Backyard Football ⋆ An Old International

Backyard Football

Playing and losing in the Europa League is part of football these days. You play and you win. You play and you lose. That is football, always has been. Some however, have not understood.

Despite the ongoing Corona pandemic football is going ahead as if nothing happened, losing some of its image and credibility along the way. This however, is not meant to lament that state of football or criticise its conscience or lack thereof. Rather, it is a rebuke, a reply to a comment by a German journalist made after Bayer Leverkusen and TSG Hoffenheim were eliminated from the Europa League by Young Boys Bern and Molde FK, respectively in late February. Yes, these are no big names and both German teams have topped their group only to fall at the first hurdle. This is not a great performance as the five year ranking has to be born in mind among other factors.

However, it is one thing to lose and to take the defeat graciously as the manager of Hoffenheim, Sebastian Hoeneß did when he said this is not a disgrace to be eliminated. On the face of it, he has a point. Unlike some commentators who lament that teams such as Molde and YBB are nothing more than „backyard teams“. This overlooks the fact that Berne are currently top of the league in Switzerland with a significant gap to second placed Servette Geneva: 19 points between them! Molde on the other side are sixth in the Norwegian league but that does not make them minnows automatically. Rather, it speaks of German obnoxiousness that those teams are not considered worthy opponents, moreover opponents who dare to beat German teams. Additionally, the commentator in question, Pit Gottschalk added that Hoeneß cannot be helped with his statement that being eliminated is not a disgrace. In fact Hoeneß seems to be smarter than Gottschalk as he has to steer his squad through a season during which Hoffenheim have not performed well; they are currently 11th in the Bundesliga with 30 points from 24 matches. They could still qualify for Europe but also slide down the table and get relegated. Neither scenario is likely but maybe Hoeneß will find the additional free time on a Thursday evening more helpful to get the best out of the season.

Put it one way or another, a defeat is a defeat and is frustrating. Over two legs, the two German clubs have not been clever enough to score enough goals or to avoid concession. Period. Acceptance is important. Germany or German clubs rather cannot win everything all the time and thankfully, this has not been the case for some years now. Yet, the attitude shown by some commentators indicates that not all have understood how football matches go. The Euopa League may not be the greatest of competitions, it is nonetheless a competition to be won and the teams still competing are not there to lie down and die.

The newsletter in question by Pit Gottschalk can be found here.

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