, the likes of Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski and Maximilian Mittelstadt are all graduates of the Hertha youth system.
Niklas Stark, Ondrej Duda, Arne Maier, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Valentino Lazaro, Karim Rekik and Javaro Dilrosun are all under the age of 25. These players are not just ones for the here and now but have years ahead of them to develop into world class players. Developing them from your academy or from a young age also presents a sense of pride from the Berlin supporters who feel that those players are their own, proud to represent the city and the club.

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Cause for celebration: The team celebrate in the Ostkurve,

Beating Bayern is not just a victory on the pitch but off it too, in terms of mentality, outlook and ambition. Hertha are more than likely not going to be Bundesliga champions come May but what they can achieve is an attempt at European spots as well as proving all those that were against them and shut them down as a force, wrong.
Why does it mean so much?
Because it was something that was fought for with grit and heart and something that took a while accomplish but in the end, came through. The clash of ambition and style as well as outlook and cultures so often resulted in the red half of Germany being the victor, this time however it was overturned. Despite half the stadium emerging in red, it was the true football loving blue side that had the chance to finally celebrate beating the champions.

 

11 Behind the Ball: Hertha becomes a second half team of defenders

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Old enemies: Lewandowski scored the equaliser two years ago, to leave Niklas Stark defleated… now he had sweet revenge.

One goal is never enough… that’s what they say.
But in the case of Hertha BSC, neither is two, and especially not against the reigning champions of Germany.
Bayern have more than enough quality to make a comeback even from two goals down. We even saw that the two goal cushion is never safe in the Saturday late fixture between Leverkusen and Dortmund which saw the home side throw away a two goal advantage to lose 4-2.
What some did not want to see in the second half from Hertha, a defensive style of football, is inevitably what happened, however it is exactly what needed to be done, especially considering the lack of consistency in defending over the first 5 games. Hertha had gone the longest without conceding but in previous 2 matches had let in 5 goals and had conceded penalties in all five of the games they’d played in.
There was a distinct lack of discipline in defending even though the primary focus has been on attacking flair this season so far. It was something that needed addressing by Dardai and his coaching staff… and they responded with the second half display against Bayern.
Davie Selke was introduced to add some pace to the front line, in case there happened to be the chance to counter. It was a good move, but Mathew Leckie was already brought on, his first game in a while having been out injured. Leckie defended well for all it’s worth, he’s an attacking minded player as is Valentino Lazaro.
But the entire 11 pulled together as a defensive unit with special mention going to Skjelbred who seemed to be everywhere, having not made an appearance in the starting line up all season and was absent from even the squad selection until match day 4.
It’s not pretty, by no means is it guaranteed to work but the challenge was to defend the two goal like, like a Berlin wall. Every man played their part in doing so, from Thomas Kraft in goal to the backline of defenders, to even the attacking midfielders all pitching in. Even Davie Selke was helping out at the back, Bayern could not get get through.
Defensive football is exactly what Dardai had been criticised for last season and the previous seasons that he’s been in charge. Whilst Hertha could be accused of being a defensive team, there was no question they were fairly good at it, but it meant a lack of creative and entertaining football, they had failed to truly thrash anyone home or away for 3 years, the most goals they’d scored in a game had been 3 against Frankfurt away from home last season.

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Brick Wall: Valentino Lazaro did his part as a defensive winger

This season showed something new. Whilst Hertha had always seemed to be fearless against Bayern under the guidance of Dardai, they had never been attacking minded as such and whilst showing they were capable of scoring goals against the boys from Munich, there was never anything to suggest that they would be comfortable in the games they played. Hertha vs Bayern had become an edgy match for Hertha, knowing that one simple mistake would cost them all their hard work and so it was nearly impossible to play creative and entertaining football and so the fans became accustomed to being sort of directionless in style.  Now though, in their previous 5 games Hertha had scored in every single one, putting 4 past Borussia Monchengladbach and 2 past Schalke and Wolfsburg away from home.  But they had conceded goals too, leaking at the back having kept two clean sheets in the first two games.
It would take the visit of a powerhouse like Bayern to bring out the best of Hertha’s defensive qualities and this time the discipline stuck and the lessons from midweek defeat were learned. For once in Berlin the sense of optimism was not stemming from results going the right way, but instead the type of football the club was playing. It has become entertaining, creative, compact and positive, mainly thanks to the additions of several attacking players into the squad. At the same time, against Bayern, the team showed they were more than capable of calmly defending a lead. Leverkusen showed on Saturday just how a two goal lead can be thrown away if the confidence concentration, discipline and strength lapse and how becoming cocky can lead to losing games despite having been entirely comfortable. 45 minutes is a long time, it only takes a second to score a goal, Dortmund proved that in their spectacular come back.
Bayern had expected the second half Hertha approach to be how they would play the entire match… it shocked them to realise that is not how it would go. They hadn’t gotten what they expected and it forced their hand and forced Kovac to have a rethink, but even as he did Hertha were one step ahead.

 

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No way through: Arne Maier played the defensive midfield role with Per Skjelbred perfectly to shut Bayern out

In the 0-0 draw in Munich last season, Hertha were the only team not to concede a goal at the Allianz arena. It put an end to an attempted record in the Bundesliga of consecutive home wins for Bayern. It also stopped Robert Lewandowski from becoming a player to score against every team at home in the league.
The type of football witnessed that day was that type of football that the media were so critical of however, the goal was not to win that day, but to at least come away with a point. Instead of just 45 minutes of the style seen in the 2-0 victory over Bayern, the game in Munich last season for an entire 90 minutes of it. They just did not have the capability back then to attempt better.
This season there is no need for that approach with the attacking quality Hertha have at their disposal.
Whilst 11 behind the ball is not a pretty means of seeing out a game, in this instance with a two goal lead, it was not in anyone’s mind to criticise Dardai for his approach to the second 45 minutes. This is a season not many are expecting great things from Hertha, because the team is young and still learning, still developing. But what the game against Bayern on Friday showed was that despite being young and always finding room for improvement, this team could well be capable of doing what needs to be done whilst playing attractive football.
It seems the optimism in Berlin is not coming from the match results, but instead, coming from the style of football being played and that is a far more positive thing than simply being satisfied with the full time score.

 

Community Club: Frank Zander returns, a non racist message, the dimming of the Olympiastadion.

Anything: “In Berlin you can be anything… except racist”

Friday night lights. The Olympiastadion was set for a party, not because they had yet won the match but because Berlin is simply, the best city in the world.
That was the vibe set by the pre match warm up in which Frank Zander returned to sing with the fans in unison, his anthem ‘Nur Nach Hause’.
It felt to serve as a ‘good luck’ gesture to the team from the man himself. Hertha fans completely outdid themselves with their vocal performance. It was loud and extremely proud. This weeks home fixture was dedicated to the district of ‘Mitte’… where no one is really from but everyone is a part of.

The good gestures continued. The player came out to warm up wearing jackets that displayed a clear message
“In Berlin, kannst du alles sein…ausser rassist” (In Berlin, you can be anything, except racist).
It follows a similar pattern to last seasons kneel prior to the game against Gelsenkirchen at home, which Hertha lost 2-0.
Berlin is a tolerant city. Despite the reputation Germany humorously carries around because of the war, it is now in huge part, the most multicultural in Europe and Berlin is by far its most multicultural and multi ethnic city. The capital even during the war years was known as the ‘Red City’, meaning it was more prone to communism than it ever was to Nazism and fascism.
With the events such as the far right marches in Chemnitz taking place, Berlin too a stance politically by staging several, far larger, counter protests to bat down the racist and fascist behaviour of far right and AfD sympathisers. Clubs elsewhere in the Bundesliga had also shown solidarity with equality movements in displays of unity such as wearing rainbow captains arms bands to support equal rights of the LGBTQ  community.  When RB Leipzig’s management claimed there was no need for them to act because Sports and Politics don’t mix, they hadn’t thought through that by addressing the issue they had automatically made a stance. Notably Leipzig is an AfD stronghold.
The phrasing also follows Hertha’s own campaign this season of bringing together and including all districts of Berlin. “In Berlin, kannst du alles sein… auch Herthaner” has included every day Berliners, Hertha fans, to be a part of the poster campaign around the city, with each home game being dedicated to a certain district.
“Nazis raus” is a phrase often heard in stadiums across Germany but more so in clubs in the former West Germany. East German clubs have a far greater problem with Far Right Winger nutters getting access to their stadium and their management far less willing to do anything about it.
Hertha as a club has always taken equality and anti racism pretty seriously.
Along with the jackets pre match the clubs social media account posted a photograph. A team photo with a large number of players having been erased.
The caption stated that “Without diversity we are nothing.”
The only players remaining in the photo were native, white German nationals.
A strong message and a true message. Berlin is one of the most multicultural cities in Europe and embraces that title. Without people of all faith, backgrounds, colour and ethnicity, the city and the team, are non existent.

Something special: The lights were dimmed for the Aufstellung on Fridaynight

Build up to a match is always important, but this time around it was a regular Bundesliga fixture. The fact it was against the reigning champions is usually not really taken into consideration… but the stadium was packed, sold out, the first time in two seasons that it had happened.
The last time the lights were dimmed for a game at the Olympiastadion, was the DFB Pokal Halbfinale against Borussia Dortmund in 2016, the most special of occasions.
This Friday night fixture proved a little different. The atmosphere, the support wasn’t so much set up because the mighty Bayern were in town, but because for once, there was optimism in the air, a sense of pride, the pure enjoyment of just watching the team. It was set up for one reason with one message from the fans to the team…
“We are here to support you, not matter what happened. Win, lose, draw, we are here and we are proud”.
The Aufstellung was loud, the players could feel it. Many of them reposted on social media, their own names being blasted out by supporters around the stadium. There was no fear going into battle. Instead it was excitement, anticipation, even fun. The place was buzzing and it may well have rubbed off on the team. Their performance on the pitch was worthy of celebration. The Olympiastadion has not been bouncing like that for years. Now all of a sudden there was cause for celebration

Focus: Salmon Kalou, the Ivorian veteran still ready for action, the lovable lad.

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Veterans: Kalou and Ibisevic are the two oldest outfield players in the Hertha team this season

Salomon Kalou is a Champions League winner with Chelsea. He knows the Premier League well and is a proven winner despite not getting any younger.
He hasn’t scored yet this season but Kalou has been with Hertha now for 4 years. He’s not won titles like he did in England but nevertheless seems to be content and happy in Berlin.
Kalou is not quite the speedster he once was but it doesn’t matter, his quality shines through in every game he plays.
During an away game in Freiburg he had the opportunity to equalise for Hertha as they had fallen to a 1-0 losing position. Kalou skied it. Just moments later, Hertha were awarded another penalty, Kalou stepped up with nerves of steel and this time slotted it home resulting in a 1-1 draw.
He scored with what was almost the last kick of the game to take a point away in Augsburg. He scored to draw Hertha level with Bayern in Berlin after being 2-0 down.
The boy is a determined winnera and never it seems, in a bad mood.
From his instastories and posts it is clear that Kalou adores his teammates and is considered by them to be a hugely valuable part of the squad. His friendship with Ondrej Duda has been a huge boost for both Kalou and the Slovakian Number 10. Their friendship is evident on the pitch too.
But what sets Kalou apart is not just his contribution to the team on the pitch a a goalscorer. The Ivorian is also unselfish, having assisted and helped create assists this season. His work against Borussia Monchengladbach, refusing to go down after a foul, allowed him to worked the ball into the box to find a wide open Ibisevic.
In the 2-0 victory against Bayern, he was the one that worked the ball into Valentino Lazaro to enable him to then find Ondrej Duda for the second goal of the game.
His work ethic is unquestionable, but he takes defeat graciously as well, willing to learn from mistakes rather than dwelling on them.
He’s much loved and valued by the fans of the club as well, always finding time after training to speak with them, a highly approachable human being and charitable off the pitch too, always campaigning for equality and much the face of the anti racism campaign last season, openly speaking about following the defeat to Schalke at home.
Despite him being one of the oldest outfield players in the squad, along with fellow forward Vedad Ibisevic, he hasn’t slowed down in assists, goals and contributions to the games he plays in. His age and experience allows him to be somewhat of a role model to the young players coming through the ranks at Hertha, whilst still improving his own game.
Salomon Kalou remains an important part of the team in Berlin. Whether he will remain in the capital at the end of the season is a question for then not now, but to obtain a player of such quality on and off the pitch is something Berlin can be proud of.

 

HAHOHE

All good things must end…aber…?

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Spitzenreiter: Top of the table for two hours after defeating Borussia Monchengladbach 

All good things must come to an end, but the future still looks bright.

Despite losing their first game of the season on a cold Tuesday night in Bremen, it was the first time anyone could really say there were a few positives found in defeat.
Hertha managed to score in a 3-1 loss in which Bremen could consider themselves extremely lucky however, the loss also serves as learning curve for Pal Dardai and his young Hertha team.
After all, the euphoria of being top of the table for a few hours on Saturday afternoon (to be batted back down by Bayern’s win over the quite frankly abysmal Schalke 04), couldn’t last.
Hertha take on the Rekordmeister on Friday evening at the Olympiastadion where they remain unbeaten, with two wins from two, but the feeling of being top for even a few hours was a feeling this team cannot allow to go to their heads.
Bremen, undefeated still would be an entirely different task, especially in the “English week” or “Englisch Woche”… and defeat could be a blessing in disguise for Hertha, since now, Pal Dardai has to focus on the negatives on which to improve on rather than the only positive side of the team he saw on Saturday against Borussia Monchengladbach, who had been unbeaten at the time.
After all, you learn from more in defeat than from an undeserved victory.

Spitzenreiter for 2 hours: The euphoria against Gladbach.

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Duda does it again: Ondrej Duda scored his fourth goal of the season

Borussia Monchengladbach came to Berlin with an identical record to Hertha… but they certainly didn’t play as if that were a fact on Saturday afternoon.
Hertha were on the back of a draw against Wolfsburg, Gladbach too remained unbeaten…In fact Hertha and Borussia’s records were identical down to the number of yellow cards they’d each received.
The same number of goals scored and conceded, the same results (2 wins and a draw) therefore the same number of points (7), the same number of yellow and red cards, there was literally nothing to separate the two teams coming into Match day 4 in the table other than alphabetical order.

You wouldn’t have been able to guess that upon revision of the match however.
The first 10 minutes were cagey, both sides had a few decent chances, but there was no real threat from the Gladbach side.
Until the inevitable happened.
“Hertha and penalty is a better love story than ‘Twilight'” said a fan on Twitter.
He was right.
A clumsy halfhearted challenge by Niklas Stark led to Hertha’s fourth penalty conceded in as many game, setting a new and very much unwanted record.
The penalty itself wasn’t VAR reviewed by the referee on the monitor and could be considered incredibly harsh against Stark, who appeared just to out muscle is opponent.
Thorgan Hazard did the rest, giving Jarstein no chance and put Gladbach 1-0 into a very much undeserved lead. After two or three squandered chances by Duda and Kalou, the game was opening up.
The Berliners responded almost instantly. Just 3 minutes later, a perfect cross from Marvin Plattenhardt was met by captain Ibisevic, who’s reaction to equalising was typical of a captain determined to go out and get more.
He ushered his team to get back to the centre circle as quickly as possible as if they were down by 2 goals not one, to restart the game. Ibisevic could sense something and he was right to. Just moments later, newbie starlet Javairo Dilrosun, found a pitch perfect cross that found the head of Valentino Lazaro. The header was perfect, straight into the top corner past a rooted Jan Sommer who could only stand and watch.
The turn around had taken just 4 minutes. Hertha were now in control but by no means cruising. It meant Gladbach had to come out and play and they did create chances but posed little danger. The midfield was being dominated by the likes of Marko Grujic and Arne Maier, winning the first and second ball.
After the break it wasn’t long before Hertha could afford to just lay back a little, when Salomon Kalou took on the Gladbach defense, he could’ve easily gone down for an obvious foul but managed to keep his footing as he saw the run of Ibisevic who tapped in for a second and his clubs third of the game.
But Hertha are Hertha, and something always has to go wrong.
Firstly, Plea managed to somehow snatch another goal out of nothing for Gladbach making the scoreline uncomfortable at 3-2 for Hertha. The 3-2 score wasn’t at all reflective of the game’s progression or the balance of play but was instead a moment of lapsed concentration for Berlin. The header hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and over the line, which was unfortunate if anything else for Jarstein.
Secondly, Marko Grujic was forced off the pitch after a horror challenge from Patrick Herrmann, being replaced by Per Skjelbred to bolster the defensive midfield.
Grujic, who had been one of the contenders for Man of the match, was grounded after Herrmann raised his studs, crunching into Grujic’s ankle. The replays make for uneasy viewing. The result was later revealed to be damaged and torn ligaments in the ankle which could take months to heal.
Questionable decisions such as the penalty and the choice to only give Herrmann a yellow card for this challenge, are starting to become a normality for Hertha. 3 of the 5 penalties against them could be considered harsh or wrong. The decision to allow Herrmann to stay on the pitch considering Karim Bellarabi made an identical challenge last week against Bayern, once again begs the question of VAR and how it’s being implemented.
Despite the set back Hertha pressed again and again and as Gladbach were left vulnerable at the back, they took advantage.
Dilrosun once again was a huge factor in creating the chance, Ondrej Duda was only too happy to oblige to complete the process, scoring his 4th goal in 3 games.
Dilrosun is now the leading assist maker in the league, Duda the top scorer.
The game ended 4-2 and with Bayern not playing Schalke until 6:30pm, Hertha BSC were the league leaders as the match came to its conclusion.
It ended Gladbach’s unbeaten start, but Hertha’s defensive frailties were still present, the euphoria of the well earned victory against tough opponents, perhaps meant that the negatives were not taken into consideration for Hertha’s Tuesday trip to Bremen.

For the first time in a very long time, Hertha were head of the pack, even if it only lasted a few hours as Bayern easily sailed past a unbelievably terrible Schalke 0-2 in Gelsenkirchen.

The truth of the matter was however, that Hertha were now playing attractive, attacking football, where as in previous seasons, Dardai had been somewhat accused of being far too defensive and not playing pretty football.
Now it seems Hertha have a direction, introducing new and exciting young players and balancing it with the older and far more experienced.
The problem with that, is that sooner or later the youngsters have to learn something new and take constructive criticism in defeat. You can’t always see what’s wrong when you win consistently and no one is taking about the positives of the win against Borussia Monchengladbach but euphoria can blind you against anything you may need to take into consideration to keep the momentum going… and that showed two days later in Bremen,

Fan perspective: Ultras disgruntled, the return of Nur Nach Hause, Fans optimism.

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Dialogue: The ‘Einlauflied’ returned but the Ultras are still not 100% happy

Frank Zander has a concert in Wolfsburg…. it just happens to be matchday, so the idea of having the Berlin legend in the stadium to perform for every home game didn’t quite come to fruition this week. However, Frankie did address his adoring fans in a Facebook post, explaining a pre-planned concert meant he would be absent for the game against Borussia Monchengladbach but he would be returning to support the team against the Rekordmeister Bayern Munchen on Friday night.
There was therefore, an underlying fear, that the management may not honour their promise to return the ‘Einlauflied’ to its former state.
There was no need for any fear, as ‘Dickes B’ was pushed back and Hertha’s classic song “Nur Nach Hause” was played once again as the team entered the field.
Not only that, but it was as if the Ultras, and the fans in general, dedicated their vocal performance to the team and to Zander as they repeated the songs chorus twice after the music stopped. The singing was continuous, and the noise was louder than before.  It was the fans way of saying ‘We are home, and so too is our beautiful hymne’.
It will be special to have Frankie back, especially for the Bayern game, but to hear his eternal anthem sung once more as the team comes in, was something to be marvelled. Guess the board heard the cries of outrage from the supporters after they tried to change it.

That’s not to say the Ultras aren’t still complaining about something. Paul Keuter is still at the root of the concerns and ‘Keuter Raus’ is still being chanted out across the stadium, along with the likes of ‘Scheiss DFB’.
The issue remains however, if the management can’t access the members then there is simply no dialogue and without dialogue there is no solution to any questions or concerns that the supporters have. By closing communications, it’s all one way traffic, both parties need to find the time to listen to the opposite side.
By changing the ‘Einlauflied’ without querying it with the supporters first, the management and board made a massive mistake and an enemy out of themselves which they were quick to realise and rectify, but it felt as though asking Frank Zander to perform at every home game (when he is available) was an attempt at appeasement after making the horrendous error and misjudgement at changing the song in the first place. There was no formal apology to the fans for the upset that was caused.

Optimism and Berlin do not always go hand in hand. The city is used to disappointment and compromise.
With the team, it’s no different. Over the past few years Dardai has been accused of being far too defensive and not playing ‘attractive football’.
The solution to that is to change the style of thinking, change the outlook… what is it you want to achieve?
By purchasing and inviting new attacking players into the team, with a handful of defensive teammates, the balance of the squad shifts entirely. The likes of Dilrosun and Grjuic, Lazaro and Maier, go hand in hand with the aging experience of Ibisevic, Lustenberger, Skjelbred and Jarstein who know the Bundesliga well.
With the addition of youngsters as well, it allows far more attacking options to produce better attacking displays not previously linked with ‘Dardai style’ football. Dardai himself was a midfielder more prone to defending when needs be, so his stance on managing would clearly have a certain tinge of defensive style about it.
The problem that arises is that being so attacking minded allows the defensive side the slip. As shown by the late display in the draw at Wolfsburg and the two goals conceded against Monchengladbach, Hertha are now prone to conceding goals and not everything can be put onto the shoulders of Rune Jarstein. It is the risk of the new 3-4-3 system Dardai is trying to instil in the players. But the risk, is it worth it?
Hertha have not failed to score in their first 5 games. Even the loss to Bremen saw the Berliners score a goal thanks to Dilrosun.
The new system and approach gives cause to be excited and optimistic for the first time in a while for Hertha fans. Even if the risk and the chance to change direction fails, it seems as though there is finally an outlook and a goal the club wants to reach on the pitch… to produce good young talent and play entertaining football.
It’s not all about winning no matter how you do it, it’s about entertaining those that matter the most, in footballs case that is always the supporters, those fans in the stands that pay to watch these young and older men kick a ball about for 90 plus minutes.
Hertha may finally have a direction and goal it wants to achieve but it’s all about how they’ll reach it. This team, young and growing and therefore learning, have the ability to win games and score goals. The 4-2 against Gladbach was the first time the Berlin side had scored 4 goals in a game for 3 years, the last being in 2015 away to Darmstadt.
But with problems regarding the conceding of penalties and just amateur mistakes costing goals as well, there’s always something to learn. In Berlin, there is always something new to see and something new to learn from.

Ref, we have a problem: 5 elfer in 5 spiel… what the hell is going on here?

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5 in 5: Hertha conceded a penalty against Wolfsburg (pictured) as well as Nurnberg, Schalke, Gladbach and Bremen. 5 in 5 games, a new Bundesliga record

“We’re going to concede a penalty against Bayern on Friday”
“Oh yeah, no doubt”
There is now even a joke doing the rounds on social media… “When will we concede the penalty?”
and guess what?
It happened again.
Whether unjustified or not, it’s something that has to stop happening. Pal Dardai needs to begin disciplining the young defenders, urging them not to panic when under pressure and make rash, unneeded challenges like the one committed by Marvin Plattenhardt against Werder Bremen.
Hertha cannot be reliant on scoring goals, they must begin to work on defense despite trying to escape the tag of being a ‘defensive team’.
Attacking options are all well and good but a team but work on both aspects of the game and that includes rigorously defending set pieces and dangerous attacks. This team are capable of that, but it needs to be consistent for 90 minutes and more.
So far, the only clear cut penalty against Hertha was in Gelsenkirchen, when Marko Grujic raised his hand and grazed the ball in the process inside the box. Despite the ball no really changing direction, the spin on the ball altered, meaning upon review it was clear Grujic had touched it with his fingertips.
That sort of mistake is foolish, but the four other cases on penalties given against Hertha are more than questionable. Even more questionable is how VAR was used on several of those decisions but no VAR has been used for potential fouls in the other direction. A perfect example was in Bremen when Duda was brought down in the box and no review was made, and when Niklas Stark was quite clearly potentially fouled in the box defending a corner, only for Werder to score and no review of the potential foul on Stark was made.
If VAR is going to be used for these decisions it has to be used to review potential mistakes in other areas too. We’ve seen it can be success even in Hertha games. A goal in Wolfsburg last season was called back for a foul in the build up on Fabian Lustenberger. Rightfully so, the goal was disallowed.
But now, referees have the knowledge that Hertha may be prone to giving away fouls in the box. Influence from the opposition, especially the likes of the whinging FC Bayern players, do still have influence on the referee in making their final decision.
Whilst it’s easy to argue against the penalties, the question remains why does it keep happening?
Hertha had been incredibly cautious in their match against Bremen, only to end up conceding a penalty anyway.
The look on Pal Dardai’s face said it all, he looked as though he was about to burst into the tears. He was asking the same question on all our lips… ‘Why is this happening to us in every game?’.
However, the incidents provide a learning curve for the players, that they must remain disciplined and level headed throughout the game.
Certain teams like Bayern know exactly how to con the referee, as shown on match day one against Hoffenheim where Franck Ribery blatantly dived in the box and still managed to get a penalty out of it even upon review of the VAR.
It does beg the question of referees when such incidents occur, but it questions them even more when teams like Hertha never seem to get the calls in their favour either.
You can be as cautious as you like, one error and it’s all over yet again, but how does Dardai instil this into the players? Sometimes fouls cannot be helped, but you have to ask how on earth do so many penalties get given against the same team with at least 4 of them being questionable.

In the end it is immaterial. The truth is one has to play to the referees whistle. Caution is needed but don’t be too careful either or you lose concentration. Eventually it will have to be pounded into the players that they have to be disciplined in defending but still be firm and strong.

The Green Curse: Hertha lose in Bremen… the curse against the boys in Green. 

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Oh dear: Fabian Lustenberger accidentally takes the ball out of the safe hands of Rune Jarstein, leading to Bremen’s first goal.

