RB Leipzig Ultras: German Soccer’s Great Contradiction

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“There is a very active ultra scene, and they are quite progressive on things like homophobia and racism,” he said, issues that unite ultra factions. “But as far as I know, they are not part of the broader fan organizations. They are not connected, because they are not really accepted.”

Mucki recognizes that, to many, he is an impossible contradiction: someone who might be regarded as an RB Leipzig ultra. The emotions generated by seeing the team win are real, but his relationship with his club is complicated, layered. “The bond I have with the team is a love-hate thing,” he said.

Mucki and his colleagues are, of course, aware of the way their team is viewed by their peers across the country. Though he is quick to point out that “only a few clubs are not global businesses” — even Dortmund has sold the naming rights to its stadium — he does not hide behind accusations of hypocrisy. “I understand the points they make,” he said. “But it is easy to point these things out. We are trying to change them.”

They have had some success. He believes that Red Aces were integral to helping the club foster an “open-minded, tolerant” environment that has voiced support for refugees and staged demonstrations against Pegida, the Islamophobic group that first gained prominence in Dresden before spreading across Germany.

Earlier this year, though, Red Aces disbanded. Partly, Mucki said, its members were “tired,” not of hostility from the outside but of resistance from the club itself. “They want an organized fan culture, but they do not want it to be critical,” he said. “They want us involved in certain processes — we were invited to give our views on the redesign of the stadium — but on others, they tried to keep us down.”

That was a particular problem when it came not just to pyrotechnics — the club, he said, issued statements condemning fireworks displays “within minutes” — but to anything that might be regarded as political. Oliver Mintzlaff, Red Bull’s head of soccer, has said publicly that he does not believe sports and politics should mix, an idea that is anathema to Germany’s organized fan scenes.

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