#TakeAKnee: Controversy Over a call for Tolerance

22384386_364825093963752_5110433620965407566_o

This will be incredibly controversial, very personal and very difficult (guess what? I don’t care) but it’s a topic that has to be discussed after the controversy and discussion it has caused over the past few days.

They say sport and politics should not be mixed… but “they” are and have been wrong for years, the two cannot be separated and haven’t been for a long time, it’s just that it’s always happened under the radar.

Every racial attack on a footballer, every racist and sexist chant you hear in a stadium, every banner, every opinion within the world of football is political in some aspect, like it or not. The term “banter” is often misused as an excuse for such behavior.

FC St Pauli are notoriously one of the most left wing political clubs in Europe and yet no one has batted an eyelid at their pride about it… so why does this action from Hertha now make a difference? Because the controversy began over seas? If you’re offended by the message a football club drew attention to, a message of unity and tolerance, perhaps you should read on, and then take a good long look at the world.

But what am I actually going on about?… well.

 

Where did it start?: The big stage

kap24n-2-web

Kneel: Colin Kaepernick started the kneeling protests in the NFL

Where did this #TakeAKnee controversy begin?

It started not so long ago across the Atlantic at San Francisco, when NFL team the San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the National Anthem of the United States prior to the game.

It drew huge attention from the media as well as controversy and an outpouring of both rage and support from across America. When Kaepernick was questioned over his actions he stated that he felt he could not stand for an anthem that he felt represented oppression, that certain communities in the US were being marginalised and that he was making a stand against that mistreatment of people across the country based on their race and ethnicity.

It is not secret nor is it an issue that is new in the US, for race based crimes and attacks to exist. Police brutality, racist comments and slurs and intolerance have all spiked over the past few years not only in the States but across the world, both here in Europe and even in Germany.

Several people followed Kaepernick’s example by kneeling during the national anthem. This included the teams of the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kneeling in London for the NFL game played at Wembley, with the two sets of players then standing for the English anthem “God Save the Queen”.

ap_ravens_jaguars_football_94050612.jpg

Across Seas: The Baltimore Ravens team knelt during the American National Anthem at Wembley Stadium, London for the NFL International series.

The interference of President Donald Trump hasn’t helped matters either. The President of the United States claimed anyone protesting in such a manner should be fired, that is disrespects the countries flag yada yada yada and across America people began publicly boycotting the NFL. But in general the US remained divided. Some claimed it disrespected the flag, others stated that it is within the US constitution that Americans have the right to protest when they feel they’ve seen injustice and hate… I happen to agree with the latter.

But Hertha BSC’s decision to kneel in solidarity with those making the move in the NFL, was seemingly and purposefully misinterpreted by many whilst applauded by many others. Do Sport and politics mix?

Yes they do, because they always have. Like the NFL, football is a platform in which the world can see you, finally their attention is drawn to important issues that others were too ignorant or afraid to talk about before. They say it won’t make a difference but guess what? You’re all looking and talking about the matter now aren’t you?

But the gesture was also, whilst linked to the NFL players protest, for a different reason entirely. The world now sees what Hertha BSC stands for, after they made it clear the kneeling gesture was in support of a tolerant world and an open Berlin. With the German elections having just passed as well, it was a message that was very much needed.

Some claim it was a publicity stunt by the club. But what positive impact would this gesture give the club when such a thing was controversial and would possibly create more enemies than new friends? What commercial attention or positives would such a moment bring? Simple answer is that it doesn’t. In fact it would probably deter rather than attract.  A publicity stunt? I don’t believe so.

When it becomes personal

22104498_10213519001838861_1261262175552645323_o

One of the crowd: International fans have been welcomed at Hertha.

I make it no secret that I probably love Germany and Berlin more than the country and town I was born and grew up in. Whilst I won’t say I’m not proud to be British I have absolutely not desire to be overly patriotic about it either.

Whilst I have not seen the injustice and the hatred some of those in the US and other countries have seen, I have experienced some abuse that shows exactly the reason someone has to take a stand against intolerance.

My family is not entirely British. In fact my Grandfather fought the Nazis during WWII as part of the partisan movement across Yugoslavia, he was targeted by the fascist regime there because he was a “Slav” and considered subhuman.

Fortunately he survived then escaped the concentration camp system to flee to England…he stayed here.  But with him came his name, which obviously was eventually passed down to me and it made me the easiest target for abuse and xenophobic attacks whilst growing up.

Being made to feel you don’t belong in the country you were born and raised in is quite possibly the most awful sinking and isolating feeling there is. To be referred to as a “Slav” or a “filthy immigrant”, to have threats from people you’ve never spoken ill of or to that they’re going to ensure the immigration service arrests your family, or, like my sister, to be told by the Job Centre that they suggest you change your surname in order to get better job offers. To be told if you’re not happy to “f**k of back to where you came from” to the point you’re tempted to just leave anyway…it contributes to general racism… and it’s not just me.

