Chaotic scenes marred Saturday’s Bundesliga match between Hertha Berlin and Union Berlin that saw Union goalkeeper Rafa Gikiewicz confront his team’s supporters who had stormed onto the pitch afterward.
The highly anticipated derby between the two Berlin sides — their first in Germany’s top flight — was also briefly delayed after the first half when visiting Hertha fans threw flares onto the pitch at Union’s Alte Forsterei stadium.
Match referee Deniz Aytekin opted to keep the players in the tunnel for five minutes before returning for the second half.
“It’s just sad when something like this happens. I am just relieved that nobody was injured on the pitch. It has nothing to do with football,” Aytekin told reporters after the match.
“The players’ health stands above all. In accordance with the police, we decided to go through with the match because at the end of the day everyone’s safety is the biggest concern.”
Union won the match 1-0 when substitute Sebastian Polter converted a penalty in the 90th minute in front of the home end.
Following the final whistle, Hertha fans lit fireworks in the stands and threw them onto the pitch. On the other end, several masked Union supporters broke through and reached the pitch.
But Gikiewicz raised his fists to fight off the Union supporters before they could reach the Hertha supporters.
“The people moved back to the stands. But we will definitely try to identify everyone,” Union communication chief Christian Arbeit said. “That’s also shows that we are a family. Here, our keeper prevented someone else from doing a stupid thing.”
Flares were also sent toward Union’s bench, but coach Urs Fischer praised Aytekin’s effort to control the match.
“I didn’t think it was so bad. [The players] all remained calm,” Fischer said after the match. “And because it was so calm, nothing much happened. Thank god. But you shouldn’t target those rockets at supporters.”
Berlin police told ESPN FC that Hertha fans had also lit fireworks on their way to the stadium, with one minor injury reported.