Note: This article originally appeared on http://www.inbedwithmaradona.com on 14 March 2012.
Perhaps the greatest enemy of any group of active fans or ultras in Germany isn’t, as you might, a rival group or even in a direct way the police. The greatest adversary of these groups, the thing that really does the most damage, is the Stadionverbot, or banning order. The term may be familiar to many UK football fans as a measure used to prevent out and out hooligans from attending matches or travelling to England away games, but the way they are handled in Germany is fundamentally different. They were originally conceived at the start of the 90s as an extension to club-specific banning orders and can be issued by a club or by the Deutscher Fußball Bund in the event of the following:
- that preliminary court proceedings are opened,
- of a person being arrested or banned from a certain area and there is an additional suspicion that the person concerned wanted to perform a criminal offence
- of weapons or other dangerous objects being seized or confiscated
- of actions or behaviour which violates human dignity
- of a severe violation of the stadium regulations
and are usually issued for a period of between three and five years.
As stated on www.profans.de, the problem with these regulations is that there is often no circumstantial evidence, such as CCTV footage, against fans suspected of such an offence. The police simply announce that they are investigating a fan, the fan is then represented by the club’s fan support project (practically every club worth mentioning in Germany has one) and, without any circumstantial evidence, it is one person’s word against the other. Herein lies the issue: Who can exert more pressure when it comes to a Stadionverbot being issued by a club or by the DFB, the police or the fan support project? And so these banning orders have become a stick with which the DFB and the police can beat ultra groups and fan scenes with – often without any trace of evidence.
One of the most hotly-disputed examples of the recent past involves the fans of fifth-tier FSV Zwickau, and more precisely the ultra group Red Kaos. Zwickau is a small city in south-west Saxony probably best known around the world as home to the Trabant. The football team, FSV Zwickau, enjoyed great success in the early stages of the East German Oberliga, winning the title in 1948 and 1950 and then three cups through the 60s and 70s. However, they were not selected as one of the “elite” clubs by the GDR ruling party and therefore spent the 80s as a yo-yo team bouncing between the first and second tiers. Despite a few seasons in the 2. Bundesliga in the late 90s, the club has suffered from the same problems as most other former Oberliga clubs – lack of investment – and now find themselves in the fifth tier.
Despite the level of football on offer, FSV Zwickau has one of the most active ultra scenes in Germany. The ultra group is known as Red Kaos and has been around since 1997, making it also one of the oldest in Germany. Their tifos and constant support are well renowned around Germany and they are also leading campaigners for tolerance, respect and freedom in football stadiums. Back in 2010, a friendly was organised with BSG Chemie Leipzig, another club with a large ultra movement, without any police or security being present. The aim was to show that being an ultra does not automatically mean that you are a hooligan hell-bent on causing riots – a fact often lost on most mainstream media outlets. In March 2010, FSV Zwickau found themselves in severe financial difficulties; so severe in fact that withdrawal from the league was threatened if a relatively-minor outstanding payment of €2,800 wasn’t made to the league authorities. The debt was cleared and it was announced that the majority of the funds had originated from the FSV fan scene, mostly down to the fundraising efforts of Red Kaos.
Fast-forward a year or so to the end of the 2010/11 season and FSV Zwickau seemed to be on stable financial footing, albeit without much sporting success. A new stadium was being planned to replace the ramshackle Westsachsenstadion and the club would be moving out in order to facilitate the planning and construction. The last match at the old WeSa would be against Borea Dresden. Of course this meant the end of the Zwickau fan scene’s home as they knew it. As Red Kaos themselves stated in their post-match press release: “Block E has been our home for the past 14 years […] This is where we have experienced all the ups and downs, made an active contribution to the development of our FSV and given football in Zwickau an unmistakable character.” Red Kaos obviously wanted to bid farewell to the place where they had formed in their own special way. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
According to the Red Kaos statement, the night before the match around 80 fans had had a party in and around their fan block (Block E). “This had been cleared with the FSV board and wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary, after all it’s our home and we regularly go in and out.” In the morning, the club officials inspected the pitch and the terracing and requested that a few items be covered up and a few empty cans and other rubbish be removed. Again, no problems from their perspective either and this was carried out immediately. Then the police requested that all fans leave the block whilst they checked sleeping bags and tent bags, probably in the hope of finding pyrotechnics. A rumour went around that the police had indeed found fireworks (something strenuously denied by Red Kaos) and that they wanted to close Block E for the match. Presumably under huge pressure from the police, FSV director Gerhard Neef notified the fans that Block E would indeed remain closed for the match.
