SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, February 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India

German football confronts its Nazi past
Hitler turned matches into rallies and Jewish players were banned and then killed.
Now German football clubs are being told to examine their past.

Kate Connolly
HEY are some of the most famous names in world football. But now clubs such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund look set to achieve a new notoriety as a spotlight is cast over their relationship with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

Why this obsession with our neighbour?
Ramu Sharma
HE devastating earthquake in Gujarat has had a rather expected fall-out in the sports and political circles. Funds have to be raised and why not a cricket match with Pakistan? That was the only refrain from all those connected with the game.

SAARC tournament gaining popularity
K.R. Wadhwaney
HE SAARC Golf Tournament, initiated by S.K. Misra (formerly of Haryana Tourism) and Chic Baxi (Air-India), has grown in stature and popularity inside of three years. All the participants have been playing the game as it should be played, maintaining high traditions of the discipline all the time.

  • Randhawa disappoints

  • Chaurasia succeeds

  • Vijay Kumar does it




German football confronts its Nazi past
Hitler turned matches into rallies and Jewish players were banned and then killed.
Now German football clubs are being told to examine their past.
Kate Connolly

THEY are some of the most famous names in world football. But now clubs such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund look set to achieve a new notoriety as a spotlight is cast over their relationship with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

The German Football Federation, which for years has attempted to white-wash its close relationship with the Nazis, has finally bowed to intense pressure to open its archives to historians.

German historians have already begun to chronicle the darkest chapter in the sport’s history that began when it was `taken over’ by the Nazi Party in 1933.

Jewish players and Jewish club chiefs were first sidelined and excluded from international games, and then later unceremoniously kicked out, a process that began in the early 30s. More than 300 Jewish players disappeared during the Nazi era: some died in suspicious circumstances and several others perished later in concentration camps. There has been little attempt to find out what happened to them.

Hitler hated football but quickly learnt how useful it would be to exploit a sport that had become popular in the 1920s as a means of propaganda to promote the aggressive German style. He also realised the political potential in the mass gatherings of football fans. `Winning a match,’ Goebbels wrote, `is of more importance to the people than the capture of a town in the east.’

Football practice was turned into paramilitary training, and footballers were forced to give the Nazi salute as well as undergoing regular `Nazi tests’, where they were questioned on such facts as Hitler’s birthday. Even the English team was forced to give the Nazi salute as a sign of respect for Germany during one match between the two countries.

But plans by Goebbels to `force victories’ were unachievable. Defeat after embarrassing defeat led to Goebbels banning all international games. Until now, German football authorities have been reluctant to reveal details of the game’s history.

The federation (DFB) claims that it has been able to help on the subject because most of its documents were destroyed by the Allies. `At the moment there is very little material in our archives,’ said DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt in a recent statement. `This is because the entire property of the headquarters when it was in Berlin fell victim to an air raid, which burnt the building down.’

But historians specialising in the period hotly refute this version of events, saying that historical documents from various sources prove that the parts of the building on Berlin’s so-called Reichs sport field, where the DFB had its headquarters, were not touched by the bomb. Insiders have instead spoken of huge stacks of archive material being `spirited away’ over the years in an attempt to keep the truth hidden.

Germany is to host the World Cup in 2006 and, say commentators, is keen to `clear up’ this unhappy chapter in its history before it receives too much adverse publicity from abroad. The DFB issued a directive to all its clubs six weeks ago, calling on them to `work through and come to terms with’ their Nazi pasts, and produce documentation with which historians could work. Close attention will be paid to the way in which FC Bayern Munich deals with its past. It recently refused to pay into a compensation fund for former Nazi slave labourers to which German firms and commercial institutions have been asked to contribute, saying that it was itself a victim of the Nazis.

Many critics said it had gravely missed the point of the fund. Before 1933 the club offered refuge to Munich’s Jews, earning itself the nickname `Jews Club’. FC Bayern’s rise to the top of the league in the twenties and thirties was largely due to its Jewish president Kurt Landauer, who later had to flee Germany and was replaced with an Aryan chief.

Borussia Dortmund was the first top-league club to respond to the DFB’s demands for critical reappraisal, commissioning its archivist to fulfil the task.

The make-up of Borussia Dortmund before the war was typical of others from the Rhineland, full of players and supporters from the socialist and communist milieu. Pressure from the Nazis forced it in 1933 to change its left-leaning club chief, Egon Pentrup, with August Busse, a member of the Nazi Party. Like most clubs, Borussia has over the years claimed that its members were split over Nazi ideology. But already in 1939, 80 per cent of the first team were members of Hitler’s Stormtroopers.

Berlin’s Schalke 04 club, which was national champion six times between 1933 and 1945, was also successfully turned into a Nazi team.

Some people fear that Germany’s football history may come full circle. Much attention has been paid in recent years to the Berlin football club Dynamo, the former club of East Germany’s Stasi police, which now has a reputation for being the club of Germany’s rightwing skinheads.

