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German soccer team bans fan for antisemitic abuse during game against Israelis

Top league Union Berlin pushes to have individual excluded from all stadiums nationwide, says it has given information to police

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

BERLIN (AP) — Union Berlin has identified a person it says was one of the perpetrators of antisemitic abuse against Maccabi Haifa fans and banned him from the club’s grounds and premises indefinitely.

Union said Wednesday that it has also contacted the German soccer federation to register a nationwide stadium ban against the individual, who allegedly took part in the abuse of the Israeli team’s fans during their Europa Conference League game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on September 30.

The Bundesliga club did not name the fan.

“We would like to thank the Union supporters who showed solidarity with the victims on the evening of the game, and our fan clubs for their clear position. It’s good that we have already been able to identify a perpetrator,” club president Dirk Zingler said in a statement.

“There is no tolerance whatsoever for discrimination at Union Berlin. We have therefore taken all the measures available to us to remove this person from our ranks,” said Zingler, who said the club had also forwarded “all the information we have” to investigating police.

UEFA opened a disciplinary case against the club on Tuesday, without giving a timetable for any decisions.

Union had already responded the day after the match by condemning the “shameful and intolerable” abuse. Zingler apologized for the fans’ actions.

It was the first soccer game involving an Israeli team played at the stadium built for the 1936 Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany.

Members of the youth branch of the local German-Israeli society said Union fans threw beer on them and called them “(expletive) Jews” among other insults.

The Department for Research and Information on Antisemitism Berlin, or RIAS, said visiting fans also faced racist and homophobic slurs as well as the antisemitic abuse.

The Fare Network, which combats discrimination in soccer, said “eyewitnesses were shocked by the levels of antisemitism” at the game.

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

RIAS and the local German-Israeli society members noted that many Union fans tried to prevent the perpetrators from engaging in the abuse. The society members expressed gratitude for the support they received from the majority.

The stadium is usually used by Union’s city rival Hertha Berlin, but it has been taken over by Union for European competition this season as its own stadium in the eastern borough of Köpenick doesn’t have enough seating capacity to meet UEFA demands.

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