The death of fair play in the Bundesliga?

In the minutes after the final whistle, you could observe 1. FC Köln’s Dominique Heintz having a proper go at Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann. What happened?

In the 90th minute, the Billy Goats lost the ball whilst going forward due to a clear cut foul on Lukas Klünter. Instead of blowing his whistle referee, Deniz Aytekin allowed the game to continue.

Die Hoffe’s Andrej Kramaric desperately tried to get to the goal, and after getting past 4 men on an incredible run, he managed to fire off a shot which forced Timo Horn to give a rebound.

Unfortunately, for Köln the ball ended up at Kevin Volland’s feet, who had no trouble whatsoever to give Hoffenheim the goal that would put them out of the relegation zone for the first time since match day 5.

The Fallout

After the match, Köln’s officials and players were fuming over Hoffenheim’s decision to keep on playing. Kramaric had been shown by several EffZeh players that he should put the ball out of play due to a fact that a man was down. The Croat refused to do so and caught the Billy Goats by surprise.

After the match Jörg Schmadtke told the press:

“We are burying the fair play mantra this weekend. We already saw on Friday that a ball isn’t played over the sideline. We have seen the same thing today.”

Schmadtke referred to Chicharito’s goal against Wolfsburg, where Bayer had decided to push on despite Dante being on the ground after a duel. His coach Peter Stöger raged on:

“We are always the affected and we are always put at a disadvantage. We admit everything, we always play the ball over the sideline. Maybe we should change that. It would be a good thing if we adapt to the Bundesliga level not only in terms footballing skill, but also when it comes to keeping your cool just saying that we didn’t do anything.”

When the Austrian coach was questioned by the press about Jörg Schmadtke throwing his chewing gum in the direction of Hoffenheim’s bench after the equaliser, the coach offered a sarcastic reply:

“I would like to apologise for that, that really wasn’t fair, was it?”

Was Hoffenheim’s conduct unfair?

First of all, Köln could just as easily have complained about ref Aytekin’s performance. Vergas committed a clear cut foul on Klünter and the ref should have spotted it. Secondly, Köln should have also been awarded a penalty when Ermin Bicakcic handled the ball inside the box. All in all two massive decisions that went against the Billy Goats.

Having said that, these days referees usually blow their whistle if a player is potentially seriously hurt. Ref Aytekin decided that this wasn’t the case with Klünter(and it most certainly wasn’t the case when Dante went down on Friday). Former Köln player and current Hoffenheim striker Marc Uth went as far as suggesting that the 19-year-old player had gone down to wind down the clock. As it turned out it looks like Klünter might have caught an injury according to the club.

However, as the referee decided it was fair to play on, Köln’s player should have done the same. Jonas Hector admitted after the match:

“We have to keep playing, we need to defend a lot better than this. We have to look at our own faults.”

If one takes a closer look at the situation four or five times one is inclined to agree with the German international. Hoffenheim didn’t do anything any other team in the league wouldn’t have done. Maybe not even Köln, despite the high minded standards Peter Stöger(according to himself) sets for his team.

After the minds had cooled down there was at least one gesture of fairness one can commend. Köln’s sporting director Jörg Schmadtke called his colleague Axel Rosen to apologise for the chewing gum incident.

What are your thoughts? Should Hoffenheim stopped play?

Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images

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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.