The German FA (DFB) have a new old president: Wolfgang Niersbach was re-elected at the general meeting in Nuremberg. Besides this, there was a lot to talk about. Like the men’s team, the DFB missed a chance to discuss some important issues.
The current state of Germany gives those concerned a lot to think about. The country is facing an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. A generation of retired people will face poverty. Despite announcing almost full employment many people can’t make ends meet. This is a worrying trend. The political caste decided to engage in a month long debate about how the grand coalition should work and what its aims are. It seems, policy makers are inhabiting a different world where they ride from success to success.
This exaggerating statement might sound somewhat harsh but nevertheless it is the view of many in Germany. Moreover, ti is a similar situation in football. While at the top the Bundesliga is as successful a product to sell abroad as never before, the game below is suffering immensely. Especially the amateur game. In 2012 the professional game only transferred only €6m to the amateur game; given that there are 26000 clubs in Germany, the amount per club is ludicrous.
The second division might not be affected by financial difficulties as the divisions below. Being relegated from the second tier however, means almost a fall into the abyss of financial struggle and bankruptcy. The third division critically lacks funding from television and other sponsoring and experiences a distortion of their league by the inclusion of the reserve outfits of the teams from Bundesliga 1 & 2.
A campaign to re-gain lost ground has been launched by fans of SC Göttingen 05 at the end of last season. The Glotze Aus – Stadion An campaign has become popular within days among amateur clubs and the next step is the establishment of this movement as a lobby group that is taken seriously by the DFB. ©Benutzer:Hans50 (wikipedia)
The most pressing issue was not even talked about: the most recent attack of a gang of neo fascist hooligans against Duisburg ultras, outside the ground, immediately after the final whistle. Niersbach’s reaction: Football has to be alert in such situations. Politics are back in the grounds, in the stands and it is not for the better. Weeks before the Braunschweig Ultras were banned from the Eintracht ground for causing violence at an away game. Indeed did they caused violence – by being attacked.
In a response to the verdict of their club, the Ultras acknowledged mistakes of the past but it seems, football fans who do not behave accordingly, i.e. spend cash beyond reason and shut up and sit down are no longer welcome in Germany’s premier football product.
This trend is worrying but is certainly not new. No longer is this restricted to East German clubs but has re-surfaced across Germany. Alas, it is neglected as a conflict between rivalling groups of football fans. This drift of an increasing re-politicization of football fans has accelerated in the last 2 years. Clubs and DFB have sent out a wrong signal at almost any instance of violence of neo fascist groups against Ultras or other left leaning groups by playing it down as an internal quarrel between football fans. So much so that those attacked in Duisburg have not yet heard a word of apology from the club or any other wishes of recovery.
The reactions of Wolfgang Niersbach as re-elected president of the DFB are frightening as he appaers to shy away from the problem zones of football instead prefers to stroll the limelight of the successful and glamourous national team. In fact, the whole process does not deserve to be described as an election. It started with the number of candidates for the post: 1 Wolfgang Niersbach and continued with the result of the election: 100%, no dissent, no abstention. Even the East German party SED was smart enough and ‘achieved’ 97% or there abouts in the elections. While it might be easier to influence 250 delegates than a people of 15/16 million, the DFB could be accused of pre-arranging the result.
Football is a mirror of society. As such the issues described above might deliver a perfect copy en miniature of German society in 2013. If this is the case however, Germany might be heading towards a period of consent all round, eschewing the controversial topics and encapsulating itself in a bubble of happiness.