It was a terrible game. A cold Tuesday night in Bremen. It wasn’t especially pleasant football weather, a stark contrast to how the last match was in Berlin just a few days before.
It wasn’t a typically entertaining game that followed either.
Both teams were unbeaten going into the match but it was also both teams that lacked any sort of flair and creativity in the first half.
There were a limited number of chances but it was Bremen that got all the luck. A free kick that looked to have been dealt with by Rune Jarstein was fluffed and somehow ended up in the back of the net from Martin Harnik, always a thorn in Hertha’s side.
Scrappy, the goal was something of a comedy of errors. As Jarstein went to collect the ball and pounce on it, Fabian Lustenberger hadn’t realised the ball was at his keepers fingertips. He went automatically to poke the ball away and clear, only to realise far too late that the ball was already safe. In doing so, Lustenberger steered the ball out of Jarsteins grasp and plucked it into the air for Harnik to poke it in.
A horror moment for Lustenberger and frustration for Jarstein as Hertha looked completely out of sorts in the midfield. The space left behind by the injured Grujic was being felt massively as Lustenberger had been pushed up into the defensive midfield and Karim Rekik had returned at centre back.
Before half time things only got worse for Hertha as Bremen made it two from a corner, another set piece. This time however there were question marks over whether there was a potential foul on Niklas Stark who appeared to be being held down by the goalscorer therefore unable to jump and make his challenge for the ball. The claims become more valid when you see the reaction on Stark’s face at the time, as he seems to be in pain. But the goal stood and Hertha were 2-0 down at half time.
The half had been extremely cagey and the free flowing football was non existent.
Second half, Hertha had a new look. Palko Dardai, son of coach Pal, had been given his first start but was replaced having failed to make an impact on the game. Salomon Kalou entered the fray as did Davie Selke late on.
Their introduction did not do much to help matters. Ibisevic had a few chances early in the half but it came to nothing.
Despite getting one back through Javairo Dilrosun, Hertha were laid to the penalty curse yet again, just as they were on top of the game and on the verge of levelling.
Again the decision was questionable as it almost mirrored the challenge Kevin-Prince Boateng made in the DFB Pokal Finale against Bayern.
But this one was given as Marvin Plattenhardt made a rash challenge in the box.
The mistake was not the challenge itself but the fact that he had no need to make it in the first place as the Bremen attacker was going nowhere and had his back to goal.
Needless to say the penalty was scored and Hertha ended the game with their first defeat of 3-1, a massive reality check for the Berliners who could now take defeat with a hint of optimism.
Having seen what the team is capable of on their day, it could now be seen what has to be worked on in training.  All the mistakes and errors were clear in this game, when you win it’s far too easy to only see what you do right, not what you’ve potentially done wrong.
So whilst the win over Borussia Monchengladbach was a triumph, no one had taken into account the two goals conceded in enough detail. You can learn from more from losing where you can see what went wrong, than from winning where, even if you payed poorly, you don’t take account of the poor display, just the three points.
It is a steep learning curve for the players who face their toughest challenge on Friday against Bayern Munich.
But from it can also seen some positives. Dilrosun is a star in the making having scored twice and had 3 assists in just 3 starts and 1 sub appearance.
Ibisevic still has the capability to score goals and the squad has a far better rotation than last season.
From the loss comes both positives and negative. It just depends how those points are taken on board.

VAR, get it right? Was it a red?: Bellarabi’s despair, a lucky Patrick Herrmann

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Pain: Marko Grujic is helped off the pitch after a horror tackle from Patrick Hermann

How is it that Karim Bellarabi received a straight red card for a challenge he made in match between Bayer Levekusen and Bayern Munich, when Patrick Herrmann made an almost identical challenge on Marko Grujic when Gladbach came to Berlin, only to receive a yellow?

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Ouch: This challenge by Herrmann led to Marko Grujic’s nasty injury. 

 

The challenge from Bellarabi was notably reviewed by VAR, however Herrmann’s destructive challenge on the Serb in Berlin was not. Grujic was forced to the leave the field in quite a bit of distress and was confirmed to have suffered ligament damage in the ankle meaning he would be out of the game for at least 6 weeks. He was seen on crutches the following day.
Challenges like this one was extremely dangerous, they can easily put a players careers at risk, but to not punish such challenges with a sending off is simply ludicrous. Despite Herrmann’s apologies after the incident, it doesn’t change the fact that Marko Grujic was left in agony and will now miss a chunk of the season. He may never return the same player, as injuries of this kind can ultimately have life long lasting effects on the players ability.
But Bellarabi made an almost identical challenge in his match up with Bayern and was indeed sent off, without much of a complaint either. Whilst both challenges looked like errors and accidental, the studs were showing, and it could’ve easily resulted in a leg or ankle break. By the law, this is endangering an opponent and therefore a straight red card and three match ban from football in the Bundesliga.
Regardless of the intent, the VAR did not review the challenge on Grujic and the Video Assistant did not even appear to make the referee aware of it. Perhaps they did not see it clearly, but from the images shown of the tackle later, it was quite obvious that the call was more than a little questionable.
Perhaps there is a vendetta with Hertha and the VAR system, with the amount of penalties given against them this season and now the VAR not even working in their favour for what is a clear and obvious error from the referee.
Meanwhile Grujic is left recovering from injury and supporting the team from the sidelines. It could be 6 weeks or more before he returns but come to think of it, he’s lucky he will recover, had the challenge been any higher up the leg it could’ve been a lot worse.

Finally a direction: Is this a sign of things to come? 

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Goalscorer: Valentino Lazaro takes on Gladbach

Hertha fans can finally look forward to games rather than dreading what they might see, with a team that can only mature and improve with the aid the older players. The balance is right and the mentality of attacking style football has brought in a brand perspective to the side that were previously accused of being ‘far too defensive’… but does that mean they are also left vulnerable at the back?
For once in Berlin there is true optimism, not the jokes that we make about the team beating everyone and becoming champions that we all take with a pinch of salt.
The direction of the style of play and the direction off the pitch finally seems to be a little clearer. With the types of signings being made it seems Hertha want to take a more progressive approach, by inviting young players and developing them into potentially stars rather than straight up buying ready made stars like Bayern do.
This system allows young talents to emerge and get their chance in a top flight division such as the Bundesliga rather than slumbering in academies in England waiting for a chance that will never come so long as those clubs have billions in the bank.
By doing so it emulates a little Berlin pride too, with Arne Maier, Jordan Torunarigha, Palko Dardai, Flo Baak, Maximilian Mittelstadt all coming through the youth systems to make appearances for the senior side. There are also plenty more to come, with Hertha investing in young talent from outside of their own pool in Berlin, such as Javairo Dilrosun and Pascal Kopke.
This is in a way, how the success of the 1990’s/2000’s Manchester United team started.
‘You can’t win anything with kids’ said Alan Hansen in 1995, for BBC’s “Match of the Day”. He was of course speaking about the Man Utd team that would go on to become one of the most, if not the most successful club, in the world.
The problem these days is simple… money and competition. So long as Bayern have the cash the buy the likes of James, and spend however much they like on new targets like Benjamin Pavard and Leon Bailey, there’s never going to be any competition in the league any more. They poach the best of the competition and strengthen themselves by also weakening their opponents.
The direction Hertha is taking is more one of pride than anything else. These players may never become world beaters. But the path set for them in Berlin is clear, they’re here to learn and adapt and to gain as much experience as possible. It’s a club players seemingly like being a part of. Marko Grujic is only on loan for the season but has seemingly embraced being a part of the club and Berlin it seems. Davie Selke had interest from the Premier League over the summer but chose to stay at Hertha because he was happy in Berlin and with the club.
If players wants to be here and represent the club with honours, that is something that has already been achieved.
The aim for the future must surely be the European spots and getting Hertha out onto the world stage, perhaps not becoming a global success but gaining attention in all the right ways.
Off the pitch the story is similar, the idea of holding training sessions in the various Berlin districts as well as dedicating a home match to each district is nothing short of incredibly positive. Whilst there are still niggles and little varying issues between supporters and management, there has to eventually be some middle ground between the two. To fans, the attempt to bridge the divide feels a little like an attempt at appeasement for attempting some questionable marketing ploys in the past, along with the change of ‘Einlauflied’ for the first home game of the season. Now however, if things go right on the pitch, the blame will not always fall on the board and management. You always find if there is harmony on the pitch, there is more than likely to be harmony off it too. If the team begins to fail however, there will always be ‘someone to blame’ in the backroom staff for it, even if that’s not true.
The direction looks clear now. Entertaining and attacking football on the pitch and an attempt to connect the city and club off it. Simple, but simple things have the tendency to become over complicated if results don’t go your way.

Healing process: What happens when the squad is complete?

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Farewell?: Despite scoring in a friendly against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf, players like Per Ciljan Skjelbred could find playing this season difficult

The likes of Lustenberger, Skjelbred, Esswein, Darida, Pekarik, Leckie, Klunter, Kopke and even Selke could struggle to get into the team when the squad has a complete line up.
The phrase “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ comes to mind. The team that played the matches against Schalke and Gladbach were by far the strongest but unfortunately the team is ‘broken’.
With Torunarigha and Grujic out changes have to be made.
When players don’t get starting positions their focus tends to drift towards looking at other options. All players want playing time, but when something is clearly working Dardai cannot simply appease them by changing it up. Some of these players currently not regulars may, to put it bluntly, just not be good enough in comparison to the players coming into the squad. For example, it now looks impossible to drop the likes of Ibisevic, Duda and Dilrosun as they’ve had such fantastic starts to the campaign this season.
But Dardai does want to rotate… just who do you rotate? Maier and Skjelbred? Dilrosun and Leckie? Lazaro and Darida? Esswein and who? It’s tough because it looks like a compromise, playing lesser players to more skilled ones but it also depends on the type of game and the strategy being used. A more defensive minded game may require the likes of Skjelbred and Lustenberger, a more attacking outlook may see Dilrosun needed in the midfield. Ibisevic is also aging, and during busy weeks, he will need to be rested at some point, so Selke should have no problems there.
Goalkeeper rotation shouldn’t pose an issue either. Jarstein’s early season performances have cemented his place as the number 1 but Thomas Kraft is a more than capable backup and he will get his chance against Bayern due to an injury suffered by Jarstein in the Bremen game.
The midfield becomes more complicated. Hertha have a number of defensive and attacking midfielders in their squad that will want to play as much as possible.
Klunter Kopke and Essewein has hardly made the matchday squad and Skjelbred has only just been reintroduced as a measure due to the injury to Marko Grujic.
When players don’t play regularly they end up wanting to leave the club or being loaned out and no one wants to see that happen.
The trick may be rotation but its successful rotation, depending on the match in question. The question is now, can Dardai do it successfully?

And in regards to the game against Bayern… is it possible to win or draw?
Of course it’s entirely possible. Anything is a possibility… it will be a terribly difficult task but their draw to Augsburg on Tuesday showed that they are vulnerable and no where near perfect. Whilst Bayern fans argue it was a ‘weakened’ squad the only true weakened position was the centre forward, with mediocre Wagner replacing Robert Lewandowki. He may be back for the match up in Berlin but remember this squad has barely changed since the last encounter in the capital in which Hertha came back to draw 2-2 after going 2-0 down.
That said, the odds swing strongly in the favour of the Bavarians but the pressure is all on them to perform. If Hertha lose, no one will be too disgruntled, because it’s expected. But anything else and it’ll be a cause for celebration to mark how far the club has come from relegation favourites to top half table candidates.

 

Feature: Marko Grujic (Get well soon buddy)

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Serbian force: Grujic has shown his Premier League experience so far.

“I’m ok… it doesn’t hurt so much. I’ll be alright” says Marko Grujic as he leaves the Hertha training ground on crutches late Sunday morning. For all the pain he must’ve suffered the previous afternoon, tearing a ligament in his ankle, he seemed cheerfully optimistic.
In England, we know Grujic quite well from his limited number of Premier League appearances.
The Serbian on loan from Liverpool, proved his worth in his first few appearances, he almost immediately became a starting player in Pal’s 11.
But the horror challenge from Patrick Herrmann against Gladbach saw the bulky midfielder leave the pitch, limping away with the help of the physio’s. The damage caused was worse than first feared. Grujic had suffered a nasty tear to ligaments in the ankle, he’s now expected to be sidelined for at least 6 weeks, just after putting in an almighty shift against Gladbach that afternoon.
When the challenge came in it was immediately obvious something was wrong. Grujic is not the type to roll around crying out trying to get a free kick. This time, he was down for a number of minutes, appearing to be in agony. It was clear he couldn’t continue but upon revision of the tackle that lead to the Serb being subbed off, it was clear that Patrick Herrmann, despite being apologetic later, should’ve been sent off.
The images are quite horrifying. Grujic’s leg is seen at a shuddering angle, any movement and he could’ve easily have had his leg broken.
Many have said, if upon his return, he remains as strong and productive as he had before his injury throughout the season, Hertha may have to search for the cash to buy him from Merseyside.
There was no buy option in his loan deal, but it could change, however the price tag attached would be mightily heavy… could Hertha risk that?
If he continues to play as he had, then it may well be worth the risk.
Grujic is incredibly powerful, has excellent control of the ball and finds space. From intercepting, he quickly releases the ball to begin counters or simply holds it up until there are more options. For such a big guy, he certainly doesn’t lack pace either.
Until his untimely departure against Gladbach, he’d been one of the candidates for man of the match. His hold up play had been fantastic and his awareness as well had been on point.
During the match against Bremen on Tuesday, his absence was clearly felt, is the midfield almost crumbled and was non existent without him.
What’s more, he seems to have a great relationship with the captain Vedad Ibsievic, despite the two being from neighbouring nations in Bosnia and Serbia. Politics plays no role in football, especially not politics of this sort, as matters in the Balkan’s are always very complicated, but Grujic spoke highly of Ibisevic, which from the outside perspective is incredibly positive.
It has been clear from Grujic’s performances that he has spent time in the Premier League and has that experience. His style reflects that of the English top flight, something really only seen in clubs like Bayern Munich, who can afford superstars from the worlds most competitive league.
As Pal Dardai said in an interview, ‘we are not used to the talents of players like Grujic at Hertha, we very rarely have that class of player in Berlin’. The shame is that now, he will sit out at least several weeks if not a few months in order to recover from the injury he received. It’s a setback for both Hertha and Liverpool but more so for Grujic, who’s loan to the capital club was part of a chance to gain game time and match experience.
The best hope is that he, like Davie Selke, recovers quicker than expected. The doctors at Hertha are fully capable of taking care of the big Serb, but his absence will be felt until he returns to the side. He won’t be taken back to Liverpool to recover it was confirmed but rest assured the medical staff in Berlin are capable of ensuring his recover will be as speedy and successful as possible and he won’t be unsettled by moving around.

 

HAHOHE!

Unbeaten, unfazed, undone?: Wolfsburg, Duda and elfmeter problems

The international break saw a few of the boys from Berlin making appearances for their nations. The new UEFA Nations League has provided a little more competition to the international friendly scene but very few of the players had success with their respective nations. Whilst Rune Jarstein’s Norway won their friendly fixture, they were defeated by a lone goal against Bulgaria.
Ondrej Duda’s Slovakia won their friendly against Denmark (In which the Danes fielded an almost entirely amateur squad after a pay dispute with their players). However the Slovaks failed to win their Nations League tie against Ukraine and lost 1-0.
Meanwhile the young Hertha lads had a better time as Jordan Torunarigha and Arne Maier won 6-0 with the U21  and Dennis Jastrzembski played for the U18 national team.
It was difficult for Dardai having so many of the young players out for international duties as they missed the training with the rest of the team but open their return all seemed well in trying to prepare for the second away game in a row.
(Not to worry, there’s two consecutive home games coming) HUZZAH!

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Schade: Plattenhardt missed Germany’s games through injury but returned against Wolfsburg

Hertha remain unbeaten, however Rune Jarstein sadly does not. He was beaten twice against Wolfsburg in dramatic final three minutes at the Volkswagen Arena in a ‘top spiel’ between the top two teams beneath Bayern.
Only Bayern Munich’s winning streak remains unbroken after match day three, having pushed aside a quite frankly, terrible Leverkusen side who have yet to put in a decent performance this season let alone gain at least a point.
Until the 91st minute the game in Wolfsburg seemed as though it would be a typically boring draw… no one could’ve predicted what the last 2 minutes would hold. It turns out that the game tipped to be the most boring of match day 3, was actually the most exciting, and a point a piece may have proven to be a typical outcome but a vital lesson for the boys from Berlin… No one goal lead is safe, and your concentration is key until the very end… Never think about the final whistle before it actually sounds.

Bogey team Wolfsburg: The frustrating end to a madding afternoon

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“’e scores when he waaaaaants”: Duda has scored four times this season, and netted again in Wolfsburg

It would seem Hertha have some awful habits. Penalties and last minute conceding seem to be two of them. Bayern in 2016/17 in which Robert Lewandowski scored the latest ever Bundesliga goal (thanks to some lenient refereeing), again against Wolfsburg on matchday 3 this season. The men in green seem to be an ongoing problem for Hertha as both Wolfsburg and Bremen have proved difficult to defeat over the last three years.

Wolfsburg have become some what of a nuisance team for Berlin. Last season both games resulted in two draws, one exciting (3-3 draw away) and one boring (0-0 at home… terrible game followed by a terrible atmosphere around the ground afterwards).
The problem is this season but teams had a remarkable start winning 2 from 2 and both beating Schalke (although Wolfsburg defeated the Royal Blues at the Volkswagen Arena and Hertha had an away victory without conceding)
Rune Jarstein went into Saturday afternoon being the only keeper not to have conceded a single goal. Even Manuel Neuer had let one past him against Hoffenheim. It wasn’t down to a solid defense alone either. Jarstein faced an onslaught of shots against Schalke and saved a penalty against Nurnberg. He was to play a major role in the game against Wolfsburg as well.
There were formation issues for Hertha. Pal Dardai had suggested reverting to a 4-5-1 formation, something used quite a bit last season, rather than the new 3-4-3. However, he decided not to and allowed Jordan Torunarigha to start the game despite the youngster having been fatigued and missing one training session upon return from the international break where he played for the German youth side.
It was indeed a three at the back with Valentino Lazaro fitting into a makeshift right back position, something he did once as Mitchell Weiser was withdrawn from the home match against Köln last season.
Whilst did well then, it was apparent against Wolfsburg that he is not a natural defensive player, he is much more prone to being an attacking midfielder and the extensive defensive duties means he cannot be released by his teammates to create chances.
The first half was one of absolutely no stories to tell, the teams cancelled one another out with Wolfsburg exploiting space but Hertha dangerous on the counter and the away side only crafting once shot on goal. Kalou had the chance to score, but his shot was blasted over, and there was a much better option waiting with Ibisevic to his right hand side.

It would be a newbie to make the breakthrough. A lose ball in midfield was picked up by Javairo Dilrosun who sprinted in on goal to a tight angel to squeeze it past Casteels in the Wolfburg goal. It would not be the last time Dilrosun would score from an almost impossible angle.
An assist first appearance and now a start and a goal, Dilrosun has had nothing but a positive impact since putting on the blue and white shirt.
But there was controversy to follow.
What looked like a regular defenders challenge on Wolfsburg’s Maximilian Arnold by Arne Maier, was given as a foul just outside the box.
But interference from the VAR showed the challenge took place on the line therefore any ‘foul’ would have to be given inside the box.
The referee, having already decided it was a foul, had no choice but to award a penalty, but as Pal Dardai later stated in the post match press conference, there was no foul to begin with.
On closer inspection Maier’s challenge is clumsy, but Arnold is leaning back into the defender as the ball comes down, meaning when they both jump he’s already half way through crashing to the floor and is completely off balance anyway.
Arnold had been giving Hertha problems all game long, just being a general nuisance but much to the away sides annoyance he even admitted after the game that he had waited for Maier to make contact, meaning it was either a planned dive or Maier’s contact was heavier than it looked. It would seem the former is the truth of the matter.
When asked about it, Maier said that he knew what had happened and that Arnold had purposefully waited for contact, and whilst it was annoying he could not change the referee’s decision.
One thing debated that works in Hertha’s favour is that had this been further inside the box, it probably would’ve never been given. But since the referee deemed it a foul and then realised it was on the line, he had little choice but to give it without admitting he was wrong in the first place. Had the VAR never drawn his attention to the spot of ball, it would’ve remained a free kick. Another example of how VAR potentially undermines the position of the referee.
Unfortunately for Jarstein the penalty luck had run out. Whilst he guessed the right way, there was no stopping the powerful shot.
So close and yet so far, Hertha had allowed another last minute penalty and this time it had counted.
No one expected the drama of the last 3 minutes.
91 minutes in, with Klünter now on the field as an extra defender, Ondrej Duda and Marvin Plattenhardt stood over a free kick just outside the box.
Duda, having scored a free kick before the international break in Gelsenkirchen,  later revealed he’d politely asked Plattenhardt if he could take the dead ball… Plattenhardt agreed. As the wall jumped, Duda spotted the the potential gap left in its place and speared the ball underneath it, fooling the wall and Casteels in goal. It beat him, just tricking past him. Hertha were 2-1 up with 2 minutes left in the game. Cue wild celebrations from Pal Dardai.
But the euphoria of the late goal allowed the split second lapse in concentration of the defenders. A hopeful long ball into the area, headed on by former Hertha boy John Brooks, was poked past Jarstein who had no chance to get to the ball before it whistled past him.
The error was clear on replay, that both Stark and Lazaro, the two on the back post, were miles off marking Brooks, the defenders mistimed any challenge, allowing Brooks to head the ball on and there will no one there to win the second ball either. Closer knit defending on that far post would’ve meant the ball could be cleared away… but it wasn’t and that tiny lapse in concentration allowed the Wolves to equalise in the last minute.
It took 90 minutes for the game to actually spring into life but the ending was something out of a paperback thriller novel. Totally bonkers, with there being no clue as to what the final line would be.
But to take away a point away from home against another unbeaten side whilst good is frustrating when you deserve to win the game. Wolfsburg offered very little other than the few shots they had saved. Creatively the game was pretty even but over all Hertha looked the stronger team always with a backup plan, something Labbadia and Wolves look as though do not have and something that will eventually be Wolfsburg’s downfall when they face opponents that can work them out. Wolfsburg rode their luck in all three games that they’ve played. Hertha have too in a way, but perhaps not relied on it as much.
The positives are that from a draw you can learn from both the positive and negatives of your own game, your own style and your own mistakes.
Dardai will inevitably spot the errors that lead to the second goal and work on them, he may change his approach against Gladbach who are a much stronger, creative team. Having also started well, with two wins and a draw, Gladbach will be no pushovers but if Dardai can analyse and correct the errors made in this game, Hertha have a decent chance to get a point or three at home.
It was shown once again that this is a developing, young and progressive team. With more practice, space to learn and adapt and self belief, especially with Duda being as in form as he is, and goalscorers being young players with room to improve like Dilrosun, surely it looks bright for Hertha rather than dark.
The worry comes from whether or not the team can keep up the good performances for weeks to come, the motivation needs to remain high.

Elfmeter what?: The Penalty Problem. The VAR debate continues.

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Not again: Hertha have conceded a penalty in every single game they’ve played

What is the one thing defenders are always told? Keep you hands DOWN.
The term ‘natural position’ is up for debate and hand balls and penalty decisions are often a matter of opinion. There are guidelines set aside to help with the decision making but it doesn’t always perform the task required as the referee still has to decide from themselves whether they think the player opposed the guidelines and whether or not the foul/handball was an incident worthy of agreeing the guidelines were broken. Ultimately it all comes down to the referee, and whether they believe the matter in question is worthy of a penalty. Same will say yes, other will disagree, it is all a matter of opinion.
Unfortunately that is also the problem with VAR. Regardless of whether it used it still comes down to the referees opinion of what actually happened. It means so far, the referees role in the game hasn’t been made redundant so long as they do not side with the video assistant without taking a look at the incident themselves first. If they choose to just trust the video assistant,  then the referee is not doing the job required of them, they are allowing a third party to do it for them.
The fear in Germany remains, that referees, despite still having that final say on any decision, may be regarded as obsolete. Whilst terrible refereeing decisions cause a stir, it’s ultimately a part of the game even if not everyone is happy with their decision.

Sadly for Hertha, they’ve been on the end of a few questionable refereeing decisions in all three of their opening games. Even with the interference of VAR the final decision has always gone against them, calling into question whether the VAR works at all and whether or not it’s in any shape or form biased or unfair.
On match day 1, Nurnberg were awarded a penalty for a handball in which Karim Rekik was penalised. The issue was whilst Rekik’s arm was raised it looked as though it was done in an attempt to shield his face as he went to block the ball. Jarstein saved the penalty but it was debatable as to whether he should’ve had to in the first place.
In some cases it would be deemed harsh because of the circumstances but it did hit the hand. No one really noticed it until a handful of Nurnberg players protested.
The same could be said of the hand ball against Schalke. Although this time is was very much deserved. Not only did Marko Grujic have his hand raised above his head but it touched his finger tips. VAR was correctly used for this one but the penalty was missed anyway.
Against Wolfsburg the referee had initially given a free kick. The VAR alerted him to the fact it could’ve well been inside the penalty area.
The issue here is that had that challenge actually been in the box, not on the borderline, it would never have been given, it would’ve been seen as a 50/50 challenge in which Arnold just crumbled under the challenge from Maier.
If you watch back the challenge, it was extremely harsh to begin with. As the ball comes back towards the box, Maier makes the challenge Arnold is already both backing into his defender and leaning forwards, his back is arched meaning he’s clearly waiting for contact to be made (Which he even admitted to later).
By that standard the ‘foul’ is not a ‘foul’ at all but as the referee had already decided it was a free kick, when he was shown the evidence it was inside the box or rather on the line, he couldn’t reverse the decision on the foul and so had to give a penalty…
It’s an extremely unfortunate predicament for the referee to be in because he made the initial decision for the free kick knowing he’d never have given it had it been further inside the area. To reverse it entirely makes him look stupid, but there was no where near enough of a challenge to give a penalty.
It also questions the VAR in its validity. It was introduced to be used when ‘A clear error has occurred’.
If the error is not clear, if the referees decision cannot be 100% overturned because it’s an error, then he cannot overturn it, that’s the simple rule of the VAR usage… however it’s never that simple. Referees could well become reliant on the assistant to change their opinion. Players can also sway their pinion by protesting, even atmosphere’s can influence a referees decision making. If there is even the slightest doubt that the decision is incorrect then it should not be overturned. Goal line technology isn’t such a debatable matter as it is a clear yes or no answer… did the ball entirely cross the line? Yes or no? There is no opinion needed.
But a foul or handball is always a matter of opinion. As are red and yellow cards, such as Bellarabi’s red card against Bayern… was it red? Some say yes some say no.
Was Arnold fouled by Maier? Arnold himself says he waited for the challenge, Pal Dardai said it clearly wasn’t a foul.
VAR can be questioned but so too can the referees themselves. Remember the video is just playback of what’s happened on the pitch. It is the referee that actually decides but should they allowed to influenced or change their minds so easily or should they allow the game to flow without the interference of another official?

Number 10, He scores when he wants: Ondrej Duda the revelation, Lazaro… out of position, Plattenhardt ist zuruck and Selke returns.

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Come back: Davie Selke returned from injury far sooner than expected

Is Ondrej Duda about to steal Plattenhardt’s crown as ‘free kick king?’
Is Lazaro being played out of position because of injuries?
Is Rekik the biggest loss?
Will Selke replace Ibisevic and if so, who will captain?
Is it the end for Skjelbred?
There are many questions, not all can be answer at the moment, only time can tell what will transcend this season. One thing looks more certain… it looks bright. These young talents can only grow, although the defending has to improve, the attacking options are plentiful and their talent can’t be questioned.

