Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated

Once a thriving symbol of ambition, pride and promise, the story of Hertha BSC in recent years is one to delve further into. The club, who once proudly represented the capital city of Berlin, found itself dwindled in a cycle of mediocrity and chaos. Together with local photographer and Hertha fan, Kasimir Weichert, this article tells a story of mismanagement, failed investments, frustration, traditions and a fan base, which has never been more united after suffering from years of let downs and disappointments.

“It’s the emotions, the feeling of being a fan and the unique characteristics in the subculture of football.”

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Hertha fans falling in each others arms.

First of all, tell us how you got started in photography and what you want to capture in your craft.

“My father is a photographer, so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”, adding that he never wanted to be a photographer but rather approached the filmography. Weichert continued, “I only wanted to start working with photography, when I found my own artistic handwriting and language in my craft.”

When asked what he wants to capture in his photographs, he explains: “It depends on the project I shoot, but in my Hertha series, it’s the emotions, the feeling of being a fan and the unique characteristics in the subculture of football. They can be amusing, absurd, beautiful and interesting, depending who you take a picture of and how you look on it.”

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Blue smoke rising from the stands of the Ostkurve, during the derby against Union Berlin, Olympiastadion Berlin.

Beginning of a Downfall

The decline of Hertha BSC’s development began with a series of poor decisions at management level. The old executives floor, led by Hertha club legend Michael Preetz, wanted to shed the negative image of being the “plain Jane of the Bundesliga”. Unattractive, drab and generally uninteresting in the global scheme of playing successful, enthralling football in Germany’s top flight.

They engaged with dubious investor Lars Windhorst, who had his history with failed investments and bankruptcy, and his Tennor Holding Investment Group. They pumped a total of 374 million Euros into the club in hopes of turning the club to a “Big City Club” that plays in the Champions League like the other clubs from European capitals.

A record spending spree in the following winter transfer period brought in ambitious and costly players like Lucas Tousart, Matheus Cunha and Krzysztof Piatek, whilst German football legend Jürgen Klinsmann was appointed as head coach. The first impressions of the players looked bright, but the uprising team was quickly disrupted by the COVID-Pandemic in 2020. Performances worsened and the newly built squad couldn’t perform up to their full potential.

The failure of delivering the desired results on the pitch created a sense of disillusionment amongst the fan base. The club’s once-impressive squad slowly lost its touch, and a lack of strong leadership both on and off the field became evident. Head coach Jürgen Klinsmann suddenly announced his departure in a Facebook livestream Q&A. After which, he released his famous diary about the grievances in the club’s structures and squad. This initiated, that Hertha BSC turned into a laughed at club from rivaling fans and media outlets.

Lars Windhorst announces his Investment at Hertha BSC

Announcement press conference of Lars Windhorst investement.
IMAGO / Matthias Koch | Press conference announcing the investment of Lars Windhorst and his Tennor Holding Group, 13 February 2020, Berlin.

A banner demanding the exit of investor Lars Windhorst.

Ostkurve celebrates Pal Dardai.

Two of Hertha’s club legends Michael Preetz (r.) and Arne Friedrich (l.).

Banner against Lars Windhorst and ex-president Werner Gegenbauer

How have you experienced the development of Hertha BSC in the last years?

“Like most fans, I could hardly believe what was happening.”

“The general mood was quite mixed, from disbelief about the failure, angry because of the many mistakes, but also euphoric, because Hertha just barely got off the hook in many decisive games.”, he added further.

In the grand scheme the Hertha fan base was still quite optimistic, because of their strong squad with the magnificent, young Brazilian talent Matheus Cunha, who excited fans and remembered most of Hertha and Bundesliga legend Marcelinho. Arsenal loanee Matteo Guendouzi was exceptional on his day and a driving force for victories. The problem was just that the team rarely showed their class and as they struggled to find stability, their performances on the pitch mirrored the increasing chaos off it.

imago images/Camera 4
IMAGO / Camera 4 | Brazilian striker Matheus Cunha (middle) enthrilled the Hertha fans in his short stint at Hertha and livened up the game with his brilliance, Olympiastadion Berlin.

