Home games of Bundesliga clubs usually start with small rituals that create campfire feelings and sharpen the sense of tradition. It’s the same at Hertha BSC. Before the team line-up is read out in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, Hertha fans are asked to get ready for “Berlin’s number one soccer team”. Meanwhile, Hertha fans are waving their scarves wildly.
But wait a minute: the number one in Berlin?
On Saturday, before the city derby against 1. FC Union, a closer look at the scenery: The Hertha fans were waving like hell, but the rest of the protocol was omitted this time. The stadium announcer apologized, but everyone knows the table, which does not reflect the usual ranking in the city. It wasn’t meant to be flirtatious, nor was it the usual trick of shoving the role of favorite into the opponent’s football boots.
It is a truth that, just two hours after the 2-0 defeat against Union, also had personnel consequences: Fredi Bobic, the sporting director at Hertha, was released with immediate effect. That’s how “the presidium together with the supervisory board of Hertha BSC e.V.” decided it, like the club in his official communiqué communicated. Bobic was only in office for a year and a half, his mission to turn the fickle Hertha into a solid Bundesliga club can be considered a failure.
In the previous season, the Berliners only managed to stay in the class in the relegation, and the trend is also currently pointing dangerously towards second class: Hertha is second to bottom in the table and had lost 1: 3 in Bochum and a 0: 5 against Wolfsburg immediately before the derby. They were desolate performances, a mixture of resignation and slapstick. Union? As the second-placed and closest pursuer of FC Bayern, they are now light years ahead, and in a direct comparison within the city anyway: The people of Köpenick won the city-internal showdown for the fifth time in a row on Saturday.
The team put together by Bobic is once again uninspired and overwhelmed by the situation
This is not without a certain symbolism with regard to Bobic’s dismissal, because the 51-year-old was responsible for three defeats at Hertha – and the last in the series did not bring any more uplifting to light than had been the case in previous years . On the contrary: you had to look for something edifying like a needle in the colossal stone building of the Berlin Olympic Stadium, in which spectators sometimes get lost when looking for the toilets.
After all: The protagonists of the home team made a lot of effort to filter out something constructive from this defeat. “People saw that we wanted to,” said Hertha offensive player Marco Richter. “We gave everything,” said goalkeeper Oliver Christensen. And the coach Sandro Schwarz held an almost flaming plea for his players: “I stand by it: These are our boys. Even if it was a shitty week, we know that they can overcome resistance.” On Saturday it became clear: The Hertha team put together by Bobic presented itself again without inspiration and overwhelmed with the situation.
Only the so-called basic virtues were correct: The black elf held back physically and was even spotted occasionally running up the opponent. But since Union did exactly the same thing, the teams neutralized each other so consistently that very little football was left.
The first half had the character of a late-night pub brawl: It was rough, with many close duels and nicknames, and both teams lacked the necessary precision to really hurt the opponent. Only the temperatures in the ice-cold Olympic Stadium were slower than the pace of the game. In the first half, therefore, there was nothing to report from either side that would justify the terms “attack” or at least “offensive effort” in the broadest sense. Hertha and Union lurked instead. And lurked. And lurked. And then they lurked a little further until Union was awarded a free kick from the inside left position.
Berlin and standard situations, there was something: Hertha is one of the worst Bundesliga teams in this category and has already conceded a few goals. Union, on the other hand, likes to hit after dead balls. This was also the case in the 44th minute: Christopher Trimmel crossed, Danilho Doekhi headed powerfully on goal, 1:0 Union. “Something like that happens,” Richter complained, referring to Hertha’s standard weakness: “It’s bitter that it happens to us so often.”
Hertha keeps trying, but that’s not enough to pose serious problems for the well-organized, poisonous Union
The home team kept trying after going behind, but it was “trying” in the sense of: That’s not enough to pose serious problems for the well-organized and poisonous Unioner. On the contrary, the game was the perfect example of how statistics can sometimes distort the essence of a football game. Hertha ran more, won more tackles, had more possession and shot more often on goal. But none of that seemed like an indication that Hertha would be able to score a goal or prevent another in this game.
That’s exactly what happened: Union’s Rani Khedira played the ball and not the opponent’s foot during a press shot in the Köpenick penalty area. Hertha fans whistled and thought they had just witnessed a scandalous case of fraud, but meanwhile Sheraldo Becker was already on his way to the Hertha goal. The extremely fast Becker passed defender Peter Pekarik, whose clumsy defense was a lesson in how not to defend under any circumstances. When Becker was through, only a Hertha player and his teammate Paul Seguin were there. A cross pass was enough, Seguin pushed in, 0:2. The goal withstood the video analysis. As a result, Hertha never made it dangerously in front of the Köpenick goal.
What else gives you confidence? Perhaps the promise of Union coach Urs Fischer to score as many points as possible against the competition in the league: “If you can help Hertha with that, then gladly!” A lot would be missing without the neighbors, the atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium, the rivalry in the city, the derby in general. And then Fischer wished Hertha “good luck” – that Hertha would soon need a new sports director, of course he couldn’t know that at the time.