They just do not go into the basket: Hertha BSC finds salvation in the boycott

They just do not go into the basket
Hertha BSC found salvation in the boycott

By Stephan Uersfeld, Berlin

Bayern are champions, Greuther Fürth relegated. The league creates facts just before the end of the season. Time for one of the season’s big stories: Hertha BSC’s relegation battle. The future has long belonged to them, but the present remains problematic.

Hertha will soon be playing in a new stadium, soon reaching European competitions and soon winning the hearts of the capital’s residents. At least! The sympathies of the rest of the republic are nevertheless ruled out. Hertha is almost as popular there as the lifestyle of the residents of Berlin-Mitte in Sundern in the Sauerland. As is so often the case in Berlin, the future always begins on another day. Fight through the here and now. Is challenging enough.

It’s always something: Coach change, power struggle, documentaries that suddenly disappeared, Lars Windhorst, a series of losses and never, even if they are allowed to come back, there are enough spectators in the stadium. Chaos and scandals of all kinds embrace Hertha, feel at home here in the western end of the capital. So too this season, which started with Pal Dardai on the bench, went to the dogs with Tayfun Korkut and must now be brought across the line by Felix Magath and his assistant Mark Fotheringham.

With two wins and two defeats and 6: 6 goals from the first four matches, the duo got off to a remarkable start, at least in the lower parts of the table. Especially since they only won two points in the previous nine games in the second half of the season, Hertha was in last place in the second half of the table before the game on Sunday, and nothing is good at all for a long time.

humiliation after derby

After 1: 4 in the derby against Union Berlin in early April, the situation escalated to some extent. Ultras had messed with the players, humiliating them, not only denying their Hertha existence but also their professional existence. They should put their jerseys down before the basket. That was not enough for Ultras. And the players and the rest of the fans wondered what really happened here.

The rest of the football country shook their heads in disbelief and again negotiated football issues with the Berliners. How much power can Ultras have? The tough ones among them longed for ghost games. As is the case these days, when the most outraged make themselves heard with maximum demands.

So far, so normal. However, the reactions from the players and the rest of the fans were anything but normal. The professionals felt gripped by their honor. For her, the humiliation was what drove her. Not only would they prove they were worthy of the shirt, but they would also take the love away from the crowd. After last week’s 1-0 victory in Augsburg, they did not celebrate with the fans and they had no plans to change that in the relegation final against VfB Stuttgart. And so it happened.

The “internal” agreement

After 2-0, they did not go to the fans, but directly into the locker room. They gave them the cold shoulder. They did not play for them in the basket, they played for their honor. For the fans had finally scratched at this. Successful for now. How to hold on after the second win in the second match after the derby bankruptcy. Players also met the understanding of the overwhelming part of the affiliation: “If it helps, feel free to boycott everything or always Herthinho [das Maskottchen, Anm. d. Red] into the basket after being threatened the other day. That’s okay, ”said one fan after the match.

“As a team, we decided not to appeal to the fans in the beginning. It was not okay against Union,” said goalkeeper Marcel Lotka, who kept a clean sheet for the second time in a row, and Davie Selke spoke of an “internal” agreement which applies if so. So a cabin oath. “If anything changes, you will notice it,” said the visibly relieved goal scorer at the early 1-0. However, something had already changed: That night at the Olympic Stadium they ran 54,589 spectators their team forward with loud shouts, especially in the second half.

Each ball was cheered higher than the Munich fans who won the German championship the day before in the Allianz Arena. Again and again it resounded “Hahohe” through the stadium. Starting not only from the basket, but from all the blocks in the stadium. It was a kind of transition from ultra-dominated support to English support with the mumble, collective relief and game-related volume. The spectators at the Olympic Stadium, who were often mocked, created a magical atmosphere that kept reminding us how lonely and gloomy the long pandemic years had been in football.

“Who should be euphoric at Hertha?”

Spanish, on the other hand, was the order of the day. The Berliners took advantage of every opportunity for a longer break. They lay writhing in pain, letting the minutes tick. After leading 1-0 in the early stages, they lost control of the ball to the visitors from Stuttgart but were always in control. Also because Scottish assistant coach Fotheringham trained on the sideline, pushed the team and once extended a ball that ran off the pitch with the sole and picked up a yellow card from referee Felix Brych.

Only VfB defender Konstantinos Mavropanos managed to pose a threat to the Hertha goal. Again and again he got burned across the field and marched past the entire Berlin team, but even with the most impressive of his runs, the Greek could not put the ball in goal, in the 52nd minute he failed on the crossbar. Coach Felix Magath later also meant this moment when he grumbled at the post-match press conference. “We had situations where we had no control over the situation. We are still making too many mistakes,” he said. “I watched the game. Who should be euphoric at Hertha afterwards?”

The fans e.g. When Ishak Belfodil made it 2-0 in overtime, the ecstasy knew no bounds. The tears flowed with relief. It was the catharsis moment, which was celebrated until late at night in Berlin’s corner pubs. With a lead of four points over Stuttgart and six over Arminia Bielefeld, it has not become more unrealistic to stay in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

The next step follows next week. At Arminia Bielefeld and then on the 33rd match day against Mainz, the great reconciliation between fans and the stadium could take place. “I hope in the next few days we get together again, that the two groups will get closer again, that we will fight relegation together,” Magath said. It had happened a long time ago. At some point, the future also begins in Berlin, but the Hertha present is still exciting enough.

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