Alemannia Aachen’s Return to Professional Football Overshadowed by Resurgence of Right-Wing Extremists

As of: April 11, 2024 2:36 p.m

After eleven years in the fourth division, Alemannia Aachen is about to return to professional football. But the success is also attracting right-wing extremists again – that dampens the euphoria.

If proof were needed, Easter Saturday provided it: A sleeping giant awakens. 29,500 spectators saw Alemannia Aachen’s regional league game against Fortuna Cologne at the Tivoli. After eleven years of fourth division and financial turbulence, the third division is within reach. And yet, alongside euphoria, there is also fear among the fans. “Always the same dirt,” says a young woman, “born into this club,” which now follows a “well-known pattern”: dealing with right-wing extremists is disturbing.

Comeback Judge Hooligans

She calls herself Sophie, but she doesn’t want to read her real name. The experiences from 2013 have burned themselves too deeply. Aachen made headlines across the country at the time. Right-wing extremist hooligans, including the right-wing fan group “Karlsbande”, had beaten the “Aachen Ultras 1999”, who opposed racism and homophobia, out of the stadium. At Sophie’s house, swastikas were sprayed on the house wall and windows were smashed.

Today, “the potential for violence in the background is much greater,” says another fan: “These people are openly violent, brutal, criminal. And that also increases the danger level for the fans.” Like many other supporters, he found a lot of evidence on the Internet, which ensured that on February 29th “Zeit Online” was the first to report on the comeback of right-wing hooligans at the Tivoli. The club recently defended itself with a statement. They are strictly against right-wing extremism. The club did not respond to current inquiries from the sports show. Although our research also shows: Alemannia is heading into dangerous waters.

Fans as warnings

The whole city is excited about the revelations, says Aachen member of the Bundestag Ye-One Rhie (SPD). Many would only express their opinions behind closed doors. And yes, she understands the fear of a repeat of the violent excesses of 2013. At that time, the city “did not try to resolve the conflict, but actually sat it out – and that caused trauma for many fans.” The “Karlsbande” banners soon reappeared in the stadium.

“I believe that the fans today are the warning voices that existed back then, but no one listened to,” says Rhie. And the fans? The sports show spoke to some of them. Everyone says that the current network doesn’t shy away from intimidating critics in private with physical and psychological violence. “So it is not an open conflict, as it is well known who has the monopoly on violence.”

Kevin P. is the focus

One person they fear most of all: Kevin P.. Not seen at the Tivoli for years and now close to the club’s management again. “The ‘never again’ is taking a back seat at the club,” complain the warnings. Kevin P. poses in photos with the club’s supervisory board chairman Marcel Mobertz and managing director Sascha Eller. At Easter, P. thanked them again for their “loyalty” on his Instagram channel.

In the past, there were no two opinions about Kevin P.’s views: openly right-wing extremist. But he has repeatedly stated that he has distanced himself. But is that true? P. does not answer these and other questions from the sports show. Bundestag member Ye-One Rhie says: “I think it’s a very noble goal to give everyone a second chance. I just lack faith because of the things that are presented to me, because of his own online presence and his statements that he wants to be rehabilitated.”

Glorification of violence and misogyny

Although Kevin P. has not been a member of any established right-wing extremist structures for some time, he represents ideologies such as the glorification of violence in the sense of the law of the strongest and is also openly aggressive and misogynistic online. He called one of the authors of the Zeit Online article “a son of a bitch with a pen” on Instagram, and he also expressed the opinion that women have no place in the stadium.

When an Aachen player was linked with a move to unpopular rival Rot-Weiß Essen in May 2023, he showed him on his Instagram account already wearing the RWE jersey – and with three Israeli flags. This can definitely be seen as anti-Semitic. Rhie also demands that Kevin P. now publicly commit to the free-democratic basic order “also for the benefit of his beloved club.” Also: no answer from P., nor from Alemannia Aachen.

