Goalkeeping gaffs, coach shenanigans, and live animals on the loose. From the funny to the unfortunate to the outright bizarre, here are 10 of the decade’s most unbelievable moments from the Bundesliga and the 2.Bundesliga.
Kiessling’s Ghost Goal
It was one of the most memorable controversies of recent years. During the 2013/14 season, Stefan Kiessling scored the winner at Hoffenheim to take Leverkusen to the top of the league table—except it wasn’t actually a goal. Video replay shows the ball slipping through a hole in the side netting. Kiessling’s own reaction to his header confirms that he himself saw the ball go wide. But before anyone could figure out how it then ended up in the back of the net, referee Felix Brych awarded the goal. And so, by the laws of the game, it stood.
“I had problems sleeping because of the whole situation surrounding this header,” said Kiessling later. “There were moments when I cursed the goal and wished I could turn back the clock.”
Stop! In the Name of Zwayer
The year was 2016. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had just scored his 50th Bundesliga goal when chaos ensued at the BayArena. Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt took issue with the Borussia Dortmund free-kick that led to Aubameyang’s goal. Referee Felix Zwayer took issue with Schmidt’s protestations and sent him to the stands. Schmidt refused to go, emphatically pointing to the spot where he stood. Was it a gesture of stand-your-ground or come-at-me-bro? Either way, Zwayer had had enough. The referee walked off the pitch, suspending the whole game for nearly 10 minutes.
Bundesliga players and coaches have had their share of run-ins with referees—from Kerem Demirbay’s misogyny toward Bibiana Steinhaus, to Jürgen Klopp volleying an errant ball into the back of the fourth official’s head—but Schmidt’s stand-off with Zwayer goes down as one of the most bizarre.
A First Impression to Forget
During the 2019/20 game against VfL Bochum, Holstein Kiel’s Michael Eberwein was warming up on the byline when he kicked an errant ball back into play. No one on the ground noticed anything amiss—but the watchful eyes of Big Brother VAR called foul: Eberwein had stopped the ball before it went out of play, and he’d done it inside the box. Penalty to Bochum.
Eberwein, who’d only just joined Kiel that summer, had yet to play a single minute for his new club. Match commentators dubbed it “one of the most bizarre moments in 2.Bundesliga history.” Talk about terrible first impressions.
Ivan Perišić takes the prize for trick shot of the decade. On the final matchday of the 2013/14 season, VfL Wolfsburg were battling Borussia Mönchengladbach for a European berth when Perišić launched a shot that deflected off the left post, pinged the crossbar, hit the right post, and bounced away from goal. Perisic’s own disbelieving laughter at what just happened says it all. Maybe NASA could explain the physics behind this shot. Six years later, it remains just as incredible as it was at first sight.
The Great Escape Goat
Amidst the endless G.O.A.T. debates, there is one goat that takes it all. In 2014, FC Köln’s beloved mascot Hennes gave his handlers a memorable chase during a scoreless draw with VfR Aalen. Hennes’ escape during halftime earned some boisterous support from the fans as the goat pranced merrily down the sideline, stopping here and there to snack on bits of confetti, before finally being led away.
Hennes VIII has since passed the baton to his successor, Hennes IX, but his performance during that Köln v. Aalen game will never be forgotten.
Don’t Put Me In, Coach
April 8th, 2017. Gladbach vs. Köln. In the 75th minute, Josip Drmić came on for Jonas Hofmann. Minutes later the substitute hit the post, and the rebound fell to Lars Stindl, who put it away. As the team celebrated Stindl’s goal, Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking took Hofmann by the arm and began giving him urgent instructions—only to be told by Hofmann, “Coach, you’ve just subbed me off!”
The whole exchange was caught on camera. One can forgive Hecking for his forgetfulness in the moment; after all, they’d just taken the lead in the Rhine Derby.
