From the Editor’s Keyboard

African fans’ dilemma in Germany 2006

8 June 2006 at 22:13 | 340 views

Our London Bureau Chief, Abu Shaw(photo) takes a look at the racist dangers lurking in Germany as African fans prepare to visit that country to enjoy live performances of the world’s biggest soccer fiesta and to cheer for and encourage their favourite teams.

By Abu B. Shaw

The World Cup, the greatest football tourney in the world, kicks off in
Germany on Friday June 9. Thirty two countries in all qualified for this
year’s summer World Cup. Fans of all the qualifiers have high expectations
with the exception of the five African nations whose fans are weighing the
option of going to Germany or not for fear of their lives.

They face the wrath of racist thugs in Germany if they decide to travel to
the World Cup to cheer their teams to victory. This is the dilemma African
football fans have to contend with at the moment. Their only crime is the
colour of their skin. Africa’s five representatives are World Cup first
timers Ghana Black Stars, the Elephants of Ivory Coast, the Hawks of Togo
and war ravaged Angola. Tunisia’s Lions, this year’s fifth African
qualifier, has now made three World Cup finals, a feat only shared by
Nigeria and Cameroon.

Chances of racist attacks on African supporters are so high in Germany that
the President of the Confederation of African Football, Mr. Issa Hayatou,
has drawn the attention of the German FA to the difficult situation.

Even Mr. Sepp Blatter, President of the world football organising body, FIFA, has
made strong representations by reminding the Germans that sports does not
tolerate racism in whatever state or form.

This chilling impending racist attacks came about when a former spokesman of
the Germany government warned that black World Cup football fans must stay
away from the German capital Berlin this summer for their own safety.

The former spokesman, Uwe-Karsten Heye, gave this warning in mid May when he
noted that black skinned people might not get out alive if they go near the
German state of Brandenburg. Mr. Heye said there are small and medium-sized
towns in Brandenburg and elsewhere where he would never advise anyone with
a different skin colour to go.

Mr. Heye is currently head of Germany’s anti-racism group Gesicht Zeigen
translated as ‘Show Your Face’. “There is a chance they might not get out
alive as Brandenburg has the highest rate of violent neo-Nazi crime in all
Germany’s 16 federal states,” he disclosed. This statistics was confirmed by
a 2004 report in the Domestic Security Agency called the Verfassungsschutz.

World Cup organisers slated Berlin to host the grand finale of the World Cup
on July 9. Five other matches are also to be played in Berlin including the
opening match between defending champions Brazil and Croatia at the Olympics
Stadium on June 13. What is interesting about the Berlin venue is the fact
that no African team is scheduled to play in this city. Whether this
omission is linked to the racist smear of Berlin or not is incomprehensible
as far as sports analysts are concerned.

The German authorities, who are expecting over three million people to visit
Germany in June and July for the World Cup, have tried in vain to play down
Mr. Heye’s racist claims. Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, told the
press that the government is prepared to stop anyone who would try to
attack foreigners and coloured people. The Minister vowed: “I think
whoever will try to abuse the system for political means will fail,
especially extremists of the right wing.”

The UK based, Kick Racism Out of Sports, Director Piara Power, has urged
black supporters who wants to watch the games live in Germany to do so. He
said such evil should not put them off. But he cautioned that precautions
have to be taken when travelling to Germany for the World Cup. “Stick to
streets and areas you know,” Mr Power warned.

This sad episode is a far cry from the joyous celebrations that erupted late
last year throughout Africa and beyond when the continent saw the emergence
of four World Cup virgins namely Togo, Ghana, Angola and Ivory Coast.
National holidays were declared to recognise this historic achievement.

Keep tuned for World Cup updates.