Sports Plan The far right ‘sneaks’ into the European Football Championship in Germany

Sports Plan The far right ‘sneaks’ into the European Football Championship in Germany
Sports Plan The far right ‘sneaks’ into the European Football Championship in Germany

In Germany, the host country of the European Football Championship, right-wing extremist symbols and gestures of intolerance are not welcome in stadiums and can even be a criminal offence, but the tournament is not immune to the atmosphere created by a noisy minority that has found a way to sneak onto the pitch, into the stands and other spaces dedicated to the enjoyment of the beautiful sport.

Turkish defender Merih Demiral has been banned by UEFA for two matches for making a gesture that the German Interior Ministry considers to be “far-right Turkish”.

The footballer, a hero in Turkey’s qualification for the quarter-finals, having scored both goals in Turkey’s 2-1 victory over Austria, raised his hands in the salute of the “Grey Wolves”, an organisation under surveillance for being extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

The ideology of the “Grey Wolves” is based on a right-wing nationalist, anti-Semitic and racist ideology, according to the BfV, and the Grey Wolves salute is compared in Germany to the “Nazi salute”, a gesture punishable by Article 86 of the German Penal Code, which penalizes the use of signs of unconstitutional organizations.

The ideology of the Identitarian Movement (IB) organisation is also incompatible with the Constitution. It has also been a protagonist in this Euro Cup, as one of its slogans, ‘Defend Europe’, was included on a banner in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin during Austria’s 3-1 victory over Poland in a Group D match.

In Germany, the IB, which is most strongly established in Austria but also has representatives in Germany, is also under surveillance by the BfV for its extremism.

More than just being monitored, the authorities in many areas where public viewing of football matches is prohibited from playing the song ‘L’Amour Toujours’ by Italian DJ Gigi D’Agostino.

The song went viral in part after a video on the Internet in which a group of young people on the northern island of Sylt sang the song featured the phrase “Germany for the Germans, out with the foreigners.”

The recording was condemned by German authorities, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who described the young people’s chants as “disgusting and unacceptable.”

Excessive nationalism under the excuse of football

At this European Championship, groups of Austrian fans have been heard chanting songs inspired by D’Agostino’s song, according to television channel NTV.

The channel also reported how Hungarian fans also remembered the song by carrying a banner calling for “freedom for Gigi” before the match between Hungary and Germany and even before the match between Spain and Italy.

There were also signs of intolerance among fans from the Balkan countries, according to NTV, with groups of Croatian and Albanian fans shouting “death to the Serbs.”

According to Hajo Funke, a political scientist and expert on right-wing extremism at the Free University of Berlin, in a sporting competition of this nature there is always support for each country, but there are also “nationalist tones, such as that of the identitarians of which Austria is an example, or chants like ‘Germany for the Germans'”.

Radical minorities demanding attention

“This means that there are radical minorities who seek to make themselves known through football. It is a shame that this happens because it tarnishes the character of what a tournament like the European Championship should be, an event that should unite people,” he added.

He believes that Demiral’s gesture has caused the German Interior Minister to overreact, drawing attention to right-wing extremism.

“It would have been better if the minister had kept quiet, because we need to be careful and make football matches football matches and thus remove the nationalist tones of a few from the limelight,” said Funke.

The Euro Cup began on June 14, a few days after the far-right forces improved their results in the European elections compared to 2019.

In the host country of the tournament, Alternative for Germany (AfD) managed to rise to the second place in the elections, with 15.9% of the votes.

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