The fans of the third division club Preussen Münster gave to football one of the best moments of this year almost two weeks ago. They whistled a spectator who racially insulted the Würzburg player Leroy Kwadwo – and ensured that the perpetrators could be identified.
The following days there were similar actions by fans in Frankfurt and Berlin that were made. The good feeling is clouded, however, by the fact that they are always a counter-reaction to racist attacks, presumably promoted by right-wing extremists. So what predominates? Worry or hope?
First of all: It was worse. In the early 1990s, right-wing extremists appeared openly in many stadiums. Monkey sounds, with which dark-skinned footballers were insulted, could not be heard from individuals, but from groups.
Chemnitz marked a turnaround
Also because of the efforts of fans, DFB, clubs and authorities to get the problem under control, the right-wing extremists appeared more reluctant after the turn of the millennium, they were less open due to the social climate in the stadium.
The events in Chemnitz almost a year ago, when right-wing extremists remembered a deceased hooligan in the stadium, marked a new turnaround. Fan researcher Gunter A. Pilz also sees no reason to give the all-clear: “The problem in football is no bigger or smaller than the rest of society. The right-wing extremists had only taken cover a few years ago, including in the stadiums. With the emergence of right-wing populists, their issues are, xenophobia is again socially acceptable. The right-wing extremists are correspondingly loud again on the stadiums.“
However, those who point to the East of Germany make it too easy. Regional league club Rot-Weiss Essen, for example, also has a problem with the “right” fans, says one who is involved in almost every game: “It’s known that there are right-wing extremists in the corner at RWE.” However, these are hardly active in the stadium itself. There are only a few racist calls. Nevertheless, this grouping – the fan speaks about 50 or more people who would stand together in the stadium – has a lot to say in the curve. He was ashamed of these people, but therefore did not want football to be “spoiled”.
The club management also knows the problem at another level: RWE is plaguing with the so-called “Steeler Jungs”, a violent right-wing group that has been misusing the club logo for its purposes for several weeks now. RWE President Markus Uhlig, who is looking for ways to take action against the group, said in an interview to WAZ at the beginning of February: “I warn against making excessive demands on a football club. It is neither possible for us to carry out a mental check at the entrance to the stadium, or nor to define who feels like a fan.”
The fact that fans are now standing up against right-wing extremists in the stadium is encouraging. At the beginning of the century, fans regained their curve of right-wing extremists in a stadium. A year ago, the Bremen-based Weser Kurier gave a word to an Ultra, which describes how much the right-wing had dominated the scene. After right-wing extremists attacked a gathering of left-wing ultras in 2007, the mood changed in Bremen: the ultras, which represent heterogeneous groups in all stadiums, but which unite their dislike of authority and order, even worked with the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice bring to. In the following years, the Ultras were able to oust the right.
Fan researcher Pilz confirms: “In any case, it is the much-scolded ultra groups, in which some, for example, also make a lot of crap with the anti-hop posters, which are often the first to notice and react to these topics. After all, the clubs have recognized that they have to support the Ultras.”
“The Schalke Unser” fanzine has been appearing on Schalke since 1994, and its core concern is the fight against racism in the stadium. Roman Kolbe, who has worked there almost from the start, says: “I don’t notice that we have a problem with right-wing extremists on the Schalke-Arena. As almost everywhere in society, you will also find everyday racism on Schalke. And honestly, I would have thought that we are now there. But one notices in discussions in social networks that Schalke’s political positions are also represented here.”
Borussia Dortmund is cited as a prime example in the fight against the right-wing scene on the stadium. The club, which had massive problems in the 1990s, was at least able to significantly improve its public image. Most recently, the group “riot 0231” disbanded itself after massive search pressure from the authorities. It is doubtful whether the right-wing people were really driven out of the stadium, but at least they no longer dominate what is happening in the stands. With many initiatives, the club is also trying to immunize the new generation of fans against right-wing extremism.
Week action against discrimination
They also take care of Schalke: since 2015 there has been an annual week of action against discrimination and racism under the catchphrase #stehtauf, a contact point has been set up in the stadium. On the club’s own website, the club also provides practical help, lists prohibited symbols, treacherous music or clothing brands and gives tips for dealing with right-wing extremists. Roman Kolbe says of this commitment: “The DFB and clubs are trying to counteract this with campaigns such as “Show the red card to racism” or as with Schalke ‘#stehtauf’. But if a reaction from the fans happens like in Frankfurt or Münster, where a whole curve shows what she thinks of racists, then I can only say: Bravo! Münster and Frankfurt show that such reactions directly from the curve develop much stronger power than any well-intentioned campaign on the part of associations and clubs.”
Players position themselves
The players, too, perhaps also encouraged by the fans in Münster, become clear to this actions. In an interview to Sport-Bild, Bremen’s player Davie Selke spoke out of stopping games if there were attacks: “If I become a victim of racism, I go straight to the locker room. If you keep playing, you are sending the signal that it is normal what is happening there. You should stop playing until the perpetrators have left the stadium.”
Bayern miedfilder Leon Goretzka set an exclamation mark on this week. In an interview to Spiegel, the 25-year-old footballer from Bochum, took a very clear position: “I want to call for action to be taken against people who express themselves racially.” A post on Instagram, which he calls from a visit, is likely to have a broader impact and the Holocaust memorial in Dachau was shared it to almost one million followers with the hashtag #niewieder.
BVB player Marco Reus, horrified by the Hanau attack, also took a position: “No goal, no victory, no title in football means as much to me as an open and peaceful society.” He wanted a world in which “There are no a place for racism, hatred and xenophobia”.
Fan researcher Pilz confirms that these messages from the stars are valuable: “It is important when players position themselves. However, players without a migration background would have to speak even more frequently. That would make the right-wing and racists think even more.”