Why there is still no German champion in 1922?

The 21/22 season is over, the champion has been crowned. At least this statement is true for the 2021/22 season. But for the 21/22 season from 100 years ago, things look different. Soon it will be the 100th anniversary of the final game without an end.

A game without an end?!

18 June 1922 was an unsettled day in Berlin. In the afternoon it rained more heavily, but then cleared up. In the now muggy air, referee Dr. Peco Bauwens blew the whistle at 5 p.m. in Grunewaldstadion in front of 30,000 spectators for the final of the 1922 German championship: The favourites, 1. FC Nürnberg against Hamburger SV. At that time, there was still a kind of play-off in which the best teams of the national associations played for the national championship.

Nuremberg vs. Hamburg: It was a contested game

The preliminary reports promised an exciting game: Nuremberg’s fast flat passing game against Hamburg’s English “kick and rush”. But it turned out differently: The Nuremberg players were conspicuous for their very physical and even unfair play. Players were constantly limping or had to be massaged or treated by a doctor. At that time, substitutions were forbidden and the players preferred to stand on the field as extras.
But as it happens, the team with the better or fairer game does not always win and so it was here – until the 85th minute: a corner kick for HSV, a shot into the far corner past the goalkeeper into the net – 2:2, extra time.

And so the final game began without end.

Game abandoned: it was too dark

According to the DFB competition rules at the time, a draw after 90 minutes could result in up to two 30-minute overtime periods. On this evening in Berlin, however, no further goals were scored during these 60 minutes. In the meantime, it was after 8 pm. Many fans called for the game to be stopped. But referee Bauwens asked the players, who – full of endorphins – pleaded to play on. The next goal was supposed to decide the game, but after only a quarter of an hour Bauwens – by now plagued by cramps – stopped the game: it was too dark and there were no floodlights. The match lasted a total of 189 minutes.

So it came to a replay on 6 August 1922 in Leipzig. However, the match could only be kicked off 40 minutes late due to the large crowd. There were about 60,000 spectators in the stadium, at least a third of whom had forged tickets. The Leipzig stadium, which had only been inaugurated the day before, was completely overcrowded, with football fans sitting and standing directly behind the goals.

Bauwens, who again refereed, appealed to both teams to play this match fairly. After 18 minutes, a Nuremberg player kicked a Hamburg player lying on the ground in the stomach: sending off. Bauwen’s appeal had virtually fizzled out faster than it was uttered.

Two games: No winner crowned in 1922 championship final

Two goals followed – one for Nuremberg, one for Hamburg – but they were almost lost in the match reports of the time. Instead, the many injuries were reported, including Nuremberg’s Anton Kugler, who, according to the Nuremberg team, lost four or five teeth after an elbow check by Tull Harder. Kugler returned to the pitch after ten minutes and remained as an extra and supposed striker in the opponent’s half of the pitch.

The score remained 1-1 after 90 minutes, and so extra time ensued, which was a tough one: first another Nuremberg player flew off the pitch, shortly afterwards extra Kugler collapsed without any outside help, and with the half-time whistle another Nuremberg player. The club had only seven players left, but the rules stipulated that at least eight players per team were necessary.

Bauwens waited a little longer before the restart and informed the teams: if both Nuremberg players were no longer fit to play due to circulatory problems, he would have to stop the game. No, they could not.

And so the final match came to an end without an end.

No champion: HSV renounces title

Of course, immediately after the match there were wide-ranging discussions and the search for culprits. Even after the DFB match committee declared HSV the 1922 German champions on 19 August.

Shouldn’t Bauwens have first blown the whistle again and checked whether the two Nuremberg players were perhaps mere extras on the pitch after all? Was it really enough for Bauwens to talk to the Nuremberg players during the break in extra time and stop straight away?

Nuremberg lodged a protest, which was discussed at the DFB convention on 18 November 1922: A strong majority voted to continue to crown HSV as German champions. But HSV again declared shortly after this vote: No, we voluntarily relinquish this championship.

And so, to this day, there is no crowned German Champion 1922.

N.B. – This article first appeared on WebDE in German as a FRÜF column on 13 June 2022.