Hooliganism takes centre-stage in the Bundesliga
After the decision to ban Dynamo Dresden from next year’s German Cup was reversed by the DFB last week, the Bundesliga might have been hoping for a few weeks in which the word “hooliganism” did not take centre stage. Unfortunately, this weekend once again saw the regrettable minority find the spotlight, as FC Kaiserlautern’s Israeli international Itay Shechter was subject to anti-Semitic verbal attacks from his own fans at a training session on Sunday.
With a 4-0 defeat to relegation rivals Mainz 05, and kiss and tell rumours of coach Marco Kurz’s alleged affair with a player’s spouse, it should have been a weekend that could not have got any worse for the Red Devils, who are now only off the bottom of the table by the grace of Freiburg’s inferior goal difference. But with the racism aimed at Shechter yesterday morning, the proverbial fried fish has suddenly grown significantly bigger.
The fans responsible, reported to have numbered between five and ten, were among a hundred or so who had turned up to Lautern’s Fritz Walter Stadion to watch the post-defeat training session on Sunday. While Shechter himself remained apparently unaware of the incident, the club’s hierarchy were quick to alert the police and denounce those in question, with club chairman Stefan Kuntz declaring: “Racism has no place at FC Kaiserslautern. We will do all we can to ensure that these people are punished”.
According to club spokesman Christian Gruber, the fans had been identified as “previous offenders from the hooligan scene, who had already incurred a stadium ban”. The failure to eject them from the stadium, moreover, was down to “a reluctance to cause a stir”, but legal repercussions have been promised.
The sensitivity towards this particular brand of racism in Germany requires little introduction. Though hooliganism is fast becoming the final blot on the landscape of one of Europe’s most progressive leagues, anti-Semitism remains, particularly among Western clubs, relatively uncharted territory. And while Bild, somewhat typically, have been the only media outlet to use the word “Nazi”, it hardly takes a genius to divine the uneasy connotations this incident bears.
In a footballing context, the incident is yet another nugget of evidence to suggest that hooliganism and fan misbehaviour is a nationwide problem, and not just limited to smaller clubs of the former GDR. After the overruling of Dresden’s cup ban for next season and FCK’s apparent failure to impose a stadium ban, though, there will be those who continue to question how seriously German football is treating this issue. The campaign for a more hard line approach is gaining momentum.
The Dresden decision is perhaps the most striking example of the division of opinion on this subject. After a minority of fans caused significant disruption at a cup tie against Borussia Dortmund last autumn, the DFB were both lauded and condemned for their quick decision to deny the club entry to the DFB Pokal in 2012/13. For many, the severity of the decision was a necessary deterrent, but for Dynamo’s sympathisers, it was another example of the sweeping generalisations made around East German fan culture. That the club’s appeal to have the decision revoked was successful has been equally polemical. Though the club’s president Andreas Ritter accepted that this was “a final warning”, there are many who will feel that a fine and a few games before an empty stadium will not be sufficient to discourage fan violence in the future.
For Kaiserslautern, the Shechter incident was the cherry on the cake for a forgettable weekend, in which they extended their winless run to thirteen games in succession. For German football as a whole, it is another example of what is increasingly becoming a worrying trend. As the country attempts to step optimistically into a new golden age with a win at the Euros this summer, it is clear that there is still one more demon left to dispel.Tagged in: Bundesliga, Dynamo Dresden, football, Itay Shechter, Marco Kurz
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