To begin with, Marvin Plattenhardt’s place at Hertha BSC had been questioned long before the start of the season. Because of the World Cup, the left back was attracting the attention of a number of clubs, in particular from the Premier League.
Whilst Michael Preetz claimed he was open to any offer deemed to be enough for the highly regarded defender but the “Free Kick King” of Hertha remained in Berlin as the window closed and said he was more than focused on the upcoming season with ‘Die Alte Dame’.
He may well now be facing stiffer competition. The new 3-4-3 system allows a spot of Jordan Torunarigha, who was thought to be considering a move due to lacking of playing and or starting time in the squad. After an agreement was reached, there was a starting spot for the bright rising star, as well as the star free kick taking left back, but Plattenhardt’s speciality may be about to be stolen away by another rising star.
Ondrej Duda has had a remarkable start to the season, scoring three goals in two games, (now four on five) two of which have been free kicks.
According to Duda, he politely asked Plattenhardt if he could take the free kick in the 91st minute against Wolfsburg, to which his team mate agreed with ease. Duda ended up scoring.
But is Plattenhardt’s position under any kind of threat?
The answer should be yes, because the number 21 is well known for his wicked left footed free kicks. However, his defensive abilities are therefore often forgotten about and he is a more than capable and experienced left back.
But it was his performance against Eintracht Braunschweig is one of the reasons that Plattenhardt’s position in the team remains cemented.
Having scored from a thunderous shot from open play (the first goal from open play in his career), he proved his worth in what was to be an incredibly difficult game against a tricky opponent in a hostile environment. Whilst there is always speculation over the future of German national team players, Plattenhardt will be considered a integral part of the team as he remains a Hertha player. Whilst his position as “Free kick King” may be shared for now with Ondrej Duda, he his position as the first left back remains fully in tact and his assists are incredibly important.

Injuries are always an issue. When Plattenhardt missed the international break it proved that Hertha still may struggle with the balance of rotation. They’ve invested heavily in attacking players whilst leaving the back line slightly vulnerable.
At the moment the injury list is growing with the likes of Leckie (now back in training), Rekik, Darida, Torunarigha and during the Wolfsburg game Maximilian Mittlestadt, it means that defenders especially, are becoming more difficult to find and the squad rotation is becoming increasingly difficult, especially as Dardai’s new formation was just beginning to show its strengths against Schalke.
It also means that since Jordan Torunarigha was injured against Wolfsburg, and again with the injury to Karim Rekik, Valentino Lazaro had become somewhat of a makeshift rightback.
Whilst he did an adequate job last season when Mitchell Weiser was taken off against Koln, and Mathew Leckie was brought on in his place (Leckie is in no way a defender), Lazaro’s natural position is the wings, and to be placed into a dual position with right back duties consistently is not a good way to get the best out of him as a player, as it limits his strengths which includes assists, dribbling and pace. He can’t execute these skills nearly as often as needed when he’s being forced back into what is an unnatural position for him.
But the addition of Javairo Dilrosun, who’s introduction notably changed the complexion of both the game against Schalke and Wolfsburg, means that Lazaro is pushed back more often. The problem is with both Torunarigha and Rekik missing there’s two centre backs missing.  Plattenhardt or Mittelstadt usually take up the position on the left. Plattenhardt’s injury meant that against Schalke this was Mittelstadt’s position (More effective than when he was left wing/ one of three forwards against Nurnberg).
Whilst Lukas Klunter is an option at right back, he’s not yet made a start for Hertha, perhaps because of what’s been seen from him in training, however it poses a problem… change the formation, or play several players out of their natural position and push them out of their comfort zone at the risk of them failing their new occupations… and failing means conceding goals.
Notably the formation against Wolfsburg had to change because of the Wolves style of play and the injuries Hertha already had.
Lazaro was playing a deeper, right back position and struggled in the game to be released and cause the mayhem he is accustomed to causing for opposition defenders.
However, Dilrosun shone and because of his position it made it impossible to include Lazaro anywhere else on the field. Once injured, Torunarigha was subbed for Fabian Lustenburger, a central defender.
This didn’t help the formation, it remained the same, but it could’ve been altered for that Klunter took up right back, Plattenhardt the left, and Stark alone down the middle, with Lazaro helping on defensive duties but mostly played on the right wing.
The risk there is that the central defense is then sparse and Stark is left to deal with oncoming attacks almost completely alone.
Although the formation of 4 at the back ultimately worked, it only really did so once Dilrosun entered the field.
The same was said when Rekik left the field injured against Schalke, again Dilrosun’s introduction changed the game, so his loss has not shown the most major impact yet.
His speed caused Wolfsburg massive problems, but that right back spot was still an issue for Hertha. It was a lapse in concentration in the final minute from Stark, Lustenberger and Lazaro that allowed John Brooks to win the header that set up the Wolfsburg goal for 2-2.
It’s a stick and twist game. Does Dardai stick with his 3-4-3 and ultimately bench one of his starters, which is unfair, or does he changed the formation to fit the injury list? Does he even give a chance to one of the new youngsters such as Luckassen or even Florian Baak to help out, is it worth the risk?
In Dardai we must trust.

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Like a fine wine, better with age: Despite Selke’s return, Ibisevic has started every game and scored three times

Davie Selke’s return to the team could spell more difficulties in team selection. Whilst Ibisevic is not as prone to complaining about being left out of the starting line up, as he’s growing older and is on the verge of retirement, it does beg the question as to who would captain the side if he were to be left out.
With Lustenberger and Skjelbred not being regular starters either this season, it would suggest there was to be a new captain but with such a young team, who could take the armband from Ibisevic and does Selke being fit spell the end for Ibisevic as  a starting forward.
It’s experience over age, pace and skill here. Ibisevic knows how to captain, it also helps reign in his more Balkan-like tendencies (An explosive temper is one of them). Captaincy allows him to remain calm because he has no choice but to set an example to the team and he’s a leader for youngsters coming through. Marko Grujic, A Serb, said that Ibisevic had helped him settle in at Hertha because he was a leader.
But if Selke is to start ahead of Ibisevic and Skjelbred and Lustenberger are not regulars it falls to the best candiate, the most level headed and possibly the oldest of the players.
Usually this means a defender, as they have the best vision as to what’s happening on the pitch, they see everything in front of them, where as forwards have to look back over their shoulders to get an idea of what’s happening around them.
There have been suggestions that perhaps Niklas Stark could take the armband if needed, however still young it may take a few more seasons for him to gain that responsibility.
Rune Jarstein could be a candidate as well. Vocal, opinionated, passionate, he does have what it takes to captain the side and he remains the oldest along with Ibisevic in the team.
He’s not taken up the role yet but it is a possibility.
With that question comes the more recent one regarding Per Skjelbred, who said he would sign a new years contract extention if it were offered to him in Berlin.
The issue is that Skjelbred has not been in the squad this season, until the games against Wolfsburg last week.
It’s not because he is out of favour, there has just simply been little room for him with the others around him playing so well.
The upside for Skjelbred is that he did make the team against Wolfsburg although he did not appear inside the 90 minutes on the pitch. The Viking however did play in the friendly against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break and even managed to score a goal, something he was overly excited about since he is not known for his scoring abilities.
Players such as Skjelbred and Lustenberger are difficult to come across in modern day football. Their loyalty to Hertha BSC is something that has a place in the fans hearts. Despite losing out on a starting position, they’ve expressed they would like to remain at the club. Lustenberger has been a Herthaner for over 10 years now. Both Skjelbred and Lustenberger have been with Hertha through relegation and promotion battles.
Loyalty is something lost these days in the modern world of football… however players with their type of attitude and commitment are highly valued.

Focus: Javairo “Jeff” Dilrosun 

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Shining brightly: Javairo Dilrosun has 3 starts, and already 4 assists and 2 goals

Rejected by Manchester City and forced to play in the reserves, no one really paid much attention to Javairo Dilrosun… so when Hertha announced his signature in the summer of 2018, no one knew what to expect.
Hertha scouts attending Premier League 2 matches for reserve teams of the worlds most competitive and richest league, hints even more at what Hertha want to achieve, in other words, developing young players into what the club wants.
Dilrosun was no exception. He began his career in Berlin on the bench, until the match against Schalke when the injury to Karim Rekik forced him off.
Dilrosun became the new midfield force and impressed from the moment he stepped onto the field with his pace and dribbling ability as well as the determination to track back and help out defensively. It meant that the likes of Lustenberger and then Torunarigha were forced into more defensive duties but Dilrosun seemed to be a player not content with just attacking. In the match against Borussia Monchengladbach he was seen constantly helping out the defender in closing down.
His impressive display in Gelsenkirchen which included an assist for Ondrej Duda’s first goal of the game, rubbed off on Pal Dardai, who gave Dilrosun his first start for Hertha against Wolfsburg in the following game.
This time, Dilrosun not only played remarkably well, he also scored to put Hertha ahead against the Wolves. Despite the result not being the three points, Dilrosun made an everlasting impression, his skill and pace as well as his young age means he can only get even better. He’s provided more assists than anyone yet this season, two more of those came against Gladbach in the following fixture and one more goal in a loss to Werder Bremen. In just four games, only three starting, Dilrosun has assisted three and scored two. Amazing stats for someone who was slumbering in the Manchester City reserves last season. He’s already becoming a fan favourite at the Olympiastadion. It only goes to prove once again, the potential talent pool that is being wasted in England’s top leagues, all because of clubs ability to purchase whoever they like for however much they like. Whilst the Premier League is competitive, it doesn’t allow the likes of Dilrosun to develop further in their career where as a move to the Bundesliga and to clubs like Hertha, it allows youngsters the playing time they crave to develop into stronger, more mature players that can only get better and better as they grow older.
Imagine… if this is Javairo now, what on earth is he going to be like in a few years time with dozens of games under the belt.
Showing discipline as well and maturity at a young age is also important, and something that Dilrosun does not lack. He’s behaved well on the pitch and showed professionalism throughout his games so far.
Youngsters have time to learn more and more with every passing moment. Dilrosun is a prime example of the bright future Berlin could have.

 

HAHOHE

 

In Berlin… you can be anything…: New season, same Hertha… or is it?

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Preseason: Ibisevic and Selke at the training camp in Austria

It’s that time of year. The Pokal first round is done, the draw has been made and the Bundesliga has officially begun for the 2018/19 season.

But Hertha is still Hertha. Same old Berlin, same old problems, same old same old, but is there eternal hope for this coming season?iih
Is it “the same old Hertha”?
“You can’t win anything with kids” a famous English man once said about Manchester United.
That season United won the title and went on to become one of the worlds most dominant and successful clubs.
Is anything possible in Berlin?
Maybe…
Maybe not…
Who knows?
It’s been a long time since Hertha BSC won their opening two games of the season, but times could well be changing since in 2018/19, that is exactly what they have done.

What’s been happening in the world of Hertha BSC? Well…. to be honest, a hell of a lot and not all of it positive, as is always the way with the Herthaner.

World Cup Misery: Hertha boys shine bright but fail

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World Cup Misery: Marvin Plattenhardt and Germany fell well short in Russia

With Genki Haraguchi leaving for Hannover in the summer just before the world cup, Mathew Leckie and Marvin Plattenhardt were the two representatives of Hertha BSC on the worlds biggest stage.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for either of their nations.
Plattenhardt’s and Germany’s path would be the more shocking of the two, with an unbelievable fall from grace for ‘Die Mannschaft’.

Australia are never expected to be a major success at international competitions but their gutsy performance against France gave them a shot at progressing.
Leckie was by far the best and most impressive player of the tournament for the Socceroos, his pace and skill caused problems for every team the Aussies faced. But his talents weren’t good enough to help them team advance to the knockout stages as Australia crashed out in the groups.
Leckie however, received huge praise for his performances despite not scoring.
Marvin Plattenhardt on the other hand, would be always be playing second fiddle to Jonas Hector in Germany’s line up.

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Battle until the end: Mathew Leckie’s Australia team were knocked out but put up a mighty battle against eventual world champions France

It was a surprise to see Plattenhardt’s name appear on the starting line up team sheet against Mexico… although it was down to Hector suffering an illness.
Sadly for Platte, his call up would not be one to remember.
Germany were abysmal and fell massively short as they were defeated 1-0 by the Mexicans and with Hector returning from illness the following game, Plattenhardt’s time in the line up was limited to the bench.
Whilst Toni Kroos’s last second free kick earned a win against the Swedes, it was the game against South Korea that would prove to be the most diabolical performance by a German team this decade.
Clueless, with no constructive ideas, no team work and a lack of chemistry, Germany were so poor during their match against Korea, that even an undeserved victory would not have appeased the German supporters. From beginning to end, it was an utter mess.
At 1-0 down, and needing a win, Neuer came down field for the final seconds and ended up playing left wing… for no reason whatsoever, in fact the decision was a foolish one. Neuer hadn’t been as stellar as he had the previous world cup and the lengthy lay off he had with injury, which lead to Bayern employing Sven Ulreich as their number 1 for almost the entire season, showed up here. Sadly Manu only proved here that he may not have been up to the challenge. His usual cool was gone, concentration was vacant and his decision making was just incredibly naive.
That isn’t to say the rest of the German team weren’t  at fault.  The likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Timo Werner and Jerome Boateng were all poor by their standards and Boateng in particular had a nightmare of a tournament.
They fully deserved to be eliminated, the first time they had not made the last 16 since 1938 (Oh deary me, insert pun here about the war… or actually, no, please don’t).
Plattenhardt had played little part in the downfall of the German national team at the world cup, in fact the one game he did contribute to and there were rumours circulating that Toni Kroos has refused to pass to Plattenhardt because he “Did not trust him with the ball”.
Problems like this, rumors of discord circulating, doesn’t bode well for team morale or harmony. In fact above all, it makes the team looks like fools. The entire campaign had been a disaster from start to finish and the plane leaving early from Russia was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened as it forces Germany to take a step back and look at themselves thoroughly before the next major competitions.
The cracks had been showing ever since their monumental triumph at the 2014 world cup, and suddenly the dam had finally burst. The cracks could not be papered over any more, even the win against Sweden was not well and truly deserved but rather, was extremely fortunate.
What’s more the blame cannot be laid on the fact that Joachim Low decided to leave Leroy Sane at home either. This was a team issue, not an individual one and only time will tell if the German national team can be mended before the next Euros.
Plattenhardt has made his world cup debut, but it won’t be one to remember. It’s a real shame the team performed so badly, as Platte’s performance wasn’t one that could be criticised.

“Lined with palm trees and all these new faces”: Berlin newcomers

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Like father like son: Pascal Kopke joined Hertha from Aue. His father played for “Die Alte Dame” as a goalkeeper

Departures are inevitable during the summer break, especially since some obscure little competition called “the World Cup” was taking place.
Hertha fans were already well aware that Mitchell Weiser would be leaving the club in the summer. It came as no surprise as young Weiser decided not to show his face during the last home game of the season at the Olympiastadion (when the likes of Julian Schieber did so).
Weiser’s move to Bayer Leverkusen was confirmed shortly after and his contract would become active on July 1st. The club of his choice was also not a surprise, as his father coaches at Bayer and his attitude in general during the 2017/18 season was poor. When you lose your ability to perform because of your attitude then there’s a serious problem and that is exactly what happened. The message from Hertha fans during his final appearance for the club (the first half as he was subbed off for Mathew Leckie at half time against FC Koln) was simple… ‘If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you here… so just go’… he got the message, despite the fact his mind was already made up by the looks of things.
Weiser’s departure was met with a mixed reaction. Some were glad to see the back of him and his attitude and others were disappointed that the club had lost, on his day, a fantastic right back. For many, Weiser’s final response to coach Pal Dardai was the final straw.
According to Dardai, he had asked Weiser if he wished to play in he final game of the season against RB Leipzig. Weiser’s response had been “I don’t know”. Rumours emerged that he had become lax at training and sluggish and that wasn’t through anyone else’s fault but his own. Weiser was dropped for the final game, but his decision not to even appear at the stadium to say goodbye to the supporters was not met well.
The complete opposite could be said for striker Julian “Julo” Schieber, who had not been offered a contract extension and would become a free agent at the end of the season.
His destination it turns out, would be FC Augsburg, but only a month after arriving in Bavaria, Schieber picked up yet another knee injury that will see him sidelined for the foreseeable future. It was that delicate knee that caused so many issues during his tenure with Hertha.
His final game of the season was against Red Bull Leipzig, as he was subbed in around the 50 minute mark and despite the terrible defeat that day, it was Schieber that took centre stage post match, celebrating with fans in the Ostkurve, even grabbing the microphone himself and joining in the customary chants.
Hence why ‘Julo’ became a player that will always have a special place in Berlin fans hearts, a respectful, funny and down to earth guy that always showed appreciation to the fans that made his job possible.
The final loss was that of Japanese midfielder Genki Haraguchi, who announced his move to Hannover 96 during the world cup.
Haraguchi had spent the second half of the 2017/18 out on loan at then Bundesliga 2 outfit Fortuna Dusseldorf,  who obtained promotion by winning the division on the final day of the season, pipping Nurnberg to the title.
His most memorable moment of the season had been his incredible assist against Bayern Munich in which he’d skipped past 3 German internationals, and instead of being greedy and taking the shot on himself, teed up Ondrej Duda to begin an epic comeback from 2-0 down to draw the match 2-2.
Haraguchi was willing to return but there seemed to be no foreseeable place for him in Pal Dardai’s plans and so, he was sold to Hannover for around 5m Euros.
With Weiser departing for a fee of 12.5 million, Hertha made a pretty neat profit, as the newbies brought into the side were not going to break the bank.

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Right back: Lukas Klunter was brought in from relegated FC Koln.

As FC Koln were relegated from the Bundesliga, many expected the majority of their stars to part ways with the club.
Miraculously, many did the complete opposite with the likes of Timo Horn and Jonas Hector signing new contracts with the club despite their demotion. It sent out the signal, that they planned of being back very soon.
It seems to be going well so far, but one player that did part ways with the Billygoats was right back Lukas Klunter.
Klunter would be employed to take up the position left vacant by Weiser.
Klunter and Weiser have played for the same youth German national teams, but Klunter has slightly less experience. For just 5 million Euros, the quick and young right back looks like a bargain… although based on some of Weiser’s performances last season, anyone would be an improvement on him purely for the attitude.

The only other player to actually cost anything at all was Pascal Kopke. Brought in to replace Julian Schieber,  Kopke had been top scorer at Aue in the Bundesliga 2, however they had just managed to escape relegation the previous season. Not even 2.5 million Euros, Kopke again, is young but not yet experienced.
His father is also linked to the club, having been a Hertha goal keeper but Kopke chose the play in a position at the other end of the pitch. Kopke proved he can score in the second division but the Bundesliga is a different matter entirely.
Only time will tell with players so young, but development for them is key.

The other new signings included free transfers, internal switches and loan deals.

Javairô Dilrosun, a young player brought in from Manchester City’s youth and reserve side, looks to be a bright star. Pacey and skilled he could be menace in midfield if given the playing time to develop. For now, he’ll most likely stick with Hertha II to help his development or he’ll be confined to the bench. With little to zero chance of him getting into the Manchester City first team, a move to Berlin was always a positive one.
Internal switches included the likes of U19 champions Muhammed Kiprit, who scored twice in the 4-0 home win of the championship semi final vs Dortmund.
Kiprit’s contract was in contention for some time before eventually an agreement was made. His team mate, Dennis ‘Jatze’ Jastrzembski (also known as DJ) was offered a contract with the professionals as well. ‘Jatze’ is a quick, versatile midfielder who is only 18 years of age but in this game, age means nothing. He’s one of the brightest talents to emerge out of the youth system. It was his assist that provided the winning goal in the DFB Pokal match against Braunschweig.
Two loan signings were also made in the very latter stages of the transfer window, one with a ‘to buy’ option and one without.
Liverpool’s Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic joined for a year for 1 million Euros, however there seems to be no purchase option on the player if he wishes to remain in Berlin… it looks as though if he doesn’t wish to return to Merseyside, Hertha may be paying a hefty fee for him, but if he has a decent season he could well be worth it.
With the aging the Skjelbred, a holding midfielder might be desperately needed this season and Grujic is strong, young but also experienced, something that Klunter and Kopke and Dilrosun lack.

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Fresh young blood: Dilrosun was brought in from Manchester City in the summer

The final addition (so far) has been the loan signing of Derrick Luckassen from PSV Eindhoven. A centre-back, he may the solution to some issues in the backline that have appeared early in the season as Pal Dardai desperately tries to make his new 3-4-3 formation work.
The signings are not expensive, they’re not flashy but it seems Michael Preetz has done well in the market, looking for talent that can be developed and molded to the teams design. It now all comes down to how Pal Dardai coaches these players and how they fit into his plans and his system.

Schuss! Tor! Hurrah: Hertha in Pokal

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Thank goodness for that: Vedad Ibisevic scores a minute after Braunschweig equalise

Last seasons DFB Pokal campaign was somewhat of a disastrous horror show at home.
Hertha were well and truly defeated to eventually relegated FC Koln… embarrassing from a Berliner’s perspective, especially considering that at that point, Koln had hardly won a Bundesliga game that season. Their win in Berlin was a rare taste of victory.
All that after only two years before, Hertha had made it to the semi finals where they lost out to Borussia Dortmund.  It as Dortmund that would knock them out again in 2016/17.
But like the FA Cup, the DFB Pokal is the stage for upsets and the first round this season proved that point, with the likes of St Pauli falling to lower league opposition, semi professional clubs. Even Dortmund had struggled to defeat lower league opposition.
Hertha were subject to the final day of matches against a tough opponent in third tier Eintracht Braunschweig, who were relegated on the last day of the season in the previous Bundesliga 2 campaign as they were sunk 6-2 by Holstein Kiel. (Ironically, Hertha also lost their last game of the season by the same scoreline to RB Leipzig)

Playing teams from the lower division is notoriously difficult. There’s almost no pressure on teams such as Braunschweig to dominate or even play well at all. The pressure is always on the team from the higher division, because losing would call into question just how their season will pan out and it’ll put pressure on the players by messing with their mindset, especially since the Bundesliga season hasn’t begun at this point. However the lower tiers of the German football pyramid have started, meaning the likes of Braunschweig have already had competitive matches.
But the likes of St Pauli had already fallen to lower league opposition in the cup before the Monday night clash between Hertha and Eintracht.
The 3-4-3 formation is something new for Hertha and something Pal Dardai is keen to get right to bring more attacking flare to the side. It can result in far more exciting football, but the risk is that defensively it can leave huge gaps and lead to mistakes.
It showed here.
Hertha did dominate the game in possession but Eintracht were solid and there seemed to be no way through.
It took a piece of Marvin Magic to break through the yellow and blue wall. When a free kick swung in from Lazaro on the right flank.
It wasn’t the worse delivery nor was it the best as the home side’s keeper punched it well clear, only for Marvin Plattenhardt to smash it on the volley with his favoured left foot right into the keepers top left hand corner.

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Stunner: Marvin Plattenhardt celebrates with Maximilian Mittelstadt, after an incredible opening goal

Cue a shocked response, it was the first open play goal Marvin Plattenhardt has ever scored in his career with all his 6 previous goals coming from direct free kicks.
A moment to savour for Germany’s second choice left back, who was linked heavily with a move to the Premier League in the summer transfer window.
But everyone knows one is never enough and unfortunately for Hertha that point was proven in the 81st minute.
The chances had been few and far between but Braunschweig had been creative in front of their own supporters, testing a wobbly Hertha defense. They were rewarded when Hertha’s defensive unit seemingly imploded, with 5 players clustering around the ball and mis-timing challenges, allowed a strike to be taken and find its way past Jarstein.
But Hertha did not want extra time and so, seconds after being pegged back, Dennis Jastrzembski, the 18 year old who had been subbed on, set up Vedad Ibisevic who made it 2-1 in the 83rd minute.
Hertha managed to hang on to the that, taking the victory as well as some valuable lessons as to what would need improving before the season opener against Nurnberg in Berlin.

 

Nur nach…. what?!: “WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?”

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Tradition: 25 Years Hertha’s song has been ‘Nur Nach Hause’

Is 24 hours before something happens, what you would consider “in advance”?
No, me neither.
But that’s what the powers that be considered to be “notice” when the ‘Einlauflied’ was tampered with just a day before the opening home fixture against newly promoted FC Nurnberg.
The song as the Hertha team enters the pitch has been Frank Zander’s ‘Nur Nach Hause’ for the past 25 years. Since the Hertha amateur’s success in reaching the DFB Pokal final (in the days where reserve sides were allowed to compete), the song has been Hertha BSC’s hymne and has been sung at every home game since then.
It’s is part of the club itself, a sacred anthem that, when sung aloud by the fans before kick off, sends shivers down the spine. It’s something in which the players can not only hear, but they can feel, as they prepare themselves for the oncoming challenge. It’s a moment in which the thousands of Hertha fans, who may be total strangers or not see eye to eye in other walks of life, from all over the city, or even the World, come together and sing for their beloved team. Just for a minute or two, thousands of people sing their hearts out for Hertha. We all share our adoration for our team and our city. It has been that way for a quarter of a century. The song is special to every Hertha fan out there. Even if some fans don’t love the song itself, they understand its significance and its special place in Hertha’s club history and tradition.
The evening before the first match of the season, Hertha fans and members received and email detailing changes to the program, along with the match day news… only the changes were hidden away at the bottom of the email, where very few people would read it.
The morning of the match, the umbrella branch for the Ostkurve’s Ultras, representative of Harlekins98 and Hauptstadtmafia (Förderkreis Ostkurve), posted a website article detailing the events of the previous evening.
They had apparently received a phone call from the management, to be told that there would be changes to the pre match programme, with the “hooking” and singing of ‘Nur nach hause’ now deleted from the line up. Instead, ‘Nur Nach Hause’ would be performed by Frank Zander 20 minutes before kick off and the team would enter the stadium onto the pitch to a new ‘Einlauflied’, which was named as the song ‘Dickes B’ by the Berlin group ‘Seeed’.

The issue here wasn’t that was song was changed, but the fact the marketing management and the Hertha executive board had failed to actively discuss any such changes with the members and supporters prior to the match. Fans were left angry and upset that their beloved song had ultimately been stripped away from them without any chance to even object.
That said, it didn’t stop the Ostkurve from protesting both online and in the stadium itself. The ultras made a statement in their post that basically read… ‘we are going to do this the way we always do it together. We won’t listen to or stand for this. We will sing our song no matter what’.
Whilst the fans joined in with Frank Zander as he performed, loud and proud, they weren’t as receptive to ‘Seeed’ being pumped through the sound system.
Zander admitted that he too, had been kept in the dark about the changes, until the day of the performance. He stated that he was uncertain whether or not he would even turn up to perform and that he was hurt that the club would decide on such a thing without concern for or addressing the fans.
When the team emerged from the tunnel, the marketing teams plan completely backfired. They were greeted not with applause but with jeers, boos and whistles as ‘Dickes B’ was basted so loud out of the PA it was deafening in what was quite clearly an attempt to drown out the jeers of the supporters.
Instead of accepting the changes as they were, Hertha fans were represented by an Ostkurve banner that simply read ‘Nur nach Hause- Jetzt!’ (Nur nach hause- NOW!) and proceeded to sing as loud as their lungs would take them, singing the clubs true anthem of ‘Nur nach Hause’ together, just as they always do.