In the wake of the Brexit vote for the UK to leave the EU the abuse towards Eastern Europeans spiked massively. My former flatmate told me the day after the vote she and a friend had been out when someone heard their accents and shouted “Brexit! Brexit! Go home!” in their faces in the middle of the street. This isn’t an isolated case either, hundreds reported similar issues post Brexit.

Originating from what is now Bosnia, at the time part of Yugoslavia when my grandfather left the country, the attack on Eastern Europeans and immigrants was incredibly frightening to witness.  Eventually those of us that do have their roots in the Eastern European countries just became impartial to it, but the question is ‘Why should we have to?’, why should that sort of abuse be acceptable?

It had gotten to the point where I no longer felt accepted in my own country. At every corner there was some sort of abuse or level of judgement or intolerance, it was like there was a target painted on my back. “Look at me! I’m different! Come and get me!” There was no pride in having family from abroad, the years over intolerance had just shamed us instead.

And then comes Berlin and Hertha.

Berlin was city I briefly visited in 2013 to attend a concert. The visit was so brief I didn’t even have the opportunity to see the city centre but the people I’d met there were so incredibly hospitable that there was always a desire to go back.

And it just so happened the return was made during the 2014 world cup, the perfect time to visit as every single German was in full high spirits watching their nation’s football team show the world what the game was about… teamwork, hard work and determination.

This was the first time I’d ever ventured out into the world completely alone. One would naturally be a little scared, apprehensive about how they’re going to perceived. My worries were unfounded. Berliners were kind, helpful, direct as Germans are notoriously are for but not one was there sense of threat or discomfort. In fact, whilst some locals were curious as to where this strange name and background (because I certainly don’t look ‘typically English’) originated from the curiosity was genuine, not malicious. The arms were open, the city was incredibly multicultural and felt as though it wanted to embrace everything and everyone that was different.  I felt like one of the family immediately.

And the same could be said for Hertha BSC.

The attraction of Hertha was not the success or glory. Hertha had none of that. The club wasn’t flashy nor did it have a trophy cabinet the size of the state (Not like Bayern Munich). There was glory in supporting a club that had nothing glorious to relish in. Instead, it was fans and the system and the city that it represents.  I began watching and supporting Hertha because I was tired of the system of football in the UK aka the cash and the greed. The atmosphere over here is almost dead, the fans are boring because if they express themselves vocally they’d looked down upon and the fan culture is now almost non existent.

The attraction of supporting a German club like Hertha was that even when the club was down or struggling or not playing well, the fans would always be proud of their city and support their club, the club colours and the players. You lose 5-0? It hurts of course it does but the passion of the fans for their club and city remained regardless. And then there is the way the majority welcomed supporters from beyond the boarders.

Of course you’re going to find tiny minorities of ‘fans’ that can’t stand anyone from outside of Brandenburg wearing blue and white. But they ARE minorities. Anyone who claims Hertha ‘glory supporters’ exist must be on something…because there’s nothing glorious about Hertha to support them for. We’re not a huge success, therefore we don’t have the credentials to attract plastic fans. And besides we wouldn’t want them.

But the vast majority took fans from other countries under their wing without hesitation. In fact, I’ve probably got more friends in Berlin now than at home. Instead the Berliners are genuinely curious about our reasons to support the club, and enjoy the passion and joy their beloved Hertha brings to other people from beyond the boarders of Germany and most of us found our way to Hertha of our own accord, we didn’t need some promotion or glory day success to bring them to our attention.  And we made friends along the way.

It was actually my dad’s suggestion to look into Hertha. He knew I loved Berlin and that I’d been a fan of football whilst growing up, we used to attend games together at the local team and watching Match of the Day on a Saturday night was something we did together. He knew of Hertha, he pointed them out to me… I owe him one.

When I attended my first match at the Olympiastadion alone those strangers felt like a family… when I began to meet other fans slowly they WERE family. I’ve been looked after countless times by Berliners, I’ve been cared about when I’ve need help and advice by people, who’ve all clearly stated their stance of tolerance and open minds. I’d be lost without them. But this is genuinely and general attitude of Hertha fans.  The idea of acceptance of people from all over the world. Many of them grew up in a city that was divided and it’s not something they wish to see again.

Germany leads the way in Europe for tolerance. Hertha were just the first club to publicly state their stance on it.

