Hertha’s home form is what has been their strongest point this entire season.
A weak away stretch is what has cost the Berlin boys points for the most part of this year, with what should’ve been wins against the likes of Frankfurt being draws and terrible performances against teams like Schalke more recently.
However, it seems things might change.
Next up for the away days is a trip north to Hamburg against a team that was absolutely thumped by Bayern Munich.
Hertha’s matches with Bayern, 2-0 loss away, 1-1 draw at home.
Hamburgs trip to Bavaria? Ended in an 8-0 drubbing.
But first let’s catch up on what Hertha BSC have been doing between then and now.
Home strong, away woes.
2017 began with two pitiful performances against two very decent opponents. First Bayer Leverkusen, then Freiburg, both of which were away matches.
Hertha were out-muscled and out played on both occasions and Vedad Ibisevic was off the mark, failing to take any chances coming his way.
A 3-1 loss to Leverkusen did not do much to aid the confidence levels. The last match before the winter break had been a difficult affair with the match up against struggling Darmstadt being played amidst the horror of the terror attack in central Berlin. Despite a win, the atmosphere was not one of celebration, and it seemed the gloominess had followed Hertha into 2017.
Following the difficult match with Leverkusen came a disastrous game against Freiburg, who had fell victim to super sub Schieber’s last minute strike against them on the opening day of the season in Berlin, despite equalising in injury time themselves.
And Freiburg this time were on the right end of a 2:1 scoreline, even though Schieber popped up agains to score against them they ran out deserved 2:1 victors.
Not the best start to the 2017 tailend of the season, however results above and below Hertha meant their position in the table wasn’t too badly affected. It was a mix and match between 4th, 5th and 6th.
Until the boys in Blau Weiss were finally back home.
Despite it not being the most convincing of shows against a very bland looking Ingolstadt side, Genki Haraguchi’s 2nd minute goal was enough to secure the 3 points, keeping them in Berlin.
In the meantime, concerns became clear over the fitness of Julian Schieber, who was forced to join Mitchell Weiser on the sidelines… only for a few weeks later to realise he would require a further operation on his troublesome knee.
Whatever positives were taken out of the Ingolstadt game, the affects didn’t seem to last.
The away day blues followed Hertha to Gelsenkirchen in a 2:0 defeat to a much improved Schalke side, who again, deserved the three points. A woeful performance again away from home saw Hertha struggling to keep up with their rivals in the table and confidence in the team was seemingly taking a battering… it surely wouldn’t be helpful against either Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal or Bayern in the league?
Before the defeat to Schalke, Hertha took another trip to the Ruhe region, taking on Dortmund in the cup and to everyone’s surprise, they went ahead.
Another stand out performance from Rune Jarstein showed exactly why Thomas Kraft has been a bench warmer this season. However, this time, with the equalising goal, a draw was not enough. As with any cup tie in Germany, it had to be settled on the night and ultimately went to a penalty shootout.
The problem here? Ibisevic had missed at least two clear cut chances to put Hertha ahead again including a one on one. Schieber was subbed in only to be taken off again.
And all the Hertha penalties were poor. Three main penalty takers were not on the field for the shootout. Plattenhardt, Ibisevic, Schieber.
Kalou’s blasted shot over the bar was just the right way to end a terrible shootout.
Out of the cup, losing the Dortmund’s rivals as well, the expectations for the game against Bayern were low.
Dardai himself expressed the belief that “we have nothing to lose”.
It was perhaps this belief that propelled Hertha to entirely outplay the record German champions for 97 minutes.
You want an in depth analysis? Click here!
But to put it in a nutshell…
Hertha deserved a well earned and fought for victory… until for some unknown reason (And considering there was no added time at all during the game with Frankfurt despite similar stoppages in play AND a red card), 7 mins of additional time were played despite the referee only indicating 5 mins should be played (Already far too much).
The atmosphere turned suddenly from one of celebration to pure anger, confusion and very quickly became volatile.
Vedad Ibisevic put Hertha into a shock lead on 21 mins with a deserved goal, his first on 2017 and you could see how much it meant to the Bosnian as he rushed over to the supporters.