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Nur Nach Hause… NOW!: Fans were left angry over the sudden change to the Hertha Einlauflied

It was a clear message to the board… ‘You’ve made a huge mistake… take it back and give us our song’.
What’s more, with the disastrous marketing campaigns that had been used previously the board had started steer the commercial side of the business element in the right direction. They had reverted back to the clubs roots and started to address the local community by reintroducing the “Kiezkicker”, where the team train in different districts of the city.  The clubs outlook had changed to be inclusive of all residents of Berlin and children under 14 years old would be admitted into home matches for free (except for against Bayern and Dortmund).
With such positive ideas, this one was truly a kick in the teeth for the supporters. To take away a club anthem, especially without addressing the supporters first was just a total undoing of all the previous good work in the seasons preparation.
The team suffer for something they haven’t even done as they were greeted with whistles, not directed at them but at the Einlauflied, and the stadium mood and tone was set to a negative degree.
It could’ve easily affected the manner in which the players approached the game as well, as on the pitch they clearly struggled to break down a mediocre Nurnberg side.
After the match ended, within a few days of further disgruntled fans attacking Paul Keuter (Head of digital marketing amongst other things) for the part he’s played in some of the more criticised moves regarding the marketing strategy, the club took a U-turn on the issue by announcing that not only would ‘Nur nach hause’ once again be the einlauflied but also that Frank Zander would be performing it live (schedule permitting) at every home match this season.
It wasn’t made completely clear whether it would just be the fact Zander would be performing, or whether the teams song would be switched back. Some media outlets reported that ‘Dickes B’ would still be the entrance song, but the club seem to have stated that things will be reverted back to their previous state with ‘Nur nach Hause’ being the entrance song.
Zander was openly pleased to be asked to perform at every game but the mistake had already been made by the board and whether their attempt at appeasement will work, only time will tell.
Only thing that is certain is that the majority of the supporters will refuse to call anything else the clubs anthem other than ‘Nur nach Hause’ and regardless of whatever song they try to play as the entrance music, it will always be ‘Nur nach hause’ that is sung in the stands.

The Bosnian boy and the man with magic hands: Matchday 1… FC. Nurnberg… oh boy

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Zuruck: Ibisevic scores the only goal of the game against FC Nurnberg

Regardless of what had happened just prior to the match, the support of the fans was as strong as ever, after all, it wasn’t the players that decided anything regarding the change in the pre match programme.
But that wasn’t to say the icy atmosphere couldn’t be felt inside the stadium, especially since VAR would also play a pivotal role in the match.
It wasn’t the most glamorous of games either, both sides looked tentative and neither wanted to be the first to make a mistake and concede on the opening match day.
Nurnberg also had a point to prove, having just been promoted back to the Bundesliga as runners up of Bundesliga 2 the previous season.
Whilst they did look strong in some areas they didn’t produce any real threat on the Hertha goal and vice versa. That was until the 27th minute when fantastic footwork from the tricky Valentino Lazaro, meant that Vedad Ibisevic slotted home after he was found from a perfectly timed and accurate pass.
Whilst the fans in blue and white celebrated with Ibisevic in the Ostkurve, the referee’s doubt would shadow the celebrations. VAR asked the referee to clarify a potential foul by Ibisevic in the build up to the goal… turns out the Nurnberg defender had just fallen over his own tangled up feet. The goal stood and the home side took a 1-0 into the break.
The second half wasn’t filled with magic either. Hertha created a few changes including a powerful header on target from centre back Niklas Stark however the keeper was equal to it and the score stayed at a rocky 1-0.
One is never enough… ever. Again point proven on 83 minutes.
Whilst Nurnberg had created bits and pieces their opportunity to level came in the last 10 when a strike smacked Karim Rekik on the arm. Poor defensive communications yet again, had lead to the chance in the first place.
Harsh? Perhaps, there was barely time for him to react to the flight of the ball, his arm didn’t unnaturally move towards the ball but it was placed in an awkward position to begin with.
The referee consulted VAR and a penalty was given.
The chance for Nurnberg to equalise however, was squandered. A half poor penalty resulted in the biggest moment of the match as Rune Jarstein saved the spot kick and it was cleared away. Cue celebrations from the fans and Jarstein’s teammates as he put in a class, man of the match performance with a save that ultimately won Hertha the game.
The boys in blue managed to hold on for the three points after a cagey affair and an opening game that was filled with more relief than anything else. Much like the opening day against Freiburg two seasons ago, late late drama but the best result.
At the end of the day however, it was a deserved victory, and no one deserved it more than Rune Jarstein, who’s heroics had ultimately, snatched the three points to keep them at home in Berlin.

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Berlin’s Wall: Rune Jarstein was the hero of match day 1.

15 years of hurt… no more: Hertha WIN in Gelsenkirchen

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Auswartsieg!: Hertha beat Schalke in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 (0-2)

The last time Hertha won an away match against Schalke 04, was 2004. Almost 15 years ago.
Since then, it has been a miserable affair for the Herthaner in Gelsenkirchen with defeat becoming the norm in the Ruhr valley. In fact, Hertha have had more luck at the Royal Blues local rivals Borussia Dortmund in recent years.
Last season saw two defeats from two, home and away against Schalke. They are not an opponent any Hertha fan enjoys playing however, the pressure was all on the home side as they’d lost their opening fixture to last season relegation playoff participants, VfL Wolfsfburg.
It’s not as if the Wolves had been a fantastic side either, Schalke could’ve easily dominated and won the match… but they didn’t and had failed to take a number of chances where as Wolfsburg had not squandered taking theirs.
Already at a low, there was no better or worse time to play Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
On the one hand they would be hurting and doubting themselves from the opening day loss, on the other hand Schalke would be revitalised, with home advantage and determined to seek a victory.
Whatever Pal Dardai’s game plan was, it worked perfectly.
Schalke were not massively poor, however they struggled creatively throughout the game, in particular in the second half. But they did create chances that they just failed to capitalise on. Shots wide, shots high and good handling from Jarstein, frustrated the home side… until the elfmeter curse struck Hertha for the second week running.
Marko Grujic, the Liverpool loanee, made the diabolical error of lifting his hand above his head.
At first, as a cross come in and was cleared away, only a few protesting Schalke players appeared to notice the potential handball, but VAR once again intervened and to the dismay of Hertha players and their traveling supporters, the blatant handball was spotted on the replay as Grujic, with his hands raised, allowed the ball to graze his finger tips. The movement on the ball changed, making the decision clear, despite the fact the actual flight of the ball has not been altered. Grujic was left blushing after his terrible misjudgement and it was left to Schalke man Daniel Caliguiri to convert the spot kick… only to fluff his lines spectacularly. The penalty wasn’t killed by Jarstein as it had been the previous week (although he did guess the right way), but instead was blasted agonisingly wide.
A let off for Hertha, but perhaps also a kick up the rear end. Just moments after the missed penalty, the ball broke to Dilrosun, who had been substituted on for Karim Rekik who’d been forced off injured. Dilrosun used his pace to create space and then whip in a ball to the edge of the penalty area to find an open Ondrej Duda who smashed the ball past Ralf Fahrmann.
Hertha unexpectedly 1-0 and it could’ve gotten a lot worse for Schalke as Kalou was played through to a one on one with Fahrmann… only he couldn’t find the target.
1-0 at the break and one would expect the home side to come out second half firing on all cylinders.
They would be mistaken.

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Next please: Ondrej Duda celebrates his second goal against Schalke

In fact, the home side could barely muster a shot on target for the entirety of the second half, until the last few minutes when new signing Mark Uth smashed the ball towards goal only to find Rune Jarstein in the way.
With time running out, the 04’s desperately tried to dig deep for an equaliser, but the ball was cleared and out ran Dennis Jastrzembski, who managed to take the ball away from the Schalke defenders and with blistering pace set himself up with a chance to score… only he missed the opportunity when he was brought down by Yevhen Konoplyanka just outside the box. As Konoplyanka was the last man and denied a clear goal scoring opportunity, the referee was left with little choice than to produce a straight red card. It presented Ondrej Duda with a glorious chance to make history…and that he did.
From the resulting free kick, 6 minutes into what’s was suppose to be the 4 additional minutes of injury time, Duda planted the ball into the top corner to seal the game and points for Hertha’s first away win against Schalke for almost 15 years.
Dardai and his team erupted into celebration…the last victory in Gelsenkirchen had been when he was still playing for Hertha. It was well deserved history for Hertha who were well worth their three points.
Schalke on the other hand look weary and cracks are starting to appear that don’t bode well for the upcoming Champions League campaign.

The rise of the minnows and fall of the giants?: Wolfsburg and Hertha on top, Leverkusen and Schalke rock bottom.

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Dismal: Bayern Leverkusen lost 3-1 at home to Wolfsburg on Match day 2.

Bayern are top… only just.
Wolfsburg second and Hertha third.
Hertha BSC are the only club after two matchdays to have not conceded a goal.
Leverkusen and Schalke, both contenders in European Competition, are pointless at the international break.
What’s going on?

In regards to Wolfsburg, it can be said ‘not much’ to be fair. Their two victories have come against struggling teams in which they themselves did not really dominate the game and against Schalke, were relatively lucky to get all three points.
Labbadia hasn’t done anything spectacular  nor has he made any great signings over the summer but the confidence that builds after the first few games when you win, no matter how, means that the players take that with them going forwards.
Wolfsburg haven’t been terribe, they haven’t been anything special either. They’ve been helped somewhat by the failure of two teams expected to do well (Schalke and Leverkusen), both with their own problems at present.
It’s hard to say whether Wolfsburg will continue to be a threat this coming season. Their general play hasn’t been anything that special but they’ve been good on the counter. They’ve also conceded goals in both their opening games proving that they’re not altogether, defensively sound.

Leverusen and Schalke have similar problems. Both in Europe, both with decent seasons in 2017/18 but has the effect of that season finally worn off?
It’s not as though they haven’t signed players or that they have poor coaching staff or that they’ve even had major changes. Other than their signings everything is as it was last season… perhaps that could be the problem?
Complacency as well maybe? Schalke and Leverkusen were expected to win their match day 2 fixtures easily as both were at home against what are considered lower standard opposition (Leverkusen played Wolfsburg and Schalke played Hertha BSC), but is there the chance that because of last seasons final standings the teams just considered their second match day fixtures as an easier match to win? Arrogance can play a role in failure but ultimately it just seems that both teams are massively under prepared for the season.
Look at how lax defensively both teams were on Match day 2 and it’s easy to work out where they’re going wrong. Defensive complacency can’t be outweighed by attacking prowess, in the case of Leon Bailey for example, Leverkusen cannot depend on his goals to save them, they must be able to defend their lead as well as score.
It’s a different problem for Schalke, who ended last campaign in second place behind Bayern Munchen.
Instead, they seem weak in both areas of the pitch, lacking any kind of flare or creativity in the centre of the park and the chances they do create are just wasted.
Their only goal so far has been from the penalty spot. Losing both matches also doesn’t do anything for the teams confidence.
It’s the lack of stability in Leverkusen and Schalke that has seen them fail in the first two weeks.
Perhaps after the international break they will come back stronger and begin to revive their dreadful start to the season. At the moment they are dragging themselves through the matches they play.
Hertha BSC, like Wolfsburg, are a team not expected to do well in the current season.
They haven’t lost a great deal of creative talent and have brought in some fresh faces, many of which are young and from the U19 and U23 academy squads. Fishing the local talent means Hertha have a great pond to catch talent from and it’s all local talent crafted in the capital city. It also gives young players the opportunity to develop, rather than the club shelling out for international talent.
The difference between Wolfsburg and Hertha is that they seemed to have changed approach in their two games.
Against Nurnberg there seemed to be a fear of being turned over by the newcomers who would be determined to start the season well. The new 3-4-3 system too would prove to be difficult to adapt to outside of the training ground.
There’s always a difference between training ground and match day. On the training pitch your opponent is that of players you know and who know you, on the pitch it’s the opposite, they’ve no idea who you are and you’ve no idea how they’ll deal with you.
The only way to perfect a new formation is in play and against Schalke, especially when Rekik was taken off and Dilrosun was introduced, this formation seemed to work perfectly, playing on the counter, adding more attacking options and yet players were tracking back in numbers to defend all over the pitch, severely limiting Schalke in their own attacking options.
Where as Wolfsburg had a few slices of luck in the poor performance of Leverkusen and Schalke, Hertha did not have this, especially when Schalke were at home having reviewed their opening day loss.
Schalke did not play that badly against the Berliners but it was the style of Hertha that prevented them from actually being a massive threat throughout the match.
Hertha managed to grab their victory with a carefully balanced game plan and by introducing new players that fit the place of the match perfectly with Dilrosun and Jastrzembski, who’s pace and skill made life difficult for Schalke defenders.
Who knows what could happen when Hertha face Wolfsburg after the international break.
And what’s more, Bayern are not dominating in performance as they expected to be. Two extremely lucky goals against Hoffenheim gifted them a pretty undeserved victory.
Confusion as to why a penalty that was quite clearly a dive was given, then retaken after being missed despite an incursion in the box being made by one of their own players (Robben) and then a potential offside not called back?
The second game against Stuttgart was customary… Stuttgart were exceedingly poor throughout the match and deserved to be well beaten. But Bayern have conceded, the only team not to so far, is Hertha BSC.
The record champions may be winning but their dominance looks a little on edge if their performance against Hoffenheim is anything to go by.

Welcome back: Selke ist Zuruck.

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Welcome back: Davie Selke scored in a friendly against Hertha Zehlendorf

For the second season running, Davie Selke could not participate in the opening match.
During his maiden season in Berlin, Selke had been injured preseason resulting in him being benched and recovering until October.
This season the bad luck has struck again, with Selke missing the first two games of the season despite now being seemingly fully fit and back in full training and participating in warm up training matches.
He scored upon his return to the Hertha team in a training match against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break in a 3-0 victory (Which saw even Per Skjelbred score!).
Selke had joined up with Hertha during preseason, but suffered a Pneumothorax (Collapsed lung) around the time of the Hertha training camp in Austria.
No one is quite sure how it happened but the dangers of such an injury are apparent.
Selke had surgery then returned home and was expected not to make a come back until October at the earliest.
A blow for the striker that scored 5 in 6 games in the latter stages of last season.
But Selke recovered far quicker than expected and was back in light training by August. In September he was participating in full training and in practice matches and upon his comeback scored for Hertha.
His recovery was a nice surprise. Pal Dardai was questioned over whether Davie would be available for the game against Schalke, but stated that despite fit, he did not want to risk taking Selke to Gelsenkirchen and asked to give him a week or two more.
It was a good move. Selke’s first full game back in action proved to be a success.
An injury like this one can have a devastating lasting effect and so it’s extremely fortunate that Davie is in good health and has recovered in the minimal time. Now, he looks set to be back against Wolfsburg and appear at his first home game against Borussia Monchengladbach, who’ve also enjoyed a decent start to the season.
Selke watched from the sidelines in Berlin as they defeated Nurnberg on matchday one, now, he looks set to return in the second home game of the season… hopefully with the winning goal to top off what is quite frankly a remarkable recovery.

The kids are alright: The Rise of Hertha’s young talents.

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Bright like a diamond: Muhammed Kiprit is just one of several young talents to have signed a pro contract this season

Hertha are fast becoming the template for any club looking to run a football academy.
This season a remarkable 12 players that are in the first team line up having come through the U19-23 youth system in Berlin.
Jordan Torunarigha, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Maximilian PronichevDennis Smarsch, Sidney Friede, Julius Kade, Palko Dardai, Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski, Muhammed Kiprit, Maurice Covic and Florian Baak have all made the step up from the amateur league to the first team. Most of these young players are not yet 20 years old and with the likes of Köpke, Lazaro and Dilrosun joining the squad, themselves only just in their 20s, Hertha look to have one of the youngest teams in the league.
Admittedly, not all these young players will play at the professional level just yet. Kiprit, Covic, Smarsch and Baak are more likely to be set for a spell with Hertha II, who compete in the fourth tier of the German football pyramid. Many of them have already established themselves in Hertha II. Maximilian Pronichev, who began his career at Hertha before moving to various clubs in Russia and Germany before heading back to his native Berlin, was loaned out to Aue this season to gain experience although he too signed a professional contract.
Jastrzembski, Kiprit, Smarsch, Dardai, Maier and Pronichev were all part of the Hertha U19 team that won the championship titles in 2017/18, the first at that level for the Hertha.
After impressing throughout the season they were all offered professional contracts where as many of the U19 went on to be re-signed to the clubs U23 (Hertha II).
Of those players, several have featured for the professional team. In fact Palko Dardai made a little piece of history when he appeared for Hertha against Augsburg in the 2017/18 season, being the first father/son coach/player to feature in the Bundesliga in decades.
Palko isn’t in the team though because of who his father happens to be. He has genuine talent as a pacey and skilled attacking midfielder, having made an instant impact when he featured against Augsburg last season.
Arne Maier is another revelation to work his way up through the ranks. He now features as a starter for Hertha on a regular basis and even assisted a goal in the 2017/18 season. A more defensive midfielder, Maier has the ability to track back as well as create which made him useful against the likes of Schalke. He’s represented Hertha at U19 and U23 level and is a youth international as well.
Kiprit was the top scorer for Hertha’s U19 in their successful season as they lifted the title. It took  a while to gain his signature but he eventually came through, however he may have to settle in the U23’s for now as he faces competition from the likes of new signing Pascal Köpke and established starters Vedad Ibisevic and Davie Selke.
Jordan Torunarigha and Maximilian Mittlestadt are two names that stick out.
Regulars for the U23 Hertha II team, both are now well established in the senior side. Mittelstadt is making more appearances in 2018/19 as Dardai tries the new 3-4-3 system that sees Mittelstadt employed as an attacking option despite his favoured position being more of a defensive role.
Torunarigha, like Arne Maier, has been somewhat of a revelation.
Having already scored twice for Hertha, (Once against Darmstadt in 2016/17, once against Hannover in 2017/18), he was initially employed as a centre back, a tall and menacing young player with a lot of strength in the air. But in the absence at any given time of Marvin Plattenhardt, he can also be distributed as a left back.
Torunarigha is quick as well, he has the ability to be attacking minded but his strength is certainly his defensive qualities, as shown by his man of the match performance alongside Rune Jarstein against Bayern München in 2017/18, away in Munich. Down to his and the keepers heroics, Hertha were the only team not to concede at the Alianz Arena during the season 2017/18’s entirety.

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Fight: Jordan Torunarigha had to fight to earn his place in the regular line up.

Hertha BSC are a club that know all too well just how dangerous overspending on players can be. People from the outside see it as fishing for players out of the recycling bin when the club signs the likes of Köpke, Klünter, Esswein, Selke… simply because these guys are not considered Europe’s greatest talents.
The truth is, these players are only as good as the coaching staff make them. In the case of Ondrej Duda, who had a difficult first two seasons due to injury, was given the chance by Dardai and his team in 2018/19 and shone brightly against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.
But purchasing players for stupid fees is a dangerous game Hertha do not wish to repeat.
In the 2000’s, when the club last achieved Champions League success, they borrowed money, brought in fresh new talent, then couldn’t afford to keep them and were almost made redundant. It took a lot of hard graft to avoid being dissolved.
This means the club is extremely careful in its financial dealings.
Hertha don’t have the clout and the pull that Bayern have, not only because of the lack of success but also because they can’t guarantee to meet massive wage demands.
Look at the difference in squad value between Bayern and Hertha… Bayern Munchen, €745 million…
Hertha BSC? €121 million. A seven fold difference. Success breeds riches.
What it does mean is that every player signed by Hertha, has to WANT to be a Hertha player, they have to want to earn the right to represent Berlin and fight for a spot in the starting line up, and if they fail to make the grade, still be proud to represent the city by being a Hertha player.
The one way to do this is to develop the talent you already have in the city, scout the local talent, sign them and train them to follow the standards and the values of the club itself.
Hertha can’t afford to purchase a new, hot, 40 goals a season striker every transfer window, so instead, they invest in developing their own striker that could eventually be a talent that could net 40 a season. Don’t purchase… build. Don’t buy… create.
What’s more, it feels as though for coaches and fans, that they have helped nurture these players into being world class talents by encouraging them and supporting them through the times where they were still learning.
And when they are shining, there is a sense of pride around the stadium that they are “one of our own” as the saying goes in England.
One such example is the bright star that is Dennis Jastrzembski, who looks set to become one of the leagues top talents.

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Lighting up the league: Dennis Jastrzembski is only 18 years old but is set to be a regular in the Hertha line up.

Already making impacts from the bench, he won the free kick that ultimately led to Hertha’s match winning goal against Schalke on match day 2. But it’s his blistering pace and the fact he’s still only 18 that makes his appearance in the side so remarkable.
Of all the youth prodigies coming through this season, he looks set to be the highlight in an already bright future for Hertha BSC.
Hertha’s current motto, “The future belongs to Berlin” is not so far off. The club does have ambitions. By developing young players to a high standard and then giving them the opportunity to actually prove themselves, the future could well belong to the capital. One thing is for certain, they are setting an example to the rest of the European leagues in regards to how youth and local talent should be developed.

 

Focus: Ondrej Duda

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Have it: Ondrej Duda scored a magnificent free kick in a man of the match performance vs Schalke

“Everybody sing this song, Duda! Duda!”… That was Salomon Kalou’s instagram reaction to Ondrej Duda’s match day 2 performance against Schalke 04.
The Slovak netted twice in the first away victory of the season and Hertha’s first successful trip to Gelsenkirchen for almost 15 years.
Why is this so significant for Duda in particular?
Everyone knows it’s not been an easy first two seasons in Berlin for Duda, who honestly acknowledged that fact himself in his post match interview. But it was his sheer determination and grit that landed him the man of the match award against Schalke after struggles of almost two years in the capital.
Duda joined Hertha from Legia Warsaw two seasons back but failed to make any kind of impact during his first season in Berlin.
Injury blighted his path to the first team and he spent most of the season recovering from injury after injury that saw him sidelined and his chances to play extremely limited. He spent most of his time in Hertha II, playing as regularly as possible in order to regain full fitness.
In his second season the injury crisis struck again but he did manage to find more playing time in 2017/18, which included his first goal for the club, against Bayern München of all clubs.
It was his goal, after outstanding work from Genki Haraguchi in the box that saw the Japanese international outwit 3 of Germany’s world cup stars, that resulted in a fantastic comeback against the record champions from 2-0 down (it would be the second week running they would throw away a 2 goal lead) to snatch a 2-2 draw.
It had been a simple tap in, and Duda wasn’t yet showing his full capabilities. He didn’t make much of an impact for the remainder of the season.
But during the off season something seemed to change. All of a sudden, something finally clicked.
During the preseason training camp matches Duda showed his class by scoring and assisting time and time again and showing his worth in some wonderful performances in friendlies.
Finally with the injuries that had been tainting his chances of regular first team football seemingly behind him, Duda began to display the very reasons that Hertha signed him in the first place…the old Ondrej Duda, the Duda we’d seen for Slovakia at the Euros, the Duda we all wanted to see.
Against Nurnberg, no single player had an outstanding performance. The entire team looked nervy and unsure of themselves.
But against Schalke, Duda was by far the biggest threat. He played his midfield role perfectly, becoming an absolute nuisance for the Schalke defense and creating chances as well as finding the target himself, twice.
His stunning free kick at the very end of the match topped off a performance saw Dardai’s and everyone else’s faith in him restored. There wasn’t a single concern over injury as Duda ran about the park as if he’d never suffered an injury in his life.
After a disastrous two seasons to start his career in Berlin, it seems now that finally the real Ondrej Duda has appeared for the 2018/19 season. Provided he stays fit, he could be an integral part of how Hertha’s campaign shapes up this season.
If he continues to perform the way he did against Schalke for the remainder of the season, it could well be a bright one for both Duda and Hertha.

 

Bring on Wolfsburg and Gladbach…. and LETS KEEP THIS GOING

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HAHOHE!

 

 

 

 

 

Nur nach …gone?:What were they thinking?

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Football clubs in Germany are all about identity and their close relationship with the supporters. The fact that clubs cannot make huge decisions without the consent of the members is something sets the Bundesliga in all it’s formats apart from the likes of Premier League, even if that means sacrificing some of the competitiveness in comparison to other European top flight divisions.

In Berlin, tradition has been something supporters of Hertha BSC hold onto dearly.
One reason perhaps, is the lack of success of the team. It’s a yo-yo club, fans are used to it being so, and so tradition and keeping the club close to the fans takes precedence and when there is a divide or a crack in that foundation, the club itself enters stormy waters.
The dangers of commercialisation in German football are becoming all too real, with the likes of RB Leipzig entering the fray of the top flight despite only escaping breaking the sacred 50+1 rule on a technicality.
Hertha is certainly one club that hold the foundations and traditions of football dear to their hearts… they understand fully that without fans, the football club ceases to exist at all.
Unfortunately that is not something certain members of the executive board and managers seem to fully understand and over the past few years it’s become more evident that they are in danger of completely losing touch with the fans that have always stuck by the team.

Someone turn the steering wheel: A club headed in the wrong direction

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Hertha ultras and the top management have had a tiff for a while. By tiff… I mean its gotten to the point where the two refuse to cooperate with one another. Harlekins 98, one of the biggest Ultras group at the club, that devote their time and efforts to making the match day atmosphere’s what they are in order to provide the best support for the team, announced a few years back that they had ceased communications with the board regarding matters with the club itself, until they felt their views were truly being taken into account.
Whilst the ultras don’t represent the feelings of all supporters and some fans feel their attitude does not reflect on everyone that holds a membership, they are ultimately the face of the active support in the Ostkurve (east stand) fan section and ultimately their concerns over the club becoming a commercial product rather than keeping its traditional values are actually well founded.
Some people tend to forget just how much the ultras groups do for the clubs active fan support, without them the matchday atmosphere wouldn’t be what it is. That doesn’t always make them correct and it doesn’t mean they’re the only fans worth listening to but their concerns are still sound.
But their refusal to speak to the members board about these concerns isn’t helping matters either, because it means whatever problems or issues they have with the manner in which Hertha BSC is being run from the inside, they cannot rectify those problems if they have refuse to listen to the justification in order to make a counter argument and put their point across.
What it results in, is a standoff between fans and management in which the board can ultimately decide for themselves what is best for the club because the ultras refuse to cooperate, listen or speak to them, therefore it means their opinion is not shared on any platform and their arguments aren’t heard.
Whilst the ultras refuse to speak to the board, it means their fears of the club heading in the wrong direction is only bound to get worse as a number of measures in the 2016/17 season, saw more and more protests in the Ostkurve regarding decisions that had been made in the promotion of the club commercially.
The first was the change of colour in the third kit.
Traditionally Hertha’s third shirt had been red or red and black with a number of other colours over the years. Some fans say the ultras always look for things to complain about but their discontent over the third shirt wasn’t completely unfounded. It turned out the third kit would be bright pink… not just salmon pink but bright, florescent pink and to add insult to injury, the training gear was bright orange for absolutely no reason.

