Fortuna Dusseldorf lost their first match of the 2. Bundesliga season last Friday after a 78th minute goal from 1860 Munich's Marin Tomasov gave the visitors a 2-1 lead that held until the final whistle. A mistake from Fortuna defender Tobias Levels was blamed for the goal and the home fans voiced their disproval with jeers aimed at him for the remainder of the match. Once the match ended, Levels sat down on the bench and cried.
Fortuna lost 1-0 to semi-professional fourth division club SC Wiedenbruck in the first round of the DFB Pokal five days earlier, so there was already a foundation of discontent. Levels was something of an easy target. The 26-year-old had been with rivals Borussia Monchengladbach since the age of 13 and only joined Fortuna in 2001, at first on loan. Of course, football fans don't usually need anything more than a mistake in the present to target someone with their viciousness, so all of that could have been irrelevant. But what was certain was that Fortuna lost, the supporters were angry and Levels was crying.
In an excellent piece for the Guardian, Marcus Christenson explains what happened next:
For, on Friday night, after the shouts of "Levels raus" [Levels out] and the tears, something extraordinary happened. As Fortuna's hardcore fans realised that the defender had broken down in tears, they started to chant his name. At first Levels did not move but then he slowly made his way towards the far side, where the supporters were singing his name. At first he did not dare to look up but in the end he offered a wave to those who were supporting him and even tapped the club badge.
This moment was captured in the video above. The wide range of conflicting emotions can be seen in Levels' reaction. The fans realize that the player is a human being with emotions like their own and the player remembers that the fans aren't heartless demons who exist solely to make his life miserable.
As discussed in our recent post about Clint Dempsey's move to MLS and the debate surrounding it, humanity is often lost in the mix of passion and intensity that consumes sports at all levels. This was an unusual instance where both the performer and his critics learned something about each other at the same time.