A disturbing development has come forth in German soccer. Most of you have heard of neo-Nazi influence in some of the fan groups, but in Germany it’s largely been believed that this is only a problem in the former GDR. For clubs like Hansa Rostock, Dynamo Dresden and obviously Dynamo Berlin, it’s been a major problem. The so-called “Ultra” groupings in the west tend to be more left-wing or non-political in their outlook. Some right-wing supporter groups have been popping up however among “traditionals”, and in a somewhat German twist, rather than fight with other clubs, these groups have started pummeling their own rival fan groups within the club.
Alemannia Aachen has been struggling with this phenomenon. A right-wing group, the Karlsbande attacked the left-wing Ultras after a road match in Saarbrücken. (Presumably any Saarbrückers spoiling for a fight didn’t know what to think.) Some 10-20 fans were injured, and the local police was too stunned to react.
Aachen has long been the scene of a political show in the stands. The ACU-Ultras have frequently demonstrated against “Fascism, Racism, Violence and Homo-phobia”. The Karlsbande started as a split from the Ultras, from fans that wanted to be non-political. However after a short time, the neo-Nazis began to take over the group. One of the vocal leaders is supposedly Sascha Wagner, youth leader of the NPD (a semi-banned right-wing party). This has led to continuing strife between the two groups, as the Karlsbande has taken upon itself to rid the stands of Ultras. In an interesting aside, there seems to be some implicit support from the silent majority of Alemannia fans, who are tiring of the constant politicizing of the Ultras.
So what kind of numbers are we talking about? In reality, the vast majority of fans are exactly that: football fans. For Aachen, the club has maintained a strong level of fan support, and even though they’ve dropped to the 3.Liga, they still manage around 12,000-15,000 attendance per match. Estimates show that the ACU Ultras have about 80 hardcore members, and the Karlsbande about half that. So although their numbers are small, through their actions the groups wield disproportionate influence in the stands. They become the proverbial bad apple in the barrel that ruins it for everyone. (Obviously not all fan groups cause trouble, but the clubs and league have recently proposed steps to clamp down that have led to protests among all fan groupings across the spectrum. There was a recent “12-12″ protest across Germany where fans refused to enter the stadium until 12 minutes, 12 seconds to show their displeasure. However I doubt any of the clubs lost much sleep over that….)
To stem the recent violence, Alemannia has reacted by banning all material that references the Karlsbande, such as flags, banners, and prevents distribution of the magazine and any flyers. The ACU-Ultras have taken to build alliances with other left-wing oriented Ultra groupings, such as St.Pauli, Babelsberg and Munster.
Other clubs also seemingly having a problem are Düsseldorf and Braunschweig, like Aachen, having spent many years in the wilderness of the lower leagues. In the Bundesliga, reports have pointed fingers at the famous Südtribune terrace as having some problems with right-wing rowdies.
If you’re interested, you can get some additional info on the “Fan-Kultur” from the site in the “Essays” section: You’ll never walk alone: German Fan-Kultur