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More trouble in paradise

Submitted by on June 27, 2013 – 9:06 amNo Comment
Picture by Russ Hart

Picture by Russ Hart

By Christian Bunke
Safe standing in German football league stadiums is now officially under attack.

During the summer break of 2012 the German FA, various state agencies including the police, politicians including the German home secretary and representatives of all German league clubs bar one, had themselves a get together called “security conference”.

At this meeting, a new codex was signed. This codex is bad news for German football fans. Reprisals are to be increased. Banning orders for match-going fans can now be extended to up to ten years.

The only German club that did not sign this truly shit document is Eisern Union Berlin. I have written favourably about this club for the Lung website before. I urge everyone to check it out.

The pretext for this conference was a number of incidents in German football during the 2011/12 Bundesliga season. Among those was a celebratory pitch invasion by Düsseldorf fans a minute or so before the official end of a victorious match which had just ensured promotion to the 1. Bundesliga for that club.

Fans thought they had heard the whistle and ran on to the pitch to congratulate the players and to generally do what football fans do in such a situation. Many, if not most on the pitch that day came from the family stands, NOT the standing sections where the Ultras have got their home.
Nevertheless this was used by politicians, the police and the German football establishment to put standing itself into question. In the media, a celebratory pitch invasion became civil war-style riots by extremist hooligan hordes.

To put this into context: remember the FC United v Rochdale match? Of course you do. Remember the positive match day commentary we got on the day?
How the commentators described the burning of flares and a good number of pitch invasions during and after the match as “the best atmosphere seen in a long time”?

Now imagine the same scenario with a different commentary. It could have been something like this: “FC have scored a goal and now mindless thugs are running on the pitch. These people do not belong to football, they bring shame upon their players. Now they are even burning a flare. This is a warlike scenario playing itself out here, we fear for our lives. Let’s hope the police can sort it out. What a shameful end to what could have been a great footballing event”.

This is the kind of barrage currently raining down via most media outlets on German football fans. Someone lights a flare? His picture will be in the newspaper tomorrow with a byline, calling that person an extremist hooligan.

“We are not abolishing standing areas in stadiums – yet.” This was the message from the security conference. They are not abolishing standing. They wait for incidents to happen to justify it.

Borussia Dortmund

The signs are ominous. German FA officials are in the media telling fans “it is in your hands now, do not fuck it up”. Politicians are saying: “We have not banned standing as of yet, but we are closely monitoring the situation. We will do if something happens”.

And of course, “something” always happens. Violence in German football has gone down continuously in recent years. There are still violent incidents, but fewer people get injured during the course of a football season than during the Munich Oktoberfest.

Many of those injured during the course of a season receive their injuries at the hands of the riot police.

One example from recent personal experience in Vienna, Austria. It’s a different country, but events in Austria closely follow those in Germany in many ways.

I visited the first match of the 2012/13 season: Wacker Innsbruck v. Rapid Wien, marching up to the Rapid stadium with the Innsbruck away mob.
A couple of flares were lighted, some youths let off a fire cracker. Riot police used this as a pretext to kettle everyone, search everyone and repeatedly baton charge the peaceful crowd.

Unarmed, youthful football supporters who had just travelled for five hours on a train to see their team versus police officers armed with truncheons, pepper spray, taser guns and fire arms.

Police attacks on fans continued even inside the stadium. Fans got repeatedly dragged into corners by cops where they then got battered. It’s no surprise that all organised fan groups in the away end left the stadium in protest after 20 minutes.

The predictable newspaper headlines in Austria afterwards were: “Innsbruck hooligans riot in Vienna”. Too many incidents like this happen in Germany as well year in year out.

One has to ask: why all this hysteria about football fans? It’s not like there aren’t any other important issues to discuss. For example: a fascist terror group was active for the last few years in Germany, killing about ten immigrants.

The terror group itself was closely monitored by secret service and police agents. From the looks of it, it received substantial aid from those agents, including access to weapons.

Now, files with information about what was going on are seemingly systematically destroyed by the same agencies that let this organisation operate for such a long time. Surely this would be a good case for a security conference? A conference that aims to protect the German people from its own police state…

But no, football fans are seemingly the public enemy number one. Much more dangerous than fascist murderers. My personal view is that Germany will very soon be affected by the global economic crisis.

Sooner or later, social peace is going to end. The state is preparing for this and is beefing up its apparatus. Football fans are as good an excuse as any. Meanwhile some clubs have got their own economic reasons to get rid of standing.

They wish to emulate the “success” of the English premier league. I’m curious to see how this is going to work out when no-one can afford the ticket prices for their seats anymore, should standing be abolished.

On a slightly different note…it was during a match at Wiener Sportklub that I saw him. It was just after city had won the premier league. He stood on the terraces behind me on the upper bit of the cemetery end.

He was wearing a city shirt and the headgear of an Arab oil sheik. He wore sun glasses. He was small and a bit fat, looking a bit like the guy in the Red Issue cartoons.

I wasn’t the only one who saw him, so I didn’t imagine things. What was he doing there? Why was he there? I thought all city fans came from Manchester?
I read in one publication once that Manchester is a bit like an elastic band. It can get strained a lot but in the end it draws you back to that place. If this man was meant to be a hint of some kind, it was a particularly crap example of Mancunian humour.

- From A Fine Lung, issue nine. This issue is now sold out, but you can still buy issues two, three, five, seven and eight here.

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