He didn’t count the cornflakes boxes one by one, even if it would have tied in with the initiative. One thing was certain though: Norbert Nickel had never received more boxes of cornflakes at once before. The employees at Frankfurt’s food bank received 755 packages from the DFB with an accompanying 755 litres of milk.
Six years ago, Norbert Nickel found himself at the Frankfurter Tafel at a time where he was temporarily unemployed. In order to use the time wisely, he decided to begin engaging in the community. “Over time, I then rose up the ranks,” he remembers with a smile on his face. Now, the 61-year-old is the fund manager for the Frankfurt based food bank. Almost 30,000 people in need are provided with food there monthly – some directly and others through their deliveries to other social institutions. 200 people help out at the Frankfurter Tafel, all do so voluntarily. Nickel co-ordinates, organises and gets to grips with the issues at hand. “It’s got worse,” he says, “We have more people in need yet fewer goods than before. Also, finding new volunteers can be very problematic.”
Nickel is a football fan. To be more specific, an Eintracht Frankfurt fan. He’s supported the Bundesliga club passionately for 50 years. When Eintracht lifted the DFB-Pokal trophy this summer having seen off Bayern Munich 3-1 in the final, celebrating their biggest trophy in 30 years, it was one of the best days in Nickel’s footballing memory. As an Eintracht Frankfurt fan, he makes no secret of the fact that he’s not always been positive about the DFB but he’s far from a critic. “Not everything is so bad about the DFB – in fact, the opposite is the case,” he emphasises. For instance, the donations initiative in September was something Norbert Nickel really got behind as it helped the food bank and, in turn, people in need.
If Jan Löhmannsröben had just taken a deep breath on 2nd September after the final whistle of 1. FC Kaiserslautern’s visit to FSV Zwickau, none of this would have happened. The protest. The flood of cornflakes. The donation to the Frankfurt food bank. None of it. Well, Löhmannsröben would most likely reply, that wouldn’t have happened if the referee had made a different decision in stoppage time – if he were have to have blown for a foul as Löhmannsröben was elbowed in the face, rather than him being penalised for his arms then consequently flailing in the air and contacting the ball. A penalty to Zwickau was awarded and converted and the game ended 1-1. A few weeks following their relegation from Bundesliga 2, Kaiserslautern found themselves in a relegation battle once more in the third tier of German football.
After full-time, Telekom Sport spoke to a visibly irate Löhmannsröben and the interview went down in cult history. “He should go and count cornflakes,” lambasted the 27-year-old midfielder about the referee as he was shown the replay of the incident. Norbert Nickel watched the interview later, you could hardly miss it considering the hype around it. The interview became a viral sensation due to its authenticity, honesty and emotional nature which many felt was lacking in modern day football.
The public discontent only grew as the DFB decided to investigate against Jan Löhmannsröben’s comments. However, the problem was not the cornflakes quote but further quotes from the player which were less funny and more unsporting. The FCK player stated publicly that the referee should “referee in the lower leagues and start opening his eyes” and he hoped that the referee couldn’t “sleep for a week”.
Despite that, some fans were incensed by the decision and decided to vent their anger in a curious manner. They decided to send cornflakes to the DFB as a means of showing their unhappiness. Fans across Germany defended the actions and joined in the protest. As packets were delivered to the DFB hub in Frankfurt, a mixture of journalists and Kaiserslautern fans waited outside. The initiator of the protest, Peter Hammerschmidt, said: “We’re very happy with the protest and the number of cornflakes. I think it’s great how much time the DFB has taken out for the exchange for us fans outside.” The picture of the packets with the caption “We’re now #cornflakescounters” became the most successful tweet in the history of the official twitter account of the German Third Division.
The decision of what to do with the cornflakes had already been made by the DFB. They weren’t packed up and individually counted but given instead to a good cause. In total, there were 835 consumable packets: 755 were given to the food bank in Frankfurt, 50 to the children’s home in Frankfurt-Riederwald and 30 to the limekiln in Kaiserslautern. Additionally, the DFB included 800 litres of milk. A further 600 packets of cornflakes that were loosely packaged were sent to the zoo in Offenbach.
“All in all, you couldn’t have used them for a better reason,” said Norbert Nickel. At the food bank, the cornflakes and milk were all used up within two weeks. “People were delighted,” said Nickel and added with a smile: “Even if some of the packets had a special message for the DFB on them!”. Jan Löhmannsröben received news from the DFB that he was to be fined 1,200 Euros for unsporting behaviour but that we settled by the Kaiserslautern fans. From Norbert Nickel’s perspective, everything worked out right.