NEWS

Fan clubs attract extremists

Many soccer hooligans – especially those from Eastern Europe – are extreme nationalists and neo-Nazis. «We are patriots. We organize concerts for the white race,» said a 35-year-old fan of CSKA Moscow. In 1999, members of CSKA Moscow held protest rallies outside the American Embassy in Moscow, protesting the bombardment of their «brothers,» the Serbs. They themselves were accused of violent assaults on members of the Bolsheviks’ National Party. In Greece, skinheads often make their appearance at soccer grounds. From time to time nationalist leaflets are distributed inside and outside the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium on Alexandras Avenue. At matches where the Greek national soccer team is paying, the nationalist Blue Army always makes its presence felt, and one group of Panionios fans calls itself Panther uber alles. However, they are in a minority that is usually ignored, even by the other hotheads in the stands who need no ideological wrappings to express their aggression. In Eastern Europe The same does not apply in other countries, in particular those in Eastern Europe, such as Serbia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Russia. Besides, as criminologist Yiannis Panousis, who has studied the phenomenon of hooliganism, explains: «After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a vacuum in which an entire generation was lost to unemployment, alcohol and Western ‘sins.’ Some of these people become mercenaries who take on various missions. But we must ask who funds their trips. There is some legal pretext for every secret activity and extreme form of political expression.» «We will all fight together in Germany, our spiritual home,» A Czech member of the Fascist Brigade told a major newspaper in Britain. «We target black English soccer players because they take the place of whites,» he added. Late last year in Serbia, a meeting took pace among ultra-rightist hooligans from Croatia, the Czech Republic and members of Belgrade’s Red Star club. Some of those who took part are said to be involved in militias that fought alongside the Serb nationalist leader Arkan. To avert violence at this year’s World Cup, the German organizers are setting up a security umbrella which includes mobilizing NATO surveillance aircraft to follow supporters on the ground. Secret agents will infiltrate organized groups of supporters to identify the hotheads and prevent them from entering the country. German police officers will also travel abroad to patrol crucial points outside their borders, such as airports. Working with police in Britain and the Netherlands, they have drawn up lists of thousands of individuals who have been involved in violent episodes who will not be allowed to travel to Germany.