Jürgen Klinsmann’s taking in the atmosphere at Olympiastadion Berlin.

Hertha Striker Krzysztof Piatek.

Arsenal loanee Matteo Guendouzi sitting on the pitch.

French record signing Lucas Tousart.

A Brief Overview of The Events

The story of Hertha BSC’s mismanagement in the last years can not be fully discussed here in the context of this article, as the list of events is simply too long. A journalist, named Marc Schwitzky, summarized everything that happened since the investment of Lars Windhorst in July 2019 in a Twitter thread that now has 23 entries with around 5 ridiculous events each.

Adversities like failed social-media promotions of transfer periods, where fans were teased with a 22% progress bar, that implied more transfers, just never went further than the 22%. Appointing eight different managers in four seasons, constant changes in leading positions, massive financial losses from the COVID-pandemic, intrigues and breaches of trust are just a couple of events in and around the club.

The club’s loyal fan base, known for their passion and unwavering support, began to express their frustrations. Protests and calls for change echoed through the stands, as supporters demanded accountability and a clear vision for the future. The once-united fans were now divided, reflecting the deep-seated disappointment and frustration with the club’s management.

Parallel to all the chaos at Hertha, Berlin-rival Union Berlin was on a campaign to conquer the Bundesliga and play for Europe. One derby humiliation after another followed.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | A capo in the away section heats up the crowd in the derby against Union Berlin, Alte Försterei, Berlin.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Proud Herthaner in typical attire, Olympiastadion Berlin.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Singing the club anthem “Nur Nach Hause” by Frank Zander, Olympiastadion Berlin.

You manage to create a different perspective from the stadium through your photography, how do you accomplish it?

“I’m a fan myself, I’m in the middle of it and I experience everything myself and then I record it.”

“I use an analogue point-and-shoot camera and try to create honest pictures, apart from the artistic claim. But I try to never expose or embarrass people, probably because I also feel for them myself.”, Weichert clarifies.

His style of photography and motives resemble what it means to be an authentic Hertha fan. Arriving at the Olympiastadion with the S-Bahn, standing in the midst of chanting, like-minded people, getting a Bratwurst from the stands outside the stadium. Weichert is able to capture the raw match day feelings every Hertha fan experiences.

“It is definitely also an intimate insight.”

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | A happy supporter smiles into the camera of Kasimir Weichert.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | A female supporter cheers on Hertha BSC with “HA HO HE”, Hertha’s famous slogan, written on her face.

What challenges or hurdles do you face in your photography and how do you overcome them?

“The reluctance or scepticism towards photography is relatively high, which is partly understandable, so it took a while to get used to how people deal with it. It also takes a lot of intuition to know where and whom you can photograph, or to ask whether you are allowed to photograph someone or not.”.

“In the course of publishing the pictures, another hurdle is definitely to create understanding that just because the pictures are about football and fan culture, it does not mean they have less artistic value. The stigma of football as simple and crude is still there, perhaps more so in Germany than in other countries such as Italy.”

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Herthaner on their way to the entrance of the Olympiastadion, anticipating the game, Berlin.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | A man staring outside the window of the S-Bahn on match day, Berlin.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Herthaner in the away section during the derby against Union Berlin, Alte Försterei, Berlin.

Is there a specific image from the last seasons that stands out for you?

“Definitely the one I took after Hertha nearly avoided relegation against Hamburg by a hair’s breadth.”

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Topless Hertha supporter celebrates the avoided relegation against Hamburger SV, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg.

Kasimir Weichert captured this photograph after Hertha BSC just narrowly scrapped relegation, following their 2-0 victory against Hamburger SV in the relegation play-offs of the 21/22 season. They lost 0-1 in the first leg at home in typical Hertha fashion, crumbling under the pressure of the 75.000, sold out Olympiastadion Berlin. The fans were disillusioned, as they were nearing their fate of relegation. But in the return leg, in Hamburg, a stunning free kick of captain Marvin Plattenhardt secured Hertha’s stay in the Bundesliga for another season.

IMAGO / Revierfoto / Oliver Christensen (l.) and Kevin-Prince Boateng celebrate their victory against Hamburger SV in the return leg of the relegation play-offs, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg.