The phrase “nur echt in blau weiss” (Only true in Blue and White) was coined by the supporters.
What’s more the teams new slogan for that season was “We Try. We Fail. We Win” which really did not go down well.
Whilst the meaning of the phrase may well have been lost in translation (I get it, sometimes we fail but we try and in the end we will get there and win… but hey it doesn’t read like that when including a negative quote in something that is meant to be positive in context), the fact the re-branding was in English and not German, for a German club representing the German capital, it made absolutely no sense.
The only answer as to why this was done was that the club wanted to portray a new image to attract new fans… only to do it in completely the wrong fashion, taking them on a slippery slope downwards.
Fans weren’t happy. Ultras certainly were not happy. At this time in 2016, Paul Keuter joined the board as a marketing and digitization expert. He would come to face the most criticism out of any of the board members. Despite a positive season on the pitch the relationship between fans and club were as icy as ever coming into the 2017/18 season.
With the total failure of the marketing campaign for that season, it could only get better… right?

Keuter Raus: Who is Paul Keuter and why is he being blamed for everything going pear shaped?

 

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Keuter Raus: Hertha fans are not best pleased with Paul Keuter

 

Paul Keuter is facing more criticism than anyone else at Hertha BSC right now… but why?
The man who probably has a photo of his face pinned up on a dartboard of fans apartments, ready for them to take aim at, is the most hated man associated with blue and white and it’s not surprising.
Hertha Ultras are extremely opposed to bringing the club into the world of social media and commercialisation, and whilst their views are to be frank, quite extreme, they’re not completely without justification. They want fans, especially in the Ostkurve, to be involved in the game itself, actively supporting Hertha throughout the 90 minutes on the field, and that makes total sense. But they see the use of social media, as a distraction from this, and urge fans not to use it during the game at all
Now, I understand their point, but that doesn’t give them the right to tell every other fan with an Ostkurve season ticket, what they can and cannot do.
The problem is that with thousands of fans in that section of the stadium, it’s impossible for all of them to agree. Some supporters take videos and photos to share them with the world and show the outside world what a fantastic club Hertha is and there is no harm in that. But at the same time it is indeed a type of distraction from the game itself and from the focus of fans actively supporting the team.
Where does Mr Keuter come in to this idea? Well he’s a former exec at Twitter and the digital and commercial world is his forte. The issue from supporters is that he’s leaning so far on his own ideas for getting the club noticed on a wider scale that he’s forgetting about the loyal supporters and the traditions close to their hearts in the process.
Using social media… too much of a distraction. It urges fans to not go to the stadium itself and despite having a better slogan with “Die zukunft gehoert Berlin” (The future belongs to Berlin… which fitted the clubs 125th anniversary) in the 2017/18 season the influence of Keuter was gradually getting worse and worse and setting bad precedence and moods in the stadium itself.
Keuter Raus! (Keuter Out!) become a natural phrase and banner in the stadium displayed by the ultras. There’s a difference between being a board member and then sticking your nose into every matter within the club. As someone who is not football minded but instead business minded, Keuter’s influence at the club was always going to be perceived as negative even if some of his ideas of bringing Hertha into modern age are in fact positive if utilised correctly.
What’s more, he seems to have taken it upon himself to make decisions without regards to or consulting the active members of the club first which was never going to make him a popular man at the Olympiastadion.

 

Train off the tracks: A positive start to redirection… with a disastrous ending.

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Heimsieg…aber…: Despite the win against Nurnberg, the game was overshadowed by fan protests over the boards decision to change the team entrance song.

The 2018/19 media campaign began a lot more positively in terms of the failures of the past two seasons.
A new marketing strategy was instigated by Michael Preetz which saw Hertha going back to the its very foundations in Berlin, ultimately including every district of the city which saw the coat of arms displayed on the team bus and plans for training sessions to take place in all quarters of the city in every district…ensuring that fans and players were better connected. Finally the club was remembering where it’s heart lay.
A new campaign that included regular Berliners, fans from all over the city with a title that read “In Berlin you can be everything, even Herthaner” was launched. Faces of Hertha fans from all walks of life from all corners of the capital, were included in a new promotional video.
Children under the age of 14 would be allowed admittance into the stadium for matches for free (only games against Bayern and Dortmund being the exception). There were shirts and cups made with the districts of Berlin displayed on them, and the new motto of “In Berlin you can be the next big thing” and “In Berlin you can be everything” were used, there was a true essence that the club was going back to their roots and being exclusively inclusive of the citizens of the city that had made the club what it is today.
The club also saw several young talents from the U19 and U23, sign professional contracts, young lads born and bred in Berlin itself who had represented Hertha through their youth, now getting to show their talents on the big stage.

All this was received with grand positivity and optimism from fans, ultras, Berliners alike, with the realisation that perhaps the board had learned from the past season and were finally attempting to bridge that divide between themselves and the supporters. It felt as though finally some open wounds were about to slowly begin the healing process and now the club’s path and direction looked far clearer… only for them to fall dramatically at the last moment.

Several ultras groups penned an online post to Hertha fans just hours before the opening day home fixture with 1.FC Nurnberg. An email had been sent out to fans the evening prior but this was still not an advance warning of what was to come. The main issue was not addressed in the emails title therefore many fans just overlooked it. The real story was hidden away at the bottom of the email like it was an irrelevance, all part of the plan to cushion the fall.
Less than 24 hours before the match was due to kick off at the Olympiastadion, the executive board had informed supporters that the opening “phase” or sequence, that accompanies the team entering the field of play, would be changed without warning or notice. The traditional Hertha song “Nur Nach Hause”, used by Hertha BSC for the past 25 years, would no longer be used as the tune that fans would sing together as the players came out of the tunnel. Instead “Dickes B” by the Berlin band “Seeed” would be used instead. In addition, Frank Zander, the writer of “Nur Nach Hause” would sing the song 20 minutes before kick off and the “Hooking” of fans, would be disrupted.
When explaining the reasoning for the change, the club simply stated that “Dickes B” represented a modern Berlin and was far more upbeat than the previous “hymne”.
What’s more, the ultras at Harlekins 98 claimed that they had received this information by phone call from the club. Because of how late the news broke, there wasn’t the slightet chance that the clubs members and fans could protest or object the idea of a song change before the opening game, which is exactly the reason they left it so late to bother to inform anyone of their plans.
Hertha fans were shocked. Hertha fans were livid. Hertha fans were in revolt.
Not a single supporter as far as I could see, was supportive of the change that was not even proposed to the supporters prior to match day.
What made matters far worse was that whilst the fans had indeed, been informed and notified of the changes, no one was informed in “advance” as the club had claimed. The evening before, less than 24 hours before the match starts, is by no means “Informing the fans in advance” because anything in “advance” would suggest enough time to rectify the idea.
There had been no warning, no prior conversation, the club had not asked for the supporters opinions and the changes had not even been proposed. Instead, they had chosen to go ahead with the change any way without even bothering to speak to those that would be affected most by it.

As you can guess the fans inside the Olympiastadion were not happy. The Ultras had just about managed to forge a banner before the kick off that read “Nur Nach Hause… Jetzt” (Nur Nach hause…NOW!).
When Mr Zander appeared to sing his Hertha Hymne, everyone joined in, but when “Dickes B” was blasted out of the PA system, the volume so high it was ear splitting and sounded terrible, the fans whistled, booed (No disrespect to Seeed because that wasn’t the point), and instead proceeded to sing “Nur Nach Hause” instead as loudly as their voices would take them.

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JETZT!: Fans angrily reacted to the changes with the banner “Nur nach hause…NOW!”

The message to the board was made very clear… “Give us our song back”.
The anger that erupted from supporters could be felt throughout the stadium, throughout the Hertha community and it wasn’t because of the song itself or what it was changed to, but because the board had failed to speak openly to the supporters about their ridiculous idea before implementing it. That was the point. Hertha is suppose to be a club that  has the supporters interests at heart, and in instances like this it was clear to the fans that their views apparently no longer mattered, just as the club was stressing that it wanted to be inclusive of all residents of Berlin for the upcoming season. All that work, all that good and decent work and those good ideas, all destroyed with one simple and stupid mistake.
To add insult to injury, a few days before via youtube, a video was released about the continuous partnership with DB (Deutsche Bahn) with fans seen singing “Nur Nach Hause”… only for a few days later, to ruin that with their decision to scrap it from the opening phase.

Frank Zander Bleibt: Why a song means so much… even when it’s not a top tune

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Our song: Frank Zander performs his song “Nur Nach Hause” with Hertha’s ‘Ostkurve’ (93 was the first time he performed the song, 25 years ago)

“Nur nach hause gehn wir nicht” (literally translates as “Only home, we do not go”) is a song that has been associated with Hertha BSC now for 25 years. It has been sung aloud by supporters of all ages and backgrounds at home matches for the best part of two decades as the team enters the field.
That energy coming from the supporters can be felt by the players, it is meant to fill them with confidence as they prepare themselves. It’s the one single moment where every single Hertha fan, unites for their team, even if in all other walks of life, the total strangers standing beside each other do not agree of matters such a politics or music or anything in between.
Thousands of people, many of whom are total strangers to one another, unite for a single moment for the one thing they all have in common… their beloved Hertha BSC.
There is no feeling to describe that moment. It is like Liverpool with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or West Ham with “Forever Blowing Bubbles”… when you feel it, you really feel it.
Frank Zander, the writer of “Nur nach Hause”, is a Berlin native and has been a Hertha fan throughout his life. It was his song that took off and became the song Hertha fans have proudly sung at every home match since.
Not even he was made aware of the changes to the programme and when he found out, he was inclined to be in agreement with the vast majority of the fans… that Nur Nach Hause is OUR song. He admitted that when he received the news, he had been hurt by it.
For it to be stolen from the fans without any real explanation as to why or any room for negotiation, was disrespectful to the supporters and to Frank Zander by the board.
The song itself its nothing special to the outside ear. The melody is from Rod Stewart’s song “Sailing” which in itself makes total sense. Hertha BSC was founded by two sets of brothers who named the club after a boat (named Hertha by the owner), with a blue and white smoke stack. The club’s emblem is a ships flag to represent that too.
Zander himself is a native Berliner with a love for the club and the song refers to Hertha itself in the lyrics (“Everyone waits with anticipation for this the absolute game, The boys from Hertha have only one aim, today they want to win for the blue and white shirt”).
Not too long ago, Zander was also battling cancer and received huge amounts of support from the club and its thousands of fans. Frankie is very special to Hertha fans, his presence in the stadium when he appear is always met with love and appreciation and although even some supporters of the club don’t particularly like the song itself, no one can dispute that it brings thousands of people together, as they lift their scarves high into the air, outstretched, a blue and white sea, singing as loud as possible as the team they adore comes onto the pitch.

As a friend said to me, on the day of the opening fixture against 1.FC Nurnberg, when I asked him what was happening.
“The club has made a huge mistake this time. Our song will always “Nur Nach Hause” and nothing else.
That statement pretty much expressed the feeling of all fans. It was not that the song was changed that was the issue but the manner in which it was done, the board having zero respect for the supporters when something as simple as a song, is so sacred to them. To take it away without warning, without the chance to discuss potential changes first? it’s wrong in every sense of the word in the world of football.

If you’ve ever attended a Hertha BSC game in in Berlin you will understand why it was something people felt so deeply about.
Let me explain it this way with a personal short story.
A few years ago, I was having a disastrous time with my work. It was long hours that required work I didn’t truly enjoy and meant a 3am wake up call every day… and I desperately needed a break. So of course I went to Berlin, naturally to a Hertha game. I don’t even think we won, but the atmosphere that surrounded me, as always, was something special. When the team entered the field, I, with the thousands of other around me,many of whom were total strangers I would never see again in my life, lifted my blue and white scarf, closed my eyes, and sang…
My German is not fluent but I know the song, and like everyone else that is a native Berliner, sing it with heart and soul. And suddenly all those terrible problems from the outside world back home, were gone. Just for a moment… we all sang together and I realised why Berlin and Hertha BSC are so special to me. I am sure I am not the only one. This was a city united, in just a few moments, thousands together as one, singing for something they all love.
Nur Nach Hause is a song about home. This city feels like home. Not just to me, but to other too.
And then suddenly, someones saying to all of us “Oh sorry, this isn’t your song any more”. It was just totally out of the blue and extremely unfair to every single Hertha fan out there.
Alas, most of us pledged to not abide by the rules and to continue singing OUR Hertha Hymne regardless.  It’s what the majority of fans did during the opening phase and it’s what they continued to do after the game too.

Reversed: Zander ist Zuruck

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Arrangement: A rather unclear agreement has been reached between the club and Frank Zander… to perform “Nur Nach Hause” before every home game.

Literally a few days after the victory against Nurnberg, the Hertha board announced that they had negotiated with Frank Zander and that “Nur Nach Hause” would be performed once again before every home game by the man himself.
Whether “Seeed” will be played 20 minutes before kick off isn’t clear but the ferocity of the reaction from fans may well have played a huge part in the decision to seemingly reverse the initial action of changing the clubs anthem. It also isn’t clear if Nur Nach Hause is the actual run out song or just being performed live anyway 20 minutes before kick off. What is frustrating is if the latter is the case,that “Dickes B” is the run out song, it will not appease the supporters at all, it will probably only make them even angrier. There is no middle ground on this. Nur nach hause IS the Hertha anthem and no amount of attempted appeasement will fix that.
Whilst Keuter was involved in the decision but perhaps only to cover his own back after seemingly making the wrong choice in the first place which lead to the revolt. Either way, Hertha fans will continue to sing their beautiful hymne at home matches regardless. It seems that this time, the fans were actually read loud and clear and their ultimatum was fully understood.

 

HAHOHE!

Seasons round up: Some fun courtesy of Twitter

So someone on twitter created a thread in which the goal was to quote tweet your answer to sum up the season your team has had.

Here were the questions and my answers with some elaboration as to why for Hertha BSC.

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Team 2017/18

  1. Best player from your team this season?
    Valentino Lazaro

    46-106809579Top Talent: Valentino Lazaro has been a monster in midfield, scored twice and assisted numerous times this season


    After recovering from injury at the very beginning of the season, Lazaro came into the side a month or so into the season and it was clear from the very start that he was going to be very comfortable in Berlin. He was initially on loan from RB Salzburg and it was seen to be a good investment when Preetz announced it, but it proved to be a fantastic investment when Lazaro started to consistently create chances and play as a total professional and a valued member of the team. Preetz announced that “Tino” would be signing on a permanent basis in January on a long term contract and the reasons were pretty obvious when Lazaro showed incredible skill in a game away to Werder Bremen where he nutmegged a defender and rounded him to set up Ibsisevic in the box who unfortunately missed.
    Lazaro is extremely quick, a pacy attacking midfielder with an array of skills who has not only created and assisted a number of goals as well as scoring a delightful goal against Leverkusen (A game in which he also hit the bar, or rather Bernd Leno tipped a shot onto the bar in a 2-0 win). Lazaro also equalised against Hamburg when Hertha were 1-0 down.
    But he also showed his defensive skill against Koln when Mitchell Weiser, who’d had a poor game in the first half, was substituted for Mathew Leckie who took up the right midfield position, pushing Lazaro into the vacant right back position. He put into a number of fantastic blocks and challenges showing his defensive strength and determination and what’s more with ALL this talent he’s still only 22 years old and is already an Austrian champion and Austrian international. He’s got a bright future and he’s chosen to spend his time for now in Berlin, and Hertha is lucky to have him

  2. Worst player from your team this season?
    Mitchell Weiser

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    Not good enough: Mitchell Weiser’s commitment is being seriously questioned.

    It’s actually rather sad when one of your best players of the previous two seasons suddenly plummets dramatically to become your worst.
    Mitchell Weiser was a promising right back with a lot of talent and speed but for some unknown reason this season he’s gone totally limp and it wasn’t just for one match, but for a number of games. There are currently multiple rumours circulating about this future as his father is a coach at Bayer Leverkusen and his release clause comes into effect this summer (despite having a contract until 2020), he could be off to Leverkusen in this summers transfer window.
    Whether or not he’s distracted by the thoughts of a Leverkusen transfer, in a bad frame of mind or whether he’s just lost his touch is begging question. Think of Leon Goretzka moving to Bayern from Schalke at the end of the season. Everyone knows about this move yet his effort and commitment has not changed in a royal blue shirt. Weiser on the other hand is not just putting in poor performances but is becoming consistently lazy and lax, and according to reports even in training his effort is becoming minimal as he runs behind his teammates in sprinting exercises despite being one of the fastest players in the squad.
    Weiser has been at fault for a number of goals this season but the most noticeable was in the game against Koln in which he allowed the ball to roll and inevitably reacted too slowly and limply to Leonardo Bittencourt as he connected with the ball and Weiser almost clattered into Rune Jarstein in the process as the ball went past them both and into the back of the net. Weiser’s decision making and effort was questionable, as it was obvious when the challenge he could have and should have put in should’ve been made. His general reaction didn’t help either as he seemed unmoved by the error and during the rest of his time on the field he looked totally unfazed. When he failed to latch onto a ball he could easily have reached which had been switched from the opposite flank, the fans booed him. It was obvious he could’ve reached the ball but he’d chosen not to. That’s partially why he’s one of the worst players of the season. He’s been creatively impotent, defensively lacking and just plain poor. His exit from the Koln game spoke volumes and Pal Dardai has been openly critical of him. It’s not just a performance problem but an attitude problem.  When a right winger does your job better than you and he’s not technically suppose to be a defender, it says everything.

  3. Good performances from a player that went largely unnoticed this season?
    Per Ciljan Skjelbred

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    Linchpin: Per Ciljan Skjelbred has been with Hertha since 2015, quietly bossing midfield


    To be fair, Skjelbred has been putting in great performances for years now but hardly anyone ever speaks about it because he’s a quiet operator.
    He’s certainly not known for scoring goals or attacking flare but Skjelbred’s defensive ability and holding role go relatively unnoticed when ultimately he’s the linchpin in central midfield as the defensive part of the centre that includes Darida as the attacking variant of the duo. Darida is the attacking minded player but should he fail to keep control of the ball are lose out in the middle, Skjelbred is a surefire option to win it back or hold the ball up in waiting for support.
    He may not be a goal scorer but his persistence is highly valued and so is his loyalty. Skjelbred is ever reliant for effort as well, very rarely does he allow anything to dislodge his belief even if he makes a mistake during a game. Having worn the captains armband on a number of occasions he’s also proven he’s capable of leading the team as well. The quiet master of midfield.

  4. Most underrated player in your team this season?
    Mathew Leckie

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    Aussie Magic: Mathew Leckie scored a brace on his debut against VfB Stuttgart on the opening matchday of the 2017/18 season


    Pacy Mathew Leckie hadn’t scored for previous club Ingolstadt in the entirety of last season when the club was relegated from the Bundesliga. Hertha signed him in the summer and his introduction to Berlin gave him a new lease of scoring life, scoring twice in the opening game of the season and against Leverkusen at home. But whilst his scoring has dropped off slightly and he’s been more reduced to a substitute, his efforts have still be consistent. Leckie has a powerful shot, he’s also right footed but has scored most of his goals this season with the left (Not bad). His pace is his biggest attribute but when he’s not scoring goals he’s ensuring he’s doing his best to set them up by putting in as much as possible to find successful passes and options as possible. Long balls are something Leckie seemingly enjoys and always makes an effort to latch onto them. Whilst he’s not the star of the team and not a consistent performer, his contributions when he has played have at times been of high praise and high quality.  His move to Berlin seems to have revitalised him. His goal against Frankfurt was also not an easy one to score and he coolly slotted it past the home keeper.

  5. Most overrated player in your team this season?
    Mitchell Weiser (Again)
    Not much to add here apart from the fact that Weiser was and still is highly rated in Germany as a top defender but if his current performances are anything to go by he really shouldn’t be. Whether his poor performances are linked to his state of mind regarding a summer transfer we may never know but either way such a move shouldn’t be disrupting his current occupation in Berlin.
  6. Best goal scored by a player in your team this season?
    Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC 2-0 Bayern Leverkusen, Berlin Olympiastadion)

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    Schoen: Leckie’s goal vs Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin was one of the best Hertha strikes of the season

    Leckie scored three times in a row at home for Hertha in the opening games of the season. His first two against Stuttgart in the first home game of 2017/18 were impressive but his left footed (weaker foot) hit against Leverkusen was one of the best goals of the season.
    The ball was played into Leckie who took it in his stride into the box, into the right hand corner where he cut inside and smashed the ball with his left foot into the top corner of the net. Leno had no chance and the opportunity wasn’t a particularly easy one to take but take it he did.

  7. Your teams best performance this season?
    RB Leipzig 2-3 Hertha BSC, Leipzig, Red Bull Arena

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    Unbelievable: Hertha beat RB Leipzig 3-2 away despite being down to 10 men for 80 minutes

    Hertha’s away form last season was more than abysmal. They lost 7 in a row on the road a new record set by Pal Dardai and lost to the likes of relegation strugglers at the time Hamburg. The away form was so poor that no one expected it to be any better this season as the poor away games hindered the chances of qualifying for the Champions League after a strong 2016/2017 Hindrunde. The home form kept Hertha’s European hopes afloat and they eventually qualified for the Europa League (Only to crash out at the group stage) whilst opponents RB Leipzig, already despised for the manner in which they reached the Bundesliga, reached the Champions League the previous season by winning in Berlin against Hertha 4-1 in Berlin.
    No one truly believed going into the game that Hertha would come away with all three points against such a strong opponent however after 6 minutes Davie Selke scored against his former club… and he wasn’t worried about showing his delight in doing so as Leipzig has shelved him the season before.
    Matters were not helped for Hertha however, when Jordan Torunarigha was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Timo Werner, in which it appeared both players clashed and the tackle was a 50/50. Down to 10 men for more than 80 minutes, Hertha pressed more and more and eventually got a second thanks to a header from Salomon Kalou and the 10 men were flying when Selke added a third.
    Whilst Leipzig pushed for a response late on they could only muster 2 goals as Hertha went on to win the game 3-2  and it could’ve been worse for Leipzig when Selke hit the post, which denied him a hattrick. The determination even after the red card which could’ve automatically demoralised the team and forced them to sit back and defend, had no such effect, instead Hertha went at the game head on and outplayed the Red Bull outfit for the majority of the game even with a man less. The desire of Selke to score against the club that had let him go in the summer and stripped him of opportunities the previous season was obvious and his commitment throughout the game as unquestionable. A come back is always tough but to win in such style when reduced to 10 men before 10 minutes has even passed is something admirable as the team attitude shone through.

  8. Your teams worst performance this season?
    Hertha 0 Mainz 2, Berlin, Olympiastadion

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    Double Nope: Robin Quaison scored twice in Berlin after a pathetic display from Hertha

    I, nor any other Hertha fan, likes talking about this game. It’s something we’d rather just forget in one of the early home matches against relegation threatened Mainz in 2018. After a decent 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund the previous home game it was out of the question that Hertha should not win against lowly Mainz but perhaps it was that attitude which was the death sentence against the 05ers. The game from Hertha’s perspective wasn’t just poor, it was diabolical. No chances created, seemingly no desire to make a change, the body language of the players was just all wrong and technically on the field Mainz were just as poor, just extremely lucky. They took the few chances they created, where as Hertha created zero chances. Even Pal Dardai stated in the post match press conference that it was the worst home game he had seen in Berlin since he took over as coach and that there was absolutely nothing positive to take from the game… nuff said.

  9. Most crucial goal your team has scored this season?
    Salomon Kalou 90+1min (Augsburg 1-1 Hertha BSC)

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    Leaving it more than late: Kalou equalised against Augsburg away, in the 91st minute

    It wasn’t a goal that saved the club from relegation or a game winning strike but Salomon Kalou netted a 91st minute equaliser away to Augsburg which secured a point to take back to Berlin. The game had been pretty poor from both sides but Kalou’s desire to get the goal showed as he netted with what was almost the last action of the game and more of a sigh of relief than anything else.

    Salomon Kalou 81mins (Freiburg 1-1 Hertha BSC)

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    Redemption: Salomon Kalou equalised from the spot in Freiburg despite missing a penalty just a few minutes earlier

    Kalou struck late against Freiburg as well for yet another draw but this time is effort was more difficult despite being from the penalty spot. Kalou had already taken a penalty in the game and so had Freiburg but whilst Freiburg had converted their spot kick Kalou hadn’t. In fact he hadn’t just missed, he had skied it in one of the worst penalty misses in the Bundesliga this season.
    However Hertha were award another kick from 12 yards not long after their first and an unquestionably brave Kalou found the courage to place the ball on the spot and attempt to take again. This time, it had the desired out come. Relief for the players and fans and redemption for Kalou in a tough match up against a side similar to Hertha in style and points and who at the time were playing remarkably well.

  10. Best signing your team made in summer 2017 or January 2018?
    Valentino Lazaro (again!), Davie Selke

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    Tag team: Selke (left) and Lazaro (right) both joined in the summer of 2017


    Lazaro has already been spoken for but joining him in Berlin was the equally young Davie Selke who joined from RB Leipzig in the summer and like Lazaro sat out the first part of the season with injury. However just like Lazaro, Selke proved himself to be a worthy investment as he scored his first goal in the Europa League and then his first Bundesliga goals followed.
    Selke is tall, quick and skilled but his goals come from all forms. He can header the ball strongly, he can latch onto loose balls and he can muscle his way through defenders but he’s also the perfect strike partner for Ibisevic. Whilst one is a finisher, Selke is more than that, he has the pace that Ibisevic no longer has, the two have different playing styles. Selke is also visibly passionate. Whenever opportunities are missed which he has been the deciding factor in, his frustration is clear to see but luckily he lacks the dangerous and explosive fire in attitude of Valentine Stocker, who moved back to Basel in January. That sort of centre forward is much needed at Hertha. Selke can score be he can also set others up with his own skill and pace. Interestingly enough his feet and head are seemingly as powerful as each other. He could be a German international in the future, he certainly has the talent. What’s more his fearlessness against his former team Leipzig was to be congratulated. When he scored for them against Hertha last season, he celebrated but didn’t seem anywhere near as thrilled as he clearly was when the scored for the Berliners against RB in 2017. Selke himself stated, when asked if he would celebrate against Leipzig if he scored, that the only team he would never celebrate a goal against would be Werder Bremen, where he began his professional career and of who he has the most amount of love and respect for. Davie Selke is a young, cheeky chap with a hell of a lot of talent and a great larger than life personality who hopefully will stick around Berlin for years to come and develop with Hertha BSC and of whom was one hell of a bargain in the summer.

  11. Worst signing your team has made this season? If any?

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    No weakness: Karim Rekik was one of four signing in summer 2017 but none have failed at their task

    Hertha only made four summer signings and all have been a success at the club since they arrived under the management of Pal Dardai. Mathew Leckie, Karim Rekik (Who has been a marvellous replacement to John Anthony Brooks), Davie Selke and Valentino Lazaro have all had great seasons. Perhaps the only bad signing was the promotion deals which now include main sponsor Tedi!

