There are some pretty awful things in life – poverty, corruption, Margaret Thatcher, Stoke City – but until these things have some kind of direct, personal effect on you, it’s sometimes hard to perceive their true magnitude. It’s possible to structure your life so that you never have to get to grips with issues that make humans real shits. Of course, others choose to take a stand and hope to achieve some kind of change to whatever circumstance is particularly shitty. The easy option though is to continue living your life in ignorance of these things but in accordance with your own moral standards, safe in the knowledge that at least you have been true to yourself and your beliefs.
The problem is, when you are confronted with something that doesn’t fit with your ideals and provides clear proof that some people are in fact proper shits, it hits you all the more harder. I guess this happened to me in a way a couple of weeks ago. While browsing Ian Stenhouse’s excellent photo galleries for No Dice Magazine, I stumbled across an album from a match between Tennis Borussia Berlin and TuS Makkabi in the Berliner Liga. In one picture, TeBe fans are holding up a Spruchband which reads “Komplett BescheUrt – Nazis raus aus dem Tivoli” (Totally idiotic – Nazis out of the Tivoli) referring to the worrying developments in the Aachen fan scene over the past year.
The second comment simply reads “Spastis”, the German equivalent of using spastic as a swear word. Then comes a series of questionable comments with clear right-wing tones – “Do you have any flags that have anything to do with football?”, “What a bunch of wankers” along with various statements along the lines of “football is football, politics is politics” (as in, they have nothing to do with each other).
As I mentioned, the Aachen active fan scene has been anything but harmonious over the past 2 years or so. In 2010, a group of fans split away from the main ultra group known as Aachen Ultras (ACU), calling themselves the Karlsbande Ultras (KBU). They cited “differences of opinion […] in many aspects of ultra culture, from the style of the support through to the ultra mentality as a whole […]” as the reason for the move. As a result, there were now two sets of active fans trying to create an atmosphere in the stadium – something that wasn’t particularly beneficial to either set of ultras or the team. At the start of the 2011/12 season, the Aachen Ultras decided to move from their traditional position behind the goal to block S6 in the corner of the stand behind the goal. KBU set up shop at the top of block S5. Although not explicitly mentioned, the fact that the ACU have an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-discriminatory stance doesn’t make it that difficult to guess that the “differences in opinion” were. Especially after the incidents over the next few months…
During Alemannia Aachen’s home match in the 2. Bundesliga against FC Erzgebirge Aue in December 2011, members of the Alemannia Supporters fan group entered ACU’s block, firstly to try and steal their banners and then to exercise violence. A handful of group members and one steward were injured. This was accompanied by shouts of “Kick the shit out of them”, “S6 homos” and “Fuck off you Jewish pricks, you don’t belong here” (“Jewish” or “Jew” is used as a pejorative noun by neo-Nazis and bears no relation to them thinking that the target of the insult is of Jewish faith or not) from Karlsbande Ultras members who had come to the plexiglass partition between blocks S5 and S6 and had attempted to scale it. According to the ACU, insults such as these from the Karlsbande and from other Aachen fans were nothing out of the ordinary.
The club pledged to identify the 20 or 30(!) members of Alemannia Supporters who were involved and hand out stadium bans. Alemannia Supporters issued an apology to all fans, but denied there was any political motivation behind the attack from so-called “loose cannons” within the group. Despite the promise from the club, the problems continued to spring up over the next few months. A few months later at an away match in Braunschweig, members of the ACU were refused entry to the away terrace by travelling Aachen stewards and the police for their own safety. They were instead led to the neighbouring seated stand and surrounded by police. After Aachen’s away match in Saarbrücken in early August 2012, members of Aachen Ultras were again brutally attacked by members of the Karlsbande Ultras and a fan liaison officer had to step in to protect a helpless victim who was being beaten on the floor. The stewards and police in Saarbrücken were hopelessly unprepared.
Both the Karlsbande Ultras and Alemannia Supporters denied that there was any political motivation and both distanced themselves from right-wing activities. Despite the fact that physical attacks were increasing and that fans of Alemannia Aachen were being attacked and intimidated, both in the stadium and at home, the club itself held a clear stance. “Provocation is coming from both sides. Both groups are at each other’s throats. This is a social problem which the club cannot resolve on its own.” Statements from the police in Aachen that the violence was “solely originating from Karlsbande”, that the group was “in the process of being infected with far-right extremists” and that “their target are the Aachen Ultras” seemed to fall on deaf ears. Karlsbande Ultras officially declare themselves as “non-political” – but the fact that several leading right-wing figures from the Aachen area such as NPD member Sascha Wagner were known to be members is pretty clear evidence contrary to this.
Some ultra groups showed solidarity with the Aachen Ultras – including those at Tennis Borussia Berlin of which images appeared on the No Dice Facebook page. Comments such as “ScheiSS ACU” (yes, the capitalisation of SS is deliberate) and another that was signed off “Sieg Heil” (which was deleted by the page admins, but not before charges were filed. CORRECTION: The comment was deleted by the user him/herself, but the site admins screenshotted and reported it before its deletion) make it pretty unequivocal that this is a political issue. The hypocrisy of these fans lambasting Aachen Ultras from their anti-fascist views by saying that politics has no place in stadia, only for them to then attack and insult them and almost drive them out of the stadium is quite incredible. The use of No Dice’s Facebook platform to spread these vicious views was shocking, a real smash in the face. I hope that the charges that were filed come to a satisfying conclusion.
There followed much debate between No Dice readers and fans as to whether comments such as these should be deleted and ignored, or whether they should be left there for all to see. On the one hand, you don’t want to give these people a platform, but, on the other hand, ignorance is almost acceptance and the problem needs to be drawn attention to. I applaud the editors’ decision to leave them there for all to see and commend their courage to pursue legal avenues. Aachen Ultras continue to follow the club from Block S6 but, until something is done about the right-wing virus ravaging the rest of the active fan scene, they will continue to do so in fear of their own personal safety.
In diesem Sinne: Nazis raus aus dem Tivoli.
Just after I finished writing this piece, it seems that Alemannia Aachen have finally taken action. Today it issued a statement announcing the following measures (amongst others):
1. Stadium bans for those involved in attacks in Saarbrücken.
2. Ban until further notice of all banners, flags, messages and any other fan articles bearing the name Karlsbande Ultras/KBU from the Tivoli stadium.
3. Ban on newsletters/flyers being distributed in or around the Tivoli.
4. Violations will be punished with stadium bans.
5. Increased police presence to protect fans.
At least something’s being done about the group itself. The next step for Alemannia Aachen is to recognise that they have a problem with right-wing violence in their fan scene and to do something about it.