Football, stadion violence, and DFB escalation tactics

17 Aug

It is no secret that my appreciation for football (or soccer, as the uninitiated North-American populus calls it) is rather limited. I genuinely loose all ability to concentrate when two dozen millionaires shove a ball around to determine who can deliver the most convincing charade of “wounded world war soldier”. Rollerderby is my spectator sport of choice, and likely will remain so. But the German Football Association (DFB) has sported a novel approach to combat stadium violence that is begging for uninformed commentary. And so, I shall deliver.

 

Hooligans afoot

German football has recently suffered some tragedies, and for a change I am not talking about the lost championship of the ladies. No, football in Germany is facing increasing levels of uninvited violence, to a degree where hooligans bring weapons and arson kits, to lay waste to the stadium when the game is not running a favourable course. This aggression has been building for two decades, and has finally reached a level that urges even the otherwise reality-deprived council of DFB officials to act. It started quite innocently with toilet paper rolls being thrown onto the play filed, and over the years advanced to bottles and cans, and finally to fireworks and Molotov cocktails.

The DFB has always exclaimed their sympathy for the victims, while condoning the radical perpetrators, and even punished the football clubs that were associated with the rioting mobs. In the extreme some clubs had to play entire games in a stadium void of any spectators; equivalent to Steven Spielberg premiering his latest popcorn movie in front of an audience that consists exclusively of critics. Unsurprisingly, the clubs and their fans are very unhappy about community punishments like these, because they hurt the sport, and they don’t seem to invoke any positive change – the hooligans just reappear a few games later, and continue their dirty work.

 

Football stadium Southampton

A Football stadium can be home of great joy … and great physical pain.

A political approach

But the DFB would not be one of the richest and most prestigious sporting organisations in Europe, if they had not found a disputable solution for the problem of escalating violence. The DFB has now officially announced plans to engage the radical hooligans in a dialogue, and commit to change the rules in their favour. When prompted upon this new brotherly love for violent extremists DFB officials replied that in the future stadiums might be graced with special sections where, for example, “small fireworks” can be burned. Admittedly I do not understand the logic behind that approach, but I also am not a football fan, so maybe my perspective as an outsider might be useful for the discussion.

The outrage of actual fans over previous punishments that targeted entire clubs is understandable. You don’t close down a supermarket because some of its costumers engage in organised theft. The kleptomaniacs would just follow their practices elsewhere.

However, I find it equally unwise to establish a “lawless section” in every supermarket, or in this case stadium. Certainly, kleptomaniacs will be happy to have an isle where they can steal without fearing legal consequence. And when expensive items get stolen, security will know in which section to look for the perpetrators. But what about the young football-enthusiastic families and fans, in whose name the DFB is discussing those changes? Will parents really be happy to have a stadium section where fireworks are allowed, considering that many people who light football fireworks are also prone to toss them at players and rivalling fans? And what item might be next on the list of special admits – glass bottles; spray cans; flick knifes?

 

may-meltdown

I’ve never seen spectators bring glass bottles or fireworks to a rollerderby bout. It’s not even a rule – people just don’t do it.

Haters gonna hate

Nobody asks for my opinion, but I am so used to being underappreciated that I offer it anyway. Why don’t we go the opposite path, and treat criminals like criminals? Every house has rules, and if an individual breaks them, the house owner has the right to evict and repent that perpetrator. I cannot think of any sport experience that would be enhanced by the occurrence of fireworks and physical hostility. Maybe Blood Bowl, but that’s not a legal pass time activity either.

There is still plenty of space in our prisons, so there really is no reason to let people run free who repeatedly break the rules of fan engagement. Throwing fireworks into the crowd, and beating up bystanders would not be tolerated in a shopping mall, so it really should not be tolerated at a sport event either. It has become sad common practice to ignore both law and community when dealing with powerful minorities, otherwise certain cosmopolitan criminals would not be in charge of their respective countries right now. But it can’t be too much to ask the big, wealthy German football clubs to keep an eye open for violent criminals, catch them, and hand them over to the authorities.

And if you absolutely have to fill a particular section of the stadium with criminals, please let them be pickpockets and exhibitionists. At least the rest of us will have something funny to watch.

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