Ten weeks before the kick-off of the World Cup, Germany is struggling to get a grip on final security issues so it can provide peaceful games for the expected four million visitors.
A worrisome Berliner Tagesspiegel
report on March 30 stated that right-wing extremists, in Germany and internationally, were preparing to disturb the sports event, taking advantage of the heavy workload of the police and security forces. For further provocation, they are planning to distribute a CD containing neo-Nazi music among the soccer fans.
The German extreme-right-wing party NPD, which has repeatedly been on the brink of a judicial ban for spreading fascist ideas, plans to show solidarity with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who enjoys a certain popularity among German neo-Nazis for his denial of the Holocaust and his anti-Israel policy. Freely adapted from this year's World Cup motto "The world visiting friends," the regional NPD group of the east German region of Saxony titles its home page: "We are looking forward to Iran - Welcome to Leipzig!"
NPD spokesman Klaus Baier confirmed that "there will be a major demonstration on globalization, social justice and freedom of opinion on July 9 in Gelsenkirchen (in North Rhine-Westphalia), and other activities during the World Cup will be organized by regional groups."
The German Football Alliance (DFB) is presently taking legal action against the NPD for launching racist propaganda against Patrick Owomoyela, a German national player of African origin. In a World Cup calendar published by the NPD, the player's Werder-Bremen soccer shirt is shown together with the provocative words "White - more than the color of a soccer shirt - for an authentic national team!"
Alerted by the Tagesspiegel
report, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch uble used the opening of last week's World Cup security conference in Berlin to emphasize that "Germany will fight with might and main against rightist extremist ambitions before, during and after the World Cup!"
The two-day conference was attended by 280 experts from 40 nations, and was informed of the unprecedented security measures being taken against all contingencies, from accidents to terrorist attacks.
"First there were doubts about the security of the stadiums and at present we are dealing with human trafficking, forced prostitution and right-wing extremism," said Christian Sachs, German Interior Ministry spokesman, who added that security forces are not only preparing for neo-Nazi activities, but also to meet the motley crew of hooligans, racists and other rightist activists expected to try to disturb the games.
Traditionally the most aggressive and well organized groups of violent sports fans come from England, Holland, Germany and Poland. To prevent well-known hooligans from entering the country, the Treaty of Schengen, which abolished border controls between most European countries, will be suspended during the World Cup.
In recent years, Western Europe has made progress against violent fans with the construction of a database containing the names of up to 7,000 hooligans and involving exemplary cooperation between international police forces. A total of 4,000 British citizens have already been banned from leaving their country during the World Cup, and England has further promised to send 79 "bobbies" to support German security forces and to provide safe games for the expected 100,000 English football fans. British Home Secretary Charles Clarke additionally warned his countrymen that the use of Nazi symbols or slogans was prohibited in Germany.
German police are afraid - particularly with regard to Iran's games - that Polish hooligans could collaborate with German neo-Nazis.
"Nobody wants the football World Cup to be abused as a political stage for extremists" Sachs told The Jerusalem Post
, noting that the latest report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the government body which is closely watching the developments in the neo-Nazi scene) is expected to be ready for the next security conference of the German interior ministers in May.
FIFA president Joseph Blattner used last week's security conference to express his gratitude to the state of Germany "The world trusts Germany - not only the world of sport."