  12. Any memorable assist by a player for your team this season?
    Arne Maier and Marvin Plattenhardt (Hamburg 1-2 Hertha BSC)

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    Assist Kings: Arne Maier sets up the second and match winning goal (Kalou) against Hamburg SV at the Volksparkstadion

    Hertha’s away form last season was notably poor. Dardai was the coach responsible for setting a new club record of away defeats in the season 2016/17, so no one really considered the fact, especially after the up and down season and poor Europa League campaign as well as the Ruckrunde curse, that Hertha may be a threat away from home. Inclusive of the fact Hamburg were fighting relegation and had just introduced a new head coach that game, Hertha were rather expected to mess the game up, even though it was certainly one they could take points from.
    And that’s exactly how it started. Hamburg were 1-0 up at half time and Hertha hadn’t taken their chances however two goals, one from Kalou and one from Lazaro and a dominant second half display, showed exactly why Hamburg were threatened with relegation and gave Hertha a deserved 3 points at the Volksparkstadion.
    The talking point however was the manner in which those goals came about. Two excellent pieces of work provided Lazaro and Kalou with their goals for the day. The first was a pinpoint cross (as well as some questionable defending from Hamburg’s backline) from Marvin Plattenhardt, who’s recently been named in the Germany 2018 World Cup squad alongside Koln’s Jonas Hector as the teams left backs. Plattenhardt’s cross was precise and carried the perfect weight for Lazaro to be able to latch onto it and slot it past the Hamburg keeper that day, Julian Pollersbeck.
    Pollersbeck, who had earlier denied Vedad Ibisevic with some top notch goalkeeper (as he would go on to do throughout the game), had no chance with Lazaro’s strike.
    Likewise, the decisive winner came from Salomon Kalou who was set up after some trickery and fantastic footwork but a determined youngster Arne Maier.
    Maier was introduced to first team action after an injury to Vladimir Darida towards the beginning of the season. Maier slotted into the role comfortably and become a steady defensive midfielder capable of attacking play as well. His work lead to a perfect through ball to Kalou who simply slotted home past Pollersbeck to give Hertha the 2-1 lead that would see the game out.
    Both assists were typical of the Hertha style of play.  Hard work and effort that luckily had an end result

    Genki Haraguchi (Hertha BSC 2 Bayern Munchen 2, Berlin Olympiastadion)

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    Come back on: Celebrating a comeback, Ondrej Duda (Left) scored after an incredible assist from Genki Haraguchi (right) against Bayern Munich


    Genki Haraguchi would go to spend the second half of the season in Dusseldorf on loan for more playing time but his set up for the first goal for Hertha at home to Bayern Munich would be considered by some as ‘assist of the season’.
    Hertha, 2-0 down at the time, stepped on the gas after Lewandowski’s goal that added to first goal by Mats Hummels in the first half. Carlo Ancelotti had just been sacked at Bayern and Willy Sagnol was interim manager of the Bavarian team. Everything looked to be going smoothly, but immediately after the restart from Lewandowski’s strike, Bayern didn’t have time to even catch their breath. Hertha went on the attack, having already started the second half brightly. Haraguchi was already lively when he picked the ball up from a pass from the right wing, as he managed to weave his way through the Bayern defence past 3 German internationals. His tricky footwork was too much for likes of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng as Haraguchi slipped easily past them and then unselfishly passed to an open Ondrej Duda who tapped in was unmissable range.
    It was Duda’s first goal but all came from the work of Haraguchi, who’s assist that resulted in a goal, would be the prompt for a comeback.
    Hertha began pressing. Kalou had shots on goal to no avail, when eventually a foul in Plattenhardt range mean an in swinging free kick into the box. The cross was actually poor, but an error of  judgement but Bayern’s new boy Tolisso allowed the ball to drop directly to the feet of Salomon Kalou who didn’t miss and from 2-0 down Hertha drew the game 2-2, keeping as well earned point in Berlin.

  13. One leader from your team?
    Vedad Ibisevic (c)

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    Leader: Ibisevic was chosen as Hertha captain in 2017


    Despite the inconsistency of starting, performances and captaincy this season, Ibisevic is a player that has proven that even if he is not scoring he is still leading on the pitch. It was his leadership as captain against Koln that saw Hertha claim all three points after the changes made at half time and Mitchell Weiser was replaced. Ibisevic is said to be a player, in the words of his friends on his native Bosnia, that would cry after a loss because he took the defeat so personally. His tough life, surviving and escaping the bloodshed in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war, only strengthened his mentality and the gift of the captains armband actually calmed his more aggressive side. The captains armband was handed to Ibisevic in 2016/17 from Fabian Lustenberger. It seemed to work as Hertha finished in a Europa League group stage place, above the finishing spot of the season previous.
    Ibisevic is a passionate player and it shows in performance as a captain. Whilst he is capable of keeping it cool due to the responsibility the arm band brings with it, he’s not afraid of letting his feelings known. He’s level headed enough to be encouraging to the team, even if his own performance is lacking.

     

  14. A player who started regularly for your team this season that you just wish fucked off?
    Mitchell Weiser (AGAIN!)
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    Nuff said surely. If Mitch doesn’t want to be in Berlin any longer than he should be encouraged to leave and it seems Dardai has the same belief.

  15. Any unfair decisions go against your team this season?
    Offside goal for Hoffenheim

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    Life’s not fair: Nico Schultz (Top right corner) is clearly offside when the ball in played through, 2 seconds later a penalty was given


    It’s not good to blame the referee for incidents on the pitch but sometimes it has to be done. Even with VAR the final decision is left open to interpretation from the referee.
    The game between Hertha and Hoffenheim in Berlin was scoreless when the referee gave a dubious penalty for a trip in the box. Unfortunately for Niklas Stark there was no sympathy for him as he’d committed the ‘foul’ as a result of slipping and sticking his leg out to actually get back up, but what’s more frustrating was that the ball was passed to Nico Schultz, after Stark had touched the ball, but who still was involved in build up play who had been collecting the ball after coming from off the pitch to receive it, which would have put him in an offside position.
    The referee claimed the offside call was non existent because Stark had been involved too and the next phase of play had begun rendering the offside out of the question but the ball would have reached Schultz anyway and he was still active. The foul was committed after the offside, so shouldn’t have even stood. You can argue or agree with the referee it depends on how you look at it

    Red Card Jordan Torunarigha vs Leipzig

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    “What?!”: Marvin Plattenhardt is livid as youngster Jordan Torunarigha is sent off against RB Leipzig


    If ever there was an unfair call it had to be Jordan Torunarigha’s red card in the 8th minute of the game in Leipzig.
    Timo Werner may be quick but his clash with Torunarigha was certainly a 50/50 in which both players clattered and tangled their legs whilst going for the same ball. Whilst it could’ve been deemed a foul from either side, it was Werner that got the benefit of the doubt. Although 25 yards out the referee had decided the block denied a goal scoring opportunity although it clearly didn’t and sent Torunarigha off. Young Torunarigha remained calm but fellow defender Marvin Plattenhardt was clearly livid at the referees unfair decision.
    The challenge wasn’t brash or clumsy, it was simply a tangle of legs but Werner didn’t care, he back chatted and mouthed at the officials and Leipzig got a break through without even scoring however it would be them who were left scratching their heads as they lost the game to 10 man Berlin 3-2

  16. Best passer in your team?
    Marvin Plattenhardt

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    Precise: Plattenhardt is renowned for his set pieces, dead ball shots and assists


    Plattenhardt’s talents for ball distribution haven’t gone unnoticed by German national team head coach Joachim Loew. Plattenhardt is set piece and dead ball specialist who’s Bundesliga goals have all come from free kicks. Despite not scoring this season, he has been crucial in a number of them as the assist provider including from corners and free kicks as well as open play. Plattenhardt’s preciseness allows the likes of Kalou to get their chances at goal and along with Lazaro assists and chances from both wings are frequent for Hertha.

     

  17. With only a few weeks of the season to go, what are you hoping for come end of May? E.g. could be playing for pride, win the FA cup/UCL, or stay up
    Europa League tiny chances, Pride for as many points as possible

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    Dreams… probably not: The 2017/18 Europa League campaign was not a success


    It has to be mainly pride. Hertha’s final game of the season is against RB Leipzig and their is a planned fan march entitled “The march of tradition” on match day which speaks volumes about the mixed feelings over the new digital marketing strategy as well as the animosity towards Red Bull and Leipzig. To beat Leipzig could also mean the possibility of keeping them out of the European spots all together, as they just lost 5-2 to Hoffenheim at home in the match day just passed.
    The pride aspect wouldn’t just be for Berlin but for traditional clubs as well.
    There’s a tiny outside chance if the clubs above Hertha also now fail to win their next games, a Europa league playoff place is possible but whether fans want to go through the process of the play off again is another matter, especially after the disaster of this years group stage campaign.  At the end of the day the fact it’s against Leipzig, the club that the majority of clubs despise, and the fact Hertha could potentially prevent them reaching European football again, that makes the final match day worthwhile.
    Hertha’s main objective even this season, was to survive and now that’s been done (Mathematically impossible to be relegated), going out on a high against a club everyone hates is the priority.

  18. Sack your manager at the end of the season. Yes or no?
    Absoutely…No way!

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    Herthaner: Pal Dardai spent his entire playing career at Hertha, he has now had 3 consecutive top table finishes as a manager


    Since Hertha have had a successful two Bundesliga seasons following surviving relegation in 2014/15, it means the expectation of the team has changed and risen. Some fans complain as they expect more… but this is Hertha, and the most we should be hoping for as be continue to build the future with developing the current and youth teams, is to survive and finish as high as possible.
    Since Pal Dardai became manager at the tailend of the the 2014/15 season in which Hertha were sitting in the relegation playoff spot, he not only saved the club from potential relegation but he crafted a well structured team that in its next season finished 7th in a Europa league playoff spot and reached the DFB Pokal semi final.
    The following season the club finished 6th having drawn at home against Bayern Munich in a match the team deserved to win, and beaten Borussia Dortmund and qualified for the Europa League groups stages. Dardai’s appointment of manager has been one of the greatest signings of recent years in Berlin as he’s given chances to youth players from the academy to shine on the pitch for the first team (The likes of Arne Maier and Jordan Torunarigha) and shaped a well performing team with good and traditional values. Dardai is also a Hertha man through and through having played almost the entirety of his career in Berlin for the “Alte Dame”, he coaches the team with discipline and he’s honest about his frustrations when things go wrong. A good coach is one thing but a good coach who has only that team in his heart is something else. He’s not a manager that should part ways with the club, not at all. Even if failure came, Dardai would still be a part of the club in some form. He could never leave entirely.

  19. Any player(s) you missed this season? Whether sold, Injured or even suspended for a crucial game.
    Lazaro and Plattenhardt vs Wolfsburg

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    Missing quality: Against Wolfsburg both Plattenhardt (left) and Lazaro (centre) were missing… and it showed


    John Anthony Brooks could’ve been a huge loss had he not been replaced with the equally talented Karim Rekik in the summer.
    Brooks was absent for the awful game between Hertha and Wolfsburg in Berlin. The vile weather didn’t help matters either nor did the absence of Marvin Plattenhardt and Valentino Lazaro.
    Plattenhardt missed the game through suspension after picking up 5 yellow cards in the season and Valentino Lazaro missed the match because he had been recovering from a cold.  The lack of pace in the game showed that there was something missing. There were limited crosses into the box from Hertha, as the two players most successful at delivering them were absent.
    The game ended goalless with limited chances for both sides but the lack of bite from Hertha was obvious and the return of Plattenhardt and Lazaro was a welcome one as they came back a week later against Gladbach and the chances created were far greater in number. Despite a loss it was far from the lackluster pace of the Wolfsburg game and then against Koln is seemed to work. Plattenhardt set up the winning goal and helped provide the cross that was half cleared when Selke finally smashed it in.
    Had they been on the pitch against Wolfsburg perhaps the game would’ve been a tad more exciting, who knows?

  20. Do you have any statistics to show, whether it’s team or player?
    Hertha, the only club undefeated against Bayern 2017/18.

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    Smashed: Kalou equalised for Hertha against Bayern Munich after being 2-0 down

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    The Berlin Wall: Bayern could not find a way through at home to Hertha, as they drew 0-0 at the Allianz arena

    Hertha first played Bayern Munich at a time when fans were 50/50 on the belief that it was a great time to play the champions. Some believed that the sacking of Ancelotti would only spur the Munich side on, who had a point to prove. Other’s believed that Munich would be all over the place in terms of organisation and that made them vulnerable.
    It would seem that the first half of the game determined that the former was true. Bayern were 2-0 in the 49th minute thanks to Hummels and Lewandowski but a quickfire response thanks to some unbelievable footwork from the Japanese international Genki Haraguchi and an Ondrej Duda finish, followed by the equaliser by Kalou to make it 2-2 on 56 mins showed that the optimistic supporters had been correct. Hertha were more than capable of taking on the big boys, although it’s wondered if Bayern simply fell apart because of the so called ‘crisis’ in the club at the time (as in they weren’t winning every game so they thought it was a crisis… yeah I laugh about that too). It showed character from Hertha who never allowed their head’s to drop, even against the giants and who fought back to celebrate a hard earned draw in Berlin… and I was there to see it.
    What’s more, there’s another record to be proud of, after the return of Jupp Heynckes. Jupp took Bayern back to the top of the table, clambering above an ever fading Borussia Dortmund side that looked completely out of place and  unsettled after the sacking of their own manager Peter Bosz (who ultimately deserved it for his inability to adapt his style to face different teams in Europe).
    Heyncke’s return stabilised Bayern who looked far stronger and emerged as the superior team in Germany once again under his guidance. No one gave Hertha BSC a hope in hell’s chance of leaving Munich with anything. Considering Bayern had defeated every other team they’d faced in the league at home under Jupp and especially since Hertha hadn’t beaten Bayern in about a decade (probably more than that) the belief that keeping the defeat minimal came into effect in the manner of thinking of the fans… the players had other ideas. Bayern had scored in every home game under Heynckes since his return… except this one.
    Although they can consider themselves a trifle unlucky, Bayern created chances but didn’t take them as well as an outstanding man of the match defensive performance from Jordan Torunarigha as well who made multiple goal line clearances preventing Bayern from scoring. It was a stellar defensive performance from Hertha who showed Bayern they could be matched. It left the Muncheners frustrated but gave the Berliners a deserved point. It’s not like the bus was parked either as Hertha had shots of their own but failed to really trouble the Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich.
    Rune Jarstein in addition to Torunarigha gave an outstanding performance in goal, preventing Arjen Robben from snatching a goal from not one but two on target free kicks and he came to the rescue on multiple occasions for Hertha. A rather exciting 0-0 draw meant that Hertha were the ONLY Bundesliga team not to be defeated by Jupp Heynckes as well as being a club that were undefeated to Bayern over the course of the season, with the last three games in a row ending in draws.

    Rune Jarstein… the only man to stop the man on fire.

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    “Absolutely not! No damn way!”: Rune Jarstein (and Jordan Torunarigha) put in magnificent defensive displays again Bayern in Munich, ensuring that Jarstein is the only keeper (as of April 2018) to stop Robert Lewandowski scoring at the Allianz Arena

    In addition to being undefeated against Bayern in the 2017/18 season, Rune Jarstein became the only keeper at that point, (and as far as I’m aware is still currently), to prevent Robert Lewandowski from scoring in a Bayern Munich home game. Lewandowski has scored at home against every single team in the Bundesliga this season except in the 0-0 draw against Hertha. Jarstein made saved after save over the course of that match and was on par with Torunarigha for the man of the match. Without them the result would’ve been a lot different.
    Lewandowski did score in the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season, putting Bayern 2-0 up, but the game ended 2-2. Jarstein’s performance ensured Hertha were undefeated against the champions this season.

  21. You can only pick one position that you can improve on this summer. Which position are you picking?
    Right Back

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    More than capable: Peter Pekarik is an established right back


    It looks a little inevitable at the moment that Mitchell Weiser will leave during the summer. Since his exist clause becomes active, Hertha can pick up a tidy sum for him and Preetz has already been looking into replacements. There are rumours that should Koln be relegated, Hertha are looking into buying defender Lukas Klunter. But as of now Peter Pekarik is playing the right back position in place of Weiser.
    Unhappy with his performance in the first half against Koln, Dardai replaced Weiser and apparently openly scalded him for his lack of fight and effort during the first 45 minutes. When he was replaced by Mathew Leckie, the game changed despite an inexperienced defensive wise Lazaro slotting into a right back-type position.
    The performance on the pitch and in training had been so poor apparently, it would seem Dardai tried to send the youngster a message by leaving him out of the game in Frankfurt (which Hertha won 3-0) all together. Weiser did not even make the bench for the game and Pekarik started in his place. If Pekarik, who’s contract runs until at least 2020 maintains his starting spot at right back, he currently has no back up if Weiser is to be sold, so one is desperately needed, preferably a youngster.

  22. Your favourite player is?
    Vedad Ibisevic

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    From refugee to national hero: Vedad Ibisevic survived the Yugoslavian wars to become a successful professional footballer

    I make it no secret that Vedad Ibisevic has been my favourite player for Hertha BSC since he joined in 2015/16. It isn’t just his mark as a player but as a human being also. Ibisevic is Bosnian, the country my family hails from, only unlike my family who came to England in 1948, Vedad and his family were present during the Bosnian war and had to survive then escape to safety in Tuzla, a safe zone.
    Ibisevic’s dream of playing professional football didn’t diminish. Despite the war being over Bosnia was not safe in the early 2000’s when Ibisevic and family moved at first to Switzerland and then to the United States where Vedad spent most of his teenage years. Ibisevic developed his skills as a footballer in the US, but when called upon for international duty only had his heart set on representing Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    He was recruited at first by Paris giants PSG, but failed… yet never gave up and moved to Germany to Aachen where he eventually broke through. From there he joined Hoffenheim and Stuttgart where he was an immense success as a striker, reaching double figures in goals each season for both clubs in the seasons he spent there.
    Ibisevic did however have the trait of a true Balkan native with his unpredictable temperament, in which hot headed reactions saw him sent off a number of times.
    When he moved to Hertha he picked up where he left off, becoming top goalscorer in 2016/17 and being handed that captains armband for that season. He was an impact player with a lot of heart and love for the game. Having had to fight to survive, he is now a major success in the football world and what’s more his goals internationally gifted Bosnia the opportunity of playing in their first ever world cup finals, with Ibisevic scoring not only the goal that took them to Brazil but also their first ever goal in the finals against Argentina (despite a 2-1 defeat).
    Ibisevic scored in the home game of 2016/17 against Bayern, the victory was only denied by a 97th minute equaliser but Ibisevic’s unquestionable dedication to the team is continuous even though the current season has been turbulent.

    Davie Selke

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    It’s all heart from here: Davie Selke goes ballistic after scoring the penalty to put Hertha into the lead in Frankfurt again Eintracht.

    Davie Selke began the season 2017/18 late due to injury but once he returned his impact was magnificent. Selke was exactly the type of player Hertha needed, quick and agile and able to head the ball as well as strike it.
    But Selke’s likability is one of his greatest assets.
    It seems to me that his experience last season at RB Leipzig (Where he scored twice against Hertha in their match in Berlin and wasn’t overly celebratory about it even though it guaranteed Champions League football for Leipzig), it was not a pleasant experience for him in Leipzig. Although he was a huge factor in their promotion for the Bundesliga, the Red Bull outfit practically shafted him for their debut Bundesliga season and didn’t seem particularly bothered about the thought of losing him to another club. Whatever happened behind the scenes at Leipzig prompted Selke to make the switch to Berlin where it would appear his skill and his work rate are far greater appreciated.
    He scored in the Europa league and Bundesliga in two losses, but towards the end of the season has come up good in wins against the likes of Frankfurt away and Koln at home. Selke’s has shown determination in the games he’s both started and been brought off the bench.  He’s skillful and not afraid to show it but more than that he’s passionate about the game, as can be clearly seen in his celebrations against Koln and Frankfurt where he was probably lucky not to burst a blood vessel from the screaming he was emitting. He was even openly celebrating Mathew Leckie’s goal after it was given from VAR review (offside review) in Frankfurt.
    Selke was in a battle with Frankfurt defender Hasebe all afternoon, it was he who gave the penalty away which Selke converted but it was Hasebe that would see trouble in the battle as he elbowed Selke in the face later in the match resulting in a straight red card. Selke needed medical attention after the game and sat out training for the following two days, but his reaction on the pitch was to get up and play on until the 86th minute, determined to carry on.
    Selke is slick, young, pacy, a goal scorer, but it’s his attitude towards playing in Berlin that makes him one of the players of the season. He seems to appreciate the support of the Hertha faithful and that’s more meaningful that simply scoring goals.

  23. How many players do you need to become a top team?
    Signings? Maybe 3-4?

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    Ambition: “The future belongs to Berlin”

    It’s hard to say but the midfield is aging and it’s time we started looking for backups as well as a new right back. With a midfield of Skjelbred, Darida, Lustenberger, Salomon Kalou, a new attacking and defensive midfielder would be good, although Arne Maier and Valentino Lazaro are more than good enough. A new striker perhaps too with Ondrej Duda yet to show his best and Vedad Ibisevic not getting any younger, its more than possible that Julian Schieber will be on his way out in the summer too as his contract expires. Selke is a bit of injected youth, but with only Selke, Ibisevic and Duda to choose from, an extra hand would be useful in the goal scoring department.
    Although defensively it would appear as though Hertha are relatively comfortable a back up or two would also be quite useful although we’re not short of talent in the youth sides, with players such as Florian Baak.

    It’ll be an interesting new season

Some pictures from the season

 

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HAHOHE! HERTHA BSC!

Bundesliga chatter box: “…and all the rest of it”

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So I’ve had several thoughts swishing around in my head for the past week or so and thought “why not just share them?”, after all there is much to talk about.
VAR is back in the headlines, Bayern become champions, Hamburg are FINALLY set to be relegated and protests over Monday night football are causing a stir. There’s been a new headcoach of Bayern announced but controversy over his appointment and the manner in which it was handled,  Schalke secured Champions League football for next season and my beloved Hertha saw their 1000th home goal scored.

Yes lots to talk about, lots to share your opinion on.

So why not… welcome to the Bundesliga chatter box, focusing on ALL of the leagues plot points with a zoom in on Hertha too. Chatter box was an appropriate title so, lets go!

“Endlich Zweite Liga”: (Almost) Lights out for Hamburg and Koln.

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Times up: Hamburg’s infamous “never relegated” clock may be about to stop ticking

With Hamburg suffering defeat at the hands of Hoffenheim and Hertha making a comback against a resilient FC Koln to take all three points, it looks as though the fate of the bottom two clubs in the Bundesliga is now sealed.
Both Hamburg and Koln had given themselves hopes of an unlikely great escape, when Koln defeated Leverksusen 2-0 two weeks ago, but a huge 6-0 loss to Hoffenheim the following week quickly dashed their hopes of a strong run out into the end of the season. Likewise, Hamburg had given themselves hope when they beat Schalke 04 by 3 goals to 2 in a topsy turvey clash, only to lose to the same opponent as Koln a week later (Hoffenheim) who beat the red shorts 2-0.

With Mainz winning their controversial (In more ways than one) clash with Freiburg on Monday night, it leaves Hamburg and Koln  8 and 9 points off the relegation play off spot with only 4 match days remaining. With only 12 points maximum possible from the last four games, provided they win all 4 of them they’d have to hope that Mainz, Wolfsburg AND Freiburg ALL lose their games this coming weekend which seems unlikely. Hamburg play against Freiburg, potentially they could give themselves some hope, but they’d have to hope Mainz and Wolfsburg also lose. Koln have to win, if they don’t they’re gone.  With three teams on 30 points as well it’s all about the relegation playoff spot. Koln have the near impossible task of winning all their games, hoping that these three lose all four and then beating Bayern along the way in order to succeed. Hamburg’s toughest challenge will be against Gladbach and Frankfurt, however they also need to rely on the three clubs on 30 points to have any chance of survival. As long as one of those clubs wins this weekend, Hamburg are all but gone and if all three of them win, they’ll be a second division side next season for definite. The first time in their long history, the arrogance of having a clock displaying the fact they are the only Bundesliga team to never be relegated in their stadium, that clock may be about to be dismantled and about to stop ticking. There is still a little hope to make the playoff spot for Hamburg but it’s tiny and this weekend is decisive for them. Both clubs have one thing in common on this journey though, and that is the fact they both lose to Hertha BSC in games they simply HAD to win to stay up. Koln more so, but the chants from the Berliners in Hamburg of “Endlich Zweite Liga” (Finally the 2nd league!) said it all and Hamburg fans didn’t seem to disagree either. Both of those matches also saw the relegation threatened sides take the lead only for Hertha to turn it around and win the game 2-1 on both occasions having been behind 1-0 at halftime.
According to reports, Koln’s and Germany’s left back Jonas Hector, was left in the dressing room at full time after losing to Hertha in floods of tears as the inevitable loomed ever closer.

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Absteiger: Hector was left broken after defeat to Hertha, as Koln look certain to be relegated, and is consoled by Per Ciljan Skjelbred

For Koln it’s a sad way to go out as they’d showed such progress after the winter pause with an improvement in the teams displays on the pitch and some real hope in their derby wins against Gladbach and Leverkusen but when it really mattered the team just crumbled. Such a traditional club with fantastic fans and passionate support, is always a great loss, in both cases here with both clubs. Koln however have suffered this fate before and Hamburg have never experienced it, which makes you wonder how well the two teams will bounce back next season (Should they be relegated, there is still a tiny chance they won’t). Koln are believed to be capable of bouncing straight back as the club as experienced the fight for survival and pain of relegation before. Hamburg on the other hand have to adapt to the Zweite liga and calmly work their way back, because unfortunately with relegation comes the inevitability that players will leave the clubs. There are already rumours circulating that players from both clubs are in talks with other Bundesliga sides should the relegation happen. Hamburg will need to regroup and rebuild from a situation that no one associated with the traditions of the club has any experience in. For Koln it’s the simple question of “How will we go about it this time? but with Hamburg they need to find the middle ground and plant their feet their firmly in the second division before trying to bounce back up to the Bundesliga.

One small plus for Hamburg fans could be that, provided they don’t get relegated themselves, the local derby with St Pauli will once again be an almighty fixture. Whilst the Rivierderby between Schalke and Dortmund is fierce, politics are usually left aside as both cities are similar, however the political divide in Hamburg is still so strong that the Hamburg derby is sure to be one of the most fiery events of the season should both clubs be in the second division next year. Lets just hope St Pauli survive this season first and then the fans can look forward to one hell of a match up.

