On Tuesday at 10:23 p.m., FC Schalke 04 was finally redeemed.
When referee Christian Dingert whistled the game on the Bielefelder Alm, it was mathematically certain, which had been clear for weeks, if not months: The Royal Blues are relegated from the Bundesliga for the fourth time in their club history.
It was the 21st defeat of the current season and a game that symbolized what Schalke had delivered over the entire season with very few exceptions. The team had no chance, was only partially competitive - and seemed, at least partially, to be unwilling to compete. If the Schalke fans hadn't got used to it long ago, it would have been a bitter defeat.
But it was a descent with an announcement.
There has rarely been a more deserved forced transfer to the second division in the history of the Bundesliga.
The way in which the team disappointed their fans, how they wore out one coach after the other and how the club dismantled itself with countless quarrels hurt - not only the Schalke supporters, but, perhaps with the exception of the fans of arch rivals Borussia Dortmund, all football fans.
Tears from Gerald Asamoah
When the descent was established, there were tears after all.
With Timo Becker, 24, a boy from the "Knappenschmiede", the Schalke junior department, which has already produced so many stars.
He sat on the bench after the final whistle and cried.
Gerald Asamoah gave an interview in which he expressed his feelings for the club in a moving and honest way.
"We have all disappointed and if someone says we gave everything today, then I don't know what I would do with this person," said the former international.
Most players, however, had submitted to their fate long before that.
They had never really resisted it.
That made the moment when the foreseeable decline was certain, then again very bitter.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar leaves the Bielefeld lawn, the striker turned out to be a bad buy
Source: Pool via REUTERS
Schalke will be absent, even BVB fans would have to admit this.
Because here is not just any Bundesliga club.
For a long time, the club stood for everything that the league once defined and yet should still be: enthusiasm, emotions, ups and downs, dramas, tradition, legends, identification.
The club stands for the Ruhr area - a region in which football has become the number one sport in Germany before and after the Second World War.
And above all: Schalke is still a club.
Registered association with its advantages and disadvantages
A registered club, with all the advantages and disadvantages, which in the past decades had often fought for the Champions League places with kicking corporations.
This is also one of the causes of the dilemma - in addition to a large number of mistakes that various board members and trainers have made.
"Football as it's meant to be" - that is the slogan of the German Football League (DFL) with regard to the international marketing of the Bundesliga.
There is still standing room here, real fans - who are more than just accessories for nice TV pictures.
Those who have an opinion and can also cause unrest.
As deserved the relegation is - Schalke will leave a big gap in the league. Last year, German football only lost its fans in the stadiums due to the corona pandemic - now it is losing its perhaps most emotional brand with Schalke 04. Both are difficult to cope with for the Bundesliga.