A few matters: What really happened at the Olympiastadion

22426458_10155168825387569_7463886553622502289_o

#TakeAKnee: International

Whilst the club statement suggested that the gesture was to stand with the players in the NFL the genuine reasoning for what took place in Berlin against Schalke was more significant to the city.  Some people are forgetting Berlin was a divided city until the early 1990’s, that unity and the coming together of East and West was finally the moment after WWII that the country and the city felt whole.

What occurred was the entire starting 11, Subs and training staff all taking a knee prior to kick off and as the announcer and social media teams all stated later, it was to show solidarity against hatred, intolerance and oppression. To promote tolerance, peace and togetherness both in Berlin and across the world and as you’ll see later the reasoning may well be well founded.

There are several rumours around the internet (Oh the wonderful world of internet so it must be true!) that are entirely false.

  • “The players kneeling during the national anthem”

False. In Germany and every other major footballing city across Europe no national anthem, the nation of the league nor any other National Anthem, is either played or performed before the match begins. The only exception (Other than international matches) in Germany is the DFB Pokal Finale (The DFB Cup Final) where the German nation anthem is played, however the majority of players don’t sing it because they aren’t German. Bundesliga teams are inclusive of players from all over the world. The only anthem to actually be played prior to the kick off between Hertha BSC and Schalke 04 was the clubs own anthem “Nur Nach Hause” which traditionally the fans sing in unison, and on this day they did so whilst they applauded the action of the players upon hearing the reasoning for the kneel.

  • “How amazing! White players kneeling for something they know nothing about. How are any of these millionaires suppose to understand oppression?”

How ignorant can you be that you don’t even consider the personal history of these players.  For anyone’s information Hertha’s team includes several players of African descent with striker Salomon Kalou being from the Ivory Coast, Jordan Torunarigha being part Nigerian as well as players like Karim Rekik having Tunisian roots.  Davie Selke, Jordan Torunarigha as well as Kalou and Rekik are not white. Genki Haraguchi is Japanese and captain Vedad Ibisevic is a Bosnian Muslim. Several others are from eastern Europe.  This is an incredibly multicultural team with only three of the starting 11 on Saturday actually being German. Most footballers do not start off as millionaires and a number of the Hertha squad have faced oppression at some point in their lives. Black players in general in some countries are still hounded by monkey noises whilst playing for example. It still happens. Perhaps the most significant story is that Ibisevic is a Bosnian Muslim that escaped persecution in Bosnia during the Bosnian war, avoided being murdered by Serb nationalists and escaped eventually to America where he would’ve been considered a political refugee. Today, under the same circumstances he may well have been rejected asylum and forced to flee elsewhere. Yet in Germany Ibisevic is welcome, and loved by the Hertha fans. His religion and his ethnicity are insignificant, from a boy who grew up with virtually nothing.

DMGi6bCX0AAWA4t

Fur Tolerance: Everyone including the very multicultural coaching staff joined in the gesture of solidarity.

  •   “This disrespects a flag/anthem ect and you shouldn’t get involved in politics” 

Sorry to burst your bubble but the world is already involved and Germany football has been involved in politics for ages without anyone even noticing. St Pauli is a club notoriously based on their left wing politics of tolerance and anti racism but the world seemingly applauds them for doing do. Likewise Lokomtive Leipzig and Hamburg SV are known for their right wing stance. Again no one bats and eyelid so why is it only when one club makes a gesture they’d grabbed by the throats by people that don’t agree with them? Since no anthem or flag was present during or before the match the argument is void. There is quite literally nothing to disrespect.

  • “It was a political PR stunt for commercialisation”

Making such a controversial move is certainly not going to do wonders for any kind of PR, in fact I can guarantee you that the vast majority of commercial companies will try and get a million miles away from us. The Bundesliga would’ve also had to approve this gesture before it was agreed upon. It was not considered a political one because the message that was put across was in fact positive.

“We stand for tolerance, justice and unity in Berlin” which isn’t the message getting through, mostly because those that see the gesture as offensive don’t want to accept the reasoning behind it and kid themselves that the world is all hunky dory and that there isn’t a problem with inequality through their rose tinted glasses and ability to ignore what is right in front of them. The ability to blame everything but themselves.  The motto of Germany as sung in the current national anthem is “Unity, justice and freedom for the German fatherland”. A message that cannot be anything other than positive. You tell me how taking a knee, to stir up controversy is going to be at all commercially viable? There’s a chance it’s lost us more fans than gained. There’s absolutely no way this was a stunt for commercial gain.

Tiny steps: There is still an problem in Berlin

Supporters-of-right-wing-Pegida-movement-display-German-imperial-war-flag-Wirmer-flag-and-the-German-flag-in-Cologne-Germany-on-Jan-9-2016-Wolfgang-Rattay-Reuters.jpg

Not learning from the past: Pegida are a notorious far right group.

