A debate of racism surrounded the match between Saarbrücken and Magdeburg in late August. The evidence is thin and there is an element of whataboutism included. Not an easy debate considering all points of view.
It is already a while ago that Magdeburg have caused some headlines for all the wrong reasons. It was the away game at Saarbrücken on August 25 that has left a sour aftertaste. The match itself was pushed into the background by everything that has happened afterwards. Magdeburg took an early lead after just eight minutes through Baris Atik. In the following the hosts took over control of the match and consequently punished Magdeburg’s laxness with two goals after 65 and 69 minutes respectively. If anything, this defeat was deserved and a reminder that this league is not a no brainer and that promotion -should that really be an objective for this season- does not come easily.
Bad Losers and Conspiracies
Here the match report ends and the debate begins. In post-match interviews players of Magdeburg accused Denis Erdmann, formerly of Magdeburg himself, of having racially abused them during the match. He is accused of having said to Sirlord Conteh, who has Ghanaian origins, that he (Erdmann) hopes his parents have to row back to Ghana and that they drown on their way back. The ’N’ word was also cited. Now these are serious allegations and should be subject to an investigation by the DFB. The referee that day did not hear anything and therefore made no notice in his match report. An eye witness from Magdeburg, close to the pitch reported that the abuse was intolerable, indicating that she has indeed heard something.
The hosts, Saarbrücken later accused the Magdeburg players of using these incidents as an excuse for their defeat, labelling them bad losers. However, the visitors admitted that their performance was off that day and that they deserved to lose. The accusations only came later and were first published by Germany’s notorious tabloid ‘Bild’. Magdeburg’s players have not done them a favour to speak to this paper for their allegations. It is as though your house is burning and you are calling the arsonist to extinguish the fire. The correct manner to address this would be to alert the referee who will take action if required.
Baris Atik spoke of this as absolutely unacceptable, as ‘unsocial behaviour‘ even. Of course it is and the DFB has rightly taken action and investigates the accusations. So far nothing has been officially stated or declared, meaning that Erdmann still stands accused of racially abusing his opponent while at the same time no one has brought forward any supporting evidence of those accusations. Magdeburg coach Christian Titz has expressed trust in his players, Saarbrücken have spoken of Magdeburg’s players as bad losers and that they may have conspired against Erdmann. A Saarbrücken even called those allegations dubious.
Should it turn out that these allegations bear no substance, what will the DFB do? Ban the players from Magdeburg? So far, Erdmann has been banned for one game as a consequence but this is a dubious response from the association as Erdmann should be considered innocent unless found guilty.
What adds some piquancy to this matter is that Atik himself stands accused of inciting the home crowd by excessively celebrating his goal in front of their stand and that he further made the salute of the grey wolves, a Turkish extremist rightwing organisation of which some argue that it is the biggest rightwing movement in Germany. This reeks of whataboutism but yet again should be looked at by the DFB. Another explanation is that Atik is born near Mannheim in the Palatinate, thus there is an element of local or regional rivalry at play here.
Whichever way this affair is looked at, it is not easy to solve. There is no evidence except the statements by Magdeburg’s players which are countered by Erdmann’s reassurance and of course statements by his legal representatives. Erdmann himself is a loud mouth and known for his tough and physical style of play. Magdeburg supporters have come to love this man for this and his interviews.
On a personal note: I have not experienced racism as I am white. I have however experienced xenophobia on the pitch and at work and it was difficult to swallow and stay calm in such situations.