TeBe Party Army

E- Block International - A Weblog for "Away Fans" of Tennis Borussia Berlin.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Faggots and Football

Although I was away for a long time from Berlin and my favourite purple and white team, I was asked as both a member of a local civilian volounteers network (against prejudice and neo-Nazi activity in my local area) as well as a member of Tennis Borussia to write a short introduction to the TeBe fan scene. This humble article is to be distributed in a school magazine that promotes tolerance, football being the focus of the new issue. Despite my terrible German, solved by some help from my flat mate and some articles to cut and paste sent from other fans, the difficulty in writing the article was really the mass of material and long history of tolerance within the TeBe fan scene itself. Despite my issues with the way the club has been going the last 12 months, combined with my pessimism with the current management and league position, writing this article was probably the push i needed to venture back to Block E and see how things were going last week, because after a few days of nostalgia and thought a little spark of that TeBe magic returned. I remembered my first ever TeBe game for example, the highlights of which can be seen on Youtube.



Back then I had never heard of TeBe - only having just arrived in Berlin I had ventured along to see Hertha basically just to see their opponents in the Champion's League and trips to the football became an opportunity for myself and the other foreign language assistants to meet up, have a few drinks and try to be Berliners for the day. With nothing else to do that evening, and with a few spare tickets flying around, I went along to see the match and saw Herta destroyed by a team I had never really thought still actually existed. That night I was just as impressed by the passion of the fans and the performance of the TeBe team as i was disappointed with the reaction of the Hertha fans. I had made an attempt to like Hertha, i really had, but i never really felt welcome or even safe among their drunken, foul mouthed, intolerant and sometimes even openly far-right fans. Before I had made an attempt to visit a FC Union match but felt a similar feeling of unease even before I got to the nearest S-Bahn station to their ground, leading me to turn round and head back home. BFC Dynamo were never an option for me with their fans' reputation for hooliganism and rumoured neo-Nazi supporters' clubs, so seeing TeBe that day was the first step on the road towards TeBe, this blog and my love for the club and its fans.

As explained in the article I translated for the St Pauli fan tournament last year (see blog archives) a fan initiative, met with acceptance and also some enthusiasm from the club itself, put the so called anti-discrimination paragraphs into the clubs constitution and as a member of the club, no as a currently rather critical and sceptical member of the club, i am very proud of that achievement. Not just because of the words themselves - many clubs in Germany claim to hold similar values - but because the words actually mean something and are mirrored in the opinions, values and actions of many of the fans in Block E. Rather than always being considered an outsider or constantly fearing some form of "fucking foreigner" comment that I could expect or at least have to fear at other clubs, the worst that happens to me is when fans get drunk and try to practice their English on me, leading to hours of amusing conversations based upon misunderstandings or just general nonsensical rubbish - and if i am ever met with confrontation for not being a true German at away matches then i know that i have the support and solidarity of the other TeBe fans on my side all the time without question. The same goes for any visiting groundhopper or tourist in town wanting to see some football - i am proud of the way that they usually keep to themselves a bit at first, not sure of what the score is, act rather defensively after being spotted but soon find themselves being plied full of drinks and integrated into the post-match talks and socialising as if they had been fans since childhood. TeBe fans are an open, friendly and sociable bunch of people - eccentrics maybe sometimes but people obsessed with lower league German football are bound to be a bit crazy.

But it is not just a personal thing - the fans have gone out of their way, despite their different political views, to make football an open and tolerant place. They get involved in many anti-racist football tournaments across Germany, they have made banners and taken part in actions condemning racism in football such as showing their solidarity to victims of a violent neo-Nazi attack in a joint action with fans from Babelsberg for example. Despite differences between the two clubs at management level (both facing the dilemma of sharing almost the same facilities in a time of cut backs) TeBe fans have supported their neighbours, the Jewish team TUS Makkabi, when they were faced with scenes of anti-Semitic abuse and threats of violence that many Germans had hoped the country had put behind it. Players in the youth teams have to take part in seminars on tolerance as part of their training and the fans do not expect intolerance from their players. However bleak the finances were looking, TeBe fans have shown support for the womens' teams at club level and a not insignificant number turn up to cheer the TeBe ladies on at home and sometimes away matches. Female friends I have taken along to TeBe always comment on how welcome and accepted they feel there and I am sure that I am not the only TeBe fan who feels not just pride in the lack of racist, anti-Semitic or sexist comments in Block E but also feels precisely at home at TeBe because of the friendly atmosphere that these standards create - without them TeBe is perhaps just another team in the lower leagues.