The idea of the #TakeAKnee was not to change the world but to draw attention to some of injustice in it as well as the levels of hate that do still exist even in places like Berlin.

Last season, the far right wing political party the “AfD” or Alternative Fur Deutschland, which unfortunately was rather successful during the 2017 elections, caused a huge problem when their Berlin representative was photographed with Hertha player Marvin Plattenhardt. The problem was, at the time it was taken, Plattenhardt hadn’t a clue who the person was and assumed it was a fan of the club like any other. When the picture appeared on the AfD’s social media claiming Plattenhardt was their supporter, the club took action and Plattenhardt himself threatened the party demanding they delete the photo, claiming he had no idea who they were and wanted to make clear he had no political affiliation to them whatsoever. When the AfD failed to remove the picture the club imposed an injunction against the party instead. Plattenhardt was one of the players that took a knee against Schalke.

C6qj4plWcAAEa0a.jpg

Propaganda: The AfD claimed Plattenhardt supported their cause, until the player demanded his photo be removed and made clear he had no association with them

And unfortunately the intolerant far right doesn’t stop there even in a city of tolerance like Berlin.

The day after Herthas’s dramatic 2-2 comback draw at home to Bayern Munich, myself and a good friend and Berlin native took a nightly walk around Alexanderplatz. When we heard traditional German folk music playing he thought it was normal as the following day was “Einheit” the anniversary of German unity. We assumed it was a celebration, as the festival of lights was also fast approaching that week… but it wasn’t.

In the corner of the square were a large number of police blocking off the public from what looked like a mob carrying flags… but one of the flags contained the colours of pre WWII Germany along with an Iron Cross (As Swastika’s are banned in Germany). It turned out that Pegida had turned up. For anyone who doesn’t know they are an anti immigrant, anti Islamic hate group notorious for their Neo Nazi links and ideas and are definitely not wanted in Berlin. In fact Berlin is one of the cities they are least popular, having gained attention more in the former East German cities of Leipzig and Dresden.

There was a small counter protest too, but whoever had the microphone was was shouting in such a manner that anyone could mistake him for Hitler. I could only just make out what he was speaking about, I heard the AfD mentioned, but I was too angry to really be listening. My friend however, was listening and the look on his face said it all. He wanted to get away from there as fast as possible. It was too upsetting for him to witness.  His words were something along the lines of

“This makes me want to cry because that is not Berlin. That is not my city. What he was saying was disgusting, I cannot even repeat it”.

People think racism is no longer an issue in Europe is wrong. We’re seeing it every day, in small ways and big. Whilst they have the freedom to say whatever they like there is a difference between freedom  of speech and hate speech and the line was drawn here.

 

Where do I  stand with the kneel?

14102017_hertha_berlin

Family: Hertha fans in the Ostkurve with the Flag of Berlin

Ever since the protests began in the US my understanding has always been that if the players feel they are not listened to, feel there is injustice they want to being attention to, then they have every right to do what they want and what they feel is right.

If I was forced to stand for an anthem I do not believe in I would consider that a dictatorship and a horrendous trample all over my human rights.

And the 1st amendment of the United States clearly states that freedom of speech has to be acceptable and that includes the right to protest and the freedom of action and beliefs. Even if to me those beliefs such as far right extremism are abhorrent, disgusting and morally wrong, I cannot prevent those that believe such things from believing as they do. What was the phrase? ” I do not agree with what you say but I will not question your right to say it”… which means I can respond however I like too.

Whilst I understand the controversy, I have never believed it disrespects those that fought wars. The flag and anthem are suppose to represent freedom too… that includes the freedom to protest. And the right wings knickers are getting in a right twist about it. Without that freedom of protest in fact, there’d never have been an allied force to fight back during any war. You see something you believe is wrong? stand up and fight for what you believe in.

Do I believe Hertha’s own stance was noble?

Yes of course. Their message was quite clear. It wasn’t identical to that of the NFL players who knelt in protest but the message was simple. We want a tolerant and open Berlin. We don’t want that to change. Everyone is welcome here and racism in the game as well the world still exists. Berlin and Hertha BSC made me feel welcome somewhere in the world at a time I felt no one else did. I’m sure they’ve done the same for other fans and players alike. No one else in the Bundesliga, even Union the other Berlin club, had openly taken a stance against injustice in the world. Salomon Kalou was one player that addressed the kneel after the game claiming “Ones heart is too small for hate”. And Sebastian Langkamp’s comments were deep and meaningful.

