Berlin soccer club punished for anti-Semitic abuse during Haifa match

BERLIN, Germany – UEFA on Friday sanctioned German soccer club Union Berlin with a partial closure of the stadium for anti-Semitic behavior by some of its fans towards supporters of the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa.

UEFA said it had concluded its disciplinary proceedings against Union “for the racist behavior of its supporters” during the Europa Conference League match against Haifa at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on 30 September.

It was the first soccer match to involve an Israeli team played in the stadium built for the 1936 Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany.

UEFA ordered the Union to close sections 13 and 14 “where local fans sit” for their next match in the competition, against Dutch Feyenoord on Thursday, and to display a banner with the phrase “#NoToRacism” and the logo of the UEFA in those sectors. .

Union had already identified a person who it said participated in the anti-Semitic abuse of Haifa fans and expelled him indefinitely from the club’s grounds and premises. The club said it also contacted the German soccer federation to register a nationwide stadium ban against the anonymous man.

“There is no tolerance for discrimination at Union Berlin,” said club president Dirk Zingler, who criticized the abuse “shameful and intolerable.”

Maccabi Haifa supporters attend a group E Europa Conference League soccer match between FC Union Berlin and Maccabi Haifa FC in Berlin, Germany, on September 30, 2021 (Michael Sohn / AP).

The Fare Network, which combats discrimination in soccer, said that “eyewitnesses were shocked by the levels of anti-Semitism” in the game.

Fare on Twitter showed photos of a Union supporter who, he said, gave a Nazi salute to visiting fans “and abused those who called him.” Another man can also be seen in one of the images giving a Nazi salute, which is illegal in Germany and punishable by prison terms.

Members of the youth branch of local German-Israeli society said Union fanatics threw beer at them and called them “(expletives) Jews”, among other insults.

Berlin’s Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism, or RIAS, said visiting fans also faced racist and homophobic slurs, as well as anti-Semitic abuse.

RIAS and members of the local German-Israeli society noted that many Union fanatics tried to prevent the perpetrators from participating in the abuse. The members of the society appreciated the support they received from the majority.

The stadium is typically used by Union city rival Hertha Berlin, but has been acquired by the Union for European competition this season as their own stadium in the eastern district of Köpenick does not have enough capacity to meet the demands. from UEFA.

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