Lastly, describe your style of photography to us in your own words.

“Moments appear almost artistically staged and composed.”

“In moments that everyday life provides, I try to capture situations, which then appear almost artistically staged and composed, even if they are the pure moments or excerpts of them.”, Weichert replied.

Continuing, “the photographic project at Hertha is certainly additionally emotional – on the one hand, because a football experience is emotional in general, and on the other hand, because I am very involved in it myself, as a fan.”

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | An elderly man in a wheelchair cheers on his team Hertha BSC, Olympiastadion Berlin.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | A proud Hertha fan smiling into the camera surrounded by blue smoke.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | The S-Bahn station in front of the Olmypiastadion on a cold winters day.

Love Never Gets Relegated

In the end of the Bundesliga 22/23 season, the inevitable was confirmed. Hertha BSC was relegated to the 2. Bundesliga, finishing in last place.

After 4 years of constant decline and misery, it was a forseeable fate. At the same time, the club’s fan base has grown together immensely and the cohesion between those, who really live and love the club is stronger than ever. The average attendance in the relegation season also reached a record high, despite the liveless and miserable football the team played on the pitch for most parts of the season.

One man in particular has to be mentioned, when talking about the strongly united fan base, Kay Bernstein. The newly elected president, and ex-capo of Hertha’s fanatics stand “OSTKURVE”, has rejuvenated the executive board and brought a fresh way of thinking into the club.

With Bernstein at the helm, Hertha BSC experienced a revitalization, both on and off the field, creating a renewed sense of optimism and laying the foundation for sustained success. Frequently used phrases such as the “Hertha-DNA” and “The Berlin Way” are now a first attempt back into normality and modesty. Focussing on using young, homebread talent from the own successful academy instead of buying expensive players, who have no deeper connection to the club and the city and bringing back the greatest club legend in Pal Dardai, have reignited the flame for most supporters who are deeply connected to Hertha BSC.

Now, after 4 years, 374 million euros burned and 7 unsuccessful coaches, Hertha BSC is exactly at the same position as before the investment of Lars Windhorst. Club legend Pal Dardai is the head coach, there is no money left, the club is in debt and the team has to count on young players coming into the team from the academy.

But through all of this hardship, the fans are backing the club more than ever. Rising attendances at the Olympiastadion and skyrocketing applications for memberships prove that the love for a football team can strengthen even in the darkest moments.

Love Never Gets Relegated. Ha Ho He!

IMAGO/Matthias Koch
IMAGO / Matthias Koch / Sebastian Räppold | Berlin homegrown Hertha-Icon Kevin-Prince Boateng tearing up after the confirmed relegation.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
IMAGO / Jan Huebner | Fans rolling in the Ostkurve banner, Olympiastadion Berlin.

IMAGO / Contrast | Disappointed Hertha fans after the draw against Bochum confirmed their relegation, Olympiastadion Berlin.

IMAGO / Mausolf | Hertha players from left to right Oliver Christensen, Dodi Lukebakio, Jean-Paul Boetius and Stevan Jovetic disillusioned after their draw against Bochum.

IMAGO/Jan Huebner
IMAGO / Jan Huebner | Goalkeeper Oliver Christensen screams into his jersey in frustration.

IMAGO / Matthias Koch
IMAGO / Matthias Koch / Sebastian Räppold | Marton Dardai (l.) and captain Marvin Plattenhardt sitting on the pitch in disbelief.

IMAGO / Nordphoto / Jürgen Engler | Newly elected president Kay Bernstein leaning against the remains of the Berlin Wall that has been spray-painted with a Hertha mural.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Hertha away supporters cheering on their team, waving their scarves, Red Bull Arena, Leipzig.

Hertha BSC, Love Never Gets Relegated
Kasimir Weichert | Fans relieving themselves in front of the Olympiastadion Berlin.
See more from Kasimir Weichert here.

Article and Image selection by Johannes Häring.

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Investor Lars Windhorst joins Hertha BSC

Hertha BSC avoids relegation against Hamburger SV

Newly elected Hertha BSC president Kay Bernstein

Hertha BSC relegated to 2. Bundesliga