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Police investigating reports of racism at Germany match

March 22, 2019

Police in the northern German city of Wolfsburg are investigating reports of racist comments made by fans during Germany's international friendly against Serbia on Wednesday night. Germany's DFB has also been informed.

Fußball Freundschaftsspiel Deutschland - Serbien
Image: imago images / Contrast

Police in Germany are investigating reports of racist comments made in the stands during the the German national team's friendly match against Serbia on Wednesday night. 

Earlier on Thursday, German journalist and basketball expert Andre Voigt, who had been at the game privately with his family, posted a video on Facebook in which he described the racist abuse aimed at German players Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gündogan by three fans sat behind him.

Three men aged between 30 and 40 surrendered to police late on Thursday, according to German tabloid Bild.

The investigation comes on International Day Against Racism and several Bundesliga clubs including Hertha Berlin and TSG Hoffenheim, as well as as Bayern Munich's basketball team, have praised Voigt for sharing the information.

In a statement later on Thursday, the DFB confirmed that the purchaser of the seats in which the fans were sitting had been identified, and encouraged other supporters to contact stewards in such situations.

"Football, like society, is diverse," continued the statement. "Insults, discrimination and exclusion have no place in football." 

A long-term problem

The German national team has long battled with a small far-right and, in some cases, openly neo-Nazi element among its supporters — especially at away matches and tournaments in nearby countries. 

At the 1998 World Cup in France, police officer Daniel Nivel was beaten into a coma by German hooligans in Lens. In Lille in 2016, ahead of Germany's Euro 2016 game against Ukraine, German hooligans posed with a Reichskriegsflagge — the flag of the Imperial German armed forces until 1921 which, although not strictly illegal, remains a common motif of the far right.

And in September 2017, Germany's 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Prague was marred by derogatory chants and Nazi slogans from a section of German supporters. 

Although instances of racism and far-right extremism are rare at Germany home games, a glance at any of the unofficial merchandise stands selling scarves can provide a clue as to the politics of a section of the clientele. Outside Cologne's RheinEnergieStadion in November 2017, scarves bearing Reichskriegsflaggen and Imperial German flags were all on sale ahead of Germany's game against France.  

Geography can also play a roll. While Prague was only 100km (60 miles) away from Dresden, Chemnitz and Zwickau, cities whose local football clubs have long battled with right-wing hooligans, Wolfsburg is only 30km away from Braunschweig and 74km from Magdeburg. 

Following the death of Chemnitz neo-Nazi Thomas Haller earlier this month, a banner reading "Rest in peace, Tommy" was displayed at an Eintracht Braunschweig fixture, while the logo of 1.FC Magdeburg could be seen on a wreath carried by one mourner in Chemnitz.

Both clubs have distanced themselves from the messages and Magdeburg have pressed charges for the misuse of their badge. There is no suggestion that any of the fans accused of racism at the game in Wolfsburg have links to either club. 

mf/msh (dpa)