Opening the Box of the Pandora ⋆ An Old International

Opening the Box of the Pandora

According to Greek mythology Pandora was the first woman on earth, made by Zeus from clay. Legend has it that Prometheus copied man from clay found on earth and as a punishment Zeus send Pandora to earth, gave her a box but prohibited her to open it. Being curious she opened it herself and out came misery, illness, death and other bad things. Ever since, opening the box of the Pandora has become a proverb for someone to start a dispute, a row that better be left uncovered, i.e. the box unopened.

A slap in the face

Since the last match at home, fans of FC Magdeburg seem to have opened that very box. Reason was the windscreen wiper gesture allegedly made by the coach towards the North Stand where the ultras and die hard fans gather for each home game. Reason was that Christian Titz considered the short speech given by the capo to the team resembled verbal abuse, which of course was not what the team needed. The little speech has become a tradition and the team seem to have accepted to get some immediate feedback from the stands as a show of mutual understanding and reaffirmation of the players’ conviction.
However, after the final whistle against Karlsruhe, the capo questioned the effort of the team which was not enough in the eyes of the spectators. He asked why a late substitute managed to win all is aerial duels and challenges in less time than the player he replaced. At this moment the head coach intervened and demanded that his players return to the dressing room and making the gesture of a windscreen wiper towards the fans. Later, he disputed that there was such a gesture only to be refuted, notably by Germany’s worst publication, Bild-Zeitung. He was thus demasked as that what this paper is good at: not telling the truth.

In all, the clip shows that no abuse was hurled at the players. If anything, it was a reminder that there is a battle to be fought, a battle many seemed not to have accepted or understood they are in. It was this that the speaker of the fans reminded the players of and upon which Titz seemed to be offended. He made it clear afterwards that his team ran their socks of, worked hard and, yes, got their little reward at the end. However, the match was a chance to land a liberating coup to get out of the relegation zone and the team did not take it.

This was criticism that was necessary and it was the first time that such a thing as criticism has been aired voiced this publicly and was done so by those very people who follow their club up and down the country, regardless if it is a Friday night or a Sunday lunch time kick-off: they are there and they are many. Across the top three divisions, Magdeburg comes up a remarkable 11th spot in the away fans table, leaving behind some teams playing first division but also European football.

This gesture was thus a slap in the face of those who follow their club through thick and through thin and through everything.


Long Overdue

It has sparked a discussion that is long overdue. The communication on behalf of the PR department is at best sketchy, mixed or streaky – call it what you like. It makes onlookers think “what the hell is going on behind the scenes?” And that is indeed a question difficult to answer since the Club themselves appear to be flying on a different cloud than the fans. The word ‘relegation’ has not yet appeared in any official statement from Magdeburg despite the team sitting bottom of the table with 18 points from 19 matches which is not even equal a point a match. This is relegation form and the battle to stay up will be fierce. It may be that the usual threshold of 40/45 points may not be necessary this season; there is no guarantee for this, however.
With the situation being as difficult as it is, the heat of the moment may have led Titz to make such a gesture. It did not go down well with the supporters – needless to say. The ritual: the team assembling in front of the North Stand and the capo of the ultras giving a short team talk is sacrosanct. It is an important part of the bond between players and fans, something that is precious and should be cultivated.
There is nonetheless a need to discuss things as they are. There is a discrepancy between the perception of the fans and the club, the coaching staff in particular, regarding the situation. This needs to be addressed as it is clear that something is not right with the team. They are insecure on the pitch that is visible to anyone in attendance.

There was a clearing of the air between fans and the coach, the Club have stated. On this occasion, Titz has apologised and explained what he thought of the situation. His intentions were not to offend or hurt anyone but to protect his team. Fair enough, the fans may think, though the damage is done and it will require a minor miracle to get back into the good books again from the fans perspective.

At the ame time, the PR department need to address accusations of deleting posts deliberately on various “social media” platforms, arguing those comments were abusive. This is very much a debate about the authority of meaning and the Club should open up to this and get their heads round. This is a thin line as accusations of censorship come up relatively quickly and poison the climate subesequently. Therefore, a clear, concise but above all, open policy regarding comments must be put in place in order to re-gain trust and achieve this season’s goal: staying up.

image credit: F. S. Church “Pandora”, 1884, via Wiki Media.

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