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Saxon Soccer Suspended

Dagmar Breitenbach (nda)February 14, 2007

All lower-league soccer matches in the eastern state of Saxony this weekend have been cancelled in response to the violence at last weekend's match in Leipzig, the German Soccer Federation announced Wednesday.

Shattered: Police in Leipzig were targeted in the riots that led to the cancellationsImage: PA/dpa

The unprecedented move concerns some 60 matches from the fifth division downwards, and comes as a reaction to the latest violent incidents around a Saxony cup game last weekend.

Some 800 soccer fans attacked a police contingent of 300 after a game between Lokomotiv Leipzig and Erzgebirge Aue II. Some 39 officers were injured and six hooligans temporarily detained.

The German soccer community, politicians and police were outraged over Saturday's soccer violence, which was a stark contrast to last summer's festive World Cup matches played in Leipzig, the only tournament venue in the former East Germany.

Germans are asking how flares and fireworks that were used as ammunition at the riot could have been brought into the stadium. They blame lax security at fourth division club Lokomotiv Leipzig, whose fans were responsible for the violent clashes with the police.

DFB: No games without security

Theo Zwanziger Fußball WM 2006
No security assurances, no games, says the DFB's ZwanzigerImage: AP

"If we aren't able to offer secure stadiums, or prevent such incidents, then we can't allow soccer matches to take place there," Theo Zwanziger, head of the Germany Soccer Federation (DFB), when announcing that all lower-league matches in Saxony for this weekend would be cancelled.

Zwanziger made it clear that the cancellation of some 60 lower league matches is a symbolic act, a message of solidarity to the police that is meant to show that violence is not tolerated in and around football stadiums in Saxony.

But some soccer clubs said they feel a sweeping cancellation is not fair. FC Sachsen Leipzig had a match planned for Saturday, which is now going to be held the following week.

"It's a signal in the wrong direction," said FC Sachsen's goalkeeper Steffen Süssner. "The situation should have been solved differently; now, we're just punishing the clubs and the fans, I don't think that's right."

Politicians must make the decisions, says coach

FC Sachsen Leipzig coach Eduard Geier said the politicians were taking the easy way out.

"Politicians need to act here, we all do, we have to be role models and make sure that there are orderly games and fair play on the field," he said. "Politicians have to deal with the rest. We can't do it without them."

Lokomotive Leipzig Fans
Leipzig fans were blamed for the violence last weekendImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Politicians have meanwhile come up with a handful of possible solutions. Saxony's Interior Minister Albrecht Buttolo has vowed tougher measures for the future, with sports prosecutors on hand at high-risk games to issue arrest warrants on the spot if violent scenes occur. Buttolo also threatened games behind closed doors, as were recently played in Italy after the death of a police officer there, in the case of further incidents.

Geier was skeptical of such plans.

"As along as the perpetrators are let go every time, and as long as they're never punished, the chaotic situation won't change," the FC Sachsen Leipzig coach said.