April 29, 1998 will never be forgotten by anyone close to 1. FC Köln. That day, the Rhinelanders lost 1-0 at FC Schalke 04. A highly controversial referee decision and a lie by a Schalke player also contributed to the defeat that heralded Cologne’s first relegation from the Bundesliga. FC striker Toni Polster still speaks of the “biggest scam” of his career.
To this day, cult footballer Toni Polster gets angry when he talks about the catch-up game at FC Schalke 04 in Cologne on April 29, 1998. When the score was 0-0, Schalke’s Oliver Held deliberately handballed a shot from René Tretschok and thus prevented the safe lead for the Cologne team, who were threatened with relegation.
However, referee Uwe Kemmling decides to continue playing, the FC players protest. When questioned by the referee hero, he denies his handball. “Of course that’s unforgettable, the biggest shit in my career,” recalled Polster in an interview with “Kicker”: The ball would have gone in, Jens Lehmann was already beaten.”
Cologne legend loses faith in the sport at FC Schalke 04
The Austrian, who played for Cologne from 1993 to 1998 and immediately became the darling of the crowd with his Viennese humor, lost his faith in the sport that day. “That was the greatest impudence, the boy just claimed he had saved the ball with his head. I always assumed that you were fair to each other in sport,” said Polster: “But the scene also showed how helpless you sometimes are as a footballer. He lies, instead of penalties and reds, we only got a corner kick.”
Malefactor Hero was subsequently banned for two games. The then 25-year-old later regretted his lie. “It doesn’t help. If he had told the truth, we would have converted the penalty and scored important points, maybe we would have stayed in it,” said the 59-year-old Polster, who cursed Held in front of the cameras at the time: He should never have more luck in his life, the Austrian grumbled.
Polster, who has been a trainer at the third division club Wiener SC Viktoria since 2014, welcomes the video evidence in this context. “Fortunately, such things are now completely ruled out, that’s an advantage that the VAR brings,” he emphasized. He was actually against the video evidence, “because the emotions fall by the wayside a bit,” explained the former cult striker: “But of course it’s very important for such crucial scenes and it brings more justice.”