Compact discs of Nazi songs will be distributed, bearing the face of Fritz Walter, captain of Germany's team at the world-championship of 1954. A fighter for Germany during World War II, Walter is among the heroes in the European neo-Nazi pantheon.
Though serious, these threats pale in comparison to the plan to attack Muslims and persons of color. Italian fascists who were in the March meeting declared that the Cup will be used to launch a Europe-wide campaign of "ethnic cleansing" targeting Turkish and North-African immigrants, whom the fascists consider "Islamic terrorists."
Initially, Austrian and German authorities denied any knowledge of the meeting. The police in Braunau and Passau -- the German city sitting just across the border from Hitler's native hamlet -- downplayed the significance of the disclosure, stating that it was nothing unusual. Because of the historical relevance of the region for the European right, ultra-right elements hold nostalgic conventions in the area, they said.
However, Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble revealed that neo-Nazis were planning to disrupt the games, "believing the police will be strained." Schauble assured European partners the tournament will be protected without turning it into a "security World Cup." Germany, he said, is considering suspending passport-free travel for EU citizens. This measure would be very helpful, Schauble said, in preventing a deluge of Polish hooligans seeking to pick a fight with German skinheads. Such fights since the fall of the Berlin wall have been a staple of soccer matches between German and Polish teams.
Italian hooligans have been active in the last few years in stigmatizing racial diversity in the Italian soccer championship. Last November during a match between the Sicilian club of Messina and the northern team of Inter, Marc Zoro, an Ivory Coast-born defender for Messina, broke into tears when visiting Inter fans derided him with monkey calls every time he touched ball.
Nazis from Rome, Florence, Milan and Inter have been known to unfurl banners carrying anti-Semitic slurs, swastikas, images of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and slogans promising to use Auschwitz anew against the opposing club's fans. The Ultras-Roma hooligans club's slogan: "Auschwitz is your town, the ovens are your houses."
The European Commission has launched a campaign to diffuse the threats. In the last match between Italy and Germany the two teams sported shirts emblazoned with the EU logo and a double slogan. One on the front reading "The European Union Against Racism," and one on the back stating: "Race? Human!" That was the answer that Nobel laureate Albert Einstein gave to a U.S. customs agent when the officer inquired about his race.
Paolo Pontoniere is a correspondent for Focus, Italy's leading monthly. Barbara J. Matera contributed to this report
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April 5, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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