“We live in the 21st century not the 18th, but some peoples mentality don’t treat it that way.” and he’s right, however just seeing some of the awful responses on social media, claims that Germany has a refugee problem, that Merkel loves terrorism and some other responses that are too vile to even comment on… that sort of level of hate and intolerance is EXACTLY the reason the Hertha players took a knee.

Hertha’s stance against hatred, racism, intolerance was one that should be commended not frowned upon. Football is a platform of the world stage, to bring the issues to attention. The club used that to promote something positive in the hope that Berlin is and remains the open city they and we as fans all know.

A silent gesture paves the way for the world to finally openly address issues that have been present and will remain so if a call for tolerance isn’t made, if the world remains blissfully ignorant it ensures nothing will happen to prevent injustice.

We stand and kneel together and lock arms like a wall.

As Salomon Kalou later said “We stand against racists and that’s our way of sharing that. We are always going to fight against this kind of behavior, as a team and as a city. It shouldn’t exist in any kind of event, in the NFL or in the football world, soccer as they call it there. It shouldn’t exist in any sport, period,”

He is right.

It was the openness and tolerance of Berlin that kept and keeps me coming back.

The call for love, tolerance, acceptance and unity has to start somewhere… why not here?

And if you don’t like that message it’s your problem.

Ha ho he.

Danke BSC.

Germany Bundesliga Soccer

Hertha BSC.

 

 

Drei Punkte Bitte: VAR, Arrogant Bavarians and Pal’s Rotation

It has been so so long since I’ve had my two penneth on anything Hertha BSC or Bundesliga related.

Time has sadly just gotten in the way however I did manage to escape the clutches of the world and head to Berlin for the show down with Bayern Munich on match day 5 of the 2017/18 season, of which the result was a somewhat happier repeat of last seasons match against the Bavarian giants.

Lets go…

37648_hertha-bayern-titelbild-nachbericht-saison17_1024x576

Happy Hertha: The Berliners celebrate coming from 2-0 down to draw with Bayern Munchen

 

Since the beginning of the season Hertha have had a mixed bag of results and performances, with two wins (Stuttgart and Leverkusen), two draws (Bremen and Hoffenheim) and two losses (Dortmund and Mainz) as well as a loss and a draw in the Europa league. It would seem the balance of domestic fixtures, European nights and Pokal games is proving difficult to grow accustomed to and is something Pal Dardai will have to tackle as the early part of the season progresses.

Unlike many teams competing in European competition, it seems likely that Hertha’s approach to the Europa league is simply to enjoy the experience rather than attempt to win the trophy, but balancing it with the Bundesliga is set to be a difficult task with the squad being perhaps somewhat smaller than bigger Bundesliga clubs, the main rotation appears to be in the attacking options with Duda, Stocker, perhaps later Julian Schieber, Ibisevic, Kalou, Haraguchi, Esswein and Kade being in the running to run the attack.

The performances so far have been a little unbalanced. A good opening game against Stuttgart and strong first half against Leverkusen at home as well as a strong performance in Hoffenheim to grab a point and an inspirational comeback at home to Bayern having gone 2-0 down to draw 2-2 and a decent outing and draw against Athletic Bilbao prove that Hertha are no pushover club and should be feared. Mathew Leckie, who upon being signed wouldn’t have been considered a huge threat to opposing teams having not scored in over 2000 minutes, has been a shock addition to the team with outstanding performances as well as four goals. But not even he could save the team of underwhelming and poor performances in Sweden in the Europa League and against Mainz in the league, which saw captain Vedad Ibisevic sent off for apparently bad mouthing the referee, however the true nature of that case no one will ever know as the DFB will always take the side of the referee in such situations.

The most encouraging of the performances so far have been away to Hoffenheim, a game which the Alte Dame could’ve actually won, and the home draw against Bayern, possibly the best the team has performed so far this season, this without captain Ibisevic (The team captained instead by Per Skjelbred).

Bavarian Stutters: Bayern pegged back by resilient Hertha 

Ondrej Duda Hertha BSC der Torschütze zum 1 2 bedankt sich bei Genki Haraguchi Hertha BSC für

Golden Genki: Haraguchi’s incredible run through three German Internationals set up Ondrej Duda and Hertha’s first goal in the comeback vs Bayern

When Robert Lewandowski dinked the ball up, over and beyond Rune Jarstein to put Bayern Munchen 2-0 up in Berlin, the majority of those watching across the world must have believed that was that and that the three points wrapped up for the Munich club and it was now a question of “how many?”…

These people however, probably hadn’t learned much from Bayern’s previous match against Wolfsburg, the previous match day and their last Bundesliga game under manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Going into the game in Berlin, Bayern had just fired the Italian, with rumours that players had organised secret training sessions behind the back of their manager due to complaints on his tactical approach to actually managing the team.
With Ancelotti gone, it was down to assistant manager Willy Sagnol to take over for the game against Hertha and within 10 minutes it seemed the decision to sack their coach had paid off.

