Controversy at the Olympiastadion – What really happened?

by Niklas Wildhagen

Hertha Berlin felt cheated by referee Michael Weiner and his assistants after an offside call. Here’s a step by step look at the situation.

It’s the 88th minute of the match between Hertha and 1. FC Nürnberg, the Old Lady is chasing a 2-2 equaliser to get at least a point out of a match which Jos Luhukay’s team could have put to bed in the first half. Adrián Ramos is on his way down the right flank and into the penalty area, but Der Club’s keeper Raphael Schäfer gets there ahead of the Colombian and clears the ball.

Schäfer tries to clear the danger ahead of Ramos.

Schäfer tries to clear the danger ahead of Ramos.

However, the ball travels only as far as Hertha’s Brazilian magician Ronny, who goes for broke with a direct shot.

Ronny_shoots

Nürnberg’s goalkeeper is seemingly nowhere near his goal to get back in time, however, the makeshift centre back Ondřej Petrák has started a run towards his goal line to keep the ball out and manages to do so in the end – by using his hand.

Petrak_handball

On the outset a clear cut case, and referee Weiner seems to think so himself. The 44-year-old from Ottenstein blows the whistle immediately awarding Hertha a penalty and shows Petrák the red card. There have been some breaks in the game and injury time is supposedly around 3 minutes at this point. This would give Hertha the chance to get the vital 2-2 goal and to chase the win with a man advantage for the last three or four minutes.

However, after a deliberation with his assistant, Michael Weiner takes his decision back and Nürnberg keeper Schäfer is starting the game up again with what seems to be a goal kick, leaving commentators all around Europe and the fans in the stadium befuddled at the same time. This is how most of us saw this situation in real time.

After taking a closer look at the slow motions one sees the full extent of the situation. What had happened? Assistant Norbert Grudzinski had spotted an offside position by Ramos. The Colombian striker and current Bundesliga top scorer was in a passive offside position as Ronny fired his shot towards the goal.

Ramos_offside_passive

However, as the ball travelled through the cool air at the Olympiastadion, Ramos’ and Schäffer’s paths crossed, meaning that the keeper was hindered whilst being on the way back to his goal.

Ramos_offside_active_questionmark

This picture clearly shows how both players got in the way of each other, however, simply being in somebody’s way or being a diversion whilst remaining passive doesn’t mean that a player is active in a situation. The rules clearly state that the player in question must engage in a duel (or other active behaviour) to rule him offside.

Going by the last two pictures shown above one could come to the conclusion that Ramos was aware of the path Schäfer was going to take and therefore he engaged him in a duel, which would rule Ramos offside before Petrák could get his hand on the ball. Therefore the situation would have been over before the Czech handled the ball and the offside call would have been correct (and the red card redundant).

On the other hand side one could also be of the opinion that Ramos was keeping his eyes on the ball and he therefore chose a path to get in a position where he could get a simple poacher’s goal. In that case the conditions for an active offside positions wouldn’t apply. Furthermore, one couldn’t have given an advantage and allowed the goal either, because Ramos would at that point been active (coming from an offside position).

As the pictures show both options are certainly viable, and after having seen this over and over again, I’m tempted to opt for option number one, because Ramos is more than aware of which path Schäfer is going to take (in my book) whilst getting back to his goal line, which makes him engage in a duel with another player. Referee Weiner and his assistant Grudzinski didn’t have the benefit of a replay (or 10 replays, like I did) and had to make a very tough call. Given that, one has to say that their decision is certainly defendable if you are of the opinion that Ramos wasn’t active (or simply brilliant refereeing if you share my opinion).

Consequences

The situation in question is certainly a very intricate one which could be discussed at length. Making this tough call had in turn a number of consequences for the teams on the pitch and the battle against relegation. Had Weiner decided to stick to his original decision, HSV wouldn’t have slipped down the table to 17th and Nürnberg would still be in the relegation zone (provided Hertha would have scored from the penalty). Furthermore, Hertha could have possibly gone for a win with a man advantage in the last few minutes of the match, potentially seeing them overtake the likes of Wolfsburg and Mainz in the standings.

Every referee makes a multiple number of decisions within the space of a football match, some of them are obvious whilst others like this one are very demanding. Hertha themselves might feel harshly done by in this situation – sporting director Michael Preetz went as far as saying that the assistant Grudzinski had seen something nobody else had seen when deciding that Ramos was in an active offside position. However, he and the rest of his team should also remember that Adrián Ramos alone could have scored three goals in the first half rendering all of this mute.

What is your take on the situation? Leave a comment below!

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Author:Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 28-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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