It bangs, burns and glows. And suddenly thousands of fans storm onto the pitch. After two years in the corona pandemic with dreary ghost games, professional football is concerned with the question of whether the visually stunning return of the supporters will not lead to a loss of control. In Frankfurt, Eintracht fans celebrated moving into the final of the Europa League emotionally on the pitch, two days later there were similar pictures from Cologne and Gelsenkirchen. Legitimate emotional outbursts – or dangerous incidents?
Sig Zelt, spokesman for the organization ProFans, tries to classify it. “Spontaneous outbreaks like this have happened in the past. You don’t necessarily have to approve of it, but you can understand it. I don’t think that’s the most dangerous thing before the Lord,” said Zelt of the German Press Agency. Eintracht coach Oliver Glasner, who played with his daughter in the middle of the hustle and bustle, made a similar statement a week ago.
The German Football Association (DFB) and the responsible police do not see it so easily. After the events in Cologne and Gelsenkirchen, the DFB initiated investigations. “This storming of the square could have ended in a catastrophe,” said Chief Police Officer Peter Both, who praised the “rapid and immediate intervention” of many police officers at Schalke.
For a supporter in Gelsenkirchen, who was there live on Saturday evening after the return to the Bundesliga, this catastrophe almost happened, according to his own statements. “It was pure chaos! I was crushed and couldn’t breathe. I was very afraid that I would die!” Ralf Höfs told the “Bild-Zeitung” (Thursday). More than 2,000 fans crowded onto the field, and there were falls and injuries in the stands. Some victims were taken to the hospital.
FC Schalke said on Thursday that they were “in contact with the affected fan and offered him all the support he needed to process his experiences”. In addition, “the examination of his information has already started”.
In principle, this spring must feel like a great liberation for the fans after two long years of Corona. For a few weeks now, there have been practically no restrictions due to the pandemic, and clubs with a strong fan base are celebrating spectacular successes: Frankfurt won the Camp Nou at FC Barcelona with 30,000 guest fans, Schalke rose, Glasgow Rangers and Liverpool FC made it into international finals.
Every weekend there are new colorful pictures of elaborate choreographies – and also of pyro shows, which are actually forbidden, but are only followed half-heartedly by some clubs despite fines. Clubs unpopular in many fan circles such as Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City or RB Leipzig will miss the big international finals in May, instead the finals in Paris (May 28), Seville (May 18) and Tirana (May 25) will be played. Fan festivals expected from traditional clubs. For football romantics, it’s a fairytale spring.
The long stadium break did not only have positive effects for many, as Bochum coach Thomas Reis observed. “My impression was that the mood at the beginning was somehow different, sometimes very aggressive. You could tell that people were missing something. I don’t know if you can justify it with the pandemic alone – whether it was the cup toss in our case, elsewhere we were also thrown at or the opposing coaching benches were insulted,” said Reis of the German Press Agency. In the meantime, people are just “glad” to be able to support their clubs again.
The scenario feared by many, that numerous fans could turn away from football after the Corona period, has not yet materialized. Some stadiums were sold out straight away, and the mood in many places was comparable to that of the years up to 2019.