May 27, 2017

A brief history of the “Phantomtor” in German football

Wherever one turned on Saturday and Sunday, Stefan Kießling’s phantom goal was still on everybody lips and the hottest discussion topic of the day. However, Kießling’s phantom goal is far from the only case in Germany football which has caused controversy.

The most similar case in point is probably Thomas Helmer’s goal from the match between Bayern München and 1. FC Nürnberg back from 1994. Back then Der Club was holding on for dear life in the Bundesliga and had come to the Olympiastadion to grind out a result against the German record champions. However, Bayern were helped by the fact that a ball which Helmer failed to control 2 meters in front of goal and harmlessly going past the post had been given as a goal by referee Hans-Joachim Osmers.

The DFB decided in the end that the match had to be re-played in the end, with dire consequences for Der Club. In the repeat version of the match the Franconians were at the end of a 5-0 throbbing courtesy of an in-form youngster by the name of Mehmet Scholl. In the end Nürnberg were relegated from the Bundesliga only missing the one point they could have taken in the original match.

The decision to re-play the match was based on a precedence which was set after the Bundesliga 2 Southern Division match between Borussia Neunkirchen and Stuttgarter Kickers on match day 12 in 1981. Back then Jürgen Kobel managed to shoot the ball into the net through a hole in the side netting. The referee hadn’t spotted that the ball went past the wrong side of the post before being in the back of the net. The DFB decided to repeat the match, stating in their reasoning for the judgement:

“Sticking with the actual calls made on the football pitch isn’t necessary if legally protected interest has been infringed upon. Goals are after all the nuts and bolts of football.”

For the record: Stuttgarter Kickers righted the wrong which had happened in the first match and won the repeated version of this match 1-0.

Three years later the Bundesliga could have seen a similar scandal. Bayer Leverkusen’s Arne Økland Larsen had gotten off to a blistering start, scoring three goals within 24 minutes for the 13th placed Leverkusen against Bayern München on March 7th 1981. In the second half one of Økland Larsen’s shots hit a post next to the goal and afterwards the side net. The referee decided to give Bayer a goal, however, the Norwegian striker told the referee that he needn’t be gifted a fourth goal and that the ball had gotten into the goal after it had flown by the wrong side of the post.


Økland Larsen’s phantom goal can be seen on this clip after 3 minutes and 5 seconds.

Wembley and others

Goal line technology has been introduced to the Premier League, giving referees the luxury to find out if a ball has crossed the line if their view of the situation was blocked. The technology would have prevented Dr. Felix Brych from giving the goal according to Fifa’s manual, because shots to the side netting have been integrated in the scenarios the new innovations has to be able to detect.

First and foremost the technology was introduced to avoid uncertainty after situations like England’s 3-2 goal at Wembley during the 1966 World Cup final. Back then Geoff Hurst’s shot hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and there was uncertainty about wether or not the ball had crossed the line before the goal was given.


A quick reminder for those who haven’t seen the goal before.

There have been a couple of similar situations in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 in the recent past. On match day 18 in the 2009/10 Bundesliga 2 campaign in the match between MSV Duisburg and FSV Frankfurt the Zebras Christian Tiffert hit the bar with a shot from 18 meters, the rebound hit the ground 1.3 meters in front of the line. Referee Marco Fritz and his linesmen were, however, convinced that the ball had crossed the line and awarded Duisburg a goal. Frankfurt didn’t appeal the result, which is understandable given how Tiffert’s goal was the last goal of the match in Duisburg’s convincing 5-0 win.

The officials at FSV made the best out of the situation, allowing their fans to compete in a phantom goal contest. Ahead of the home match against Greuther Fürth the fans were asked to hit the bar. Everybody who managed to hit the bar gained free entrance to Frankfurt’s home match.(The match ended in another 5-0 loss for FSV.)

In the following season HSV’s Marcell Jansen scored a similar goal in the Bundesliga match The Red Shorts and 1. FSV Mainz 05. After a cross from the right hand side the Germany international went for broke with a volley from 15 meters, hitting the bar. Babak Rafati and his linesmen were convinced that the ball had crossed the line, however, the ball had only bounced onto the line.

Mainz’s André Schürrle was on fire that evening. He and the rest of the team managed to turn around their bad fortune, winning the match 4-2 in the end.

Header photo courtesy of dpa.

Should goal line technology be available for referees to avoid these mistakes in the future? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-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 and on the @AufstiegPod.

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