Fear of becoming a target

In a podcast in 2023, Kevin P. stated that he was no longer a neo-Nazi, but: “I am ambivalent, yes, I am a violent criminal, yes, I am a hooligan. I have really done things in my life for which I should be behind bars for a long time . Let’s put it this way. I don’t give a shit about any of them.” In 2018, P. actually went to court with a friend – it was about pimping, among other things. At that time, Kevin P. was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison on probation for two cases of extortion.

Behind Kevin P. is the 520 boxing team, which is open in the stadium with its own block flag. That would frighten many people, but there would be no open criticism, “for fear of becoming a target,” says one fan. The boxing squad – they are so-called “field fighters”. Hooligans who meet with thugs from other clubs, blood flows in the open field. “If the boxing team knew who we were, then we wouldn’t be safe anymore,” the fan continued.

Sophie calls for stadium bans for right-wing fans and a ban on banners for right-wing fan groups. Otherwise, the club’s statement, as well as the display of a poster with the inscription “Against racism – against extremism” by those responsible and players in the stadium on February 10th, is “simply hypocritical”.

This poster campaign was the reaction to public pressure following a statement at the end of January, when the club management justified their absence from the Germany-wide anti-right-wing demonstrations as follows: “We will expressly not take part in the division of society.” Alemannia received applause for this from the AfD – and many neo-Nazis. Alemannia deleted the post and apologized.

Alemannia’s club management considers P. to be reformed

For the critics, however, this was more than just carelessness. “The lack of demarcation is not an oversight, but the result of years of proximity to right-wing actors and their influence on the club,” says a long-time fan. He and others fear that the Aachen fan curve will be misused to recruit for the extreme right – as before the turn of the millennium. Kevin P. plays a key role here with his network in other right-wing football hooligan scenes.

According to Alemannia, Kevin P. is now above all a reformed benefactor. Through his own association, founded during the pandemic, he supports those in need in the city. Right-wing parties such as the Third Way also do this elsewhere – and for observers it is: the social cloak over the brown robe.

The Alemannia sends players to food distributions organized by P. to poor people – and donated the proceeds from discounted VIP tickets to his club. Managing director Eller told the WDR local time Aachen in March: “I think he became who he is because of the life he led before: That’s why he developed into someone who wants to help people.”

Club goes on counteroffensive

Rhie and others may not believe this. One fan puts it this way: Alemannia is “not a right-wing extremist club”, but “an example of how difficult it is for civil society actors to openly address right-wing extremism.”

To refute this impression, the club went on the counteroffensive. The club’s cosmopolitan mission statement was recently referred to in writing again and emphasized: “Alemannia expressly distances itself from any form of extremism, especially right-wing extremism.” The board also sent a list of questions to the local police and published excerpts of the answers. There is “no information available about right-wing extremist structures within the Aachen fan scene.” Critical fans say: “Overall, the announcement can be classified as clever PR.”

The head of the Aachen fan project Sebastian Feis is more cautious. Yes, there are these fears – and there are also fans who come to the stadium with right-wing fashion labels. This was pointed out to Alemannia. “It is important that the club now makes it clear that it will not create a feel-good atmosphere for certain people.”

“Alemannia doesn’t understand the problem at all”

Patrick Arnold from the State Working Group (LAG) of fan projects in North Rhine-Westphalia becomes clearer. “The sporting success allows problematic fans with right-wing views to find their way back to the Tivoli.” These include many right-wing extremists and martial artists with neo-Nazi backgrounds. “I think Alemannia Aachen doesn’t understand the problem at all – or doesn’t want to understand it: extremely violent fans are found at the Tivoli and spread fear.”

The fact that these violent criminals and right-wing extremists seem “like part of the family” due to their proximity to the club’s management is now “a bitter reality of life” for many fans. Anyone who openly says something against this will immediately be massively threatened. This actually reminds him of 2013. According to Arnold, Alemannia’s board is playing with fire: “It’s crazy that the club is offering a forum to such people again – despite its past.”

2024-04-11 12:36:00
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