Hertha then kept the Bavarians pretty quiet for the remaining 65 minutes. Even when Robert Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso were brought on for Bayern the only real threat they posed was from a free kick on 88 minutes, tipped round the post by Rune Jarstein.
The problem started when the 5 additional minutes were over. The ball was in Bayerns half with Alexander Esswein when he lost the ball about 10 seconds after the whistle should’ve blown… allowing a Bayern attack and a free kick to be awarded.
15 seconds in play time is a lot. It takes just 2 to score a goal. And this is what fuelled the frustrations of the Hertha fans and Pal Dardai…as, you guessed it, Bayern scored with the last kick of the game.
From a free kick that should’ve never been awarded, because the game should’ve been over and done with.
A hard fought draw before the game would’ve been taken but having deserved to win it the draw felt like a loss and Bayern, despite the claims of being happy with a draw, should’ve been embarrassed not to have won, as they went into the game with the belief that it would be easy for them, only proved by the way they approached it.
Hertha were not the first team to reveal the cracks in Bayern this season.
Koln did it too.
Hertha however, down to their persistence, their strengths and support from the fans, as well as an attitude of approaching the game with absolutely no fear, saw one of the strongest performances from the team in the most recent seasons.
A point against Bayern is good, yes… but to outplay them, the real victory for Hertha was that they made Bayern utterly fail in their task.
Taking that into the Frankfurt game.
This was a game that required a slightly different approach. Bayern was a match Hertha could afford to lose because they weren’t expected to win.
This was a match expected to be very even and one in which was entirely possible to win and keep up with the top 5.
And the first half was a dull as dishwater, to coin the English phrase.
Only a few moments of any importance with Frankfurt having the best chance after a one on one shot was brilliantly kept out by Rune Jarstein…as the English commentator stated “He’s been doing that all season”. Whether it’s a hint that Hertha’s defense need to do their job better or a testament to Jarstein’s goalkeeping skills is better left to be answered, either way Jarstein is a contender for keeper of the season.
The second half was by far the more exciting of the two.
Hertha’s half time break seemed to have kicked something extra into the team, a spark was ignited as more attacking football, the fearless, aggressive Hertha was back with Kalou at the heart of it. The first opportunity of the half came to Hertha, and looked almost over when Kalou took the ball into the box only to be shoved over… except for the fact that Vedad Ibisevic was following close behind, slotting the ball past the keeper for the opening goal.
10 for the season for the captain but that didn’t stop Frankfurt from seeking an immediate response. Eintracht pressed for an equaliser and had the lions share of possession but Hertha’s defense held strong until disaster struck for Frankfurt.
A hand to face of Niklas Stark wasn’t spotted by the referee who had initially allowed Hertha to break on a counter attack, only to be stopped when the linesman called for an abrupt stop in play.
The linesman had spotted something in the penalty area; Haris Seferovic had struck the Berlin number 5 across the face with an arm, and according to the rule book, any infringement or dangerous play involving a raised elbow or arm is a straight red… and so Frankfurt fell victim to that rule and Seferovic was sent off.
This only made Hertha’s task a little easier. It took until the 83rd minute to make the extra man count by which time, substitute Maximilian Mittelstadt was on the pitch and ready to set up Vladimir Dardia for his first ever headed goal for the club.
2-0 game over.
A hard fought game, that started slowly and eventually gained some momentum.
And a deserved victory.
Player Focus: New, young, fresh talent; Maxi Mittelstadt
Maximilian ‘Maxi’ Mittelstadt has been featuring more and more in the Hertha line up this season.
At just 19 years old, he’s become a bright prospect for the future of the club, having risen through the youth systems to end up in the first team.
When Niklas Stark was out with an injury, Maxi proved he was more than up to the task by taking his place and defending successfully for the matches he was involved in.
Against Frankfurt, he proved once more why he may well become one of Germany’s best young players over time. Setting up a goal for Darida, with an inch perfect cross into the box, he’s already shown he has the ability to attack and defend and, already a part of the Germany national team at youth level, it’s no wonder he’s caught the attention of Pal Dardai, who seems to be making Maxi a regular in the Hertha first team.