Bayern, Champions… for one reason: And it’s not Jupp Heynckes

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Meister: Bayern win their 6th title after victory in Augsburg

Bayern Munchen are champions yet again, for the 6th consecutive season (Surprise surprise, YAWN!), we all knew this months ago but the belief that it was all down to Jupp Heynckes re-appointment as coach is not well founded. In fact Bayern probably still would’ve won the league with Carlo Ancelotti still in charge and his dismissal was unfair, a few rocky performances and the players go into mutiny? It’s childish behaviour from the Bayern players that got him sacked and Heynckes appointed in the first place but the real reason for Bayern’s triumph is not simply down to Jupp’s magic touch… there’s only one real reason for that victory and it’s Borussia Dortmund and their epic downfall.
What’s more, Ancelotti won the title with Bayern last season, and the Bayern players and fans weren’t complaining back then, claiming he was the best coach in the world ect. Only when they suffered a defeat, as it they feel entitled to victory in every game that they play, did the fans and players begin to have considerable doubts about Ancelotti. Pretty much says it all.

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Hapless: Dortmund’s demise included a 6-0 (HT 5-0) away defeat to Bayern Munich.

Dortmund started the season extremely strongly, but Peter Bosz’s failure to adapt his winning formula too all the opponents Dortmund were to face meant that once the initial few games were played, teams had the opportunity to study the tactics. Instead of adapting his game plan Bosz approached every game in the same manner, and eventually other teams worked out his style, his tactics and his approach and were able to counter them and eventually to repel and defelct them extremely easily. The attacking style of play simply doesn’t work against some teams, Bosz failed to see that, and when under pressure he simply wasn’t able to come up with any answers, there was seemingly a state of panic. Then came his dismissal, and the introduction of Peter Stoger, who in all fairness as no better. The fact he had been fired from Koln having left them bottom of the table at Christmas with a one digit points tally didn’t speak in favour by the BVB board wanted stability. Whilst he did provide that in some way, the truth was that the overall performances were still just as poor as they were under Peter Bosz, the change had meant results had changed but Dortmund when they were victorious were only winning by a few goals and not looking at all comfortable in their success. Their failure allowed revitalised Bayern to over take them, but Bayern themselves were not the monster they had been in previous season even with Heynckes. They failed to beat Hertha Berlin at home even under Jupp’s guidance, all down to the fact that the Berliners knew exactly how to play against them and defended for their lives playing a fearless game. Other clubs had taken on the Bavarians, seen some success and then conceded and fallen apart. Rune Jarstein remains the only Bundesliga goalkeeper not to conceded to Robert Lewandowski in Munich this season, Hertha is the only team Heynckes hasn’t beaten but they’re mid table mediocre and not at all a threat to Bayern so there is proof that Bayern are not the dominant force they had been a few years ago under Heynckes. However the epic downfall of BVB is potentially the greatest factor that contributed to Bayern’s title win this season. Had Dortmund put in continuous displays, adapted their style and kept their composure and confidence that they showed in the opening 7 or 8 games we could well be looking at different champions this season. Unfortunately the mutiny that saw Ancelotti sacked, Heynckes hired and the falling apart of the yellows meant that Bayern earned their 6th title in a row, much to the dismay of fans of all other Bundesliga teams who are now just tired of it.

Kovac to Bavaria: Maths doesn’t add up.

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Return: Niko Kovac will return to Bayern Munich in July as their new first team head coach

The week that Koln lost to Hertha which could see the Effzeh relegated this weekend, and saw the Bayern draw Real Madrid in the Champions League, also saw the news that Heynckes would finally retire in July 2018, and that his successor would be the former Leverkusen, Hertha and Bayern midfielder, Niko Kovac, currently making waves with Eintract Frankfurt… sort of strange how after this was announced, Frankfurt went on to lose their game against Bayer Leverkusen 4-1.

But the manner in which the appointment was made has ruffled many feathers in the Eintracht camp, including their Sporting director Bobic, who openly criticised Bayern in the media for their handling of the situation.
Kovac has been somewhat of a phenomenon in Frankfurt in his first two full seasons. His appointment in 2015/16 saw him take over a side that was battling relegation in the playoffs of which they drew 1-1 in the first leg and were victorious in the second triumphing 1-0 and ensuring survival. Kovac was seen as a class act as he consoled the players of Nurnberg, who had just lost the chance to be promoted and kept Frankfurt in the top flight.
His next season would see Frankfurt become DFB Pokal finalists, however they lost to Borussia Dortmund 2-1 and the following season, this season of 2017/18, Kovac led Frankfurt to a potential bout in European football, leading them to the top 6 with the chance to qualify for the Champions League or more likely the Europa league.

It was always going to happen, with rumours of Hoffenheim’s young sensation Julian Nagelsmann and Dortmund’s former head coach Thomas Tuchel being approached. It later emerged that Tuchel had turned down Bayern’s offer and Nagelsmann had not even been approached but when Kovac was announced he claimed to have only been contacted a few days prior to the appointment. His claims were completely unfounded and torn apart by the revelation that Kovac had met with Bayern executives weeks before his appointment as their coach and the fact that the German sports magazine “Kicker” had known for days before the press conference that revealed his appointment about the approach Bayern had made to Kovac. Along with this the timing of the appointment has to be called into question from Bayern’s side too and it’s not the first time such a thing has happened. When Bayern signed Mario Goetze they announced the deal just days before Bayern played his current club at the time Borussia Dortmund. Bayern announced Kovac’s appointment a day before a game between Frankfurt and Leverkusen and just before Frankfurt’s game in the DFB Pokal semi final showdown with Schalke. As it turns out Frankfurt were victorious in their game in Gelsenkirchen, not in least thanks to some VAR controversy, to make it 2 DFB Pokal finals in a row for the Eagles. However Kovac’s success in reaching the final in Berlin means a double win for Bayern Munich, as if they win the club will have another trophy but if they should lose Bayern have means to justify their hiring of Kovac before he takes over. Is it a coincidence that Kovac is facing his future employers in the final? Maybe, but the pressure the prospect of  facing Bayern could put on him (Maybe even purposefully too) could see an extremely easy victory for the Munich side. No one’s suggesting Kovac would throw away the chance to win the final but the coincidence may just be one too far. Either way Bayern won’t be troubled and their treble ambitions are still alive.

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“Bayern are Disrespectful”: Fredi Bobic, the director of sport at Eintracht Frankfurt was not happy with Bayern’s attitude and handling of the appointment of Kovac

The problem circulates around Bayern’s approach to not only business but also their arrogance, influence and pressure surrounding other clubs as well. Kovac’s success at Frankfurt could mean they would potentially be a competitor for the future under his guidance. By poaching him, they have not only gained a coach but weakened a Bundesliga opponent. Additionally, Bayern prompted Kovac to put a 2.2m Euro buyout clause in his current Eintracht contract, so that if he did succeed as their coach he could easily be bought out of his contract only by Bayern. Much like loaning a player out, Bayern purposefully bound Kovac to their own club whilst he was at Frankfurt to test the waters before approaching him to fully employ him.  Frankfurt claim now that Bayern leaked the news before Eintracht was ready to release a statement, just as Bayern had been accused of regarding the signing of Mario Goetze. The round about way in which Bayern go about their business is not illegal, it’s totally legit but it does beg the question whether or not it is ethical, just as their fortunes and riches and ability to purchase players from their rivals in the league is questionable ethically. Such moves are not only making Bayern impossible to compete with in Germany but it’s making the Bundesliga a one horse race every season. Just how excited can you pretend to be when you’re so used to winning the title every season? Regardless, Kovac’s move to Bavaria is questionable, more so is the way that Bayern handled the situation. There’s no question that something isn’t right here but whether Kovac will be a success is another question all together. He has no experience in balancing out domestic and European competition with a squad as deep as Bayern’s, it could prove tough for him and if he’s not an instant success, will he just be cast aside?

What a bloody mess!: VAR Strikes Again

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What the…?!: Players from Freiburg surround the referee in the Monday night game in Mainz after an incredible VAR incident which led to total confusion.

VAR (Video assistant Referee) has not been popular in Germany since its introduction in the opening game of the season between Bayern Munich and Bayern Leverkusen.
The controversy over the use of the video referee, the lack of clarity as to when it should and shouldn’t be used, whether or not it undermines the importance and competence of the match referee, the wasting of time and the difference of opinion between referee and VAR have all been at the centre of the issue surrounding the use of the system, especially since it’s clearly not been mastered and yet is still being used at the biggest competition in the world at the FIFA World Cup.
The Monday night fixture between relegation playoff threatened Mainz and Freiburg, which was already under scrutiny because of the DFB’s decision to play matches on Monday’s (Which German fans are also firmly against) saw once again how VAR, despite being used to make the correct decision, was far from perfect in its use.
When Mainz were award a clear penalty, you’d think this would be grounds for VAR to be praised, however the penalty was awarded after the referee had blown the half time whistle and the Freiburg players were already inside the tunnel on their way to the dressing room with the score at 0-0.
Although the handball decision was ultimately correct, the VAR had taken so long to respond and make the referee aware that there was a potential penalty claim that the players were already preparing for their half time team talk.
The Freiburg players initially refused to return to the pitch in order for the penalty to be taken. Eventually they realised they had no choice, and did enter the field of play for the penalty which was dispatched successfully giving Mainz a 1-0 lead at half time. The referee blew the half time whistle immediately after the penalty was taken and scored, however the goal couldn’t be officially clocked as technically it was scored after the end of play.

On Wednesday the VAR was called into question again in the 2nd DFB Pokal Halbfinale between Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke 04. Not only was it used to send a player off from Frankfurt, but Schalke equalised in the 94th minute (into the 6 minutes of time added on), only for the referee to disallow the goal for a handball. Not only was the handball extremely questionable, but the referee blew just as the ball hit the back of the net and refused to either consult the VAR or to view the video screen for himself to review the decision, when the ball was controlled by and clearly struck the players shoulder, not his hand or any part of the arm. The refusal of the referee to review the decision he made again begs the question as to when VAR should be used and whether or not it is a huge problem in modern football, to allow the game to be disrupted because of a lack of organisation and clarity regarding the rules of using it. Meanwhile Frankfurt meet Bayern in the final in Berlin, as the Bavarian side thrashed Leverkusen 6:2 at the Bay Arena, and Niko Kovac who is set to join Bayern in July will face his new employers.

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Scheiss DFB!: Fans threw toilet roll onto the pitch and goal frame in protest of the DFB’s decision to play Monday night fixtures in the Bundesliga

Whilst the penalty decision was one matter the fans of both clubs took matters into their own hands regarding another matter from the DFB, which covers the decision to play Bundesliga Matches on a Monday evening.
Traditionally Bundesliga games are only played on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Football, according to German fans, is meant for the weekends, not for the working week.
The DFB claimed their reasoning for this was to allow teams competing in European competitions, especially the Europa League which takes place on a Thursday evening at 9:05 in Germany, to rest before their next Bundesliga match. However, although Freiburg did qualify last season for the Europa league qualification rounds, they lost and were knocked out at the qualification stage, therefore had no group stage matches at all. Mainz also had not made the the Europa or Champions League group stages, and this was confirmed before the season even started. However these two clubs were handed a Monday evening game so the reasoning of the DFB is irrelevant. Hertha BSC competed in the Europa league as did RB Leipzig. Hertha were not asked to play any of their matches on a Monday following the Europa League fixtures week. Their reasoning is basically a lie and the fans know it.
What’s more, the true reasoning behind the introduction of Monday night games is simple.
Money.
TV money. The league receives more money from their TV sponsorship’s if they show matches on a Monday just as it does in England. However, Germany with only 18 Bundesliga teams, only has an Englishwoche (English week in which midweek fixtures take place on a Tuesday and Wednesday and this is mainly because of the 7 week winter pause) every few months.
The Mainz and Freiburg fans took matters into their own hands, at first by staging a fans football match with supporters playing and supporting including both clubs ultras before their showdown on Monday evening. Then during the matches second half restart, the game had to be paused as fans behind the goal threw toilet roll onto the pitch, the goal mouth and goal frame, completing covering it. The delay was minimal and Mainz won the game 2-0 but the protests from fans are getting stronger and wider across all of Germany in regards to the continuous attempts to change the German game by the DFB, moving towards a more English type structure.  During a vote recently on whether the DFL should discard the 50+1 rule which stipulates all clubs must be majority owned by their own members, only 4 league teams voted against the rule. Fans were vocal about their opinions on the matter by creating choreo pieces and multiple banners for their respective ultras blocks in the stadiums, to support the 50+1 rule. Germans highly value their football traditions, especially the idea of putting the supporters first and having a supporter based football system. The VAR and Monday night games feel like an attempt to strip that away from them and they feel well within their rights to speak out and be heard.

 

Hertha chatter

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Hahohe:I am really sorry (to FC Koln)

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Erste Heimsieg: The first home victory of 2018 for Hertha BSC

Match day 29 saw the return of Hertha’s winning ways at home. They were without a victory in 2018 at the Olympiastadion with their wins all coming away from Berlin against the likes of Leverkusen and Hamburg. It didn’t help matters that Koln were on the verge of relegation, with fire in their veins and desperate to avoid the drop, their biggest hope rode on their match in the capital and things got off to a great start for the Effzeh.

Hertha’s last points at home had all been draws, with Dormtund, Wolfsburg and Freiburg all sharing points in Berlin. Hertha are notorious for having a weaker Ruckrunde and strong Hindrunde but this season the challenge of the Europa League matches balancing out a squad without the depth to compete didn’t help and proved to be difficult.

Koln took the lead despite Hertha having the better of the chances in the opening half. Bittencourt latched onto a long ball clearance by goalkeeper Timo Horn, of which Niklas Stark couldn’t win the header against striker Jhon Cordoba and Mitchell Weiser made a terrible error of judgement allowing Bittencourt to stick his boot onto the end of the running ball. Weiser’s limp effort to clear meant that Jarstein had no chance with saving it.

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Fighting chance: Leonardo Bittencourt was the man to put Efftzeh 1-0 up before half time

Hertha continuously had chances to score. In fact they could’ve taken the lead in the first minute if not for a very alert Timo Horn. Vedad Ibisevic’s goal drought continues as his lack of goals this season is seemingly beginning to bite. His effort can’t be questioned but his goals just won’t come. He had the chance to equalise twice but couldn’t make contact with the through ball and was denied, as was Salomon Kalou, by Horn in the Koln goal.

Half time came, the Berlin side were greeted with a chorus of boos from their own supporters as they exited the field for the dressing room. Dardai had work to do and he knew it. Just as in Monchengladbach the previous week, Hertha were creating chances, but no one was putting them. Hertha had ended the game losing 2-1 despite creating half a dozen chances and being the superior team in Gladbach, it looked like the same story was unfolding against Koln in Berlin.
It was also clear that Mitchell Weiser had to be replaced. At fault for the goal and lacking in attacking ideas it was no surprise when he was replaced by the pacy Mathew Leckie before the beginning of the second half. Weiser’s departure was not even acknowledged by the supporters but Leckie’s introduction was met with praise.
The changes worked. From the offset after the restart Hertha pressed and pressed down hard on Koln’s leaky defence. Although there are questions over whether the throw in that lead to the goal was actually a Koln ball, Mathew Leckie’s introduction changed the game as the ball switched to Plattenhardt on the left, wasn’t cleared by Koln only for Davie Selke to chest it down in the box and smash the ball beyond Timo Horn.

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King Davie: Davie Selke equalised to make it 1-1

Selke, like Ibisevic, has been struggling to find the net. He hasn’t scored since Hertha drew with Dortmund in the first game of 2018, and his delight showed here as he celebrated the end of his own drought. He’d be celebrating against a few minutes later, as again Plattenhardt crossed the ball into the box in what may have been a wayward shot and Selke latched onto the end of it, slotting it past Horn again and turning the game around. Selke would be the man to score a special goal, as it was the 1000th goal scored at home for Hertha BSC. Hertha later paid tribute to all the goal scorers that had contributed to the landmark throughout the history of the club.

 

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Special: Selke’s second goal was Hertha’s 1000th home goal.

 

Koln attempted to get back into the match, with Cordoba missing a number of decent chances, the best of which came right at the end of the match when he was one on one with Jarstein only to pull the ball a little too wide to make the angle tighter, then chipping it over the Berlin keeper but also over the net.
Hertha too had a number of chances which were squandered, down mainly to the hands of Timo Horn.
Julian Schieber, a fan favourite, was introduced as was Ondrej Duda, on for Ibisevic who put in a good shift and a decent display also from Kalou who helped set up the second goal. Schieber missed a good chance to score as Horn did just enough to put him off and the ball was blasted over the bar.
As a neutral the second half would’ve been a perfect match to attend with both teams going for the three points. Hertha came out on top however and deservedly so, overall they were the dominant team just as they had been in Gladbach only this time they were on the right side of the scoreline.

It would seem the atmosphere and tone set by the supporters at halftime which were extremely unsavoury prompted Dardai into action in the second half. He knew something had to change and he knew exactly what the problem was. Mitchell Weiser has been a weak link for Hertha almost the entire season, in contrast to his great input and performances last season.

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Wise Move: Australian Mathew Leckie (left) was brought on in place of an out of sorts Mitchell Weiser (right)

 

Not only had he been technically out of place but his entire attitude seems to have shifted over the past year. During the game against Koln he just looked totally unfazed and generally not bothered. Giving up on long balls, miscontrolling the ball and his mistake for the goal contributed to the early exit. It’s easy to see the moment he should’ve put the challenge in on Leonardo Bittencourt, the ball bounced and Weiser should’ve been much stronger. He’s got the pace, he’s one of the fastest players on the Hertha team but for some reason just completely slowed when Bittencourt ran ahead of him, his concentration lapsed and his effort was lame if anything. He should’ve been stronger, he could’ve easily stuck out a right leg and cleanly won the ball but his error of judgement instead led to a goal. Weiser’s suspected lack of effort isn’t a recent occurrence. He’s been out of sorts in a number of appearances over the course of the season and is now surrounded by rumours of a move in the summer as his release clause comes into effect. Weiser joined from Bayern three seasons ago, having assisted a Bastian Schweinsteiger goal to beat Hertha in his last appearance for the Bavarian’s which won them the title. He’s been key for Hertha up until his lackluster appearances this season, and now with a new agent it’s suggested he’ll move to Borussia Dortmund or most likely Bayer Leverkusen in order to play European Football next season, with Hertha likely to finish outside the European spots.
Regardless there is something not quite right with the Hertha right back. He’s a good defensive player and an even better attacking option than Peter Pekarik, who shares the position, but if the hearts not there and he wishes to leave the best the club can do is let him go and wish him luck.

Hertha BSC: Player of the season

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Hertha BSC 2017/2018

Even if they’re not regarded as players of the season in Bundesliga, they must be seen as two of the best bargain buys in the league. Davie Selke and Valentino Lazaro have had a massive impact on Hertha since they returned from injury in late 2017. Both signed from Red Bull clubs, less than 15m Euros was spent on the pair to bring them to Berlin.
Along with Mathew Leckie and Karim Rekik, they were two of just four signings Hertha made in the summer of 2017. Selke (23) and Lazaro  (22) are also two of the youngest members of the team this season.

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Impact duo: Davie Selke (left) and Valentino Lazaro (right) have taken strides in Berlin since returning from injury

Selke scored against Hertha when RB Leipzig played in Berlin last season which secured them a spot in the Champions League this season. Leipzig triumphed 4-1 in a game in which Hertha’s general play was abysmal, the only Berlin goal was an own goal by Rani Khedira (national team star Sami’s brother) and defensive errors and a goalkeeping mistake meant a nasty result. But Selke was released by RB in 2017, having been basically rejected and shafted by the Red Bull club in favour of Timo Werner, having only started 4 games for Leipzig club in 2016/17. Selke joined Hertha in 2017 but was forced to sit out the first few months of the season with an injury as was fellow signing Valentino Lazaro who had been signed from RB Salzburg and was an Austrian Bundesliga Champion.
Selke returned from injury on match day 8 of the 2017/18 season in a 2-0 home loss to Schalke 04 but quickly bolstered his confidence by scoring in the Europa League against Zorya despite losing the game 2-1. Selke scored again in a 3-3 draw against Wolfsburg but then put in a man of the match performance against his former club RB Leipzig by scoring twice in a 3-2 victory away from home. Selke wasn’t afraid to show his delight either, he stated Werder Bremen (his first club) would be the only club he’d never celebrate against. More miraculously, the game against Leipzig was made almost an impossibility for Hertha as Jordan Torunarigha was given a straight red card after 8 mins with the game scoreless. Hertha fought with 10 men and were 3-0 up before a late fight back from Leipzig but managed to hold on.
Selke scored against Borussia Dortmund in the first game of 2018 in Berlin.
He also netted twice to come from behind in Hertha’s 2-1 victory over Koln, Hertha’s first home win of 2018 scoring Hertha’s 1000th home goal on the process, an game in which he had multiple chances. Selke is quick, tall and skillful, you wonder if he had not been injured at the start of the season just how many goals he could’ve ended the campaign with. His partnership with Ibisevic against Koln also seemed to work with all three strikers Ibisevic, Selke and Kalou creating a stronger attacking unit.

 

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Berlin Hero: Selke scored twice against old club RB Leipzig in December, with Hertha reduced to 10 men for almost 85 minutes.

Much like Selke, Lazaro made a return from injury and was initially only on loan from RB Salzburg, however after several strong performances Hertha obtained his services on a permanent basis with a long term deal. Lazaro was voted the rookie of the month by the Bundesliga in March when he assisted and scored for the club. He has consistently been the best player on the pitch for the Berliners. Lazaro finally scored his first goal against Bayer Leverkusen in Leverkusen in a 2-0 Auswartsieg for Hertha. He scored again against Hamburg in a game yet again away from home which ended in a 2-1 win.
Lazaro is quick and versatile, a secondary option to Plattenhardt for set pieces with the right foot (Plattenhardt is left footed), Lazaro is also notably skillful, unbelievably quick, his technique and skills in a 0-0 draw in Bremen vs Werder Bremen were praised highly by football pundits.
But Lazaro’s strongest asset is his ability to assist. His crosses, like Plattenhardt’s, are pinpoint accurate and his ability to create space in dribble and work under pressure are notable too.

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Young blood: Young Valentino Lazaro has been an assist king and goal scorer so far this season

Another contender for player of the season should go to 19 year old Arne Maier, a graduate of the Hertha academy and who finished as top scorers in the U19 Championships for Hertha. Maier was drafted into the starting line up by Pal Dardai after an injury to midfielder Vladimir Dardia. Darida, an attacking style player with mid pace was forced out for months and replaced by the more defensive style Maier who assisted a goal against Leverkusen and Leipzig as well as almost scoring himself in the latter. Maier is a fearless defensive midfielder despite his young age, he’s confident and calm in his position and skillful as well as aware and alert, Maier is just one of a number of talents coming up from the youth system. The likes of Jordan Torunarigha, who had a man of the match performance along with Rune Jarstein against Bayern in Munich, have been successful in breaking through into the first team. Palko Dardai (head coach Pal’s son), Florian Baak, Sidney Freide, Maximillian Mittelstadt and Julius Kade are all talents to look out for in the future but Maier so far has been the success story with barely any errors during his appearances.

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Top talent: Arne Maier has progressed from the youth teams into a regular first team player.

 

Ultras vs Management: Talk, don’t hush!

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No talk: Hertha Ultras are unhappy with the management, but not willing to speak to them

If there is no dialogue between two parties, than how can one ever hope to resolve any problems they may have?
Over the past few season the Hertha’s Ultras groups have ceased speaking with the management and directors of the club, who have openly stated they are willing to talk, because they feel the direction the club is taking is not a good one. Claiming they feel they are not being heard, the ultras decided to stop speaking to the management of Hertha BSC instead of attempting to resolve their concerns about the future of the club. Most recently banners in the Ostkuve have appeared calling for Paul Keuter, the digital marketing director to leave the club, however the ultras have failed to take into consideration the benefits that digital marketing can bring to the club and the possibility that the use of social media could enhance the clubs global reach and popularity, piquing the interest of football fans in general. It’s not like Man City or Chelsea, who’s investments and massive cash fund have attracted ‘fans’ from around the global, but rather about making the club better known amongst the football community. The ultras refusal to listen to the opinions of the management has resulted in the cutting ties (although they’re still willing to accept money from the club). The problem is that without any dialogue from them, the ultras cannot hope to resolve their issues and concerns and cannot progress or make their voices heard. By being silent, they are achieving nothing and quite frankly, behaving like children that cannot get their own way and are sulking in the corner. The only way to resolve this problem is for them to speak to the management and although they may not like what they’re going to hear, they can at least share some of their own thoughts and ideas with the directors of the club. Keuter has been verbally attacked continuously over recent months, criticised perhaps unfairly by the ultras. Michael Preetz has already told the press he is not the one halting discussions with the Ultras, but rather that they that refuse to speak to him as he is willing to listen. Whilst their concerns over marketing ploys and campaigns and the fears of breaking traditions are well founded they have to understand that as times change, technology changes, perceptions change, that clubs most also change with these factors. Whilst they do not have to become slaves to advances in technology and the media world, they have to be aware of it and be aware of the advantages it can bring to the club, without potentially selling the clubs soul. With proper management it can be beneficial, keeping the traditions of Hertha BSC and its fans whilst developing in other areas and modernising in the way things are run within the club. So long as the club is cautious changes can come to Hertha without diminishing the proud traditions, history and heritage the club has. Last season it was the shirt colours that ruffled the feathers of the ultras, worried about the kit colour being a marketing ploy, this season it seems to be digitalisation that they are angry about. There is always something they are not happy with and you wonder if they’re just looking for something to complain about, but lack of dialogue will benefit no one. There are ways that the club can progress and remain traditional, it can be done and the club doesn’t have to sell its soul to be progressive.22426458_10155168825387569_7463886553622502289_ohertha-4_1516464250-768x432 (1).jpg

 

 

 

What English football needs?: 50+1, safe standing and Ultras

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Football is yet another German success story.

In comparison with other countries in Europe, Germany sees the biggest and loudest crowds, the cheapest matchday tickets and the best atmosphere’s and supporters and it’s mainly down to some major factors.

Earlier today, the DFL were in deliberation about potential changes and alterations to the current 50+1 ownership rule in German football.

After lengthy discussion they decided that the rule shouldn’t be altered in any way this coming season and also made a decision to keep the use of VAR (Video Assistance Referee) in the Bundesliga despite being at the heart of controversy throughout the current season.

It seems the vast majority of German football fans are pleased with the result of the discussions within the DFL (Deutsche Fussball Liga) despite arguments that the 50+1 ruling actually hinders the chances of clubs in the league to compete with the likes of massively successful teams like Bayern Munich. However the 50+1 rule, whilst it has its faults, is overall part and parcel of the German game and a huge reason as to why the stadiums in Germany see more supporters in attendance on average at Bundesliga matches than any other league in Europe, as well as the consistent atmosphere that is nowadays non existent in the English leagues.
But it would seem there are valid reasons for the diminished atmosphere and lack of control, sense of abandonment from fans at Premier League clubs.
How does Germany do it? How do German clubs gain so many supporters week in week out? (And no it’s not purely because Germans are football crazy and passionate for the sport) How is it so cheap? How is this all run? Why is it deemed to be so important?

What is 50+1?

