Simak sees (tomato) red

March 20, 2008

Simak walks from the pitchThere are of course many ways to get sent off, but Jan Simak may be the first player to earn a red card for giving a referee the “Doppel Tomaten auf den Augen” (Two tomatoes on the eyes) gesture.

The Carl Zeiss Jena playmaker’s unfortunate ejection in the 51st minute of their German Cup semi-final match at Borussia Dortmund – when they were behind 1-0 but close to equalising – pretty much took the life out of what was until then a good game.

The relegation-threatened second division underdogs were putting up a great fight against Dortmund and had the Bundesliga side on the ropes. After Simak was sent off Dortmund got two late goals to win 3-0.

Perhaps Simak, a Czech, did not fully understand the impact in German of the gesture — covering his eyes with his fists. “Tomaten auf den Augen” (Tomatoes on the eyes) is a popular phrase in Germany to refer to referees who were blind to something obvious that happened in front of their eyes. Some newspapers even publish pictures of the referee with giant tomatoes covering their eyes after particularly daft decisions.

Or perhaps it was all just a cultural misunderstanding by the Czech. He didn’t realise German referee Manuel Graefe would feel insulted to the extent that he would give him a second yellow card just seconds after flashing him the first for his mild complaints about a foul.

There have been other misunderstandings lately. Hertha Berlin’s French-speaking Swiss coach Lucien Favre was able to avoid a suspension by convincing league officials that he did not make the insulting “bird” gesture (which in Germany usually means “I think you’re crazy”) to a referee in Hertha’s 1-1 draw at Dortmund a week earlier, as the referee had charged, while complaining about an erroneous red card that was then quickly rescinded.

Simak did not attempt such a defence.

“Yes, unfortunately I did,” Simak later told journalists when asked if his gesture was the “double tomato”. “It was a mistake. I’m unhappy about being sent off for it. But soccer is a sport full of emotions.”

And maybe tomatoes.

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