The Red Stars ⋆ An Old International

The Red Stars

While Ghana’s footballers are called The Black Stars, the name Red Star is heavily in use in Germany. Red Star Belgrade, one of the great sides of Yugoslavia that often proved to be a banana skin for many European top clubs in the 1980 and European Cup winner in 1991, have involuntarily lent their name to a phenomenon in Germany: there are now various clubs bearing Red Star in their name across Germany.

Roter Stern Leipzig certainly are the one with the biggest media attention right now for all the wrong reasons. However, there are also Roter Stern Nordost Berlin, Roter Stern Lübeck, Roter Stern Flensburg, Roter Stern Halle, Roter Stern Hofheim (read their history here), Roter Stern Altenburg, Roter Stern Bubach, Roter Stern Sudenburg, Roter Stern Düsseldorf and there is even one table kicker club in Bremen with the name Red Star. In total a number of almost 20 clubs in Germany carry the name Red Star in their title. This is post-unification Germany and most of the Red Stars have a political agenda; that of being politically on the left-wing.

Roter Stern Marburg is a book store established in 1969, however it is not clear if the name transports any political views with it and influences the books being sold. Also in the book trading business, Stroemfeld/Roter Stern are a small publishing house based in Frankfurt/Main which originated in the student’s movement in the late 1960s in West Germany. Today the company focuses on critical editions of writers such as Heinrich von Kleist and Franz Kafka, to name two of the biggest ones they did in the last years.

The football clubs however are the main point of attention in this piece. The biggest name of them all is certainly Roter Stern Leipzig; biggest in terms of media attention that is as they ply their trade in the lower regions of Saxonian football. The problem in Leipzig is that football is segregated along political lines as has been pointed out here. Yet, their aim is to stand up to the continuous racism and xenophobia in lower league football in East Germany and this way they have become the focus for Nazi organisations as an ideal target for violent attacks, most notably in late 2009 in Brandis when local Nazis attackd players and fans of RSL at an away game in Brandis.

Austria does have its own Red Star, too. In Vienna there is Red Star Penzing. Originally SC Red Star Wien they went through various guises to become SC Red Star Penzing in 1998. Rooted in Ottakring, a working class suburb to the west of the city, they spent their years at various places in Vienna and have settled in 1975 at the Auto Platz Stadion in Ottakring. Interesting is how they found their name in 1903. On their way home from playing some of them spotted a sign of the Red Star Lines, an American cruise ship company and they decided to have Red Star in their name.

Even in France there is a club currently playing in the third division called Red Star FC 93, based in the Parisian suburb of St. Ouen. The club was established by no one less but Jules Rimet and they have won a few trophies in their hey days during the 1920s and 1930s, including the French Cup on five occasions (1921-23, 1928 and 1942) as well as two championships in 1934 and 1939, making them the most successful of the Red Stars collected here. Not just are they the highest placed of all clubs described in this post, they have even played in the French first division for one season in 1974/75. Austrian football magazine ballesterer have run a story on them recently, in which the club’s president Patrice Haddad openly dreams about the club’s future: Ligue 2 by 2015.

While Red Star Belgrade was a club with a strong communist affiliation, all the other clubs in Germany have named themselves after their Serbian name sake voluntarily, without any political pressure. Their main aim is to offer people the chance to play football or engage in other sports with a background that is left or left leaning in most cases.

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