Analysis: Bayern's substitution gaffe causing turmoil in Bundesliga
Bayern Munich played 17 seconds of Saturday's 4-1 win over Freiburg with 12 men on the pitch, causing widespread controversy.
A delicate substitution mistake is keeping German football busy.
While the outcome most likely won't affect Bayern Munich on its way to winning its 10th consecutive Bundesliga title this season, fundamental questions arise about the consistency of rule application.
The case goes beyond the question that a 12th player on the pitch for 17 seconds can make a difference.
Bayern played its league match against Freiburg with one additional player after Kingsley Coman failed to leave the pitch.
A mistake from Bayern team manager Kathleen Kruger triggered the turmoil, after she presented the wrong shirt number.
The French midfielder played as No. 29 until the summer of 2021. Since the 2021-22 season, he has been wearing the No. 11 jersey. Coman didn't react as Kruger inadvertently held up No. 29.
Neither the fourth official, the referee nor the VAR stopped the game, with action only taken after Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck pointed out the mistake.
While Bayern most likely won't miss out on the title, the tricky case might affect the race for the Champions League spots with only six games remaining.
Niklas Sule and Marcel Sabitzer both came on in the 86th minute, but only Corentin Tolisso came off. Bayern enjoyed a 3-1 lead at the time.
According to Bundesliga rules, Bayern might face a penalty such a 2-0 win being awarded to Freiburg. Aside from a moral issue, many see a chain of mistakes, including the referees having caused the turmoil.
Fans, officials, and players meanwhile debate about leaving the case to fair play, as the result seemed beyond doubt. Sabitzer scored Bayern's fourth goal of the match in the sixth minute of injury time.
League rules suggest that Freiburg would need to lodge a formal complaint in order for Bayern to be punished.
"I expect that we will not have to appeal anything. We abide by these rules and that is all I will say about it," said Freiburg coach Christian Streich.
Freiburg sporting director Jochen Saier announced that he would investigate the club's options. Freiburg has until Monday to issue a complaint.
"From the point of fair play, there was nothing that speaks against it having been a fair game," said Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann.
Former Bayern and Liverpool player Dietmar Hamann blamed Bayern for the mistake.
"It doesn't play a role if it was for 17 seconds or five minutes. It's about the integrity of the league," said Hamann, adding that "everyone should be treated the same."
Freiburg, meanwhile, finds itself in an uncomfortable situation. While a formal complaint might be justified according to the rules, many could see them as sore losers.