DFB President Bernd Neuendorf stands next to the campaign motto...

DFB President Bernd Neuendorf stands next to the campaign motto "Football time is the best time against racism" at the launch of the DFB's anti-racism campaign in Berlin, Germany, Monday March 18, 2024. Credit: AP/Soeren Stache

BERLIN — The German soccer federation is targeting racism and discrimination among fans and amateur players with a new campaign ahead of this summer's European Championship.

The federation presented its two-pronged strategy on Monday with a video message under the motto “Soccer time is the best time against racism.”

Fans will be encouraged to take part on social media, and a new pilot project taking anti-racist measures to amateur clubs in the Northeast German Football Association was launched. The pilot project will run through 2025 before being extended to other areas.

“Everyone can do something against racism, not only the players, but we want to reach spectators, and parents when it comes to youth teams, to raise awareness of this topic,” federation president Bernd Neuendorf said during a visit to kids from the amateur club SFC Stern 1900 in Berlin.

“That’s why it’s so important that we take a broader view and not only notice what’s happening on the professional fields at the weekend,” Neuendorf said. “We also have to clearly address the fact that it’s a general problem in society, but also in football. And that includes amateur football.”

The federation has had to deal with hateful abuse directed online at the Germany team that won the Under-17 World Cup last year. It announced in December that it was working with the public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt to identify the perpetrators.

Gerald Asamoah, who made 46 appearances for Germany, was the target of racist abuse from Hansa Rostock supporters shortly after being feted as a hero at the 2006 World Cup.

“It was disappointing to be marginalized like that just a few months later,” said Asamoah, who sees Euro 2024 as “a huge chance to make amends, and I really believe we can do it.”

Asamoah said it takes civil courage for people to speak up about racism, and said he was more confident now than he was in 2006 that people had the courage to speak up and confront it.

He also took encouragement from the level of political action against racism, and the fact that it’s an important issue for the federation.

“When I compare it to my time, when I was marginalized in the youth teams, it didn’t interest anyone. I had to deal with it by myself. When I was 18, I played in Cottbus and had bananas thrown at me. But the game was so important for us, that my issue interested nobody,” Asamoah said. “That’s why I find it super that we’ve made a start, that the federation is taking matters in its hands. There is so, so much (racism) happening in amateur football, also at youth level.”

Reem Alabali-Radovan, who is Germany’s federal commissioner for migration, refugees and integration, outlined how local soccer clubs are often the first points of contact for migrants who have just arrived in Germany. She said they are often subjected to racist abuse that doesn’t get the same attention on a national level because the incidents are so localized.

“Far too many people are affected by racism every day in Germany,” Alabali-Radovan said. “They experience racism in all sorts of situations, not just everyday racism, but also in the housing market, when looking for a job, in schools, and also in sports.”

Asamoah, who graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with the young players of Stern despite the biting cold, concluded the launch by wishing such campaigns were not necessary, “that there is no racism, we’re all the same.”

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