“Collina’s heirs” understanding: Aytekin and the “respect in the package”

“Collina’s heirs” understandingly
Aytekin and the “respect in the package”

By Alex Feuerherdt

After a lack of restraint towards the referee, Dortmund’s Mahmoud Dahoud flies off the pitch early in Mönchengladbach. For some this goes too far, others expressly support the referee. The decision reveals a fundamental problem.

Anyone who, as a football referee, talks to referees from other sports – also and especially those who are very physical like ice hockey or rugby – will hear one thing over and over again: The players lack respect for you, they take too much out of themselves, we have one such behavior is frowned upon, but you are also too lenient. Certainly, such comparisons have their pitfalls and limits, different sports are different, for example in terms of their popularity, their social anchorage, their set of rules or their history. Nevertheless, it is striking how aggressive and disrespectful the referees are, especially in football. One Deutsche Welle survey among officials from various sports, published almost two years ago, underpins this impression.

Referees, not just those in professional football, are generally expected to moderate verbal and non-verbal protests to a certain extent with no sanctions. A good impartial person is primarily someone who draws his authority in the event of a conflict from his personality and does not have to safeguard it through punishment. On the one hand that is correct, on the other hand it has given the players a great deal of leeway and encouraged their expectations that they will generally get away with impunity if they reject a decision by the referee with words, gestures or their behavior. A referee who takes action against unsportsmanlike conduct not only verbally but also with yellow and red cards is often accused of not officiating confidently and inappropriately petty.

Aytekin is fed up

That is the – quite bad – normality in football. And that’s why there is often such a theater when a referee on the big stage is fed up with the constant complaining, lamenting, gesturing and being harassed by the players – and therefore resorts to draconian sanctions. Just like Deniz Aytekin on Saturday evening in the game between Borussias from Mönchengladbach and Dortmund after 40 minutes, when he sent Mahmoud Dahoud, who had already been warned, off the field with yellow-red. Dahoud had initially fouled Joseph Scally, it was not a harsh offense, but a clear, actually undisputed one. Nevertheless, the Dortmund waved angrily in Aytekin’s direction when the whistle rang instead of simply accepting the perfectly correct decision.

It was only a short and not overly sweeping gesture, but there was a story that Aytekin pointed out in an interview with the broadcaster “Sky”. “We only had the scene a few minutes before: Guerreiro, who waves it away and to whom I clearly explain that I just don’t want this behavior on the pitch,” he said. The referee did not accept the objection that a teammate and not Dahoud himself gesticulated: “Certain behavior on the pitch must be prevented. Not everyone has a bye and can do what they want. In for the sum this disrespectful waving was too much for me. ” Aytekin lacked “the respect in the package” and that is why he “set this mark”.

“He could have just accepted it”

In fact, it is common and also sensible that referees want their admonitions of individual players to be understood as an announcement to the entire team in the case of problematic play or behavior of the players in the team sport that is potentially harmful to the game or their authority. It makes sense that a referee would not give every player a disrespectful wave of disapproval before turning to the yellow card for the first time. And it is obvious that a player like Dahoud, who has already received a warning, should hold back to a particularly high degree. Aytekin is right when he says: “He doesn’t need to give up and even appear like that. It’s a very clear foul. He could have just accepted it.”

The 43-year-old is one of the best, most experienced and most valued referees in the league, confident in his demeanor, strong in game management and usually with a generous line in the duel evaluation. The game in Mönchengladbach was his 187th Bundesliga game. Such a person is not so easily upset, and if it does happen, as it did on Saturday evening, the protagonists are well advised to hold back at least afterwards. Mahmoud Dahoud was then sorry for his behavior, BVB captain Mats Hummels criticized his teammate, and coach Marco Rose also tended to be quiet. Only managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke believed he had to reproach the referee on the show “Doppelpass” for having “acted like a bandmaster”.

Approval by Patrick Ittrich and Lutz Wagner

In the “Sky” interview, Deniz Aytekin complained that condescending gestures like waving them off were now taken for granted as “nothing bad”. And that doesn’t suit him at all: “We also deserve a minimum of respect.” He received public approval for this from his Bundesliga colleague Patrick Ittrich, who wrote on Twitter and Instagram: “Thank you, Deniz Aytekin!” And further: “We are the weakest link in the chain and feel it every weekend from regional class to Bundesliga. More respect! We respond to unsportsmanlike conduct. That is our task, and it is difficult – for all referees in the republic.” Ittrich himself had warned Jean-Paul Boetius from Mainz and Simon Zoller from Bochum for complaining on the second match day in the game VfL Bochum – 1. FSV Mainz 05 (2-0).

Aytekin also received support from DFB instructor Lutz Wagner: “You can tell the referee in passing that you disagree, but you shouldn’t make it so clearly visible to everyone in the stadium,” Wagner told the “kicker” . In addition, it was “such a clear foul by Dahoud”, “a referee finds it particularly inappropriate if a player protests so vehemently anyway”. It was clear to Dahoud “that he had already been warned, and then you can behave a little more professionally”.

Old topic started anew

With the match penalty against Dortmund, Aytekin has triggered a new topic that already existed at the beginning of 2020 before it disappeared from the headlines after the break due to the corona pandemic and the resumption of game operations without spectators: the second half of the 2019 season / 20 the sporting management of the referees issued the directive to punish unsporting behavior much more consistently than before – not least in order to act as a role model for amateur football. The referees implemented this instruction quite consistently, which, however, met with criticism from some clubs. Borussia Mönchengladbach, then trained by Marco Rose, complained vehemently about yellow-red for Alassane Pléa in the game at RB Leipzig. His offense was similar to that of Dahoud.

Now Rose said that if all referees acted by Aytekin’s standard in his new against his old club’s game, there would be ten yellow-reds per game. This statement is of course exaggerated, but also frightening, as it contains – unintentionally – the admission that there is in any case a whole lot of disrespect towards the referees, which as a rule go unpunished. This is not the case in other sports. Perhaps football should rather orient itself towards this, instead of complaining about the referees’ lack of “instinct” and evoking “emotions” when it comes to unsporting behavior. On the other hand, the game masters are of course also required to be consistent.

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