While German football was bubbling with joy as Bayern Munich have announced the signing of Pep Guardiola as their new coach for next season, a far worse signal came from Aachen, where the Aachen Ultras disbanded after continuing attacks from neo-Nazi supporters. They felt left alone by the club and the city.
The Aachen Ultras were established in 1999 and have been constant company for Aachen since. However, at a Cup game for the Mittelrheinpokal last Saturday January 12, their singing stopped after an hour, forever. The group have been with the team during their European adventures during the 2004/05 season where the team even managed to survive the newly established group phase of the UEFA Cup and only lost in the round of 32 against AZ Alkmaar.
In the current climate the news that a group of Ultras disbanded would receive mixed reviews but with the background that they did so because of continuous threats from the Karlsbande this decision becomes even more significance and sends out a fatal signal for German football and society.
The fan scene in Aachen is split: On the one side there were the ACU, the Aachen Ultras a left wing group, the Supporters, a group that has become a meeting point for many hooligans and the KBU, the Karlsbande an openly right wing organization. It is not clear whether or not and how the Supporters and the Karlsbande act together but since the former are open to violence, the latter might welcome them.
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung three members of the Ultra group spoke about their reasons. And these are worrying. Members of the group have experienced an increasing threat from the ‘Karlsbande’, a group of fans officially classed as unpolitical. However, it turned out that this group was very open minded about integrating people with racist views. What began as minor skirmishes on the terraces ended with violent attacks on ultra members who were on their way to work, school, university or on a night out. In this climate of continuous threat and the feeling of being left alone by the club, the ultras felt no longer in a position to continue their support for Alemannia Aachen.
The club have not taken any clear stand against racist views in the ground, rather played the incidents down as skirmishes between rivalizing groups of fans. That this was not the case has become clear now. Many comments under reports at 11freunde argued that the Ultras asked for trouble as it were them who brought politics, left wing politics into the ground and therefore other groups simply reacted. Does this justify violence and open racism? It beggars belief to read such a reply in an attempt to justify justice against football fans.
No East German phenomenon
Openly racist views are nothing new in football and the presence of right wing groups in football grounds in Germany is also no unknown factor. Very often though, these phenomena have solely been associated with East German football. During the early 1990s football violence appeared to have erupted but also has the coverage about it as the media were liberated and had no longer restrictions with regards to the topics to be covered.
Hansa Rostock, Dynamo Dresden, BFC Dynamo Berlin, FC Magdeburg, … this list could be continued … are just a few names with ‘fans’ with right wing views up to the point where these are organized just like the Aachen Karlsbande are now. Leipzig has been a particular case with many clubs emerging and vanishing while the fans stay the same. While the media focus was often, it not exclusively on the East of Germany, a neo-Nazi scene could grow almost unnoticed at Aachen and elsewhere in the West. The current German champion Borussia Dortmund not only create headlines with their football but also with news that steward(s) at their ground hold racist views and sympathize with neo-Nazi groups. Even the famous and feted Yellow Wall, the south stand appear to be infiltrated by neo-Nazis or those sympathizing with these. The club’s most notorious hooligan group during the 1980s, the Borussenfront were openly racist.