Bayern started brightly and by far the strongest and 9 minutes in were ahead after poor defending allow Mats Hummels to head the ball beyond Jarstein from the distance of the penalty spot.

Matters didn’t get any better, Hertha slowly began to press with Duda causing some problems with his pace and likewise with Mathew Leckie. The huge talking point of the first half came when Darida made his way into the Bayern penalty area and was tripped, the referee instantly pointed to the spot, much to the anger of the Bayern players, frustration which they made clear as they surrounded the man in black. Ulreich and Boateng in particular were vocal, with the latter insisting on the use of the video referee assistant, which the referee eventually agreed to review the decision himself ultimately overturning the penalty and giving… a drop ball, which Ulreich did not give back to the Hertha players.

Cue outrage from players and fans alike. With Bayern having already gained questionable penalties through the use of VAR in their previous games they had now had a decision overturned in their favour and again the time taken to review the decision has drawn criticism in amongst fans.

Further along in the half Hertha had claims to another penalty as Kalou went down in the box. This time Darida played on and his shot was smashed straight at back up keeper Ulreich, in the side for the injured Manuel Neuer.

1-0 down at half time, it hadn’t been a terrible performance from the home side, despite Bayern having dominated possession and having a few chances, the closest a chip from Lewandowski cleared off the line by Niklas Stark.

The second half started a lot brighter for Hertha who came out of the dressing room determined to push forward, however within a few minutes all seemed over and done with when Lewandowski, managed to out muscle Niklas Stark and pop the ball into the back of the net. Despite the complaints from Kalou who claimed Stark had been held back by Lewandowski in an attempt to reach the ball the goal stood.

2-0 down against a giant, it seemed as though the question now to be asked was “how many”, but literally seconds after the second goal Genki Haraguchi went on a run that even Lionel Messi would smile at, gliding past three defenders, including German internationals Boetang and Hummels and unselfishly provided the simplest of tap ins for Ondrej Duda, who scored his first ever Bundesliga goal.

Duda

Game on: Ondrej Duda scores his first ever Bundesliga goal and his first for Hertha

Now with new life and newfound motivation, Hertha began to press harder. Charging forward and playing fearlessly the boys in blue had suddenly burst into life. With a free kick from Marvin Plattenhardt heading over the bar, he was given a second shot with a free kick about 25 yards out, but this time chose to again unselfishly punt the ball into the box and after a terrible misjudgement from Bayern’s new signing Tolisso, the ball fell kindly to Salomon Kalou who slotted the ball past Ulreich to level the game a 2-2 and send the home fans wild.

At 2-0 down it looked to be over however in a mater of 10 minutes the game was level and Hertha looked dangerous and Bayern looked edgy.

Kalou

Comeback complete: Kalou makes it 2-2 against Bayern having been 2-0 down.

Kalou created a few more chances for himself before, at around the 70 minute mark, the game slowed and dragged down, and remained so for pretty much the rest of the game.  Hertha fans were pleased with a draw having fought extremely hard to come from 2-0 down just as Wolfsburg had the previous match day against the Bavarians.

Bayern however were left feeling dejected and disappointed, which surely only adds to the joy of the home supporters who will feel that such a draw this season is almost justice for the ridiculous end of the same fixture last season.

 

Drei Puntke Bitte:

Three points to look upon from the first round of matches:

1)VAR: Ruining the game? 

VAR 2.jpg

Short answer, personally? Yes.

I believe there are several issues with Video Assistant Referee referrals beyond the the initial “It takes too long” arguments.

The first VAR decision was, surprise surprise, in favour of Bayern Munich on match day one, and it brought up a problem that wasn’t linked to time wasting in the slightest.

My personal opinion has always been that despite arguing with their decisions and constantly complaining about the referees decision whether they be correct or not, are part of the game. Controversial decisions on the field made by the referee create part of the reaction amongst fans that make the game what it is. We can be critical of referees, some are sucked into games by certain teams more than others, others can be too easily influenced but the truth is every referee has a different way of looking at incidents and that is with or without video assistance.

The problem for me isn’t just a time wasting problem. That first VAR review was made by the actual Video official rather than the match referee himself, of who’s opinion could well be different to that of the referee, cannot be expected to review something and relay information. No two officials see an identical incident the same way, but it also calls into question the relevance and competence of the match referee. Those decisions are part of the game, and it did nothing to change fortune favouring clubs like Bayern… however that first VAR review took only a few seconds, the VAR review in Berlin over the penalty took well over 2 minutes and yet there was no added time on the end of the first half?