Germany is known for bringing the best of its players up through youth academies rather than shipping them off to clubs abroad. Hertha has a strong youth academy along with the likes of Bayern and Dortmund. But Hertha has developed some of its best young talents over the last few years including Mittelstadt, Kohls, Torunarigha and Kurt, with Mittelstadt and Torunarigha making appearances in the first team.
Maxi seems to be making a good impression. His performances have been given nothing but praise from Preetz and Dardai. A good sign for things to come with not only the talent of this young defender but also his attitude, commitment and determination to prove himself. Lets hope we see more and more of him in the future…whether he stays with Hertha or furthers his career elsewhere.
Brooks: Premier League poachers?
There’s been a lot of speculation for years now over the future of John Brooks.
The American national team defender, who was born and raised in Berlin (And opted to play for his fathers nation internationally) is probably most known for his shocked reaction during the 2014 world cup, in which he scored the winning goal against Ghana for the United States.
It put him firmly on the radar of Premier League clubs.
But given the right incentive and the right bid, would Hertha BSC let their star defender go? Brooks has been at the heart of Hertha’s defense for years now, even in the second division, having come through the ranks, to be considered one of the clubs best players today. As shown in the match against Bayern, a 1-1 draw, Brooks’s height and strength as well as his good judgement is now being coveted by the English.
Michael Preetz has already admitted that he believes one day, a big club will come for Brooks, and Berlin will, if Brooks wants it, have to let him leave. It’ll be a painful prospect but an opportunity to play for a huge club against some of the best teams in Europe may just be too tempting. How far can Brooks go with Hertha? That may be the question he is asking himself too.
There’s apparently been interest from other German clubs too, Schalke and Wolfburg, however, since both have struggled this season it looks unlikely they’ll be considered.
Brooks himself has also said that he may consider a move, if the club is right, the time is right, but for now he’s happy in Berlin.
In an era of the game where loyalty and honesty isn’t something that’s really considered, it’s refreshing to see it’s present at Hertha in the Bundesliga.
The meaning of Loyalty: Jarstein Snubs England
In the week leading up to the Frankfurt game and not long after the disappointing draw against Bayern, rumours emerged that Hertha’s king between the posts Rune Jarstein, had been approached or scouted by a number of English clubs.
The issue with performing well, is that you begin to attract attention, and a move can be made so easy when the money is good.
However, the ever modest Jarstein, who’s only become Hertha’s number one full time ahead of Thomas Kraft this season was quick to answer the rumours.
Jarstein admitted there had been interest from English clubs but that he had purposefully asked his agent not to tell him which clubs made approaches, because he had no interest whatsoever in leaving Hertha BSC in the near future.
With a family settled in Berlin, Jarstein said he saw no reason to look for another club and saw his future was with Hertha BSC. From the performances this season as well as potential European football on the way, it’s no wonder why but Jarstein has shown commitment to the club and something that seems these days to be lacking in the football world; loyalty.
Greed and lust for success and money often takes in form players elsewhere away from clubs like Hertha, however few players remain in the professional game that will give their entire career or at least 110% of their effort to their club, it seems along with Skjelbred and Lustenberger, Jarstein could well be one of the players to earn the term ‘Fussballgott’ in Berlin.
If he sticks to his words, Jarstein would be seen as a Berlin hero not only on the pitch but off it too. For the moment it seems that his success this season that has caught the attention of English clubs, will mean very little, as number 22 looks set to stay in Berlin, perhaps even end his career with the boys in blue and white.
Talking point: Please keep your mouths shut?
Have you noticed that the fans have not started singing “Wir spielen im Europa Cup”? this season yet? We may have done it too early last season and doomed the chances of playing in Europe. But that’s not the main concern here. Nor is the fact that there was fighting between Eintracht Frankfurt and Hertha fans before the game between the two.
This season however has actually brought up some rather awkward and difficult situations between supporters and the club management.
It would seem the relationship between some fan groups and those in charge is somewhat fractured.
I read a section of the ultras had decided to stop speaking with the management this season, although the reason was not entirely clear, it was hinted that they no longer felt their membership of the club meant anything therefore they were not being listened to as supporters.
This problem was only made worse by the introduction of a new motto in English (We Try. We Fail. We Win) and to me, a total misunderstanding of the phrase, but more importantly the introduction of a fluorescent pink third strip, against the traditions of the previous black and red third kit.
