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Opinion: Moronic fan minority undermine own points

February 23, 2020

This week has seen good and bad from German football fans, as solidarity against racism was followed by a brainless banner. It's right that Gladbach called the banner out, as ultras undermine their own legitimate points.

Fußball Bundesliga | Borussia Mönchengladbach vs TSG 1899 Hoffenheim | Plakat gegen Dietmar Hopp
Image: Imago Images/Horstmüller

The introduction of the VAR has made lengthy stoppages a depressingly familiar feature of Bundesliga games in recent years. While the delay during the second half of Borussia Mönchengladbach's 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim on Saturday was equally tedious, it was of a more serious nature.

Referee Felix Brych, Germany's most highly-regarded official, called a temporary halt to proceedings to deal with derogatory chants and a banner that featured Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp's face in crosshairs - a smaller version of a display that has landed a handful of Borussia Dortmund's fans in hot water.

Kommentarbild Matt Pearson
Matt Pearson

Club captain Lars Stindl was sent over to remonstrate with the Ultras holding up the banner in the Nordkurve and fans across the ground turned on the most vocal element of their support, chanting "Ultras Out".

Gladbach fan groups are adamant that the chants were due to a misunderstanding which arose thanks to the stadium announcer linking the banner, not visible to large sections of the north stand, to the recent racially-motivated attacks in Hanau, which left nine people dead.

But the club's sporting director Max Eberl didn't hold back, calling the Ultras' actions "disgraceful" while the club released a statement distancing themselves from the banner.

"I am ashamed of the poster with the crosshairs. This is not Borussia Mönchengladbach, it contradicts the values we stand for as a club," said Eberl. "It is about 50 stupid people who have caused us a lot of damage. We don't want people like that in our stadium.

"But I liked the way the rest of the stadium, like 99 percent of the stadium visitors, reacted. It is important that we all stand up against it."

That last sentence is perhaps the most important. 

Fan groups in the country are often socially aware, many espouse progressive politics and are concerned with the retention of club and regional identities, which many believe are under threat from the sort of control Hopp has at Hoffenheim and the ownership model of RB Leipzig.

These concerns are legitimate and they are perfectly entitled to air them. But expressing them with a banner advocating violence against a 79-year-old man, whether serious or not, is as wrong as it is pathetic. The club were right to take a stance against the sort of moronic, witless element that will raise such a poster and then hide behind masks, scarves and banners rather than standing behind it.

Brych did well to stop the game and was supported in his actions by German football's governing body, the DFB. It's certainly important that all the relevant authorities do what they can to prevent the advocation of violence or hate on the terraces and it's encouraging that the vast majority of fans are doing so too.

Earlier in the week, Preussen Münster fans chanted "Nazis out" and helped police identify and arrest a man who had racially abused player Leroy Kwadwo from opposing team Würzburg. On Thursday, Eintracht Frankfurt fans started "Nazis out" chants when some fans ahead of the Europa League match against RB Salzburg disrupted a minute's silence for the victims of the Hanau attack.

They shouldn't have to. But football, like society more broadly, has a significant sprinkling of idiots. Where it's safe to do so, we mustn't be afraid to call them out.