Observer News Service


Why this obsession with our neighbour?
Ramu Sharma

THE devastating earthquake in Gujarat has had a rather expected fall-out in the sports and political circles. Funds have to be raised and why not a cricket match with Pakistan? That was the only refrain from all those connected with the game. Journalists, board members past and present and many others. There was even that suggestion of a series in Sharjah for the purpose, an idea shot down and quickly too.

Raise money by all means but why should it only be done by playing with Pakistan? Why this obsession with the neighbour? And that too after the Government had refused permission for a scheduled tour of the country by the Indian cricket team. Surely it does not require an earthquake or any other such calamity for India to play Pakistan.

The Government’s ‘No’ to the tour of Pakistan was a political decision and to expect a reversal of that decision because of a national calamity would have meant that the refusal in the first place was wrong. The Government could well be accused of being petty and irrational.

The trouble with the sporting world, as it is placed in India, is that it wants to do something which is the job of the Ministry of External Affairs. That is to improve relations with Pakistan. The MEA has not been able to do that for half a century. Surely the sports fraternity cannot be expected to achieve it with cricket matches and that too because of a national calamity.

The very idea of the Sharjah series was a mistake but unfortunately and despite the hostile reception to it, there are still those who would like an India-Pakistan contest on the playing field to raise money and hope that in the process the relations between the two countries could improve.

Once the relations part of it is separated from the main issue of raising funds, the whole thinking will assume a more rational outlook. Why Pakistan only? Why not organise a series with some other teams, a three-nation exercise involving Australia which is already on tour and South Africa. The crowds will certainly come for the three-way series and willingly contribute to the earthquake fund. Agreed that a cricket contest with Pakistan may be able to satisfy the sentiments of a few people but to dub it as the only way of raising money would be insulting the public.

It is perhaps a hangover from partition days the people in India cannot think beyond Pakistan when it comes to calamities like the one that has consumed Gujarat. In a way it speaks of the tremendous attachment to the neighbouring country or maybe an unwillingness to accept the reality of separation despite the many pulls in the opposite direction. But giving in to sentiment is not the answer to solve one’s problem.

But it is time that this thinking process changed. Not that the idea was without merit but then it could and should be stretched to include other countries, so many of whom are helping and are willing to contribute to the cause. Not that playing Pakistan is wrong but those who are writing and talking about it must understand the ground realities before urging the Government give permission.

And here it must be understood that cricket and hockey are quite different from other games. Any number of Indian teams can go to Pakistan to play polo, squash, tennis, gold and football. Pakistan teams can and do visit India for participation in these games without any problems. But when it comes to cricket and even hockey, the Government steps in and the reason perhaps is the uncertainty about the crowd reaction and in some cases the attitude of some of the self-styled protectors of Indian culture who think of nothing of digging up wickets and indulge in unthinkable vandalism just to prove a point. The same is true of some such elements in Pakistan where anti-India fever often gets out of hand.

Cricket certainly has been over-politicised with the media pitching in with an out-of-proportion exposure. And that in turn has contributed to public involvement in these games, often leading to unpleasant happenings. Srikkant’s team in the last 80s certainly had some anxious and worrisome times. The backlash of it was felt on the final day of the Asian hockey in Delhi where some unruly elements hurled small stones on the Pakistan players and even chased the bus taking the team to the hotel.

One remembers too with a certain amount of sadness at the daily anti-India chorus, orchestrated with a fervour, during the World Cup hockey in Lahore. The Indian team, already low on morale, just could not adjust to the hostile atmosphere. What was particularly saddening was the small band of schoolchildren led by their teacher, raising anti-Indian slogans. They certainly started filling anti-Indian teaching from a young age. The tragedy was that the organisers failed to do anything about it. In fact their appeal on the public address system tended to encourage the anti-Indian slogans. The announcement was something on these lines. “We understand and sympathise with the sentiments of the public but if the slogans and shouting do not stop, the tournament would be stripped of its World Cup status” All this was in February 1990, more than 10 years ago. Since then things have not improved.

It is hard on the cricketers of both the countries. The players are on the best of terms and would like to engage each other more frequently. But there are ramifications which extend beyond the cricket field.

India did play host to Pakistan a couple of years ago and the Chennai crowd warmly applauded the winning Pakistan team. But India is a big country with various mixtures of people. And despite the Shiv Sainiks, there could be centres, particularly in the South where a Pakistan team can play without any problems. That however, may not be possible when an Indian team goes to Pakistan where the anti-India sentiment appears to be well organised and widely spread.

Maybe I am wrong, but remembering the attitude at the Lahore World Cup I do not think that Pakistan has any such centre which will applaud the performance of an Indian team. Given the background of continued hostility and the posture adopted by both respective Governments, it is better to wait for things to cool down before any cricket tour or benefit matches are arranged. 


SAARC tournament gaining popularity
K.R. Wadhwaney

THE SAARC Golf Tournament, initiated by S.K. Misra (formerly of Haryana Tourism) and Chic Baxi (Air-India), has grown in stature and popularity inside of three years. All the participants have been playing the game as it should be played, maintaining high traditions of the discipline all the time.

