Booing hurts. Whether you have nerves of steel or wear your emotions on your sleeve, it hurts. We just expect athletes to deal with it.
It’s one thing to receive the ire of opposition fans, as one would expect the enemy to naturally be hostile towards their opponents. However, when it comes from those who are meant to support you, it’s doubly painful.
Having transferred from rival club Borussia Moenchengladbach last summer, German defender Tobias Levels has struggled to start this season for 2.Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf, and a pocket of home fans let him have it at one of the most vulnerable moments for a player.
Levels made the rounds with his teammates clapping the home supporters following their 2-1 home loss to TSV 1860 Munich. He hadn’t played well that night, and the 26-year-old had received a red card in their opening DFB-Pokal match just 5 days prior, leading to a loss and cup exit.
His poor form wasn’t sitting well with fans, so a few of them chanted “Levels out” as he clapped their support.
The thing to remember: athletes are human too. The treatment reduced the poor defender to tears, and in a show of class, he reappeared onto the pitch to continue to clap the fans on his own despite the insults. The fans actually recognized his state of emotion and reversed their chants, showing a bit of support.
Born just 20 minutes north of Moenchengladbach, Levels has previously he still supports his former club, which also didn’t sit well with the Dusseldorf fans. There is a lot of bad blood between rival fans in the North Rhine-Westfalia state of Germany, with Dusseldorf, Moenchengladbach, Cologne, and Dortmund all in the region and housing rival clubs.
You can see the video of the incident here (mostly the end as the fans realize his emotions), and here is a fantastic photograph from German media outfit Spiegel showing the emotion flowing through the player.