Opinion: The folly of playing on | Opinion | DW | 12.04.2017
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Opinion

Opinion: The folly of playing on

No, you don't always have to carry on regardless. Playing the Dortmund Monaco match a day after the attack is highly questionable, argues DW's Marko Langer. Calling it off would not have been an admission of defeat.

You can't envy Hans-Joachim Watzke right now. Anyone who studied the Borussia Dortmund chairman's facial expressions on Tuesday evening could quickly conclude that these must be among the most trying times that a football official can experience: first the fallout from his critical comments about RB Leipzig, then the continual quarrels with Dortmund's hardcore "ultra" fans (who can hardly be called fans), and now this attack on his own team. Watzke is carrying a lot of responsibility, and not with the greatest of ease.

Offering advice from the outside can often seem cheap: Now they should do this, or that. The police should launch a tougher crackdown. And UEFA, they should... You could go on all day. 

Nevertheless, one judgment should be permitted: With all respect to Mr. Watzke and the others bearing this responsibility, the decision to play football less than 24 hours later in Dortmund's stadium is problematic. More than that, it's a mistake.

Appealing to the team

"In the dressing room I have just appealed to the team to show society that we do not cower in the face of terror," Watzke said via the club's Twitter feed on Wednesday morning. 

Just as you could observe Watzke on Tuesday night as he experienced the situation, you would have liked to know what the players might have been saying in that dressing room. "One of us is lying in hospital." "We just want to play football." "This is our job." "The fans are looking forward to the game." "The second leg is scheduled for one week's time." 

These are some of the possible reactions, and here too we do not wish to be presumptuous. And yet, it might have been wise to save Dortmund's players from their own professionalism, and to save Watzke from himself.

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After all, who is it really who says that when faced with terror or violence, we should simply carry on as if nothing had happened? Therapists who specialize in dealing with such traumatic events will tell you that this process can take years - and that ignoring or suppressing it is a grave mistake. Yet do we believe, in our performance-driven and resilient society, that nothing ever rattles us? Not players or their partners, not fans in the stadium or following the news on TV, some of whom can hardly bear to keep watching amid all the reports of terror, war and violence. I don't believe that. 

From Paris to Dortmund

Much more, I believe that many football fans will go to the stadium tonight with mixed feelings. I also believe we sometimes demand too much of the young men on the pitch (at just 26, the injured Marc Bartra is already one of the older heads in a young Dortmund side), who are expected to perform at their top level. 

Back in November 2015, the night of the Paris attacks, as a Germany vs. France friendly in Paris was canceled, national team coach Joachim Löw said: "For me, the sport, the match and the goals now take a back seat."

Langer Marko Kommentarbild App

DW's Marko Langer feels the game should not be replayed so soon

But now, it's more a case of the show must go on. The season's almost at its climax, the return leg in Monaco's just a week away, and Dortmund have the Bundesliga and the German Cup to worry about as well. And on and on it goes. 

But what of it? Whoever it was who laid these explosives was trying to threaten the lives of Dortmund's players. That must be all too clear to them and their loved ones. It's a welcome slice of luck that nothing worse happened.

In a bid not to be misconstrued, this is not intended as an attack on the commercial model of professional sports. Everybody at the Signal-Iduna Park (not to mention the author of this article) loves the game - and there's nothing wrong with monetizing it at the highest level. But precisely because professional sports has become such a well-oiled machine, somebody should have thought up a better response to this situation. Stop, just this once - for the good of the players, and for all of us.

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