Age Hareide expressed disappointment after his team’s defeat and the Malmö FF coach was probably not fully briefed shortly after the game, but his words were clear. “We’ve never had problems like this with any other team in Europe. If they have fans who do things like that, they can’t play in Europe,” said the Norwegian towards 1. FC Union.
During the group game between the two teams on Thursday evening in Malmö, there were serious fan riots in the second half. After several rockets were fired onto the lawn and the stands and there was a violent explosion near the away block, the match was about to be called off. Football could only be played again after a 27-minute break.
I’ve been in football for 50 years and have done a lot of European games, but that kills the fun of the game.
The question of guilt, however, was much more difficult to answer than Hareide made it sound like. Because Malmö fans and a group of black-clad chaotic people in the home area next to the guest block, who initially could not be assigned to either club, were involved in the riots. The Swedes coach was undoubtedly right about one thing. “I’ve been in football for 50 years and have played a lot of European games, but that kills the fun of the game.”
Only the Berlin pros were really happy, after two defeats at the start, they scored their first points in the Europa League and significantly improved their chances of staying internationally over the winter. But that was a minor matter on Thursday. “Boundaries were crossed today and I don’t accept that,” said Union President Dirk Zingler and announced that the events in the guest block would be processed.
Even if the situation was very confusing, there are many indications that two factors in particular were responsible for the escalation in the stands: the involvement of several third parties and the security concept, which obviously underestimated the explosive nature of the game. “Everyone invites guests, but then doesn’t control them. It really pisses me off,” Zingler said.
Malmö FF maintains a fan friendship with Hertha BSC
The fact that the Swedish supporters maintain a fan friendship with Union’s city rivals was known in advance and Herthaner are said to have been in the stadium on Thursday. A Hertha flag could already be seen in the Malmö fan block before the riots, and during the break a banner with the inscription “Berlin is blue and white” was also presented there. There were also rumors of BFC Dynamo supporters arriving for the game. But even without external “support” there is a potential for violence in Malmö’s fan scene that should not be underestimated. Only a few days ago there had been riots in the stadium during the league duel with Hammarby.
For this reason, too, Malmö had blocked ticket sales for Berlin fans outside the guest block and only made the minimum contingent of 1,200 tickets available. However, Union fans passed some of these on to people from outside the club. These were apparently supporters of Energie Cottbus and Borussia Mönchengladbach. At least this is indicated by a fence flag from the Gladbach group “Sottocultura”, which is a friend of Union Ultras, as well as photos in social media. One shows a largely hooded man with the Cottbus club logo on the mask.
“We will evaluate that with the guests,” said Zingler. “We have good contact with all of our fans in the stadium. Everyone has to take responsibility and that didn’t work today. That should shake us all up.” Even from a distance it was evident how parts of the Berlin ultras and their capo were trying to influence the violent part of the guest block, but it took far too long to do so. Ultimately, it doesn’t make much difference whether it was Union supporters who fired rockets or just their “guests”. The responsibility lies with the Berlin fan scene and ultimately with the club.
So there was the next unpleasant event in the still young European Cup history of Berlin. Even the game in Rotterdam in the previous season with a completely excessive police operation and the massive difficulties at the entrance in Braga a few weeks ago had little to do with a carefree desire to travel. Now, for the first time, however, Union supporters were clearly (also) to blame for the bad image that this game inevitably leaves behind.
The second leg against Malmo is already next week
As for what happened at the stadium, the clashes in Malmo were a sad highlight. Since the first Bundesliga derby in autumn 2019, a game of 1. FC Union has not been so close to being canceled due to violent incidents. The fact that the first provocations are said to have come from a group that was standing in the block next to the Union fans and could not initially be assigned to either club does not make the escalation any better.
Seat shells flew out of the guest block, rockets were fired onto the field and into the area of the home fans. According to the Swedish newspaper “Aftonbladet”, one ended up in the family block in the upper ring. “There are families sitting in the stands and people are banging left and right. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Europe right now,” said Malmo captain Anders Christiansen.
In recent weeks, there have been serious spectator collisions at several European Cup games, including the appearance of 1. FC Köln in Nice and Eintracht Frankfurt in Marseille. In Indonesia, 125 people died in a panic in the stadium a few days ago. Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence in Malmo for the victims of the tragedy.
Since the second leg will take place in Berlin next Thursday, the focus is not only on processing, but also on preparation. It is not yet known how many fans from Sweden will make the journey to the An der Alten Försterei stadium. The guest block has a capacity of around 2,000 seats. However, Dirk Zingler is convinced that there will be no escalation like in Malmö again. “Here the organizer was completely understaffed, we are better organized in terms of organization,” said Union President. Even the possibility that Malmö’s fans could pass on tickets, for example to friendly Hertha supporters, does not worry Zingler. “We are prepared for that.”
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