While Stefan Kiessling's 'Phantomtor' continues to haunt German football, it is just the sort of controversy football needs.
Not even Kiessling deserved the treatment reserved for him when he appeared before the German Football Federation (DFB) Sports Court in Frankfurt on Monday as they debated whether or not Leverkusen's 'Ghost Goal'-afflicted game with Hoffenheim should be replayed. "Hello Mr. Kiessling," japed a joval Hans E. Lorenz, the Sportgericht large Kase. "Now you've finally got an invitation from the DFB."
That was unncessary. The Leverkusen forward's conspicuous and at times inexplicable absence from the German national side was not the issue on the agenda, and Kiessling could justifiably have been annoyed. Had Lorenz said, 'Come on Stefan, you know that wasn't a goal. Just 'fess up', Kiessling would have had far less reason to feel hard done by. His immediate reaction to his header that flashed wide before sneaking across the line via a hole in the net at the Rhein Neckar Arena was one of anguish of a near-miss.
"He didn't tell me it wasn't a goal," said ref Dr. Felix Brych, who has harshly been painted as villain-of-the-piece for missing a very miss-able incident. The Munich-based whistle-blower was honest enough to admit his view had been obscured. Kiessling should have been equally frank in acknowledging he was fully aware he had missed, instead of claiming before the court that he and the whole stadium - the latter, actually, probably didn't know it had gone wide - had thought it had entered the net legitimately. Not that we haven't seen that sort of cynicism before, eh Ireland supporters? Thierry Henry, handball, etc., etc.
But alongside the perhaps naïve, ivory-tower-esque but nonetheless heartfelt call for players to be more honest (did I hear sniggering at the back?), there is another: please, let's not use the Kiessling case as further 'proof' of the need for video technology or other such quests to make football 'perfect'.
Hoffenheim behind-the-scenes mover-and-shaker Peter Rettig said the "court's decision [not to replay the game] sent out the wrong signal." No, Peter, it didn't. To replay the match would have done exactly that, however. And who's to say there would not have been a similarly gross error in the replay. Should the game then be replayed again? Mistakes are an integral, unavoidable part of a game involving humans. Yes, the assistant referee should have ensured that the net was sufficiently sturdy to ensure that there was not 'one that got away' (or perhaps that should be 'one that sneaked in'). But how many mistakes do players and coaches make that cost themselves and their clubs points every game?
Roberto Firmino missed a penalty in his club's 2-1 defeat in the 'Phantomtor' game, while Anthony Modeste blocked a teammate's goalbound shot standing virtually on the goalline, yet no-one is talking about that. Last weekend, Freiburg's Oliver Baumann produced a ham-fisted horror of a display, but remains considered one of Germany's brightest prospects between the posts. No-one is suggesting he should be replaced by an infallible machine, nor is anyone saying Freiburg's game with Hamburg should be replayed.
And to the video technology activists, I also say this: where do you want to stop? How many times does something like Kiessling's goal happen? The mere fact this is still rumbling on some two weeks after the event shows its near uniqueness, and it will undoubtedly not have faded from memory in years to come. The Frank Lampard 2010 World Cup/Geoff Hurst 1966 World Cup final effort - off the crossbar, and over (or not) the goalline - are remembered (by both England and Germany fans) simply because they happen so rarely. So what's the point of having video just for that? Wrong offside decisions, erroneously-awarded set-pieces and even mistakenly-given throw-ins cost teams more goals than holes in nets and shots that might or might not have crossed the goalline. Why not have video technology for those incidents? Should all those games be replayed?
We surely don't want a surgically sterile, 'perfect' game, do we? Where would be the fun in that? It would no longer be a game, but rather a science. No, the Sportgericht got it right, aside from Herr Lorenz's tasteless joke.