A league record was set in 2013/14: most penalties missed during a single game. FC Nürnberg, the worst team of the Hinrunde, were playing fellow relegation-battlers Eintracht Braunschweig. Nürnberg went down to ten men at the half hour mark before going down 0-1 on a poorly defended corner. The game went off the rails at this point. Eintracht won a penalty; Raphael Schäfer saved the shot. Nurnberg scored two goals inside two minutes to take the lead, then gave up another penalty—which, again, Eintracht failed to convert. Nürnberg later won the third penalty of the game, only to produce yet another miss, and thus put this game in the history books as a monument to chaos never before seen and not since repeated in the Bundesliga.
Don’t Drink on the Job
MSV Duisburg keeper Mark Flekken had a nightmare moment against FC Ingolstadt in 2018. Duisburg had apparently just scored for 2-0 when the flag went up for offside. As play quickly resumed, Christian Träsch sent a speculative long ball down the pitch for Stefan Kutschke to chase. Center-back Gerrit Nauber won the footrace and headed safely to his own keeper—only to find that Flekken had gone to get a drink from his water bottle! Flekken apparently thought play was stopped, not realizing the second goal had been called offside. His misunderstanding resulted in one of the most bizarre goals ever seen in the league.
Put On the Spot
One winter’s day in 2017, the penalty spot went missing in a game between FC Köln and SC Freiburg. The snow was coming down thick and fast when Sehrou Guirassy went down in the box. Referee Robert Kampka immediately pointed to the penalty spot—which was nowhere to be seen. A collective effort between the referee and several Köln players failed to find the mark amidst the snow and mud. Finally, Kampka had to measure the distance from goal the old fashioned way: with his steps.
Pigeon Pitch Invasion
It’s the myth, the legend, the pitch invader that stole the show. During the 2018/19 game between Dortmund and Wolfsburg, a pigeon descended upon the stadium during a quiet first half and proceeded to elude all attempts at intimidation, capture, and expulsion. Raphael Guerreiro nearly stepped on it. Paco Alcacer nearly knocked it out with his second goal. Koen Casteels even pulled out his best Sepp Maier impression, but to no avail.
It must be said that the pigeon showed excellent versatility: now hugging the touchline, now assisting in goal. Not even Dortmund’s famous Yellow Wall could intimidate this cool customer. The avian trailblazer ended the 90 with more minutes than some human players, and walked away with a PotM (Pigeon of the Match) award.
But what of the stories that didn’t make the list? From Sebastian Kehl getting pulled over for using his phone while driving—and claiming he’d merely been listening to a recording of the coach’s team talk—to Jürgen Klinsmann misplacing his coaching license, here are a few moments that deserve an honorary mention.
Bonus: Throwing the Game
In the 2018/19 fixture against Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart keeper Ron-Robert Zieler took a moment to adjust his socks while the ball went out of play. Unfortunately for him, left-back Borna Sosa had no respect for the sanctity of a man’s own time with his own socks—and sent the throw-in directly at Zieler. The keeper noticed too late, panicked, attempted to chase it down, and inadvertently turned it into his own net for one of the strangest goals of the season.
Bonus: Everything on the Line
How close is too close? That’s one question begat by this incident from 2018. When Leverkusen were awarded an indirect free-kick five meters from Hertha Berlin’s goal, chaos ensued. There were 11 players on the line. There was a ricochet off the crossbar. There were entirely too many cooks in the kitchen, and there was Rune Jarstein flattening Lucas Alario when the keeper finally got to the ball. As far as dead ball situations go, it doesn’t get much wilder than this one.
Bonus: A Minor Mishap
Julian Draxler was an exciting talent in 2011. At the age of 17, he became the youngest Bundesliga player in the history of FC Schalke 04, made a number of Champions League appearances, and even contributed a goal in the club’s DFB Pokal final victory. Which leads us to one bizarre tale from the archives: a teacher reported Schalke to the authorities for violating youth worker protection law by allowing Draxler to play evening games. Under the law, minors are barred from working after 8:00 pm (with exceptions for fields like gastronomy or artistic performance). Did Schalke’s football qualify as an artistic performance? It was never determined, as the authorities declined to intervene.
June is a longtime fan of the Bundesliga and also, unfortunately, Arsenal and the Germany NT. In addition to being constantly disappointed by her favorites she enjoys video games, tea, and imagining a more just future for all.