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Fußball DFB Pokal | Schalke 04 vs Hertha BSC
Image: Imago/Revierfoto

Opinion: Torunarigha case a missed opportunity

Stefan Nestler
February 5, 2020

Referee Harm Osmers should have reacted much more strongly to the alleged racist abuse suffered by Hertha Berlin defender Jordan Torunarigha, says Stefan Nestler. His team could also have sent a much bolder message.


Racial abuse is unacceptable, be it in a football stadium or anywhere else. In a democratic society such as Germany, there is absolutely no room for a second opinion on this.

The idiots in the Schalke stands who directed monkey noises at Hertha Berlin defender Jordan Torunarigha should stop to take a look at what it says in Germany's constitution, the Basic Law. They wouldn't even have to read beyond Article 3 to learn that their behavior amounted to a breach of the basic democratic order.

Schalke, as hosts of the German Cup tie, should now follow up the words "zero tolerance for the incidents during the Hertha match" with deeds, and ban those responsible for the racist outbursts from their stadium. And it can't be business as usual for the German Football Association (DFB) either.

DW Kommentarbild Stefan Nestler
DW Sports editor Stefan Nestler

FIFA recommendation ignored

Hertha players and coaches said they alerted referee Harm Osmers and his assistants to the racist abuse against Torunarigha. Osmers, merely "took note of it," said Hertha captain Niklas Stark. In 2017, FIFA issued a recommendation to all of its member associations on how referees should deal with such cases. The first step in the "three step solution" is for the referee to stop the game and ask the PA announcer to make an announcement. If the behavior continues, he or she is to temporarily send the teams back to their dressing rooms. If this does not produce the desired result either, the referee must terminate the match.

A distinct lack of tact

Osmers failed to take the recommended action. Instead, he sent off Torunarigha in extra time, despite the fact that he had clearly been upset by the racial abuse, which his teammates also confirmed having heard. After Omar Mascarell's rough sliding tackle from behind had propelled the young Hertha player into Schalke coach David Wagner, Torunarigha angrily grabbed a crate of drinks and smashed it to the ground. This rash reaction was likely due to Torunarigha's worked-up state at that moment, and something he may not have done under usual circumstances.

This situation called for tact from the referee - as opposed to a stringent interpretation of the rules - especially since Osmers had already been told of the monkey sounds from the stands being directed at Torunarigha. The fact that Schalke scored the winning goal against a Hertha team depleted by Torunarigha's sending off means the incident also had an impact on the game itself. However, this should not be the main focus.

Prior to the sending-off, referee Osmers could and should have sent a clear signal that racist abuse like that directed at Torunarigha is much more serious than a"trivial offence." The incident also begs the question as to why Hertha Berlin failed to walk off the pitch, as the club's under-16 side did in a similar recent situation. This too would have sent a much stronger signal than all of the expressions of solidarity with Torunarigha made in the aftermath of the match.

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