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English football fans often ask what the draw of the Bundesliga is when the league itself is actually quite uncompetitive. Bayern have won the league 5 times in a row and are on course to clinch a 6th title this season which closest challengers Borussia Dortmund almost 20 points behind. The race for the title therefore becomes lackluster and boring and that’s where the rule perhaps plays into the hands of the rich.
Bayern’s continuous success means continuous funds, being continuously attractive to big name players and of course it means ultimately they can buy anyone they like regardless of who has shares in the club but even they abide by the 50+1 ownership law.

What exactly is it?
Well the DFL decreed the rule years back, as a means of preventing mishandling of the clubs as well as creating a way for the fans to remain an integral part of the running of the club itself.
The 50+1 rule stipulates that any Bundesliga club and 2.Bundesliga club must be owned in the majority by its on members, in other words the fans.  Whilst 49% can be owed by outside companies and investors, 51% of the shares MUST be owned by the members.
Most clubs in the Bundesliga have close to 100,000 members, and with a voting share the 50+1 rule allows them to speak to members of the board and the directors of the club about their concerns. It in a way, gives the supporters a voice. Whether the board decides to listen (and a lot of the time they do) is a different matter.
One consistent issue that is brought up from members of the question of ticket prices. If the members are unhappy with the ticket prices they have the ability to speak to higher authority and raise the issue.
Germany’s top tier has one the lowest ticket prices for league matches in Europe, which attracts younger crowds to the stadium (why not? Cheap tickets means they can afford it), and season tickets are no different.
The cheapest FC Bayern Munchen season ticket costs the average member 110 Euros a season, with single tickets costing 15 Euros per game. In comparison the cheapest Premier league season in 2016 was £365 for Leicester City, with a matchday ticket costing £22. Even the likes of Championship side Brentford FC charge at least £20 per game for a standing terrace ticket.
How is a ticket so cheap in Germany though?
It’s through the influence of the members running the club but it’s also partially down to the “Frei Sitzplatzwahl” or the “free standing”.

The cheapest Bundesliga tickets will always be in the home fans standing areas behind the goals, which is mainly subsidised by the clubs themselves. Charge far less to stand throughout the game and be part of the atmosphere of the safe standing Ultras section, or pay more for a nice seat and a better view.

The law put in places for 50+1 is a deterrent against rogue investors, which sadly has been something English football has become all to used to. It’s not possible in Germany for a billionaire to purchase and run an entire club, if they want control it can only ever be up to 49% of the shares and nothing more and since the majority shares of 5% reside with the members, if they don’t like the way the shareholder is influencing the club then their say will ultimately take precedence.
Unlike in England, it’s almost impossible to seize control of the club, in short the fans wishes and the wishes of the members will always be obeyed above that of private investors solely interested in profit and cash.

Unfortunately such investments in English football can swing either way. It can mean huge success on the pitch (and with it a wave of new glory supporters) such as the case of the take overs of Manchester City, Chelsea and even the Glaziers are Manchester United (lesser so since Utd were a success before their arrival), or it can go terribly wrong such as the case with Oysten at Blackpool, and the likes of Portsmouth who eventually ensured that the club was fan owed.
Giving such control to billionaire tycoons only interested in success and profit means that whilst the football is competitive and entertaining, player loyalty is lost, the game is almost meaningless and atmosphere’s diminish as clubs that become equated with success begin to arrogantly believe that the success is an entitlement and not something to be consistently worked towards.
These owners have seemingly little if no interest or knowledge about the sport itself or the wishes of the supporters and fans ultimately feel they have become silenced and the sport has become a business. The phrase “Supporters not customers” comes to mind.
Where as in Germany that majority share still remains with members that do have a clue as to what they’re talking about and whilst its not perfect it gives supporters a sense of being a part of the club rather than merely being a customer.

Inconsistency: Does it actually work?

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“Kind Must Go”: Hanover fans were furious with Martin Kind’s attempt to take over the club

The 50+1 rule was created to ensure that football clubs didn’t end up in the wrong hands, in other words in the hands of those that don’t have a clue how to run it. It means that measures regarding ticketing, supporters, spending, can’t be made without the go ahead of the clubs own members and that any intention in prioritising profit over supporters can be easily discarded. It also means debts and wages are lesser than that of other leagues across Europe, it allows far better control of the clubs running but there are difficulties with the rule.
Investments still occur. Bayern’s deal with Allianz and Adidas for example, in which outside companies invested cash into the club. There are certainly ways around the rule.

It also means that clubs with the most cash have the ability to spend more freely, so the likes of Bayern that generate their own money because of their success as a global brand not just as a football club, have the ability to invest in players that other clubs could never have the hope of attracting.
It’s frustrating for fans of other, less successful German teams, but unfortunately no rules have been broken.
Without the ropes of the 50+1 rule binding the Bundesliga, German clubs could have free investments from outside tycoons or companies that would see them have the ability to free spend on players to make a more competitive league but this sort of control ultimately means the members and supporters give up their right to vote on matters that were important them… almost like a deal with devil in the search of success and even then, with more cash, more star players, there’s absolutely no guarantee of success on the field.  If the investment is useless what’s the stop the investor up and abandoning the club all together leaving them in trouble?

It’s been a question raised recently by Hannover 96’s stakeholder Martin Kinds bid to take over the club in its entirety.  His move sparked the debate as to whether the 50+1 rule should be scrapped but his move for the club sparked outrage from supporters who’s protests eventually led to him being ousted.
Similarly, it was a tragic case for TSV 1860 Munchen, their faith in stakeholder Hasan Ismaik, who was eventually given free reign by the club, left them in tatters.

Technically the club had followed the 50+1 rule. Ismaik had 60% ownership but only 49% of the voting rights so the votes majority still remained with the supporters, but it was a way around the rule. Eventually it would lead them astray. There’s a great article here on 1860’s downfall.

Having already been relegated to the 3.Liga the club, which had financially been saved by the investment, saw inner conflict tear the management apart and eventually Ismaik wouldn’t pay the clubs 3.Liga playing licence fee and the historic club was relegated to amateur football.
Instances like the case of 1860 Munich makes a case as to why the 50+1 one rule whilst should be followed, proves how rogue investments can lead to massive trouble for clubs.

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Devastated: 1860 Munchen fans were let heartbroken when their club suffered double relegation, because investors refused to pay their playing licence.

From a competitive perspective the 50+1 rule actually hinders the league but from a supporters perspective it means the fans are closer to the club they care about and have some control over it, something that supporters of premier league clubs are now complaining about weekly.

The curious case of…: Exceptions to the rules (Leverkusen and Wolfsburg) and the hatred of Leipzig and Hoffenheim.

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Controversial but fair: Wolfsburg and Leverkusen are exempt from the 50+1 rule if they wish to be.

There’s always an exception to the rules somehow, but sadly some are exceptions by default and others slyly get around the rules by becoming and wolf in sheeps clothing.

The two major anomalies in the Bundesliga to the 50+1 rule are Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg but there is a good reason for it.
Whilst they can have shares owned more than 49% and the majority of control can rest with a parent company, both clubs abide by the clause of the 50+1 rule that makes the club exempt and it all stems from their creation.
Both Leverkusen and Wolfsburg have been consistently owned in a minority share for more than 20 years, so its suggested they have proven their minority owners can be trusted with the running of the club.
Leverkusen as a club were founded by the pharmaceutical company Bayer (Hence the name) in 1904, when employees of the company created the football club. Similarly Wolfsburg were a team created by the employees at Volkswagen. Whilst they have the right now to be owned by majority by their parent companies, both clubs have an incredible number of supporters and members that have been able to influence the club therefore they are technically exempt from the rule but there’s absolutely no fear from fans that Bayer of Volkswagen will mishandle the running of their club.

Two other clubs however that managed to bypass the rule did so under far more controversial.
Whilst TSG Hoffenheim have existed since the 1800’s, it wasn’t until their major investment from Dietmar Hopp that eventually transformed the club, that they became a controversial team in Germany.  Whilst Hopp does indeed have a connection to the tiny town of Hoffenheim (Sinsheim) his millions invested from his shares and then his major influence of the members of the 51% of share holders that voted in favour of him owning a majority, actually means that in truth, he owns the club in full.
Hoffenheim, with their new stadium and their new millions, successfully climbed the football Pyramid and eventually ended up in the Bundesliga. Whilst the clubs actions were seen as controversial, it was nothing compared to likes the Leipzig.

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Leipzig’s introduction to the Bundesliga wasn’t at welcoming: Dortmund fans protest

RB Leipzig are the most hated club in Germany. For their commercialisation of the game and their bypass of the 50+1 rule which they managed to avoid on a technicality… meaning technically they do abide by the rule but in truth, they don’t.
The club began in the 5th tier of German football under the name SSV Markranstädt, based just outside of Leipzig.
Energy drink giants Red Bull decided to purchase the playing licence of the club and began operating under a new name. RB Leipzig.
Because of law that forbids any club using a marketing brand in their title, they were unable to call the club “Red Bull” so instead created the term “Rasenballsport” or translated “Lawn ball sport”, a term that makes zero sense, but allowed the club to keep the initials RB.
Red Bull pumped cash into the small club and eventually they began to climb the pyramid too.
But it’s their avoidance of the 50+1 rule that probably makes them most hated… because technically they haven’t broken it.
Whilst the majority of German clubs have 1000’s of

paying members, some with shares some not, RB Leipzig began with just 17 paying members, all of which were employees of Red Bull.
Whilst other clubs charged perhaps 100 euros a season for members, RB Leipzig charged (and still do) extortionate amounts for a membership, around 5 times as much as other clubs, which can also be revoked or rejected by the board. So in truth the 51% majority is owned by the less than 1000 members now (around 700) of RB Leipzig (still far less than any other German club in the top two tiers), 49% is still owned by Red Bull… in total, the entire club is owned by Red Bull.
The reason  Leipzig were able to avoid being caught out of the rule was because technically the majority was owned by members and there was not definitely way of proving that the small number of members were solely members because of their position at the Red Bull Company, although most fans of other clubs believe this is a total cop out from the DFB. Whilst Leipzig went on to challenge Bayern last season, they haven’t been quite so successful this season.

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The grave robbers of football: Hertha BSC supporters protest with a choreo for the visit of RB Leipzig in 2016/17

With majority control with Red Bull, the investors could take a turn like many others before and destroy the club.  They have been praised for buying young players but the fact remains that their coming into existence in the first place was merely for Red Bulls marketing purposes rather than football purposes.
Red Bull owns other clubs in Salzburg and New York.  In Austria the fans of Salzburg took mattes into their own hands when Red Bull refuses to allow supporters a say in the running of the club after a take over and so Salzburg fans created a new team from scratch starting at the bottom of Austrian football but retaining their clubs traditions.
The existence of Leipzig and Salzburg, meant trouble for their European campaigns as well, as UEFA rules that only one club owned by an investor can compete in a single competition, so the two club don’t meet.
Eventually it was ruled that Red Bull did not have the same influence over Leipzig as they technically aren’t owned by the company and both were allowed to compete in European competition much to the dismay of German football supporters who believe that Red Bull are the sole owners of the Leipzig club (Their shirts are almost identical for goodness sake).

 

Unlike mishaps in England though Red Bulls ventures have been mostly successful, unfortunately though ethically their existence is negative, in footballing terms it’s good and the club has developed good players, but their ability to buy players if requested at the drop of a hat because of their investment is always something that’ll leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Without the millions Red Bull put into the club where would they be? It’s almost like Manchester City and Chelsea, only there were no rules in place to stop them, but there was one in place to prevent clubs like Leipzig from competing, and existing merely for marketing purposes of Red Bull rather than any other reason.

In England some lower league clubs are slowly getting back to fan ownership, but unfortunately it’s usually only after mishaps with big shot owners that this has happened. Portsmouth is a prime example, as they plummeted down the leagues thanks for a mishandling of finances and a series of administrations.  Now, they are fan owned and control lay with the Pompey trust. Similarly the survival of Leicester city, who would later become champions of England, rest with the supporters. Whilst Gary Lineker did partially aide with their bailout, the fans took control.

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Reborn: Portsmouth are now owned by the Pompey Supporters trust, after entering administration twice.

Manchester United fans opposed to the Glazier’s takeover at Old Trafford reacted in a different manner, by creating a brand new team of which they were in control and football and not success took centre stage.
But scenes such as recent ones at West Ham United which saw the owners attacked at the London Stadium and an invasion of the pitch during their 3-0 home defeat to Burnley, perhaps sends a message, if in a truly ugly manner, that supporters that are continuously frustrated with the running of their club by clueless billionaires that don’t listen to those that love the club the most (aka the fans), are now at breaking point.
It has it’s downsides but the 50+1 rule in Germany hasn’t just allowed fans to have a say, it’s also had a direct impact on who helps run the club with the election of the President coming from the members, as well as matters that are important to the fans.
After all a club without supporters doesn’t really exist.

 

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Enough is enough: West Ham supporters, livid with the board and owners, attempted to storm the boxes at the London stadium in West Ham’s 3-0 defeat to Burnley

Bring the noise: Ultra’s not Hooligans

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Fan section: Ultras and supporters of Hertha BSC in the “Ostkurve” free standing fan section

There was recently an article published by the BBC regarding the lack of noise at Premier League grounds, which saw the focus on Manchester United attempting to bring an atmosphere back to Old Trafford.
Some of the ideas such as cheerleaders and lyric song sheets were abysmal and I’m sure many other fans would agree, but even the addition of a “singing section” last season at OT is ridiculous.
Some people blame the stewards for telling fans to sit down and monitoring their behavior however they’re simply following orders from above (I’d know, I am a steward myself) and any steward would know if they were smart that any passionate fans aren’t going to sit on request.
Certain measures are in place in England that aren’t elsewhere in Europe and it truly hinders the atmosphere at Premier League stadiums.
Unlike in England, in Germany the fans can stand for 90 minutes, continuously sing, drink and smoke inside the stadium and it’s all safe to do so. Perhaps the English react differently when drunk to Germans but the fact they’re given the right to stand for 90 minutes brings with it the temptation to be loud… not aggressive but passionate.

It comes down really to the control of the crowd by Ultras groups.

People tend to confuse Ultras for hooligans.  But there’s a difference.
Hooligans are intent of being violent, causing trouble by just being exceedingly loud.
Ultras are fans that create atmosphere through singing, musical instruments, choreography and bright colour displays in their designated fan section of the stadium… usually this section is for safe standing.
Safe standing has been a major issue in English football since the Hillsborough disaster which saw 96 innocent Liverpool fans lose their lives due to overcrowded standing pens at the Sheffield Wednesday stadium. However the crush wasn’t to be blamed on the standing itself, the overcrowded was down to the total incompetence of officials and the lack of adequate police at the stadium.
Had supporters been prevented from entering the stadium once full, had there been enough police to prevent it, the crush probably would’ve never happened.
Safe standing also means the area can be quickly turned back into a seated area. Each row is railed to prevent a crush or a surge.
Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park can hold 80,000 spectators but the infamous Sudtribune, home to the Ultras, is a standing terrace that can house nearly 30,000 fans… and there has never been a major incident.
Nearly every Bundesliga club has a standing area for supporters, subsidised by the club. This is also the area where the noise is generated.
Why?
Because it’s controlled support.
Manchester United has the Stretford End, Liverpool has the KOP, ect, behind the goals… much like Bundesliga clubs ultras section.
In Germany Bayern has the Sudkurve, Schalke has the Nordkurve, Dortmund has he Gelbe Wand or the Sudtribune and Hertha Berlin has the Ostkurve.
Unlike the English clubs, the German ones have a Kappo or group basically in charge of leading the chanting for the entire 90 minutes and usually for a good 15 minutes before and 5 minutes after the game has ended. This includes banging drums and leading well known chants and shouting instructions at supporters if they have something planned like a Choreo/Tifo.

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Yellow Wall: Ultras of Borussia Dortmund on a European night

Although not everyone likes these guys, their job at the end of the day is to ensure that all the fans in this section are cheering their team on, just as you expect your team to give 100% on the pitch, the fans should do the same in the stand. Jumping, singing, chanting, Tifo are all part of the Ultras way of displaying their passion for their club, so the team on the field feel that for 90 minutes and it pushes them to perform well. Very rarely do ultras become violent or aggressive in their own fan section unless something sparks a reaction from their rival fans.
But in England this controlled support doesn’t exist. Fan chants become drowned out by random part of the stadium starting songs at different points and all the fans that want to sing are spaced out and separated meaning the atmosphere is lost in the vastness of the ground itself.
Controlled support in the form of ultras needs a leader, and those willing to participate. We’ve seen a glimmer of it at Crystal Palace who bring their own drum with them wherever they seem to go but other clubs have failed to follow their example.
Perhaps in England we’ve grown accustomed to simply sitting down and watching the game but you can do that in Germany too… just not behind the goal in the fan sections. You’ll never find anyone sitting in Berlin’s Ostkurve, they’d be berated on the spot.
You’ll also never finding anyone standing in the middle tiers further away from the goal. It’s all very carefully mapped out but it’s what English football is now missing simply because of the lack of differentiation between hooligans and ultras.

Would it work in England now? Who knows, but the English leagues are far behind Europe in terms of active and loud support and stadium atmosphere when it comes to club level football.
Ideas such a choreographed, fake and false initiatives won’t work and will be laughed at, but controlled support from actively willing fans of clubs that want to be loud and passionate and would be allowed to do so if some of the rules in the UK was relaxed, could well be a good thing.

In England it seems we’ve much to learn about how to bring back atmospheres to the stadiums and control to the fans. I’d say Germany pretty much already has it covered.

VAR: Solution or Catastrophe?

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VAR, Var, Video Assistant, Vee Ay Are… whatever you want to call it these days, the new system recently put into place in several of Europe’s top football leagues as well as on trial usage in the FA Cup in England has been met with criticism and praise from officials, clubs and supporters alike.

Whilst it has been put in place to restrict the number of poor or questionable decisions made in football matches, as is used in Rugby, there are calls for the system to be scrapped because of poor distribution and claims that is disrupts the flow of the game.

The VAR system was first officially used in the German Bundesliga on match day one in a match between Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen, which ultimately resulted in Bayern Munich being awarded a penalty after the match referee initially waved away the lighthearted appeals from the Bavarian side when Robert Lewandowski was (very lightly) shoved over in the box. The VAR was initiated for the first time and the result of a penalty decision.

Although it has been used successfully to reverse or spot incidents in matches, there is still controversy over the way it is being utilised.

There are countless arguments for and against the use of the Video Assistant and the use of the system is causing upset and controversy wherever it is being used, notably with traditional fans of the clubs in leagues where it is now a part of the system for refereeing. (Bundesliga in Germany and Serie A in Italy). Use of VAR has been met with chants in Germany of “Scheiss DFB!” or “F**k the DFB!”.

There has been huge criticism in Germany from supporters as well as managers and players regarding the use of the video assistant, when it’s appropriate to use it, whether it undermines the match referee as well as being controversy when there were suggestions that authoritative figures from clubs were influencing the decisions of the video assistant in Koln.

So is VAR a good idea? Or is it ruining traditional football?

 

VAR: What is it?

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Referee signals for VAR during Match Day 1 of the Bundesliga 2017/18 between Bayern Munchen and Bayer Leverkusen

VAR stands for Video Assistance Referee.
The system has been used in the Bundesliga and Serie A from the start of the 2017/18 season. It is also being trialed in the English FA Cup. A fifth official (In addition to the referee, two linesmen and the 4th official in attendance at the match in question), is placed in a video booth room located elsewhere. In German this review room is located in Cologne (Koln) where the HQ for the system in Germany is situated.

The idea is that whenever a controversial decision is made by the referee or there is a ‘clear error’ in play, the VAR will contact the referee via headset to inform them of a potential issue/ decision reversal. The referee can refer to the Video Assistant by choice, or the VAR can make the referee aware of an incident.

It’s only supposed to be used for major decisions in a match as not to slow down the flow of the game.  This usually refers to incidents such as penalties (whether they are in fact outside the box and whether there was actually a foul committed to begin with and double touches), mistaken identity (It has happened before), Red Card incidents, goal line and goal incidents and offside incidents.

But the usage of VAR too often in matches has caused controversy, especially when the decisions are initially referred to the VAR and then continue to be reviewed directly by the referee (On Field Review or OFR) instead because a decision could not be made by either alone.

There are claims by fans that it not only interrupts the flow of the game but also undermines the ability of the referee, the man (Or woman) put in charge of controlling the game. The entire match balances on the decisions they make, it is their job to make those decisions and it is the opinion of a number of supporters that whether the decision is correct or not is immaterial and that controversial refereeing decisions and mistakes are a part and parcel of the game itself.

VAR could provide great assistance in decisions being correct but the manner in which the system is utilised has to be balanced and correct. Over using the system could result in the game becoming bogged down and broken because of multiple interruptions.

During a match between Hertha BSC and Bayern Munich, what looked like a foul in the box was originally given as a penalty to Hertha. After discussions with the VAR, the referee eventually took it upon himself to review the incident on the in arena monitors, therefore reviewed the penalty decision that he gave for himself, and eventually reversed the decision and for no apparent reason gave a drop ball and allowed Bayern to keep possession (When the correct thing would’ve probably been for Ulreich to pass the ball back to Hertha’s defense).

The problem here wasn’t the decision itself. In fact the referee’s reversal was probably correct (Although both ball and man were taken in the challenge) but there were several problems concerning how the eventual outcome was decided.

Firstly the Bayern Munich players surrounded the referee insisting the referee use the VAR. Jerome Boateng can clearly be seen making the VAR signal to the referee.  You have to ask yourself how much influence they had on the ref and whether it had been another other team, whether he’d still had used the Video Assistant.

Secondly, the amount of time it took to confer with the VAR who couldn’t make a clear cut decision, and then for the referee to review the incident himself, took almost 3 to 4 minutes. None of this time was added onto the end of the first or even the second half of the game.

Thirdly, it was made quite clear that a clash of opinions between officials meant the referee had to review it himself (OFR) which is where VAR becomes a little irrelevant and falls flat.

And Fourthly? There was another penalty shout for Hertha, probably more sound than the first one in which the referee did NOT ask for VAR’s help. So if the VAR is there, why refuse to use it?

 

Four Words: “I’ve…seen…them…given”, the opinion of Match officials

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Too long: A penalty reversal took almost 4 minutes to decide on in Berlin after VAR referral and Referee review

For me this is the biggest problem with VAR in general.

I think if used correctly it could be a great help, but the fact it slows the game down is not helpful in any shape or form and whilst I am a traditionalist in terms of football in general (meaning that despite the fact I complain constantly about refereeing decisions), I can accept it is a part of the game, it’s what makes the game arguably more exciting.

But the biggest problem for me in VAR is the fact there’s someone sat in a room miles away from the game (at least in Germany that’s how it works), reviewing these decisions, when their opinion of the incident could be entirely different to that of the match referee, who was put in charge of the game in the first place.

The referees job is to referee the game, of course it is. It is their decisions which count. The linemen are put in place to ensure the offside rule is followed correctly and that anything the referee misses is spotted by at least one official.

We’ve seen linemen and referees have difference of opinion before. We could see it between Video assistant and referee too and it’s all summed up in four little words that are repeated week in week out by match commentators and pundits.

“I’ve seen them given”.

Mostly in referrals to penalty claims, commentators and pundits use this statement almost every game. It suggests one thing… that whilst some referees would give a foul, other would not and it all depends on their opinion of the incident.

Some would say “He won the ball” and other would state “He took the man as well”. Whether it’s a penalty or red card or whatever or not, is all down to whether or not the official in charge of the game believes that it is.

I’ve seen several incidents with the same questions. A foul or handball that is a penalty has to be committed a certain way for it to be considered an infringement.  For instance, if the ball is struck so hard that a player has no time to react and get out of the way, is it fair to give a handball penalty? Probably not.

But will the referee agree or will they decide that if it strikes the arm anyway it’s a definite spot kick?

Its first usage in the Bundesliga was even questionable.
When Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski went down in the box because of a brushing with a Leverkusen defender, the referee paid no notice to it until the video referee drew it to his attention. The referee didn’t bother to review it himself and trusted the opinion of the VAR in Koln. There are questions as to whether the referee should have asked to look at the moment himself… he chose not to and there are huge questions over whether Lewandowski went over far too easily.

Unlike a game between FC Koln and Hertha BSC when Koln claimed a penalty, it was reviewed directly by referee Bibiana Steinhaus who ruled it herself as not being a penalty kick.

Referees are in place for a reason and like players each has their own way and style of refereeing the match. Whilst the players and fans have the right to question them, VAR suggests they are partially incompetent, which in general is unfair on the referee.

We don’t have to like their decisions but it is their job after all.

 

Going forward: How to utilise VAR correctly. 

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One set of eyes: Patrick Ittrich reviews a VAR decision for himself.

How do you use this system correctly? We’ve seen it overused in the FA cup already, as well as the Bundesliga, and we’ve seen decisions made that are still questionable.

As the controversial Bayern forward Sandro Wagner (More known for his ‘I’m the best German striker claim’) stated, “”It’s a complex thing to evaluate. In itself, it’s a good thing, but the implementation has been a disaster”, after a member of the VAR team who was present in the VAR room in Koln, Hellmut Krug, was sacked then replaced by the DFB because he was influencing decisions in favour of the team he supports, Schalke.

But Wagner also stated that players and fans still have to wait two or three minutes for a decision to be made and that too many mistakes are still being made in the manner the VAR is being used.

If the VAR system is going to be a success it has to be utilised correctly at in moments that it is desperately required rather than being used for every decision.

If you’re going to use this system use it for ALL questionable decisions and potential errors. There should be no picking and choosing if it’s clear there’s a question mark over the original decision.

The outline for the rules regarding the use of video assistance is already sound. It should be used for mistaken identity, penalty incidents, offside, red card and goal line technology, that much is clear, but it cannot be allowed to undermine the place of the referee.

If there is an incident that the referee is clearly unsure about it could be brought to his attention if he/she has not directly seen it, but the decision MUST be reviewed by the match referee themselves rather than a stranger in a room somewhere else. The referee shouldn’t be allowed to be influenced by either players or other officials that may have a differing opinion to theirs because after all it is their game to referee and no one else’s.

The TV review screen as seen on the field in the Bundesliga should be used to review whatever has taken place on the pitch without the constant radio chatter from the VAR. That way the incident can be reviewed quickly and a decision can be made by the referee rather than having to confer with another official. It should at most take 2 minutes and the referee therefore isn’t being question by other officials and it still in sole control of the match.

If VAR is going to work properly the incident being reviewed has to be clearly questionable and the VAR shouldn’t be allowed to influence the game… they are not the referee after all, and Refs are employed for a reason.

It can work, but it has to be used correctly, and at the discretion of the person in charge of the game i.e the match referee, and whilst we can disagree and dislike what they decide and have to say we still accept it as part of the game.

We as fans may still feel they are wrong even after video review… but at least that still remains a part and parcel of the game.

By the way, it’s pronounced VEE AYYYY ARRREEE…. not VAAAAAAAAAAARRR 😉