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Bundesliga Review – Week 13

Much like the Boomtown Rats, many in German football don’t like Mondays. However, with three months and more than a third of the season gone, the Bundesliga had its first Monday night game of the season as Nürnberg hosted Bayer Leverkusen.

It was confirmed by the DFL in November that Monday games will be scrapped after the current rights deal ends in 2021, with the extension of the Bundesliga weekend universally detested by fan groups across the country. Despite that victory, already-announced protests to mark the first Monday night game in the top flight this season went ahead, with fans calling for the abolition of Monday night games in all divisions, not just the Bundesliga, by holding a Stimmungsboykott, or atmosphere boycott

The Monday night Topspieleremains a regular occurrence in the 2. Bundesliga – except when it would clash with the Bundesliga – whilst the 3. Liga has also seen the introduction of Monday night games this season, for example the meeting of Hansa Rostock and VfL Osnabrück this week. Kickerand Bildreported on Monday that 2. Bundesliga clubs were prepared to back the abolition of their own Monday night fixtures.

In Franconia on Monday night, the Nordkurve was left empty in the first half as the fans made their point, with one of a number of banners saying “we weren’t promoted to play on a Monday night.” They were back in place and in full voice for the second half. Leverkusen fans meanwhile had a more creative solution. Choosing not to make the round trip of over 850 kilometres, they instead held a Christmas market back home, using it as an opportunity to raise funds for the homeless.

Those that stayed away missed a game that was almost farcical at times, as both sides struggled to adapt to a soaking pitch after a day of heavy rain that continued throughout the match. Leverkusen coped better with the conditions, with Kai Havertz breaking the deadlock in the first half. Georg Margreitter earned the hosts a point in the second half.

The fan movement has the support of some key figures in the game. Leverkusen’s own sporting director Rudi Völler has said that he is “not a fan” of the Monday night games. Lucien Favre, coach of league leaders Borussia Dortmund, has called for an outright ban on them, calling them “ridiculous.” Dortmund had played in front of a half-empty Signal Iduna Park against Augsburg back in February, a game played on a Monday.

Whilst these views are more than legitimate, it is important to stress that not all fans are quite so passionate about these protests. In Bremen, where the Ultras observed their silence, fans in the upper tiers were far less compliant, continuing their own chants aimed at the Bayern Munich away fans. There were similar scenes in Dortmund, with their Ultras whistling their fellow supporters who chose not to join the protests. Meanwhile in Leipzig, not exactly known for its fan scene, there appeared to be no Stimmungsboykottat all from the home supporters.

Whist it is true that football isn’t the same without fans, not least the passionate German supporters, this does show that there is disconnect even amongst fellow match-goers. Many have also pointed to the fact that boycotting during games – whether it be through remaining silent or not turning up at all – do not help their teams. Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt, whilst showing understanding, felt the lack of support hampered their team, especially as they went 1-0 down in their game during it.

The DFL and the DFB are clearly listening though, having already taken the decision to do away with the Mondays, whilst Reinhard Grindel, president of the DFB and something of a hate figure, has been striking a more conciliatory tone, as he looks to re-engage with supporter groups after talks broke down earlier in the year.

The main purpose of Monday night fixtures had been to for teams involved in the UEFA Europa League, so as not to overload the Sunday schedule. The issue of when these games will be played instead remains, and the two German footballing authorities could be heading to disagreement, with Grindel keen to argue the case for Sundays being reserved for amateur football.

Nevertheless, for the time being the ability of the fans to shape the discourse of football administration is admirable, and is one of the remarkable aspects of German football. Even if their views don’t always echo those of all supporters, Ultras can remain a powerful force for good. For now, it seems they shot Monday night games down.

 

1 | Bayern Munich’s 2-1 win at Bremen, with two goals from Serge Gnabry, saw them return to winning ways in the Bundesliga. Whatever happens over the rest of the season though, it will be the end of an era in May. On Sunday, Arjen Robben said that this will be his last season with the club. “I think it’s the right moment after 10 years,” he said. “The club moves on and I may move it.” It is also widely expected that Franck Ribéry will leave the club in the summer as well. Bayern without ‘Robbery’ seems unthinkable, but Gnabry’s goals a reminder of his own potential to take up their mantel. Bayern were also able to welcome back Kingsley Coman at the Weserstadion, replacing, appropriately enough, an injured Ribéry in the first half.

2 | Hoffenheim and Schalke shared the points in Sinsheim on Saturday night, with VAR heavily involved. Robert Kampka gave the visitors a penalty before half-time when Simon Zuber appeared to handle the ball in the box, but it was overturned as replays showed there was little he could have done. After the break Hoffenheim were awarded a spot kick after a VAR consultation, with Bastian Oczipka the guilty party. Andrej Kramarić converted the penalty, as did Nabil Bentaleb when Daniel Caliguiri was later fouled by Ermin Bičakčić, VAR not being needed on this occasion. The introduction of technology has led to debate over what handball constitutes, and Domenico Tedesco made his feelings clear post-match. “In my eyes, touching the ball with your hand is significant, whether the intention is there or not,” he believes.

3 | Borussia Mönchengladbach’s title credentials took a big hit on Sunday as they were comfortably beaten by RB Leipzig, who moved to within a point of them in third place. It was a timely return to form for the hosts, after being humbled once more by Red Bull’s Salzburg branch in the week. Timo Werner scored both goals in the 2-0, with all eight of his Bundesliga goals this season coming in pairs, as well as the brace against Hoffenheim in the DFB-Pokal. “I was simply in good form today, like the rest of the team,” he said after the game, whilst boss Ralf Rangnick was keen to praise work off the ball as well.

4 | After a surprise win against Leipzig last weekend, Bruno Labbadia’s Wolfsburg upset the form book again by inflicting a first defeat since September on Eintracht Frankfurt. Admir Mehmedi and Daniel Ginczek scored for the Wolves, with Luka Jovic’s late goal only a consolation. “Our aim today was to stop Eintracht’s run and my players did that well, even if we didn’t quite play the football that we wanted to,” said Labbadia, who praised his side’s “tremendous fight against opponents who possess a lot of power.” Wolfsburg moved up to eighth in the table, with the Eagles dropping out of the top four.

By James Rees.

 

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