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Bull fighting in Dortmund

Monday 6th February 2017
Unsurprisingly German newspapers and media outlets were this weekend again filled with photos and reports of mass protests against RB Leipzig. On Saturday it was the turn of Borussia Dortmund to ‘defend tradition in football' by rallying against Germany's newest club as fans unveiled banners adorned with anti-RB slogans as they watched their side win 1-0 in the top of the table clash.

However, something about this protest was different. After the game, the protest turned violent with objects being thrown at Leipzig fans leading to many suggesting that the Anti-RB movement has now lost all its credibility.

Borussia Dortmund has a long tradition in standing up for what they believe in. Since the formation of RB Leipzig in 2009, the fan centred club have been very vocal in their dislike for the construct. Hans-Joachim Watzke, the club's CEO, has criticised the Saxony club on many occasions and encouraged fan protests, boycotts and even petitioned the football league to ban the club. To Watzke's delight, every club in the Bundesliga has protested against RB Leipzig this season in some capacity. This has ranged from Cologne blockading the Leipzig bus to Bayern holding up slogans during the game.

Anyway, anything Bayern can do, Dortmund can do better and this rang true on the Sudkurve on Saturday evening as hundreds of anti-RB Leipzig banners were revealed. It was the nature of these banners, however, which has caused shock throughout Germany. Slogans encouraging cobblestones to be thrown at fans, suggesting that Red Bull wasn't needed to hate the ‘Bullen' (German for ‘bulls' but slang for the police) and that Leipzig fans should be ‘hunted' were seen in the stadium. Whilst protests against RB Leipzig aren't uncommon, direct threats against other football fans have not been seen before.
In addition to the threats made by sections of the Dortmund crowd during the game, things turned violent after the game. Leipzig fans leaving the stadium were pelted with bottles, pushed attacked by groups of Borussia supporters. Many of the fans being attacked were women and children. 10 fans and two police officers were left needing hospital treatment after the attacks. By all accounts, the Leipzig fans had not acted provocatively which makes this violence even more mindless and ridiculous.

This level of abuse and violence directed at Leipzig fans this weekend has thrown up some serious questions in Germany: How long can this level of hate towards a football club go on for? Will other anti-RB protests turn violent? And how long will Leipzig supporters put up with the violence and abuse as away fans? The aim of the protests is to oust RB Leipzig and bring back tradition to German football, but with violent acts such as this weekend the sympathy will lie with RB and make the club a stronger force in the Bundesliga.

If we assume, too, that RB Leipzig as a club will not be going anywhere then what does it mean for away fans? If other violent acts occur then will supporters till want to travel to away games? If the Leipzig fans don't travel then this would kill footballing tradition even more as ‘football without fans is nothing'.

The DFB, Borussia Dortmund and authorities are investigating the attacks on Saturday and it must also be stressed that the vast majority of fans at the ground on Saturday conducted themselves well, however violence has no place in football and it must be addressed quickly. Whilst RB Leipzig may not be the most popular club in Germany, they are staying put and fans of opposing teams need to accept this. Protest is fine, but unfortunately this weekend a line was crossed which we all hope isn't again.
Stephen Parkinson
23 year old Football fan, player and referee. Specialising in the Bundesliga since having lived in Leipzig for 2 years.

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