Fourth-tier German football club Chemnitzer FC sparked uproar after it allowed supporters to stage a tribute before a league game Saturday to a recently deceased fan, who was reportedly a known neo-Nazi.
Before kick-off, pyrotechnics were lit and a choreographed display featuring a white cross and a banner reading "Rest in peace, Tommy," were unveiled in memory of Thomas Haller. Team CEO and commercial managing director Thomas Uhlig stepped down on Sunday, saying he took responsibility for what happened around the club on matchdays and made the decision to protect the club from further damage.
According to regional public broadcaster MDR, Haller co-founded the "HooNaRa" (Hooligans-Nazis-Racists) group in the 1990s that was disbanded in 2007. MDR also reported that Haller remained a leading figure in Chemnitz's far-right scene and took part in the racially motivated riots in the city that rocked the countrylast year following the fatal stabbing of a German, allegedly by immigrant men.
The club responded to MDR reports denying that held an official mourning ceremony and defended the tribute. "The enabling of the united tribute does not represent an acknowledgment of the purpose of the deceased's life." The statement continued: "It was a matter of human sympathy to allow the club's fans and the bereaved to mourn together."
However, the club also condemned the post-goal celebration of its striker Daniel Frahn. After scoring, Frahn held up a black t-shirt with the words "Support your local hools (hooligans)."
The club fined the player, who stated he had apologized to the club and his teammates for any long-lasting damage that might have occurred because of his actions.
In a statement, Frahn said, "I was not aware that this t-shirt was so widely used in the Nazi scene."
Chemnitz city officials distanced themselves from the events at the game.
"Chemnitz is an open-minded, tolerant and peaceful city," said a statement issued Sunday. "We distance ourselves emphatically from all racist and right-wing actions and statements."
jh/mp (dpa, AFP)