India retained the title for the second time recently at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) course. But the players were extended by the Sri Lankan-amateurs, who almost dethroned the champions. The Sri Lankans showed a lot of promise and potential displaying their sound technique.

The tournament has to rotate among participating countries and soon it will be the turn of Bhutan to stage the meet. In Bhutan, India’s Ambassador is Pradeep Kumar Singh. Now a golf addict, he was a cricket captain of Allahabad University for the Rohinton Baria Trophy in the early 1960s.

There is a suggestion that women’s competition among SAARC countries should be started. It should be run concurrently with the men’s section. The women’s participation will provide much needed lustre and colour to the competition.

Sri Lankan women are as competent and capable as Indian women. It will be nice to watch them play against each other as a team discipline. Their participation will help induce other women, say, from Pakistan and Nepal, to raise their standard of play.

Randhawa disappoints

Jyoti Randhawa, one of the top Asian players, failed to get into his stride in the recently concluded $ 910,000 Carlosberg Malaysian Open. He failed to make the cut.

The course was heavy. Conditions were difficult following torrential thunderstorm. Randhawa could not adjust his game to the varying weather conditions and played indifferently on the first two days of the competition. His two 75s left him stranded.

As in other disciplines, Indian golfers are also fair-weather players. When the conditions turn difficult, their game gets affected. Randhawa is no exception.

There are more than half-a-dozen excellent golfers in the Asian circuit. They shine at home but they fail to display their competence and form when they are playing abroad. They need psychological motivation to raise their game to assert abroad more regularly and consistently than they have been doing.

Chaurasia succeeds

Shiv Shankar Prasad Chaurasia of Calcutta Royal Golf Club, eventually came good. He won the PGAI championship at long last after being runner-up on four occasions. “I am so happy that I have claimed the PGAI title”, said Chaurasia in his own modest way.

Chaurasia, who is a part and parcel of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC), is affectionately called by his colleagues as Safe Short Putt”. The colleagues say that it is easier to call him this way instead of addressings him as Shiv Shankar Prasad.

Chaurasia had flattered to deceive a few years ago at the DGC course where he fired a seven-under 65. He showed his promise in no uncertain way. He raised visions of doing even better than Ali Sher. But then he faded away.

Came the 1999 Indian Open. He regained form and played like a golfer possessed. It was a touch and go between two Calcuttans, Arjun Atwal and Chaurasia. Atwal’s luck held and he won the title while Chaurasia became the runner-up. It was a great display by these two players. All foreigners, who were present there, spoke well of these two players.

Unlike Atwal, Chaurasia comes from a very humble background. His father worked as a gardener at the RCGC. Two years ago, he presented his entire prize money to his parents who bought a small flat around the course. Shiv is the youngest among four brothers with three sisters.

Shiv’s rise thus far has been nothing but complete dedication. He played his round of golf in semi-darkness after the sa’abs’ had finished their round. There were occasions when he could not play a round of golf but he practised putting while placing candles around.

The life of a caddy-turned professional is no bed of roses. These stars need sponsors more than players coming from affluent families.

Vijay Kumar does it

There is no stopping Vijay Kumar. When he gains his poise, he is at his dazzling best. He struck a purple patch at Patna where he claimed the East India title. He continues to be one of the most consistent players on the Indian circuit. 


Abhinav Bindra does India proud

Hats off to the ‘child prodigy’ Abhinav Bindra for lifting the overall title in the European Circuilt Rifle Shooting Championships by bagging the record number of medals (6 gold, 3 silver and 3 cups). By topping in the most reputed competition, the 2000 Atlanta Olympics youngest shooter has again shot into fame. The 18-year old smashed previous records and became current ‘who’s who’ of shooting by routing current Olympic medallist twice. He has already a number of feathers in the cap, including the prestigious RIAC, Nissan and Den Haag Cups. His ability to translate each chance into success made him the ultimate winner. Many a lesson is hidden in his success. It is high time, we search for young talent present in millions of Abhinavs who have either not got a chance or are not discovered. Let us try, as nothing is impossible and we can even set the Thames on fire.

H.S. Dimple, Jagraon

Ajay Jadeja

Cricket star Ajay Jadeja has been banned from playing cricket for five years. He has filed a petition in the court against this decision. But still his fans chase him to take his autographs. Autographs are taken from heroes. Undoubtedly he is a good cricketer but he should be considered guilty until the final judgement comes. After the final decision if he is acquitted these fans can take autographs ten times. But do wait!.

Sartaj Singh Benipal, Ludhiana


The Indian cricket board has given punishment to cricketers found guilty in the match fixing case. However, this punishment is not appropriate. As far as Azharuddin and Manoj Prabhahar are concerned, it has no meaning for them because they have already completed their career. On the other hand, as far as Jadeja is concerned, it is too much and can completely destroy his career. Undoubtedly, he has committed a crime and he must be punished but in some other way. Moreover his crime is not so big that he cannot be given a chance for improvement. Now, the court should keep these facts in mind while deciding the case.

Devi Bhushan Sharma, Karnal