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German football federation decries online racist abuse

June 23, 2023

The DFB said it plans to press charges after players reported receiving racist abuse on social media during an under-21 game. "You disgust us. You are not true fans," the federation responded.

Tom Krauss (Germany) and Eitan Azulay (Israel) battle for the ball as Germany's under-21's play Israel's in the European Championships in Kutaisi, Georgia. June 22, 2023.
Germany and Israel drew 1-1 on the pitch, but fans' misbehavior on social media drew the headlinesImage: Giorgi Ebanoidze/DeFodi Images/picture alliance

Germany's football federation, the DFB, said on Friday that it planned to press charges against people who sent racist comments to two of its under-21 national team players on social media during a game against Israel on Thursday night after they both missed penalties. 

The DFB's sporting director Joti Catzialexiou said that the DFB had decided "that we will take legal steps against these people." He said that the federation would "do everything possible to bring these perpetrators and people to justice." 

It's not yet clear who made the comments, from where, and whether the DFB will ultimately be able to press charges, which Catzialexiou also acknowledged. 

"We don't know if it will lead to any success, but we do know that we simply have to take a stand against these people now," he said. "We want to show the police, the politicians, but above all the people themselves, that we will at least try everything in our power to pursue them." 

What happened? 

Germany and Israel's under-21 teams drew 1-1 in the under-21 European Championships group stage in Georgia on Thursday night despite underdogs Israel finishing the game with just 10 players on the pitch. 

Both Youssoufa Moukoko and Jessic Ngankam missed penalties for Germany during the game. Moukoko said after the match that they had had been inundated with racist or abusive comments, several using emojis like monkeys or bananas, on social media. Another user seemed to blame Moukoko for the user's gambling losses.

"If we win, then we're all Germans. If we lose, then these monkey comments start coming," Moukoko said in a television interview after the match, visibly moved. 

It was only the opening game of the group phase, so the draw has no serious repercussions for the team like an early exit from the tournament, although it does put the German youngsters on the back foot for their games against the Czech Republic and England.

'We don't need you, we don't want you' 

The DFB also issued a strongly worded statement online on Friday, headlined "More of us — none of you," telling so-called supporters with a habit of insulting players online that they should consider themselves personae non grata. 

It said the German national teams "leave their hearts on the field" when playing, "for each other and for Germany," and that "we will not stand for attempts to divide them through hate, insults and racism."

The statement said it carried a message for those individuals behind the abuse. 

"You disgust us. You are not true fans and we do not need or want you. We will be pursuing criminal prosecution against those involved," it said.

"What is certain is: you will never win. Because we are more. We are tolerant, diverse, colorful and proud of it." 

Interior Minister Faeser chimes in, as new migration policy passes

News of the abuse and the DFB's displeasure also reached German Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Friday. 

She described the comments addressed to Moukoko and Ngankam as "inhuman and disgusting." 

"Our national team footballers show the best side of our modern and multicultural Germany," Faeser wrote on Twitter. "These racist comments show its ugliest side." 

Faeser's comments followed moments after Germany's reformed skilled migration law, designed to make it easier for qualified people outside the EU to come to German to seek work, passed through the national parliament.

msh/rs (AFP, dpa, SID)