Certain incidents only happen once in twenty years and as a referee, you very likely experience them never in your entire career. Such an incident has happened in yesterday's Bundesliga match between 1899 Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen when pre-selected World Cup referee Felix Brych became the victim of a sudden hole in the goalnet leading to a phantom goal scored by Stefan Kießling.
It was the 70th minute. A Leverkusen midfielder executed a usual corner kick into the centre of the penalty area where Kießling awaited a forceful header that reached the exterior net of Hoffenheim's goal. The ball missed the goal post by a few centimetres. Suddenly, the ball was in the goal. Germany's Referee of the Year 2013 Brych moved towards the midfield indicating "goal". Kießling first reacted in a disappointed way that his header had not reached its target but was then surrounded by his celebrating teammates. No Hoffenheim player realized the situation and easily accepted the decision. Before the kick-off - the last chance for Brych to change his decision - Kießling talked to him and, reading his lips, told him "I believe it reached the exterior net.". Brych showed no body tension, turned pale, confused and unsure but decided to blow the whistle for the kick-off. Later on, substitute players recognized what had happened and presented the hole in the net to the referee, who was totally helpless and, compliant with the circumstances and the Laws of the Game, powerless. Perhaps it was only a coincidence that Brych awarded a wrong penalty kick to the home side after that - the contact even happened outside the penalty area. Having blown the final whistle after the fifth minute of added time, the refereeing team swiftly left the field of play and seemed to exactly know what has happened. Replays have proven that AR2 Stefan Lupp had checked the goalnet before the second half, but did not control the area where the hole occurred.
Brych immediately had the guts to speak to the press - what should be respected - and declared the following in conversation with Sky Sport (record on German):
Dr. Felix Brych, thank you for coming. How did you experience the 70th minute of play?
Brych: "I had small doubts, but the players' reactions were unequivocally clear. There was not any sign that it could have been an irregular goal. And then I allowed the goal."
You had a small dialogue with Stefan Kießling at the midfield circle though. What was the content?
Brych: "In general, it was a pretty surreal situation, because I had doubts, because there was not any contra. And then I have exchanged my doubts with Stefan Kießling - I don't remember the exact words. But nobody has told me - he did not either - that it wasn't a goal. For me it is of course no nice situation either, allowing a goal which wasn't a goal."
Were not your assistant referees able to support you?
Brych: "No, the assistant on the side of the goal could not see that at all and from the midfield line there was not any advice either. From the benches, there was no sign. As said, the ball was in the goal, perhaps with doubts, but for everybody on the pitch it was a regular goal."
Until what moment you could have decided to correct your decision?
Brych: "Until the re-start of play, i.e. the kick-off."
When were you sure that it was no goal?
Brych: "I don't know that exactly, how things developed after that. Now I know it."
Without any doubt, those who are favouring the launch of video evidences in football, are on the march now being fed with new arguments. Among them, there is the former World's Best Referee Dr. Markus Merk who has been supporting this technology for a while. He told Sky Sport that such a device only deployed for such situations could make the game better and solve such problems. Furthermore, he emphasized that nobody had been at fault in Hoffenheim, neither the referees, nor the players.
And he is right. Such a mistake is human. Blackouts happen, specially in such surreal cases. Referees are no perfect robots and can fail in surreal moments. It can happen to everyone. What Brych needs now is a strong DFB and UEFA referee committee who back him in the probably most difficult part of his career. As predicted, there are many signs that indicate his appointment for Real Madrid - Juventus Turin as part of next week's UEFA Champions League matchday 3. A good performance in such a match could be the best recipe to recover from that. This naturally does not put the fact that it was a huge error under a veil.
At the same time, it is not the time for opportunists who try to use the chance to promote the, in my opinion, completely wrong video device in football. Curiosities like this one belong to football and yesterday it was one of the best European referees who was the victim of destiny.
1899 Hoffenheim have already lodged a complaint and aspire a replay match. Brych is surely the last one who would have something against it and as a lawyer by profession, he probably knows that from the legal side this might be possible.