Anger is a Gift? ⋆ An Old International

Anger is a Gift?

Last month Magdeburg’s coach Andreas Petersen physically attacked his colleague by pushing him when entering the tunnel at half-time. A ban and a fee were the consequence leading to the question if anger really is a gift.

Your Anger is a Gift?

On one of their earliest singles – some would argue, one of their best – Freedom, the Los Angeles based band Rage against the machine included the line

your anger is a gift

On the record the line is whispered while live it is screamed by singer Zack de la Rocha with the audience supporting him during shows. The song and the video highlight the depressing situation of Leonard Peltier, a native American accused of murdering an FBI agent in 1975 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A crime that is not yet solved and leaves many questions to be answered.

Music is a cultural form to express emotions; possibly the best channel to do so. The same cannot be said about the cultural sphere of sport. In sport it is frowned upon if violence surfaces and yet it is here where anger and joy are so closely located to each other. A set of opposing football fans is the best example for this. One side enjoying their team’s success, the other despairing.

As a coach watching a team from the dugout must be a similarly excruciating experience. Players might be booked or sent off for their behaviour; this rarely happens to coaches. Their infringement must be of a different nature to be ordered off. However, it is nonetheless surprising to see so few coaches sent off, considering the pressure they are under. This is most likely to increase the higher a club is placed.

Germany’s fourth tier, the Oberliga Nordost saw a rare surfacing of anger at a match as the coach of FC Magdeburg, Andreas Petersen pushed his counterpart from Wacker Nordhausen Jörg Goslar while entering the tunnel at half time. Reason was a controversial red card for Magdeburg after just 11 minutes. Goslar was one of the loudest to demand the player being punished by waving the imaginary red card towards the referee. The ensuing verbal encounter between the coaches was certainly enriched with niceties.

To calm nerves, Magdeburg took the lead after 29 minutes. This should have dissolved the situation; only for Petersen losing control for a moment at half time and pushing his colleague at the entry of the tunnel. As an excuse he said, he wanted to be first in the tunnel and hence he pushed his way through. As a result, the regional FA, NOFV has banned Petersen until November 11 to enter any ground and imposed a €5000 penalty. His colleague, Jörg Goslar has so far not been reprimanded although it was his actions that triggered the outbreak.

Ever since the verdict has been made public by the NOFV disciplinary board, the discussions on fan pages etc are heavily entangled in arguments whether the punishment is justified or not. Some argue it is too mild, others cite ice hockey where punches between players are regularly exchanged and no one demands the players to be banned for life as was the demand of some fans after Petersen’s attack.

Two Sides of the same Coin?

Herein lies a difference. Pushing and shoving between players is one thing, regardless of any playing sport involving physical contact. Except Basketball. Any one interested just need to look at a game of handball or rugby where punches are of course ruled out but are nonetheless frequently used in attempts to interrupt the opponent’s play. Ice hockey sees players regularly fighting on the pitch with 2 minutes sin bin being the most frequent penalty.

Doing so as a coach is an entirely different thing. As a person responsible for the success of a team but also for its discipline and further personal development, it is a terrible signal. Not to mention as a role modell for spectators, Petersen has a huge image problem to deal with. The Club have reacted and condemned any such behaviour; Petersen should consider himself living on borrowed time.

Luckily, the team has played well and appears not to be too affected by their coach’s behaviour. Or have they performed well because of his absence? Ever since the incident Magdeburg are unbeaten, winning 3, drawing twice, which is the second longest run without defeat since the beginning of last season.

The question posed by this such behaviour is, how far are sports people allowed to push the boundaries before they are crossing the line towards the unaccepted? Pushing your colleague certainly is out of order and Petersen knows it and has apologized since.

The factors that might have influenced his actions, being provoked by his counter part Jörg Goslar, the pressure of being among the favourite in this division, the public expectation deriving from such a position might have been considered.

Provocations are the rule in football and coaches more often than not face up to each other only to be separated by the fourth official and members of staff. As such, this issue can be easily dismissed as Petersen and every one of this colleagues is subjected to provocations from players and coaches alike and are provocative in their behaviour and public utterances.

The Magdeburg Pressure Cooker

Within the Oberliga, the fourth division of the German football pyramide, FC Magdeburg are one among a group of big fish. Carl Zeiss Jena and Lokomotive Leipzig and Magdeburg have each featured in a European Cup final; Magdeburg were the only club winning theirs. For East German football fans, this league sees a derby match almost every week. Jena vs. Magdeburg, Lok vs. Zwickau are certain to draw bigger crowds. Extra spice is added by Berliner AK 07 and Neustrelitz who currently enjoy the top spot. The pressure for Magdeburg and their coach to perform in this league is not to be scoffed at.

The football public in Magdeburg are longing for better days. To see clubs such as Halle being promoted to the third division is a thorn in their side that does not sit easily. The support at home games is tremendous and currently the average gate figure is just over 5000; Jena enjoy 3500 while leaders TSG Neustrelitz averaged 920 in their 6 home matches this season.

The interest is there, the infrastructure too with a stadium accommodating 27000. It is down to the team and Petersen to perform in this pressure cooker. So far, they are 5th in the league with a 10 point gap between them and the top spot. To reach the promotion play-offs Magdeburg must perform a lot better than they are doing currently. The question is, if Petersen has the means to achieve that with his behaviour. The anger he has shown certainly is no gift, rather a liability.

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