Press beat column: fear of the counterattack

All Bundesliga clubs are doing something for refugees. That’s good. You had to look with a magnifying glass for soccer’s commitment so far.

The fans of RB Leipzig are also getting involved. Photo: dpa

The name of the campaign probably says more than you actually want to give away. "1:0 fur ein Willkommen" ("1:0 for a welcome") is the name of the German Football Association’s refugee initiative, which has received a significant financial boost these days.

The story of the welcome culture in German soccer has so far been a rather undecided affair. At one time, it even fell dangerously behind, when monkey noises and xenophobic sentiment were not uncommon in German stadiums. Various efforts – especially from the fan scene – helped to bring about a balance. Recently, however, the team came under heavy pressure again. In Aachen, , Dortmund and elsewhere, the right-wing scene was in the process of regaining ground in the stands.

Many of the upright there felt abandoned by the clubs and the DFB in this situation. No wonder, after all, the political agenda of German soccer fits on a notepad: a bit of anti-racism, a bit of fair play, a few red cards for homophobia. Everything presented as strikingly as possible. The marketing departments, rather than conviction, set the tone. With the plight of the refugees, soccer clubs and associations have now been handed a lucrative opportunity to surf along on the wave of generosity.

That may sound cynical. The general willingness to help is welcome. And why shouldn’t the clubs also be rewarded in terms of external impact? Why should the DFB, which had just provided 600,000 euros for its refugee campaign and then realized how magnificently it was received, not only by the refugees, not vow to double its commitment a few days later on prime-time television?

In view of the public emotional drunkenness, however, the sober counter-question must also be allowed: Which professional club can currently afford not to initiate a relief campaign?

A perplexed Thomas Muller

Clubs are under immense pressure to conform. A recent report in the daily newspaper Die Welt entitled "What the Bundesliga is really doing for refugees" was a good example of this. Diversity weeks" are proclaimed, refugees are invited to the stadium, tracksuits and money are donated. At the forefront: FC Bayern. Although many chapters of the drama are being written in Munich, where thousands are arriving every day, not every Bayern player is on top of the zeitgeist.

Thomas Muller was taken aback at a recent DFB press conference when a reporter prefaced a question by saying that the flow of refugees into Europe was, after all, a big topic of conversation among the German national team. When Muller asked how she knew that, national coach Joachim Low and team manager Oliver Bierhoff were named as key witnesses. So the bosses had spoken, and Muller’s just-awakened spirit of contradiction immediately subsided.

The welcome faction currently seems overpowering. However, it’s worth remembering once again the apt assessment of the German Football Association: First of all, it’s about the 1:0. The game is on the line. A quick counterattack and it’s 1:1. It is important to promote a welcoming culture even when you are no longer assured of so much applause and support. In this kind of atmosphere, associations and clubs in German soccer have tended not to cut such a good figure.

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