Union Berlin halt game for Benjamin Kohler tribute
Union Berlin paid tribute to Benjamin Kohler seven minutes into their 2-1 win against Bochum on Saturday after the veteran midfielder was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
Union Berlin had announced last week that Kohler, 34, had a malignant tumour and had already begun treatment, but the club handed him a new contract and said: "Benny is and will remain an important part of our team."
Union then temporarily halted their 2. Bundesliga game at home to Bochum after seven minutes to salute their No. 7, who had attended the game in the VIP area.
The stadium loudspeakers first rang out before fans unveiled banners that read: "7 -- a number for confidence and fortune. Fight Benny and return." The players, meanwhile, rushed to the sideline and unveiled shirts reading "fight together" and No. 7.
Union midfielder Michael Parensen said the players had been inspired by the tributes to former Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov, who was given a standing ovation by the fans and both benches during a match against Chelsea after his leukaemia diagnosis in 2012, while the fans continued to applaud in the 19th minute of games until he won his battle against the disease in 2013.
"We had a lot of ideas, and one of us remembered that Aston Villa had done a similar thing a while ago," Parensen said after the match.
Referee Michael Weiner refrained from handing out yellow cards to any Union Berlin player despite rules stipulating that messages cannot be displayed on undershirts.
"I was informed that something will happen an hour before kick-off," he told BZ. "There are situations when rules are not important and any yellow card would be one too many."
Union Berlin are eighth in the table after Saturday's win and coach Norbert Duwel said in Berliner Kurier: "We might not be leading the standings right now, but what happened in the personal field was Champions League standard."