Anger and fears began to brew over whether these new measures were just generally a decision made for marketing purposes, or a genuine belief that it was the correct thing for the board to allow. Although this season also introduced English broadcasts of match matters, this wasn’t entirely unwelcome. In fact to me and many others the language translations are incredibly helpful. But the pink shirt had caused a massive and unpleasant stir amongst fans, especially with clubs like RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga this season, a type of club that traditional clubs like Hertha and Dortmund are dead set against.
We’ve seen a consistent display of banners at the Olympiastadion stating that Hertha is “Only true in Blue and White”, but a number of protests against the commercialisation of the game in Germany have stepped over the mark of what’s morally acceptable.
This includes the ridiculous decision to unveil a banner against 1.FC Koln, with the message “Better one mother than two fathers” across the Oberring mixed in amongst the Hertha faithful.
The message was clearly seen as homophobic, despite the fact the words obviously had a double meaning. Hertha fans that created and unleashed the banner could defend themselves by claiming the banner was a jibe at Koln being a club that now exists on the basis of a merger of two clubs, where as Hertha has always been one club for over a hundred years. Koln fans can argue then that the banner was a homophobic message against the city, as Cologne has a huge gay community… then again so does Berlin.
Whatever the intended meaning, Michael Preetz later condemned the banner and made a clear statement that Hertha BSC is against any act of intolerance. Unfortunately though, a small group of ‘supporters’ like to push their beliefs on others instead of calling for peace and tolerance and understanding, there’s always a tiny minority that just doesn’t think before they speak or act… just as they did against Leipzig away.
Regardless of ones beliefs about clubs like Leipzig, and I for one despise their existence, no one can condone the message brandished across the Hertha section of the Leipzig Red Bull stadium when the Berliners visited.
A small minority again, in their misguided efforts to condemn the running of RB Leipzig, targeted the former manager, now managing director of the club personally, with the banner saying “Ralf, we’re waiting for your next burnout”.
The message was a reference to managing director Ralf Rangnick’s mental illness, an exhaustion syndrome a few years ago which lead to a break from football. Wishing a ‘burnout’ through mental health issues towards anyone is extremely offensive and quite frankly disgraceful, it was no wonder Preetz was quick to condemn the action and express his rage at the banner being on display in Leipzig. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about Leipzig, this message is entirely unacceptable, and attacking someone personally is not something that should be supported
How would you feel if Pal Dardai or Michael Preetz was attacked like this? You’d be upset right?
People need to think before they speak, and if they feel whatever they want to say may be offensive in general, don’t say it, because you run the risk of making ALL supporters look like idiots with any extreme beliefs.
When you’re in the stadium, wearing that colour and singing those songs, you represent your team just as much as the 11 men on the pitch. You represent your club to the outside world and displaying messages of intolerance or hate or any such like then tarnishes your entire teams reputation.
Some people don’t care about being liked.
It’s not about being liked. It’s about leading by example. Whatever good those players do on the pitch has to met with the what good the fans do off it. Fighting against commercialisation with behavior like this is foolish. Dislike Leipzig fine. Don’t attack anyone personally. You don’t know what that persons going through.
You’re there to support your club because you love them yes? Don’t ruin that by running your mouth.
It’s not only costly to the clubs place in the world of football morally but also to them financially. It’s really not worth it.
As for fans and management losing touch? The only way supporters will have their voices heard is if they speak to the management of the club. Refusing to speak to them will result in a break down and a total stall in fan/management relations and nothing will change in the fans favour. Meanwhile the board has to listen to the supporters, and if they don’t they’ll be faced with more match protests as well as boycotting of matches until something changes. The two have to meet in the middle somewhere. Whilst football is changing, we cannot lose sight of the traditions that made us fans in the first place. The board must understand that. But pehraps the fans must also compromise.
This is a balance sheet. It has to be balanced correctly and delicately.
Ein team: Schieber out, team mates rise
When it was announced that Julian ‘Julo’ Schieber was to spend another spell on the sidelines, there were fears over his reoccurring knee problem. He was substituted in against Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal only to be substituted off again about half an hour later, missing the penalty shootout. It’s not often that a sub is subbed.
