After the victory in the game that was almost canceled, defense chief Robin Knoche took the long break due to the renewed fan protests with a pinch of humor.
"I still need a few tennis balls, I'll just take them with me," he said after an almost spring-like afternoon in the An der Alten Försterei stadium and the all-important 1-0 (1-0) between 1. FC Union Berlin and VfL Wolfsburg. “Fortunately it wasn’t quite as cold today as in Mainz,” he emphasized with a view to the catch-up game last Wednesday at 1. FSV.
First a boycott of sentiment, then tennis balls
The match in Mainz was also interrupted by protests from fans against investors joining the German Football League. The home game on Saturday was very close to being cancelled. Referee Matthias Jöllenbeck made this unmistakably clear. An interruption of over 30 minutes was enough for him. After an initial boycott, fans from both camps continued their increased displeasure against the German Football League's plans by throwing tennis balls. First again and again from the ranks of the home fans, then when Jöllenbeck kicked off the game again after an initial eleven-minute break, from the block of around 2,000 VfL supporters who had traveled with them.
"Everyone has their point of view. I don't want to say anything more about it," said Unions Knoche. "It's something that the fans use for themselves," said Wolfsburg's Maximilian Arnold: "How else are they supposed to show it? They're trying to generate attention, which is their right."
Goal in the 25th minute of added time
The VfL captain himself went to the fans and spoke to them and, according to his own statement, repeated what the referee had told him: Next time the game would be abandoned. At least it didn't come to the worst (yet).
After almost half an hour of stoppage time in the first half, in which Danilho Doekhi (45.25) scored the only goal and gave Union their fourth home win in a row, the fans left with their chants. Your renewed demonstration of power in what appeared to be a deadlocked argument was probably more than just noted at DFL headquarters. It seems only a matter of time before the game is abandoned.
Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac said he understands protests and demonstrations. "But I think at some point we should find a common way to stop this. We can't play 30 minutes longer every time," he emphasized: "Although I have to say that my team had no problems with that."
But his team couldn't do anything with their superiority. Not only is VfL still waiting for its first win this year, after four draws in a row there wasn't even a point. Not an easy time for Kovac himself either.
Kovac criticism of the referee
He expressed a lack of understanding and clear criticism of the referee and the VAR: Moritz Jenz had to be replaced in front of the Union goal with a laceration and probably a broken nose after a duel with Andras Schäfer. Kovac did not assume that the Berlin professional was intentional at all, but it was a foul.
Compatriot Bjelica celebrated a successful return to the bench after a three-game suspension on this memorable afternoon with an XXL playing time, as Union called it. After his double attack in the catch-up game against FC Bayern, he was sanctioned by the DFB, but also by the Eisernen. The Union fans didn't show any signs of the performance before the game and also shouted the obligatory "football" at the 52-year-old Croatian -God".
But the big stories of this game weren't Bjelica or the Union team's reunion with new VfL striker Kevin Behrens. The fans wrote them. And literally too. With banners like “Private equity locusts without influence?” or “DFL-certified investors: Financed by Saudi blood money” they underlined their position.
Tennis balls are not a crime, they shouted. As the teams were sent to the dressing room for another break, "Goodbye" echoed through the stadium in Berlin-Köpenick. “The message was received very, very clearly,” emphasized stadium spokesman Christian Arbeit, who is also the Berliners’ head of communications, via the outside microphone. In another announcement he said: "We are so, so close to not being able to continue playing this game."
Pyros were burned again and again in the VfL fans' block. At least tennis balls no longer flew onto the court. Also because Frederik Rönnow had a top day in goal for the Berliners and thwarted the guests' chances, the hosts defended their narrow lead. When the game was whistled, the exuberant joy of the Union professionals showed how important this victory was.
In the table, the lead of the 15th place increased. The relegation ranking is initially limited to six points. 1. FC Köln can shorten the gap again with a win on Sunday, but their away opponent is TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.