Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
Berlin – Germany coach Joachim Low has joined the criticism of Borussia Dortmund’s CEO after the club’s hooligans attacked RB Leipzig fans, including women and children, before last weekend’s bitter Bundesliga game.
Police made 28 arrests on Saturday after some of the 8,000 visiting RB Leipzig fans were attacked with stones and bottles outside Dortmund’s stadium.
Hooliganism is nothing new in German football, but the violence meted out to RB Leipzig supporters, which included young families, was a fresh low and shocked Germany.
Around 400 hardcore Dortmund “Ultras” turned violent before the 1-0 win over Leipzig, injuring four police officers and 10 visiting fans.
Dortmund police chief Edzard Freyhoff said: “I have never seen such hate-filled expressions in any previous operations. I was shocked.”
RB Leipzig were founded in 2009 by energy drinks giant Red Bull and reached the Bundesliga for the first time this season.
But the club is widely unpopular because of its perceived commercialisation of German football.
Borussia’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke is one of RB’s most outspoken critics and has said Leipzig “play football to perform for cans of drink”.
In a thinly veiled attack on Watzke, Germany’s World Cup-winning coach Low said such comments escalated the situation in Dortmund.
“One can be more cautious and careful with their expressions before such a game,” Low said.
“I won’t name names, but ‘can club’ and so on certainly does not bring the tension down, more the opposite.”
Low said Dortmund’s hooligans must be punished.
“They must be taken out of circulation. It can’t be that families can no longer come to stadiums,” added Low.
German daily Bild has interviewed several RB Leipzig fans who were attacked in Dortmund.
Uwe Eckert, 50, described how a Dortmund fan pulled his Leipzig scarf from behind, then broke his nose, while his 10-year-old grandson watched in tears.
“I reported it to police. At the hospital, they wanted to keep me in, but I just wanted to get out of Dortmund,” Eckert added.
A 21-year-old student identified only as Jessica described being spat at, then hit by flying stones and bottles.
“A member of our fan club was attacked from nowhere by a Borussia fan and had his nose broken,” she said.
Joerg Radek, the deputy chairman of Germany’s Police Union (GdP), echoed Low’s sentiments.
“Obviously there were signals from the Dortmund side before the game which contributed to an atmosphere which favoured the escalation of violence,” Radek told Dortmund newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten.
Watzke says the club is working with police to identify those fans responsible and Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told Bild that the violent fans should be locked up.
“Whoever throws stones and drinks crates at police, and doesn’t hold back against families and children, is in truth not a football fan and doesn’t belong in a stadium, but should be locked up,” he said.
Dortmund can expect to be heavily punished by the German Football Association.
The team is already on probation after fans rioted following its German Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich on penalties last May in Berlin and were fined €75,000.