The national flags of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka were amongst forty paraded Saturday in Germany’s biggest stadium, the Westfalenstadion, before a football match between champions Borussia Dortmund and FC Nuremberg.
Borussia Dortmund, one of Germany’s most successful football clubs, organised the parade of flags representing the nationalities of its players and supporters to demonstrate the diversity of its fan-base, and to protest a planned demonstration in the city on September 3 by right-wing groups.
Over 30,000 people watched the parade, and 78,000 spectators watched the subsequent match which Borussia Dortmund won (2:0), fans said.
The Supporters’ Division of Borussia Dortmund launched the anti- Nazi campaign under the patronage of Dortmund’s mayor, Ulrich Sierau and with the slogan ‘We are bound by Borussia – and much more’ (Borussia is the Latin word for Prussia).
The President of the German Football League Association Dr. Reinhard Rauball, who is also President of Borussia Dortmund and the former justice minister for North-Rhine Westphalia, gave a speech praising the campaign.
As he spoke, 160 club supporters stood in parade on the pitch with the 40 giant national flags, including those of Tamil Eelam, Brazil, Sri Lanka and Japan.
The Tamil Eelam flag was carried by a member of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO) and three other Borussia fans.
Over 30,000 people watched the parade, including those packing the Southern ranks (‘die Südtribüne’), which are traditionally occupied by the home team’s supporters. The Südtribüne is said to be Europe’s largest free-standing grandstand with a staggering capacity of 25,000.
Borussia Dortmund also urged fans to bring their respective national flags, and Tamil Eelam flags were amongst those being waved in the ranks during the match.
The club said the flag campaign was organised as a show of ‘tolerance, respect, diversity and equality.’
To coincide with the planned far-right rally, the City of Dortmund is holding an event for peace titled ‘Friedensfest’ at which the club’s Supporters’ Division will be continuing their campaign with the slogan ‘Abpfiff fuer Rechts’ (Final Whistle for Right).
On Saturday tens of thousands of the club’s supporters watched the match wearing t-shirts in its trademark colour emblazoned with the slogan.
Borussia Dortmund, which despite its success has maintained its links to the working-class neighbourhood it came from, has a long history of anti-racist activism since its founding in 1909.
In the 1930’s the club’s president was replaced by the authorities when he refused to join the Nazi party.
Members of the club were active in the resistance against the Nazi regime right up to the end of the Second World War. Some – including Heinrich Czerkus and Franz Hippler - were executed towards the end of the war for using the infrastructure of the club for anti-government activities, including using the club’s printers to produce anti-fascist pamphlets.
The club saw its biggest success in 1997 with the win of club football’s most prestigious cup, the Champions League.
The club’s home grounds, Westfalenstadion, is one of the most famous football stadiums in Europe and was elected best football stadium by The Times newspaper for its renowned atmosphere.
It has been officially re-titled the Signal Iduna Park, under a sponsorship but is commonly known by the former and fans refuse to use the ‘commercial’ name.