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of VAR is that it won’t actually change anything. To confirm whether a ball crossed the line it totally understandable. It either is or it isn’t and the answer is absolutely clear… but when it comes to fouls, one referees take on an incident will be different to every other in the profession. One referee may insist the player won the ball therefore no foul, others may claim that a defender took the man and the ball therefore it IS a foul. Like Bayern’s first VAR penalty decision against Leverkusen, it was the Video referee not the match referee that decided it was a foul where as many other referees wouldn’t have considered the touch on Lewandowski to be strong enough to concede to an actual foul in the box. Some referee will still give it, some won’t, whether they review it on video or not.

 

VAR

VAR: The first use of the Video Assistant was in a match between Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen

 

It’s a simple as a piece of commentary during the Hertha Bayern game to pin point where the problem is. A free kick was given to Hertha for a clear foul on Leckie however the English commentator stated before the replay was shown that it was a “good challenge”, only slightly conceding it was a foul and claiming the ball was won… because that was his opinion. And the same goes for referees. VAR in the instance of the Hertha Bayern game took far too long to reach a conclusion and as the English commentators later said, “we can’t continue like this. We can’t look at every decision like this”.

The referees aren’t always perfect but that’s part of the game. Whether we like it or not.

 

2) Bayern Arrogance?: Do you HAVE to dominate no matter what. Give Hertha (And Wolfsburg) SOME credit.

Bayern Wolfsburg

Slipping: Wolfsburg and Hertha BOTH managed to come from 2-0 down to draw… but are barely credited with their triumph

The sacking of Ancelotti I have to admit I found unfair. The loss the PSG doesn’t seem to have registered with Bayern fans that perhaps there is a single reason that the French club were victorious in the Champions League match they won 3-0… they were the better team?

Personally I don’t see a loss to a team containing Neymar amongst other superstars to be an embarrassment and with the loss of Lahm and Schweinsteiger a few years back Bayern’s performances have dwindled somewhat. I don’t see that as part of the management, Carlo isn’t the one on the field. Even with Sagnol in charge and players such as Hummels brought back in, Bayern still couldn’t dominate their game in Berlin. Sacking Ancelloti and the rumours that there were mutiny in the Bayern camp amongst players speaks to me like an issue with players not staff.

But more to the point I don’t understand why Bayern feel the need to be the dominant force. A club so used to winning, the feeling gets boring, the atmosphere at the Allianz is boring in comparison to other clubs because everyone expects a win and a dominant performance over the opponent and such clubs become a bore to watch which is why the showdown in Berlin was actually one of the most exciting matches in Germany that weekend.  There is no quick fix for problems with the team. Change the manager, you’ve still got the same problems as before with the players and nothing changes over night. And anyone simply expecting a win like it was earned already before a ball had been kicked or like the Bavarians were owed something, needs to rethink.

Bayern losing or being challenged makes the league exciting and shouldn’t be discouraged and Bayern themselves have to concede that whilst of course they want to win games, so does everyone else.

I’m not a fan of the arrogance of such super clubs that believe clubs with less success are lesser clubs in general, yet I get the sense that this is how some fans as well as players treat it… it feels as though in their minds we are “Little Hertha” and should be brushed aside easily.

Bayern don’t win in Berlin and they consider it a failure, like they’re entitled to something because of the history.  It’s difficult to explain without sounding arrogant yourself however but what struck me most about the game in Berlin and the game in Munich against Wolfsburg, was that hardly anyone spoke about the incredible fight back from both clubs against the team everyone considers Germany’s best. It’s almost as if everyone had written both teams off even before the games kicked off.

2-0 in the second half the talk wasn’t about how Hertha fought back with heart and desire and belief but instead focused on “how Bayern threw it away”… which they didn’t. They simply weren’t prepared to face such a challenge and at 2-0 grew arrogant and complacent. Even the champions are capable of mistakes and to pretend it’s a disaster when it happens is an insult to the teams that fight back the way Hertha and Wolfsburg both did.

It’s possibly the media that doesn’t help. The official Bundesliga channels boost and promote Bayern more than any other club in Germany, but there’s 17 other teams in Germany and 15 of them get barely a look in in comparison, the three that do are Bayern, BVB and Red Bull Leipzig. Which as a consequence only bolsters promoting mostly one club, increases their reach and means clubs like Hertha remain in the dark and a team people outside of Germany have never heard of. (Although they did credit Haraguchi with the best assist of the season you will see! nice one!)