This was obviously an absolute disaster for the Zwickau fans. Months of time, money and planning had been for nothing and they believed they had been robbed of the one final chance to bid farewell to their home. This was something they were not just going to lie down and take, especially after the effort and dedication they had shown to help the club in its time of need. Around 100 ultras gathered outside the main entrance and decided to enter the block anyway, even though they had been “allocated” another block by the police. In the papers the next day, the talk was of “hooligans” and “rioting” despite there being nothing of the sort. “In terms of our reaction,” the Red Kaos statement continues, “we made a conscious decision to act without using any face masks or ANY sort of violence whatsoever. We didn’t want a riot. We just wanted to be in our block.”
The referee called the match off, with club officials and directors blaming “so-called fans” and promising to prosecute all involved. Sure enough, around 30 banning orders of between 2 and 3 years in length were issued by the club (again, surely under pressure from the police), all of which involving members of Red Kaos. The treatment of any group of fans in this manner is at best questionable, but to dismiss young, active fans who have made a vital contribution to the clubs existence – both in terms of active support and financial support – as “rioters” and “so-called fans” and treat them with such disregard is beyond the pale.
As a result of almost half of their number being unable to enter the stadium, Red Kaos have decided to discontinue all active support inside the stadium until the bans are overturned. But this doesn’t mean that Red Kaos just sit at home whenever FSV Zwickau have a match to play. They still travel to each match, lending their support through gates or fences or from hilltops beside stadiums. “We will continue to dedicate ourselves to the club because FSV is our life”. Somewhat paradoxically, FSV Zwickau are having their most successful seasons in recent years and are currently on course for promotion to the Regionalliga (fourth tier). They even knocked out holders and big fish in small pond RB Leipzig out of this year’s Sachsenpokal regional cup competition, the winners of which qualify for next year’s German Cup. All of this is being achieved without Red Kaos, and maybe the club officials and directors prefer it that way; it’s less trouble for them after all. Obviously, dedicating your life to a football team as ultras do should not mean that you are entitled to do what you want, but there is a worrying increase in the extent of the repression and power exerted by the police and those in charge at clubs in Germany and other European countries. It may not be for everyone, but there’s no doubt that ultras and active fan scenes represent the lifeblood of football clubs. Ultras liberi.
In the district of Leutzsch in north-west Leipzig, surrounded by countless allotments and acres of forest, is the almost idyllic Alfred Kunze Sportpark. The eclectic mixture of dilapidated terracing, overgrown passageways and battered temporary buildings blend into the surrounding forest seamlessly. For most, it’s an old and decrepit, for others it’s full of character – a relic of years past – and for the fans of two football teams, it’s simply home.
BSG Chemie Leipzig and SG Leipzig Leutzsch met on Sunday for what is probably the strangest derby in German football. To understand the significance, we firstly need to be delve into the history books. Although BSG Chemie Leipzig can trace its roots back to 1899, the first true descendent of football in Leipzig-Leutzsch is SV TuRa Leipzig which was founded in 1932. Like many other German sides after the second world war, the club underwent countless name changes and merged with a number with other clubs before eventually settling on BSG Chemie Leipzig in 1963. A year later, the club enjoyed its finest hour, winning the East German Oberliga title with a team consisting of leftover players not considered good enough to join elite, state-supported clubs. (For more on the Leutzscher Legende, check out Bundesliga Fanatic’s article here.) Success has been hard to come by since then. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, BSG Chemie Leipzig was renamed FC Sachsen Leipzig. The club managed to sustain its position in the third division throughout the nineties, but only on a couple of occasions threatened to make the step up to the 2. Bundesliga.
Away from the sporting side of things, FC Sachsen Leipzig developed a unique active fan scene around the turn of the millennium. Diablos Leutzsch were formed in 2000 on the wave of mentalita ultrà spreading around Germany. In contrast to the prevalence of questionable and even openly right-wing views within the active support of city rivals Lokomotive Leipzig and other local scenes such as those in Erfurt, Chemnitz and Halle, Diablos Leutzsch turned FC Sachsen Leipzig into the home of an “alternative, tolerant, openly anti-fascist fan scene”. Their ever-present vocal support at FC Sachsen was backed up with colourful, imaginative fan choreographies.
Diablos Leutzsch increasingly lost touch with what they saw as the club abandoning its traditions in the search of sporting success. The arrival of Michael Kölmel and Kinowelt AG at the now ailing FC Sachsen Leipzig, and the total financial dependence on them as a result, proved to be the last straw. Diablos Leutzsch decided to resurrect the former name BSG Chemie Leipzig and formed their own club down in the 13th tier. Of course, this led to fractures among the fan scene. Many older FC Sachsen Leipzig fans saw the departure of the Diablos as treachery, the abandonment of the club in its hour of need. Indeed, this is one of the core reasons for the existence of SG Leipzig Leutzsch, who we’ll get on to shortly.
