Rune Jarstein deserved special praise in training the other day. “Very good, Rune,” said Mark Fotheringham, Hertha BSC’s assistant coach. The praise was not for a spectacular save by the Norwegian goalkeeper.
Fotheringham, Felix Magath’s assistant, was simply delighted that Jarstein was angry; angry at their own team-mates who had been too careless in defending their goal.
Jarstein, 37, has been under contract with Hertha for more than eight years. He played 164 Bundesliga games for the club and not only because of his historical achievements does he enjoy a high reputation. Someone like Jarstein, reliable and unexcited, everyone probably likes to be in goal. That’s exactly why Pal Dardai demoted goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow to number two a little over a year ago and relied on the experienced Norwegian in the relegation battle.
The situation is serious again for Hertha. The Berliners are again deeply involved in the relegation battle, only the coach is no longer Pal Dardai, but Felix Magath. On Saturday, in the away game against Borussia Dortmund, the decision will be made as to whether Hertha can save themselves from relegation on the last regular matchday of the season – or whether the team will be given an extra time in the form of two relegation games.
Marcel Lotka is the discovery of the season at Hertha
So there is a lot to come for Hertha’s players. And that applies in particular to the goalkeeper from Berlin, who will be called Marcel Lotka again on Saturday and not Rune Jarstein or Oliver Christensen. “I have every confidence that Marcel will be in very good shape between the posts,” said coach Magath.
At Hertha, the 20-year-old goalkeeper is one of the rare discoveries of a season in which there was generally little to discover; at least little good. At the beginning of the season, Lotka was only number five among Hertha’s keepers. However, when goalkeeper Schwolow fell ill with Corona at the beginning of the second half of the season and his competitors Jarstein, Christensen and Nils Körber were all unwell, Lotka surprisingly rose to become the new number one. Schwolow returned, played one game, injured himself in the next, and Lotka has been playing ever since. He has played nine times in the Bundesliga.
The young goalkeeper with Polish roots radiates presence, he is communicative in dealing with his colleagues and generally fearless. All of this has earned him a lot of respect from his coach. A week ago, however, in the 2-1 defeat against Mainz, Lotka made a fatal mistake. He slipped a harmless shot under his body to make it 1-0 for Mainz.
The matter must be clarified legally
“Unfortunately, his contract situation is not very clear,” said Magath later. “In a situation like that, you have to or can understand that he’s not one hundred percent focused.”
Lotka’s contract situation is still not entirely clear. The goalkeeper does not currently know whether he will continue to play for Hertha BSC in the new season, where he would have a good chance of permanently replacing Schwolow as number one. Or whether he will switch to Borussia Dortmund, Saturday’s opponents, with whom the Polish U-21 international goalkeeper has signed a contract, but only for the U-23s in the third division.
Lotka, born in Duisburg, decided to return to the Ruhr area at the beginning of the year, i.e. before his Bundesliga debut. His career jump at Hertha was not foreseeable at the time, and the club probably did not expect such a development either. In any case, Hertha announced on March 1 on its own website: “Our U-23 goalkeeper Marcel Lotka is leaving our capital club after the end of the season and will join the second team at Borussia Dortmund for the 2022/23 season.” Made use of the option to extend Lotka’s expiring contract.
How to proceed now? “It’s going to be a legal thing now,” Fredi Bobic, Hertha’s sports manager, announced. So far there has been no reaction from Dortmund. “When it’s all over, we’ll talk,” says Bobic.
So Marcel Lotka will be under a little more scrutiny this Saturday. His coach isn’t worried about that. “Absolutely not,” says Magath. Lotka got over the mistake well a week ago; he showed a good reaction both in the game and in the training sessions during the week.
“No matter what the contract situation is, he has the trust of the team. There’s nobody around who would doubt that he’s number one at the moment,” says Felix Magath. “Of course he will be between the posts on Saturday.”