The reason Hertha did come away with a well deserved point wasn’t down to Bayern being poor, or not even Hertha being better… it was down to the determination not to give up and play fearlessly as if there was nothing to lose. It worked last season and again this season too. No one expects Hertha to win against giants like Bayern, so if they lose its not big deal and if they win, amazing… but the assumption Bayern will thrash their opponent or to concentrate of their game and not that of the opponent is unfair and the attitude that the club HAS to be the best, buy the biggest players ect makes the league far less competitive and boring… it makes the fight for European spots the highlight of the season and makes other clubs look insignificant which is hardly fair.

 

3) Europe and Domestic: Pals Rotation Strategy

Bilbao

Europa League: The first fixture vs Athletic Bilbao and a rotated team.

Does Hertha have a big enough roster to constantly rotate between the Bundesliga and the Europa league?

Who knows.

The problem is if a player becomes injured in either the club is stuck using several players in multiple competitions or risk giving youth players a shot at playing their first professional game. Whilst the Europa league looks far less important to the management, it’s Hertha’s first appearance in Europe for a long time, and the impression they should want to leave should be a positive one.

Attacking wise the roster looks good. Stocker, Duda, Ibisevic, Esswein, Haraguchi, Kalou, Kade and Schieber when he returns can all play up front, but defensively the options are more limited. Jordan’s mistake cost a penalty away from home in Sweden and Langkamp’s injury and such future injuries make it more difficult to rotate experienced defenders, with the younger lads coming in, risking mistakes under pressure.

Whilst the rotation is a good idea, the risk is that players get injured in Europe and can no longer play in the league, or in the minds of Dardai and the fans, the decision has to be made whether Europa League or Bundesliga means more at the end of the day.

Personally the focus should be on the league, since the primary focus should be on not getting relegated. Hertha have the squad and tactics this season to avoid the drop certainly, especially with the strengths at home. However wearing yourself out playing in Europe and the tradition of having a poorer second half of the season could be costly so the rotation idea seems a positive one, perhaps keeping the strongest and best formation for the Bundesliga and some experiments in the Europa League.

 

The Future Belongs: Coming Up

Selke

Zurück: Davie Selke finally makes a return to football.

The next match is at home to S04 (Gelsenkirchen) at the Olympiastadion and could see the first ever appearance of German U21 Euro winning striker Davie Selke in a Hertha shirt.

Selke was signed from RB Leipzig in the summer and played an entire 90 mins in a friendly during the international break against the Berlin Police team, he did however miss a penalty in that game. But after a lengthy lay off it’ll be great to welcome an exciting young talent like Selke to Berlin.

Sebastian Langkamp is set to miss the fixture with Jarstein passing fit and Mathew Leckie being a question mark over fitness however it seems a confident Ondrej Duda could get a chance to start again, having scored on the international break and played well against Hoffenheim and Bayern Munchen.

 

Moments: 125…

Take a look at this little video uploaded by the Official Hertha BSC YouTube page… it made me a tad emotional. It tells the story of how the club was founded, by the two sets of brothers who wanted to create a football team for Berlin and how they named the team Hertha, with the colours of Blue and White.

Hertha 125

Retirement: Ibisevic hangs up his International boots

Vedo

Farewell: Ibisevic played his last game for Bosnia and Herzegovina during the international break

During the international break several nations, including Germany of which the squad included Marvin Plattenhardt, qualified for the world cup. Ondrej Duda and Peter Pekarik’s Slovakia made it to second spot in their group but failed to qualify as they were the lowest scoring second placed side in the mix and Karim Rekik’s Netherlands failed to qualify all together. But Hertha’s captain will probably be the most upset of the internationals as Bosnia, who during their first game against Belgium during the break, had their future in their own hands, also failed to qualify entirely. Despite the uphill battle against the Belgium giants, Bosnia fought tooth and nail to get a result that would’ve seen them probably gain a playoff spot above Greece in the group however despite scoring 3 goals against the Red Devils, Vedad Ibisevic’s Bosnia lost 4-3 as Greece won their two matches and qualified for a spot instead. Bosnia’s campaign could’ve only been saved had Greece lost and Bosnia won, which didn’t happen despite Bosnia winning in Estonia.

The away victory in Tallin was also Vedad Ibisevic’s last ever appearance for his country. A man that not only scored the winning goal against Lithuania that took Bosnia to World Cup in 2014, but also the man that scored Bosnia’s first ever world cup finals goal against of all teams, Messi’s Argentina.  A wonderful international career comes to an end for the Vedator, who returns to Hertha after suspension after the Schalke game, however I hope he’ll remain a part of the development of the game in his home nation of which has proven that it has incredible talent and if coached well, a bright future.

 

 

And from me? Thank you Berliners, Hertha fans, for taking care of me in Berlin this time round, I wasn’t feeling brilliant and being around good people like yourselves made it a fantastic few days in my favourite city.

 

And after the break here we go again…

IT’S TIME…

 

HA HO HE