But the knee problem didn’t clear up as was initially attempted by resting and light training and after a few indications that it could be more serious, Schieber had medical scans revealing yet another operation would be required for the injury to heal more quickly.
The operation however means Schieber will be out for another stretch of the season, having only just returned from an injury spawning over almost two seasons.
What hasn’t changed however, is the support of his team mates.
Not long after the announcement was made, Julo’s team mates were pictured holding up Schieber’s number 16 shirt in support for the striker, with the message “Get well soon: Ein Team”.
The gesture was met with appreciation from Julo, who later thanked fans and teammates for the support on twitter.
And the message spreads too.
Get well soon Julian, we’re all here to support you.
It’s always personal: A note from the London Berlier after Bayern
I saw something against Bayern I felt incredibly moved by. A group of people who wholeheartedly love the city and their team.
Berlin at its best.
This was a match Hertha fans should’ve been watching and waiting to be over… as losers. We expected a Bayern bashing… we didn’t see that.
Instead, we saw a team in blue and white, with nothing to lose, go out onto the field totally and utterly fearless against a world footballing giant.
And the supporters behind them, could see it too. We all could. We could all feel this effort being made, no fear, all heart.
What can fans do in that situation? Simple. Win. Lose. Anything in between… sing. Sing as loud as your throat will allow and your lungs will take you. So loud the team you love can feel it in the air.
I’m proud to be a supporter of this team
After that fight against Bayern, I’m even prouder.
European football has something still that is so lacking in England.
No matter how much English football fans adore their team the sport has become a business, the fans are now customers and the game has become silent.
But European fans bring something so refreshing back to the game.
Especially the underdog teams.
I went to Tottenham vs KAA Gent in the Europa League at Wembley and the Spurs fans… were OK. But Gent?
There was one message the Gent fans had for us all.
“We are minnows, we are underdogs, we might lose this game, but we damn well love our city and our club and we’re going to tell the whole world and we’re going to scream it loud enough for the entire world to hear”
I saw it in the Hertha fans against Bayern.
I saw it in the eyes of Gent fans against Spurs too. When the task seems impossible, when bad things happen… support. Win. Lose. Draw. Down. Up. Good and Bad.
Support. It’s part of your life now.
It reminded me of home, the Olympiastadion. I stood and watched Gent fans with their team for 15 minutes after the game had ended… just watching them, how much their club meant to them.
England has a lesson to learn
Football is a game for 90 mins on the pitch. But everything around it?
It’s so much more than just a game.
It’s part of your life. Something to invest your time, your effort, your love and passion in. Something to wipe away the disaster that is the world today, with all this hatred and war and negativity, there’s something out there that still feels joyful, there’s people out there you can still share it with. Your fellow fans are like your extended family. Your stadium is your second home and your team Hymne is your personal national anthem.
People ask me “Why’s this so important to you?”
I shrug, it’s hard to explain to people that don’t understand it. I’m sure there are many that do. We’re not just football fans. We love the game. We love our team and our city more.
I owe something to Berlin. I spent a good 17 years feeling rejected, hated, out of place and out of touch with the world. This immigrant, on the autistic spectrum that doesn’t always think straight, with a volatile temper and screwed up personal history, felt unwelcome in their own country. But… there was the chance to travel… so I did.
Berlin was there. The people were there. They said “Welcome”. No question of “who are you, do you belong here?” no feeling of displacement.
“You can be who you want to be here. Be as free as you like. Berlin likes freedom. Berlin likes expression”
Berlin was the city that listened. I didn’t go searching for that but it appeared anyway.
Berlin provided something sought after… an acceptance. A sense of belonging. A sense of importance. And Hertha BSC, the football club the represents a city, a message… it doesn’t matter if you are flying high or very low, we’ll keep singing with our heads held high. We are Berlin. And Berliners are never broken.
I owe Berlin too much. They fixed a very broken me. Without even realising they’d done it.
If I am asked “Would you give your life to this city, this team?”
I would, after some consideration, reply “Yes… because this city, this team, gave me a life to give them”
And now I’m done with feeling deep and sad…