But there is one last bastion of prejudice in football that even the gloss over publicity of the football association sees as a Pandora's Box - the question of sexual orientation. The FA did recently organise a day against Homophobia in football, a day that ammounted to an evening at the Olympic stadium and the results of which, if any, still remain to be seen. The sad fact is that football is still not gay friendly. If any player did come out i suspect that even the tolerant dad is probably not going to buy the shirt of a "faggot" for his son as a role model. Footballers can get done for drugs or drink driving, be arrested for domestic violence or caught on camera having group orgies with teenagers or prostitutes but they can still remain male role models and dad will buy the shirt - just do not come out seems to be the unwritten rule and according to BAFF some gay footballers who wished to remain very very anonymous would rather get married, parade sexy girlfriends on their arms in the press and settle down with kids that face the wrath of the press and the fans. Cheered and adored by the fans living a heterosexual lie is preferable to coming out and facing the bigotry and hate of the average football crowd. With the influx of talent from across the world the FA had to address racism, the anti-Semitic chants of fans had to be opposed to avoid scandal, a token effort at least against sexism had to be made to get families into the stadiums and because the FA is also responsible for women's football (Germany being world champions of course) but gay footballers, officials and many fans just have to keep their sexuality to themselves it seems and put up with their preferences being used as a form of abuse and symbolic of weakness, lack of team spirit and poor performance.

With the FA unable and unwilling to take radical steps against the deep seated homophobia in football, any movement on this issue has fallen to the fans and TeBe fans have in their own way almost set a precedent in football here in Germany. Even before my time at TeBe fans dressed up in a gender bending action to make a protest against homophobia in football. TeBe fans when subjected to homophobic abuse proudly chant back that "Purple White is Gay" and have banners to match. TeBe is one of the few clubs where LGBT is not an issue, where players, officials and other fans are not abused in homophobic terms. The Party Army fan team was proud to be part of the Respect Gaymes last year in Berlin and even got the chance to be humiliated by one of the TeBe ladies teams, TeBe fans take part in the annual CSD (Gay Pride) events and the womens' team even had a float in the procession i believe. Whereas gay fans at other clubs chose to form their own fan groupings (if they chose to attend at all as gay men) bi or homosexuality has not played a part in the TeBe fan scene directly, because gay and bisexual fans have been able to openly play an equal role at the heart of the fan scene for many years now, sexuality not being an issue for the E Block Party Army.

So with all this information at my hands it was a difficult job compressing this for the school magazine into a few lines and as I said earlier it was this article that partly gave me the incentive to head back to Block E for the match last week. Now although I didnt hear the comments that were made but have merely read some complaints in some mails i was forwarded, i was disappointed to hear that at the last match there was understandable upset caused by one fan abusing the referee, by saying in a rough translation "open your eyes, you faggot!" One of our fans, who himself is gay, asked quite understandably if somebody else could have a word, he himself feeling that the situation might just escalate if he said his opinion in the heat of the moment or even a few days later. This is very understandable and a noble gesture i feel. But the situation has lead to a rather disappointing discussion and although there seems to be a problem with the mailing list at the minute and I, and at least 2 other people i have chatted with cannot seem to enter a discussion there, wanted to post something, the general feeling after the discussion left is that those who feel personally insulted as gay or bisexual fans are annoyed, willing to accept the apology but feel that there is a tendency among the at least not openly gay fans to plead tolerance and suggest that things arent so bad or that there isnt anything in the TeBe idea that would condone such verbal abuse. For this reason my post. Let me make this clear:

Firstly - One of the great things about TeBe is its tolerant fan scene. It is the reason that many of the fans get obsessed about a trivial lower league football team with a fading smell of tradition and a recent history of disappointment, mismanagement and general bad luck and loser status. This fan scene did put anti-discrimination laws in its constitution and has specifically among other issues openly and publicly acted to oppose homophobic and prejudice based on sexuality in football. There should not be a debate about whether this is historical fact or not.

Secondly - If TeBe are ever going to be anything in the footballing world again (and it is according to this blog at least a big if) then they are going to have to decide pretty soon how they want the standards to go. If I want to compete against the teams i mentioned at the beginning for the drunken, intolerant, partially far-right possible support or whether I personally want to pitch TeBe to tolerant, open, friendly and non-prejudiced people. I, by choosing to be a fan of TeBe rather than the others, have already made my decision and if everyone thinks about it then for many they must also realise that they have answered this question with their feet too.

Thirdly - I cannot imagine how shit life must be for a gay or bisexual player or official out there in the homophobic world of football and would personally like to make at least a difference at TeBe. Perhaps the referee or linesman, or even the players who may have ambitions to play at other clubs or at higher levels do not have the desire or even the need to come out. Even if they wanted to we know it would be madness for them and why should they anyway? If the team plays well I love them and their sexual preferences do not play a role - its just football and outside is their own private life. But for those on the pitch i would like them to feel that their sexuality or sexual desires are not an issue here at TeBe because I think the degree of Homophobia elsewhere is simply a disgrace in football.

But fourthly and most importantly for me - As an intelligent human being, I know that whether somebody is gay or not, whether they fancy men or women, define themselves as such or not, or their choice of sexual partners - I know that all these things firstly have no influence on their ability to play football, support a team or do their job as a referee/ linesman or not. To pretend otherwise would be an insult to my own intelligence. And secondly I know that these differences about people, the variations that there are in sexual definition, preference and desire are not just part of people themselves, but are also one of the great and interesting things about humans as a whole and any discrimination based on sexual preference is not just a restriction on my personal freedoms as a person but takes away from the society and - in this case- fan scene i enjoy.

So why this long and boring post? Well a statement was made that was offensive and an apology was made and accepted but the discussion was opened about the definition of tolerance and the E Block identity. Some pleaded for understanding, others were rightly annoyed and the issue was raised about whether this discussion should be held hidden away in a mailing list. I accept the fact that the apology was made and do not want to name and shame the culprit but i sympathise with those who felt upset by the comments and felt that the openly gay fan fraction was being left on its own somewhat. Perhaps this is just to do with a problem with the mailing list because I and two other friends cannot post there at the minute. So by posting my comments here i would like to make it an open discussion and make it clear that i do not find such comments acceptable myself and that it is not a question of "over sensitive faggots" but that the issue of homophobia and discrimination based on sexuality affect us all.

Keep block E gay friendly and against all forms of discrimination would be my motto.

4 Comments:

  • At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You are absolutely right and I agree. Thanks for this!

    Denis

     
  • At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Kuddel said…

    hellö 2gether,

    ass you know, my english is very very shitty. the problem 4 me is, that ei versteh the text nur on half way.

    can somebody give me the kernaussage of this text, before i make me an eigene meinung?

     
  • At 2:46 PM, Blogger Andy said…

    Well the text explains why i came to TeBe after trying other teams in Berlin - this is because the fans are more open and friendly not just "prollig" drunks.

    Then it explains about some of the nice actions against prejudice that the fans have done in the last few years: banners, tournaments etc.

    It then says that even homophobia that is not taken very seriously by the DFB is frowned upon in Block E.

    It then says that the fan scene should be proud of these values and must try to retain them if the club is going to wake up fom its sleeping giant status.

     
  • At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Kuddel said…

    @andy

    thank u very much

    now i understand and i agree with this bericht totally.

    forza viola!

     

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