BERLIN, Germany — The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Saturday announced it was launching its own soccer team, after four of its members were barred from entering the official squad.
Echoing the anti-migrant and anti-Islam party’s name, the football team was baptized “Alternative to FC Bundestag” — a reference to the official parliamentary team made up of German lawmakers.
“The AfD’s footballers will together distance themselves from FC Bundestag,” party leader Hansjoerg Mueller told Der Spiegel weekly.
Seven AfD members had sought to join the official parliamentary team, but only three were allowed in.
One of the candidates was barred because he had been served a six month suspended sentence in 2017 for taking part in violent scuffles between soccer supporters.
Mueller meanwhile rejected accusations of intolerance, saying that the team will play against all soccer players “regardless of nationality, religion and skin color.”
The AfD came in third in Germany’s general elections in September, with nearly 13 percent of the vote.
Although it began as an anti-euro party, its rhetoric has veered right to primarily rail against immigration and Islam.
Key AfD members have challenged Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II and the slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust.