Zlatko Junozovic’s yellow card – throw back to the ‘Mach et Otze” controversy

Playing a match against Bayern feels like a waste of time for most relegation threatened sides these days. The Bavarians seem to be able to dispose of the opposition from the bottom end of the table without even getting out of second gear these days and if they have a bad day they’ll stay in second until the match is decided before they drop back into a leisurely drive in first for the rest of the match.

When no fewer than five of Darmstadt’s players were booked with yellow cards that saw them banned from the match against the Bavarian juggernauts, pundits went as far as calling it clever, highlighting that a team like the Lilies needed to fight the drop in every way they could. In that regard missing a match the side was highly to lose wasn’t a bad thing, after all it meant that Dirk Schuster could be sure that all of those five player were going to be available in the more important match upcoming against fellow cellar dwellers Werder Bremen.

And now it seems like two of Werder’s players have learned their lesson in being smart in the battle against relegation. Both Clemens Fritz and Zlatko Junuzović saw yellow cards Saturday in their match against Hannover that made sure that they were going to see their match bans out against Bayern München.

What Happened

Fritz put in a harmless tactical foul and the Austrian hesitated so much that ref Felix Zwayer was forced to show him a card after a considerable amount of time had passed.  Both fouls were committed AFTER Werder Bremen had established a 4-1 over hapless Hanover in the 67th minute, following Junuzović goal….in fact Clemens foul came two minutes after that, while Junuzović himself waited until the 85th minute for his antics, making absolutely sure that Werder’s victory was sealed.

After the match the two Werder players were more forthcoming than their colleagues from Darmstadt. Fritz told Sky:

“It was certainly avoidable, but there are other games against other teams that are going to be tighter and I think we have a fair few of them ahead of ourselves.”

Junuzović went even further and confessed that he had gotten booked on purpose:

“It is better that I did it in that fashion instead of willingly hurting somebody.”

Coach Viktor Skripnik wasn’t amused at all the following day, telling the press:

“The coaching staff wasn’t aware of this. It was stupid and it wasn’t agreed upon beforehand.”

Even if the coach didn’t know about his players plans, it is still possible that both players are going to be punished with longer bans due to intentionally getting booked. The fact that both of his players decided to admit what they had done in front of the television cameras leaves the DFB no other decision but to look into the matter. As far as the DFB is concerned, the fact that no less than five Darmstadt players were booked and got match bans ahead of their most unwinnable game of the season was all just a strange coincidence. If the Bremen players are punished further the lessons drawn from this episode are clear: Be clever, but don’t admit to it. Yes, everybody is going to be aware what has been done and why, but don’t bloody well go ahead and admit it. Unsporting behaviour only wins if it is paired with dishonesty. If it isn’t, there won’t be any praise coming from the pundits, but rather condemnation.

Historical precedents

On the face of the matter one would be tempted to say that both Fritz and Junozovic are likely to face longer match bans than just that one match they were going to miss anyway. The most comparable case in the past is Frank Ordenewitz’s second yellow card in the DFB Pokal semi final between 1. FC Köln and MSV Duisburg in 1991. The EffZeh player would have faced a ban in the cup final, because he had already been booked twice in the competition, but a second yellow would have led to a ban in the Bundesliga back then. With only a few minutes left on the clock, Ordenewitz’s coach Erich Rutemöller screamed “Mach’et Otze” (Translation: “Do it”). Later on, Rutemöller stepped in front of the television cameras and bragged about his clever decision. The DFB thought it wasn’t all that clever and banned Ordenewitz from the final, which Werder Bremen won after a penalty shoot out.

Another match ban story from the 90s saw Lothar Matthäus ask the ref to book him, because he wanted to miss the next game in order to be available for the more important games coming up. The ref said he would do so if the foul wasn’t too nasty and in the end Matthäus got his wish granted. This story is part of German football history folklore and both the ref and Matthäus come out rather well in it when it is being told on German television, but the fact that it is just as unsporting as the Darmstadt players and the two Werder players gets lost in that tale.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.