by: Toby Axelrod - Last updated: 2007-08-20
An anti-Semitic incident in Berlin has led to chaos in German amateur football and there seems to be no resolution in sight.
What started as an extreme example of harassment on the field has led to the advancement of the TuS Makkabi team within the amateur ranks. It's not exactly what officials of the Jewish team had in mind when they protested against the anti-Semitic behavior of fans last autumn.
Beyond the question of anti-Semitism among teams and fans in lower leagues, the issue is a matter of German sport etiquette: For the first time, a team - Makkabi - has gone outside the sports court to resolve a dispute; and, on August 10, the Berlin district court issued a temporary injunction in their favour.
It all started in September 2006, when home-team fans of Altglienicke II chanted "Death to the Jews," "synagogues must burn," and "we're building a subway line to Auschwitz!" during a game against its 8th division B-level opponents, Makkabi TuS, a Jewish team founded decades prior to the rise of the Nazis.
No one made an attempt to stop the anti-Semitic catcalls, according to media reports.
Makkabi captain Vernen Liebermann was ejected after he criticized the referee for not intervening; Lieberman then pulled his team off the field, in the 78th minute. The game was suspended. Makkabi board president Tuvia Schlesinger called it the "worst thing that has happened to a Jewish club since the Hitler dictatorship in Germany," and then turned to the local sport court.
That sport court reprimanded the Altglienicke team and its directors, required the players to attend an anti-racism seminar, and ordered a replay of the game on neutral ground.
The rematch took place in March 2007. During the game, Altglienicke bent the rules and inserted members of its own top team into the ranks of its junior team.
Again, Makkabi turned to the sports court.
In April, Makkabi was awarded extra points and advanced to the next highest amateur league, the A league, leaving Altglienicke in the dirt, and mad.
Altglienicke then appealed, pointing to a loophole that allowed the insertion of top team members into the lower level team. In July, the sports court found in favour of Altglienicke, reversing the bonus points for Makkabi.
As a result, Makkabi would merely advance within the B league. Schlesinger called this an "absurdity." And thus Makkabi became the first sports club to go outside the sports court for a resolution. On August 10 the Berlin District Court issued a temporary injunction, allowing the Makkabi team to advance to the A level. The court found that the sports court had made procedural errors.
The Berlin Soccer Association said it would fight the injunction. The head of the Bavarian Soccer Association, Bernd Wusterhausen, said the Makkabi decision to go outside the sports court symbolized "the bankruptcy of amateur booker," undermining the efficacy of the sport courts.
Olaf Forchert, head of the Altgelienicke Public Sport Association, has been largely silent on the affair. But he told Die Welt that it would "have to come to an end eventually."
Schlesinger said that the sports court had made so many procedural errors, that he had no choice but to go around it. "Are we being treated this way," he said, "because we are an association with Jewish roots?"