For the admirers of the German football model, and the clubs that are the make-up of it, North Rhine-Westphalia giant Borussia Dortmund are in the forefront of most footballing brains. Their outstanding Westfalenstadion has a capacity of 80,645, it provides a wide range of pricing options accommodating fans of all financial variations and social backgrounds, as well as giving supporters the option of sitting or standing. It is no surprise that they attract such high crowds with the fantastic side Jürgen Klopp has assembled, enhancing not just entertainment on the pitch but also brilliant atmospherics from the most well-known Südtribüne in the Bundesliga - The Yellow Wall. However, German football's yellow phenomenon in the last year has seen a revival of fan culture's darkest connotations - neo-Nazis using football as a political vehicle.
The symbolic return of right-wing sympathizers was a controversial banner, it was reported nationwide after Dortmund's opening fixture to the current season against northern club, Werder Bremen. The banner displayed the words 'Solidarity with the NWDO', NWDO being the notorious right-wing activists in the city: National Resistance Dortmund. Although a small-scale display, distant from the passionate football focused support of The Unity ultras, located in the mid-lower of the Südtribüne it still provides proof of escalating extremes infultrating the stadium - those exact extremes that sneaked homophobic visual messages into the stadium the previous season. The protagonist behind the banner was a well-known neo-Nazi, who already has a concerning record with the German authorities.
|The Unity ultras at Man City|
Fan projects have also been set up to nurture younger fans. Daniels Meyer is one of the Dortmund's bigger project coordinators, the project receives funding from the city state of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as the Deutscher Fußball-Bund(German FA). Meyer said that the projects aim was to "support young fans, and to bring those who have fallen by the wayside back to the centre of society". The project may have learnt and been given a severe wake up call from the path one group took, a group that was previously under their wings, in 1999 - Desperados
Initially the group was set up by ordinary young men, under the guidance of one of Dortmund's biggest fan projects. However, they eventually broke off from the fatherly figure of Meyer and his team. They now have more than 150 members and according to Dortmund's Police Chief Detective the group have a "receptive right-wing ideology". The ultras culture, one of passion and ultimate commitment to supporting your team is unfortunately highly compatible to the dynamics of neo-Nazism. The Desperados just like any other ultras group, will have a 'Capo', which derives from Italian Mafia tradition of having a leader or captain. The Capo will direct the organisation and activities of the group, and in the context of right-wing activism it can prove extremely fatal. During last September a trial took place after a group of Dortmund's alternative youth, who advocate left-wing politics were hunted down by a group of neo-Nazis - one of the defendants was a member of the Desperados. Two months prior to the trial, the Desperados made the trip alongside neo-Nazi group Northside to a National Socialist rally in East Westphalia. It has even been reported that some of Borussia Dortmund's official safety staff are members of the rebellion group, however such high presence is hardly a surprise when considering what goes on outside the turnstiles of the Westfalenstadion, in the city streets of Dortmund.
The Mayor of Dortmund Ulrich Sirau, recently came out and said that his city was a "broken" one. With the evidence supplied, it is hard to argue with his observation. From January to June in 2012, their was 131 right-wing motivated crimes in Dortmund, the largest of all of the cities in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In the year 2000, a year after Desperados emergence such crime was that severe it resulted in the death of 3 police officers, as infamous neo-Nazi Michael Begler went on a rampage before taking his own life. Neo-Nazi presence has even began to make a geographical mark on the city. In the former miners' district of Oderdorstfeld, neo-Nazi skinheads have established their own commune, shutting out other walks of society, in order to preserve their extreme ideology. Its location explains a great deal, the former industrial hotbed of Dortmund has suffered a demise and an increased unemployment rate - a scenario where nationalist and far-right ideals consequently flourish.
The stereotypical neo-Nazi image of the skinhead cult however is relatively exclusive to Oderdorstfeld. The new crop of the extreme right are harder to single out, they dress like normal German football supporters, they're not necessarily active football hooligans, many even have season passes purchased through the club ,and Watzke himself is aware of them. This new movement is under the nationwide right-wing understanding of Autonomous Nationalists(AN). A less distinguishable movement that has influenced the presence of neo-Nazis on Dortmund's terraces. A stark contrast to the right-wing hooligan presence in the 1980s. 'Borussen Front' were a movement present in Westfalen during the time when neo-Nazis were across the whole board of German fan culture, not just Borussia Dortmund. During recent Borussia Dortmund II(reserves) matches in the 3.Liga, many fans have been sighted wearing clothes with the 'Borussen Front' emblem on - signalling a return of aggressive supporter intent. An issue that Dortmund as a club and local government need to address sooner rather than later.
Some say that politics has no place in sport, and in our case football. However, when the right-wing decide to latch themselves upon what they deem as the suitable lower class make-up of football support, it is a great concern. Here in Great Britain we have seen similar acts, only a few decades ago groups like the National Front tried to canvass and attract those who they deemed most suitable to the right - at our very own football stadiums. In more recent times, the English Defence League a break-off group from the bigoted British National Party have done the same. You can only stay apolitical for so long, the discriminating right-wing have no place in the game of football. The game that brings people together, regardless of race, gender or social background. One sincerely hopes that Borussia Dortmund and its fantastic following do their utmost to eradicate the reappearing problem.
|'Stop Nazis in Dortmund!'|