Nine or eight, it doesn’t really matter

Walle vs Findorff

Neighborhood of Walle, Bremen, Germany, August 2011.

Read in German

It is the 43rd minute; Findorff is winning with 2:1 on the field of the team Walle. Number 17 runs towards the goal of Walle and Reinhard Partoka trots after him. Nearly every weekend he works as a referee on one of the many football fields of Bremen. Number 17 looses the ball in a tackle and it rolls into the bushes behind the goal. Reinhard whistles a corner kick but the player misses the goal again. “When I was younger I was an active player, but after six knee-operations I couldn’t do it anymore”, explains the 60-year-old who was also a football trainer for two years.

In Germany, Football (Soccer) is the most popular sport. 6.6 million people play in one of the 26,000 soccer clubs in the country. No wonder why the German national teams have tasted the glory of a world-cup many times. The male National team has won it three times and the female team twice.

Reinhard Partoka

There are three Kreisklasse-leagues in Bremen. These are the lowest leagues. Up on the charts there are three Kreisliga-leagues, one Bezirksliga (district league), Landesliga, Bremenliga and on top of them all are the regional league, the third league, second Bundesliga and first Bundesliga. Reinhard referees in the third Kreisklasse this day, the lowest division possible, but he also does some games in the first Kreisklasse, second Kreisklasse and in the so-called old boy’s club, especially for men older than 40. “If worst comes to worst and there is no referee at all then I also help out in the youth or women leagues”, he says. “I have already refereed my own daughter’s game. No matter who, the important thing is that somebody does it.”

The field is mowed and the chalk-lines are freshly drawn. Both, players and referee arrived in time. Florian one of the midfielders from the team Walle who had been playing in a team in a similar division but in the countryside before, is surprised: “This is so well organized here!”

Only one day earlier Uli, the trainer of the Walle team, had called Reinhard to ask if he was available for a friendly game. Reinhard likes refereeing and with his wage of 13 € for food and drinks and 6 € fare he likes to buy some presents for his grandchildren. “I don’t do it for the money. I do it because it is fun and keeps me healthy”, explains the retiree. It is important for him to stay fit.

Reinhard takes a big sip of water and walks back to the field slowly. Both team’s players are waiting there. Reinhard whistles and the second half time starts. The first five minutes it is a happy game, then suddenly two of the players lie on the floor. “Fooooul!” the Findorff Team shouts aghast. “I did not do anything!” the Walle player defends himself. His teammates support him loudly. Reinhard rules for a free kick. Some substitutes are upset. “Didn’t he see it at all?” they nag. One sighs loudly but Reinhard does not care. He is already busy trotting behind the ball in the other direction.

“There is always somebody moaning”, knows Reinhard, “but it is fun, at least if nobody gets hurt and both teams agree in the end: ‘The ref was okay.”

22 men in the field and 23 spectators on the side – the reserves included

One should not take himself too serious in the third Kreisklasse. There are still twelve leagues left to reach to the Bundesliga, the highest of them all. Below the third Kreisklasse there is nothing. “We are a new team. That is why we had to start from the lowest league.” explains Florian. “But we do not do it for money; we play it for fun.”

Reinhard is also happy to referee in the lower leagues. He can get to any of the sports fields in less than half an hour by bike. So he can also have some drinks the night before without having to worry about car driving under the influence of residual alcohol the following day, which is a cause for punishment under German law.

In the 85thminute the number eight from Walle runs towards the goal of Findorff. The Findorff defense number 22 tries to get his ball and slips out on the wet floor. Number eight wants to get the ball back and shoots it hard directly next to the 22’s head. Reinhard whistles, calls on number 22 and grumbles: “Hey, easy, that is only a friendly game!”

Reinhard in his world

Shortly after that three long whistles resound, the game is over. Most of the 23 spectators where substitutes and after a couple of minutes there is hardly anybody left in the field. Reinhard sits down for a moment outside the club house. “Want one?”, Uli asks and offers him a bottle of beer. “Hmm”, Reinhard drones. Then he nods his head and takes a big zip. “So what was the score of the game then anyway?” one of the players from Walle asks. “9:3 for Findorff”, Reinhard answers. “Nine? I only counted eight!“ The player is surprised. “Well, eight or nine, it doesn’t really matter.”

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  1. Héctor says:

    You brought my memories back from when I used to play soccer in my youth… hehe. And you are right, we almost never knew what the real score was, it didn’t really matter.

  2. By the way: The first game of the season Walle won ‎13:1 against FC Union 60 III.

  3. Pingback: Neun oder acht ist ja auch egal | Tasting Travels

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