PtG Article 04.10.2011

Football hooligans rule in the streets and in right-wing extremism

An acceptance of hooliganism is growing and fuelling both right wing extremism and corruption, warned a trio of academic researchers at Play The Game 2011. In Argentina, clubs pay fans not to cause trouble whilst in Germany hooligans are central to organising right-wing extremists.

“Right wing extremism is a permanent phenomenon that happens in secret,” said Ronny Blaschke, who studied links between football hooliganism and right-wing extremism in Germany for his book, ‘Attack from the right – political extremists in football.’

Blaschke cited a recent survey showing that 49 percent of Germans feel there are too many immigrants in Germany and showed evidence of racist literature referring to the Holocaust produced by football hooligans in Leipzig obtained outside the stadium.

He added: “We don’t see that anymore [inside the stadium] but that doesn’t mean people have lost those attitudes or people are suddenly tolerant.”

Mr Blaschke spoke to Play the Game of links between the National Democratic Party and right wing extremist football hooligans known as the Blue Caps who act as security for the right-wing German political movement.

He also referred to the collapse of former East German club Lokomotiv Leipzig in 2003 and how the revival of the club was hi-jacked by extremists who wanted to ‘build up a right wing football club.’

Mr Blaschke said: “They wanted to re-animate the club and needed everyone; they didn’t care if people that joined represented a politic that wasn’t accepted.”

When these extremists were eventually excluded from the stadium, their racists and homophobic activity simply continued elsewhere with football used as a vehicle to spread this rhetoric that goes largely ignored, added Mr Blaschke.

“Right wing extremism is moving out of the stadium,” said Mr Blaschke, adding: “Journalists are not really interested in a permanent coverage.”

Business fosters accept of violence

Acceptance of hooliganism was also the theme of a paper entitled ‘Let’s Save Football’ from Monica Nizzardo, who runs a support and lobby group for victims of football hooliganism in Argentina called Salvemos Al Futbol.

“Violence appears because football is losing its essence as a sport; it’s too much of a business,” she cautioned. “People keep saying that football is a business and we must look the other way when something is wrong. Whoever breaks the law should be punished but that is not the case.”

Ms Nizzardo criticised clubs, the Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (AFA) and politicians for all lacking the will to tackle hooliganism and insisted that self-interest too often prevailed with clubs often paying fans not to cause trouble.

She claimed that police do not want to tackle hooliganism either, adding. “Many crimes go unpunished.”

Police benefits from violence

Argentinian radio and television journalist Javier Szlifman told Play the Game that responsibility for violence at football went well beyond the responsibility of supporters.

Using two attacks by controversial AFA president Julio Grondona on referees during the 1970s, he said: “Violence was not restricted to the hooligans.”

Mr Szlifman insisted that there is a lack of co-operation to what he described as the ‘business of violence’ with clubs paying fans not to cause trouble. He suggested that continued problems in Argentine stadia at matches means that the police actually benefit with clubs paying the authorities for more officers, who continue to do little or nothing to reduce hooliganism for fear of losing an additional source of income.

Instead, argued both Mr Szlifman and Ms Nizzardo, the police and the clubs have simply accepted that hooliganism is now simply part of football in Argentina – a view also accepted, he suggested, by the media.

“For the press in Argentina, violence and loss of life are a natural part of football,” concluded Mr Szlifman. “The violence has become one more ingredient of Argentine football.”