In the 13th tier, the Diablos found the freedom they had been looking for, away from the disparaging views of older FC Sachsen fans who didn’t really understand the idea of ultrà, and sadly also away from an ever-increasing right-wing presence on the terraces. Forbidden from the FC Sachsen Leipzig board from playing at the Alfred Kunze Sportpark, BSG Chemie Leipzig hosts their home matches at the Willi Kuhn Sportplatz in the west of Leipzig. FC Sachsen continued to fight bravely against financial meltdown but fourth- and then fifth-tier football wasn’t getting enough people through the turnstiles to prop the club up. With the Diablos gone, the Alfred Kunze Sportpark was practically silent and the feisty atmospheres of less than a decade ago merely a memory.
When FC Sachsen Leipzig finally succumbed to the financial pressures and was liquidated in 2011, it appeared to pave the way for BSG Chemie Leipzig to “inherit” the remains of the club and finally move back home to the Alfred Kunze Sportpark. However, a consortium headed by Bernd Bauchspieß, member of the ’64 title-winning side and three-time East German Oberliga top scorer, and Jamal Engel, former manager and youth team coordinator at Sachsen Leipzig, announced they would be forming a new club by the name of SG Leipzig Leutzsch.
The motives for this decision soon became clear: SG Leipzig Leutzsch’s new manager Jamal Engel stated publicly that there were sponsors willing to invest money in “Leutzsch football”, but not in a club where ultras played such a leading role. Whether that was entirely true will never be found out, but Engel has continued his anti-ultra sentiment ever since. Ever since its foundation, the club has been shrouded in mystery and, unfortunately, the right-wing element that was present at FC Sachsen in the latter days seems to have taken hold. Incidents in SG Leipzig Leutzsch’s eventful first season included a variation on the Hitler salute and anti-Semitic abuse being aimed at supporters of Roter Stern Leipzig in a cup match and the prominent presence of known neo-Nazi activist Thomas Gerlach at home and away matches (on the right) as part of the Lucka Supporters fan group. Despite the presence of two separate clubs fighting over the same inheritance, the presence and actions of SG Leipzig-Leutzsch fan base are, if nothing else, a vindication of the Diablos’ decision to distance themselves from that part of the fan scene in Leutzsch. As a Chemie-supporting friend put it, the existence of SG Leipzig-Leutzsch is, in principle, not a bad thing, given that all the wankers go there instead of to BSG Chemie.
Nevertheless, what this all meant was both clubs began the 2010/2011 season in the same stadium and the same league: the sixth tier Sachsenliga. On a cold and rainy autumn day at the start of the season, the two met for the first time and played out a drab 0-0. Unfortunately, despite a promising start, BSG Chemie neared the end of the season occupying an upper mid-table position, out of touch of the two promotion spots. SG Leipzig-Leutzsch also had nothing to play for, and so the second meeting in April was all about bragging rights. A glorious 0-1 for BSG Chemie which was duly celebrated like a title win in a rammed away end.
Approaching the ground on Sunday for the first derby of the new season, it was soon clear that something was different. It quickly transpired that Chemie fans were boycotting the match, instead choosing to have a barbecue and a bit of a party outside the ground. It turned out that this was in protest at 16 stadium bans being handed out for an incident at last year’s derby where a ticket office was attacked and stewards injured. The stadium bans were applied for by SG Leipzig-Leutzsch manager Jamal Engel the week of the derby and duly confirmed by the police and regional football association – why they weren’t applied for straight after the incident is a mystery, but Engel’s motives are clear: one-upmanship and a targeted attempt to hinder the BSG Chemie support. There’s no doubt that the incident last season was a criminal offence and that the guilty parties should be brought to justice, but the issuance of 16 stadium bans seemingly at random appeared to bear no relation whatsoever to the actual crime.
Chemie fans were offering “Solikarten” to show solidarity for the boycott instead of paying entry to the ground, with the money going to BSG Chemie instead of SG Leipzig Leutzsch. After all, a boycott would cost SG Leipzig-Leutzsch a six-figure sum with 500 Chemie fans expected and tickets priced at €7 each. Before the match, Chemie fans had been kettled outside a pub around the corner – police reports picked up by the press spoke of “150 rioting Chemie fans”. In reality, Mr Gerlach had made his presence well and truly felt outside said pub, which the Chemie fans weren’t that keen on. Make of that what you will.
In the actual match, SG Leipzig-Leutzsch – who quite unbelievably played in orange bibs on account of the green-green colour clash – ran out 2-0 winners. The general consensus outside the ground was that the first one was offside and the second was handball.
The future prospects of both clubs aren’t exactly secure. Word went round before the derby on Sunday that the SG Leipzig-Leutzsch management needed average crowds of 2,000 to cover costs. Sunday’s official attendance was 1195. As for BSG Chemie, the committed fanbase rooted in ultra culture is a real asset and, I hope, as long as they are behind the team, they have a chance of surviving and revisiting some of the glory days.
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.