The acoustic accompaniment also fitted perfectly with the dramatic situation at Hertha BSC, Berlin’s oldest Bundesliga club. The clock is ticking, the countdown is on.
Head coach Magath had the team gathered around him, as he always does the day after a game. Only this time he wasn’t wearing his usual black tracksuit, but was in civilian clothes, with gray chinos and a white polo shirt. But the leisure look was deceptive. Felix Magath will not be short of work in the next few days, after his team had booked the extra weekend in the Bundesliga the day before after losing 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund.
Instead of vacation, Hertha has two more games against Hamburger SV, third in the second division. And so the players were back on the training ground on Sunday morning. Magath spoke to the staff for seven minutes at the beginning of the session. To underline the meaning of his words, he used an almost expressionistic gesture. Magath’s arms whirled through the air, up, down, forward and sideways. When all was said, he clapped his hands once and walked away.
Magath then disappeared immediately to set off for Darmstadt, where one of the potential relegation opponents would play in the afternoon. His assistant coach Mark Fotheringham, on the other hand, traveled to Rostock for the Hamburger SV game. Hertha wanted to be prepared for all eventualities. But Magath hadn’t just kept an eye on the second division in the past few weeks and in view of the impending relegation. He reported that he had already watched many games beforehand. On a Saturday at half past one he rarely has other appointments. “I feel very confident when it comes to the second division.”
Many Hertha BSC fans are not quite sure whether this also applies to his team. The defeat in Dortmund, but above all the dramaturgy in the final minutes of the 2021/22 season, should have confirmed her view that you always have to expect the worst at Hertha BSC.
“It was like a script for the entire season,” said Hertha’s sporting director Fredi Bobic about the escalation of things shortly before the end: First Borussia Dortmund made it 2-1, then – in injury time – VfB Stuttgart also scored in the parallel game to win 1. FC Köln and jumped past the Berliners in the table to rank 15.
The fact that this script actually has a happy ending for Hertha would come as a real surprise to some pessimists. At a little after five on Saturday, the Berliners seemed saved, but then they also missed the third match point. Similar to two weeks earlier in Bielefeld. Or like last weekend at home against Mainz. The team is now going into relegation with this psychological burden.
In any case, the frustration in the team was great, “one or the other dropped their heads,” Magath reported on the atmosphere in the dressing room. That’s another reason why the experienced coach addressed a few encouraging words to his players on the spot: “Because I judge it differently.” His message was confidence. “I’m looking forward to it,” said Magath about the upcoming relegation. “Two nice games, full house, pressure, stress. Wonderful.”
Before the home game against HSV on Thursday (8:30 p.m.), the team retreats to the seclusion of the Brandenburg countryside for contemplation. From Tuesday Hertha will be staying at the Kienbaum Olympic Training Center and will train there in camera.
Whether goalkeeper Marcel Lotka can play a role is still questionable. Hertha’s new number one suffered a slight concussion and a broken nose during his rescue operation in Dortmund, during which he hit his face against the post. Lotka’s mission on Thursday is in jeopardy. Santiago Ascacibar, on the other hand, will be out for sure. He saw his fifth yellow card in Dortmund and is suspended.
But even such adversities shouldn’t deter coach Magath in his offensive optimism. In contrast to the general mood of doom, he praised his team’s performance in Dortmund. That Hertha’s players became more and more passive from a good start and could only do little to counter BVB; that the turning point was almost inevitable: Magath didn’t want to condemn any of that. His team played very well, fought very well and proved to be a worthy Bundesliga team, he said. “I’m more reassured by this game. I’m not worried about relegation.”
As obtrusively as Hertha’s trainer talked about relegation in the weeks when direct rescue seemed inevitable, he emphasized on Saturday that everything would turn out well. “My gut, my feeling tells me: We can do it.”