FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will Racism Come Home to Roost in the "New" Germany?

The most watched tournament in the universe, the World Cup, opens today amid fears that an open and violent racism could upstage the games, humiliate its German hosts, and provide an international platform for Neo-Nazi swill. The rising number of attacks on non-whites in Germany, combined with a spate of racist sloganeering and taunting of black soccer players throughout Europe, has set the stage for an unprecedented display of racism on a global sports stage. The argument here is that the German government and the EU have only themselves to blame. These are chickens coming home to roost.

The sewers where Neo-Nazis nestle, have been buzzing with using the World Cup as political platform since the day Munich was awarded the games. The German government, however, dutifully ignored the Reich rumblings, preparing instead for the corporate bonanza that accompanies the Cup. Yet the current climate could have been easily predicted if German officials had bothered to lift their face from the haystacks of Euros or recognize the repercussions of their own rhetoric.

First there has been the growing pattern of “football racism” across the continent. In late February, Cameroonian FC Barcelona star Samuel Eto’o almost walked off the pitch after being showered by “fans” with monkey chants and peanuts. Last November, Messina’s Marc Zoro picked up the ball and threatened to walk off the field because of racist chants from followers of Inter Milan. These are only the most well publicized stories. There are countless tales of players of African origin being treated, in the words of one, “worse than dogs.” This has gotten even more play in the United States as US star DaMarcus Beasley has recounted tales of monkey noises and tossed banana skins that trail him every time his foot touches the ball.

This has been aggravated by the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe that has of course become de rigueur in the United States as well. Shaun Harkin, who played for Coleraine FC in the Northern Irish League and captained Brown University’s soccer squad to the NCAA quarterfinals, now works as an immigrant-rights activist in Chicago. He said to us, “The racist abuse players have faced across Europe is an aspect of the growing backlash against immigrants. Immigration from former European colonies has grown. As in the United States, immigration has been necessary for many European economies and a source of cheap labor-but immigrant communities have also been a convenient political scapegoat in a continent riddled with unemployment and increasingly anxious conditions for workers dealing with the repercussions of deepening neo-liberal policies.” In other words,t he German government wants to have it both ways: it’s proper to foment anti-Muslim bigotry, tighten immigration restrictions and attack asylum seekers, but anti-black racism shouldn’t be allowed to sully our reputation or diminish the grandeur of this highly profitable spectacle.

Their political head was firmly ensconced in the sand until a man named Uwe-Karsten Heye upturned the apple car. Heye, a former spokesman for the Social Democratic-Green coalition government, said, “There are small and mid-sized towns in Brandenburg and elsewhere where I would advise anyone [in the country for the World Cup] with a different skin color not to go. They might not make it out alive.” Heye, a co-founder of an anti-racist group called “Show Your Face,” was slammed for his comments. In Brandenburg, State Premier Matthias Platzeck, a fellow Social Democrat, called his words an “absurd slur of a whole region that is no way justifiable.” Wolfgang Bosback, a leading Christian Democrat parliamentarian, denounced Heye for singling out Brandenburg. But Bosback was at least equally alarmed by the prospect that such comments would damage the tourist industry, saying it would be “fatal” if Heye’s comments kept people from Germany.

The government found, however, that people both at home and abroad were more concerned with the message than the messenger. As a columnist in Berlin’s daily Die Tageszeitung wrote, “the fact that non-Germans or non-white Germans can barely move around in safety is [the real] scandal,” not Heye’s comments.

Spurred to action, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble promised that his government would “not tolerate any form of extremism, xenophobia or anti-Semitism.” Shäuble’s solution, from the Dick Cheney school of diplomacy, is to station tanks outside soccer stadiums. Schäuble, it should be noted has “balanced” his promises of combating racism by adding, “Blond and blue-eyed Germans can also become the victims of violence, sometimes attacked by those who don’t have a German (family) background.”

The international soccer body FIFA has made toothless pledges to combat racism at the Cup. Their plans include two “anti-racism days,” where banners will be draped at each game reading, “Say No to Racism”-although they will be taken down at beginning of the game. This is what a FIFA spokesperson called a “clear message.” Thank goodness some players have taken stronger stands. In last month’s European club championship, French superstar Thierry Henry sported an armband promoting an antiracist campaign called Stand Up Speak Up. Henry pushed his sponsor Nike to produce black and white intertwined armbands that demonstrate a commitment against racism. So far, they have sold more than five million. “That’s important in making the very real point that racism is a problem for everyone, a collective ailment,” Henry said to Time Magazine. “It shows that people of all colors, even adversaries on the pitch, are banding together in this, because we’re all suffering from it together.”

In addition to Henry’s initiatives, Muslim and Christian religious leaders organized a very successful Berlin game in early May. The best hope for a Cup without racism won’t be found in the CDU’s tanks but in the numerous antiracist groups in Germany that will be on the ground, including Football Against Racism (FARE), a European-wide network that has pressured FIFA to take concrete measures. FARE speaks for the majority of the world when they say that they want to see the ‘beautiful game’ played without the cancer of racism.” But if the ugly head of hate is raised, the blame should extend beyond the thugs.

Dave Zirin is the author of “‘What’s My name Fool?'”: Sports and Resistance in the united States. Contact him at dave@edgeofsports.com

John Cox is an assistant professor of History at Florida Gulf Coast University, and hopes to see Mexico shock the world in Germany.

 

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail