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    “Without Ultras the system would do what it wants”


    Last weekend, the top game of the 2nd Bundesliga between Hertha BSC and Hamburger SV was interrupted for over half an hour. The reason: Tennis balls are thrown and even hurled onto the playing field from the Ostkurve, the home of the Berlin fans. The supporters are protesting against the DFL's investor deal. It is not the type of protest that is new, but rather the duration.

    “You have seen the protest of a free and lively fan curve. We decide for ourselves how long a protest can last and we will not feel bound to the ideas of editors, club officials or DFL representatives in the future,” explains the Ultra group Harlequins Berlin '98 the day after the protests. The events of Saturday are already being discussed extensively among the excited public.

    The positions seem irreconcilable. On the one hand, which is largely led by the country's tabloids, there is a complete lack of understanding for the protesters who, it is argued, are doing serious damage to football and their cause of stopping the investor deal through this form of protest. On the other hand, the old white men in the editorial offices are viewed with a mixture of contempt and amusement. However, the fans' concern is not the fight with the media public. They just want to convey their protest through them.

    “11 Friends” criticize Küpper sharply

    Hansi Küpper finds himself between the conflict lines. The 62-year-old from the Ruhr area is one of the voices of German football. Hardly anyone knows his face, everyone knows his voice. The Essen native has been explaining the Bundesliga for years. Last Saturday he commented on the game in the Berlin Olympic Stadium on Sky. He questions the protest and suddenly finds himself at the center of a shitstorm on the Internet. Küpper becomes a symbol of football that the fans are defending themselves against. Who craves money and sees the spectators in the stadium as folklore and decorations.

    “Whereupon Sky commentator Hansi Küpper began to talk about the end of civilization as we know it in a half-hour spiral of excitement, setting a tone that was later reflected in the tabloid media and in the Sport1 one-two,” is later stated in one to read the newsletter written by “11 Freunde” editor-in-chief Philipp Köster about the Berlin evening and Küpper's comment. “In the end,” says Küpper in an interview with, “I kept getting three or four sentences thrown at me. They basically said: 'You're not doing yourself any favors with what you're doing here.' You now run the risk of losing the understanding of many who are actually on your side.' 'You make the other side strong.' If these are the sentences with which I should have delivered war reporting rhetoric, then I say poof.”

    Before the next Bundesliga weekend, when protests in the stadiums are expected again, Küpper explains to which football he wants and what motivated him to make his statements. Hansi Küpper, last weekend's protests are still being discussed at the end of the week. Weren't the protests ultimately successful?

    Hansi Küpper: There's no question that every time a protest escalates, I get more attention. We see that everywhere in society. If someone sticks to the back left of the road in a cul-de-sac in a small village, then they can do that. Then of course the outrage level is at zero. If you do that on a main artery in the capital Berlin, bringing rush-hour traffic to a standstill, then you have outrage level 10/10. That's how it works.

    Last Saturday you repeatedly talked about the protesting fans losing the rest of the stadium.

    I am still of the opinion, and I experienced it in the stadium, that suddenly there were whistles from the back straight. So from people who said that they had had enough. They were quiet for a long time too. At some point they weren't anymore. Some people, it was not a mass exodus, also left the stadium. I must be allowed to identify this conflict.

    You are always well informed, especially when it comes to fan matters. Were you prepared for this type of protest?

    I thought I would comment on a curve that protests and then leaves it at some point. I have experienced nothing else in the last few months. I didn't know that I was commenting on a curve that even took a break. The lead singer in the Ostkurve later said that very clearly.

    What would have been different then?

    Then of course I would have commented completely differently. But no one could have known about this new form of protest, no journalist, not even those who later criticized me. Nevertheless, one can then ask the question whether it is appropriate to protest for half an hour. It is also logical that they say that if at some point the game in Germany ends up being canceled, our attention will be higher. Then I say 'okay'. That is undoubtedly the case, but the question of whether we still think it is a good thing can still be asked.

    Do you think it's good?

    This investor deal is unspeakable for me. I've never made a secret of it. I celebrated when the first attempt with these two billion euros failed. I congratulated the fan representatives in Dortmund on their victory, on the fans' victory. But: In rejecting this threatening development, I don't need any form of tutoring from anyone.

    That means?

    I stand 100 percent behind the assessment of the Berliner Ostkurve when it comes to the investor deal. I 100 percent agree with your concerns about what this could mean. The guys and girls in the curve are 100 percent right. What I didn't like, of course, is that they then say that you have to follow them unconditionally when it comes to proportionality.

    Above all is the question: Who owns football?

    Football is too complex. The question cannot be answered.

    Try it!

    Whoever unfortunately owns football in the sense of owning it is the establishment at the moment. Ask, who should it belong to?

    Who should football belong to, Mr. Küpper?

    Good question. I can answer that. I am firmly convinced that it should belong to the people at the grassroots level, that it should belong to the people who go to football, who love football, for whom the football club is part of their identification.

    That's an answer.

    But even then, of course, at some point you come to areas where you say: 'Here is the transition between the visitors in the main stand, between the visitors up in the corners, all the way to the standing room season tickets and the ultra scene. This is not a clear homogeneous mass. This is shaded. The advantage of the ultras is that the establishment still has to be considerate. They are incredibly important as a corrective. Without them the system would do whatever it wants.

    So is the protest important?

    We are at a watershed right now. I have a crystal clear view of this. This investor deal is embarrassing. I think it is undemocratic in several ways. I find it absurd that after a clear vote, a new vote is simply initiated under different circumstances. I think it's grotesque that a man like that… [Hannover-Mehrheitseigner, Anm. d. Red.] Martin Child…

    … who could have ignored the vote of the members of his club …

    … can behave as he did in a country where the 50+1 rule applies. Surely 30 to 32 clubs would have had to vote against this deal because the grassroots members don't want the establishment to go down this path. I think all of this is extremely dangerous and I'm glad that there are fans who still monitor it.

    So do you want a hot spring in the Bundesliga in which a series of games have to be canceled?

    Depending on the strategy of the ultras or the curves, this is of course possible. Of course, it's difficult for me to say: 'Yes, that's okay, because you're right about your goals.' What just bothers me is this exclusiveness with which it is said: 'Firstly, we have the right goal, secondly, we see things correctly and thirdly, no matter what measures we decide on, we set the pace and you have to follow and are not allowed to have any other opinion have'. That bothers me massively.

    The sides are irreconcilable. Do you see a way out?

    Of course I have a dream solution. But that probably puts me way outside of reality. When Hans-Joachim Watzke gives a press conference in which he says that German football generates so much money with an FC Bayern that can buy Kane for 100 million. With a BVB that gets over 60 million euros even in a bad Champions League season and can pay 40 million to player agents.

    Watzke has to say that the league has such enormous resources that we don't need to bring investors on board for the comparatively ridiculous sum of 700 million euros for a period of 20 years. We would like to apologize for taking this wrong path and take everything back. That would be my ideal solution. I don't think we need to argue that this is illusory. It is indeed like this: there are two positions that are incompatible. I don't know what this will lead to.

    The DFL also always argues with competitiveness, which, to put it bluntly, can only be guaranteed through the deal. And that is of course another question. What does the Bundesliga actually want to be?

    It can't be because of the 700 million euros that are invested in the end if the Bundesliga is in a worse position internationally. So this automatism also gets on my nerves. We have to do something about foreign marketing. So is the deal also justified? This logic simply doesn't work. There was a threat before the first vote [Eintracht Frankfurts CEO] Axel Hellmann said that the Bundesliga would otherwise fall to the level of Bulgaria. You really have to let it melt in your mouth.

    Sounds strange to say the least.

    Nobody talks about Bulgaria anymore. Whether the Bundesliga makes this deal or not won't change anything in the end. A horror scenario is being set up that has nothing to do with reality.

    What is reality?

    At least in one respect, German football is the strongest and also the most sustainable in Europe. Because he has these fans who keep saying: 'This is our sport and this is our club, regardless of any success.' We have Schalke 04 and Hamburger SV with 55,000 spectators in the second division. We have Borussia Mönchengladbach and Werder Bremen in the first division. Almost left behind, but still with an incredibly emotional and loyal fan base. We have the best league in the world in this regard.

    And yet she still needs money.

    We don't have to constantly talk about international competitiveness just because clubs in another country are so stuffed by sheikhs that they could run out of money. This is such a grotesque argument, pushed forward by people who of course benefit when money flows into football.

    What is your conclusion?

    Karl-Heinz Rummenigge once put it during the pandemic. He basically said: 'We've done everything wrong in the last few years. We passed on all the money that came in one-on-one to the players and player agents.' That hits my mood. I don't know whether Rummenigge would still say it that way today. So I would like this kind of football. We can have great self-confidence. The Bundesliga is atmospheric and atmospheric like no other league in Europe. We have to finally stop chasing money. The hamster wheel will never stand still. The sheikh in Manchester is no longer allowed to set the pace.

    So if the protests are taking football in this direction, then surely the protest in the Olympic Stadium would have been a good thing?

    If I knew that this protest would last two weeks and then the DFL would give in, then yes. I would immediately say: We'll get it done. But if the alternative is that the season cannot be completed, then I find it difficult to find myself on the side of the curve. You know what?


    It is a field of tension without absolute truths.

    Stephan Uersfeld spoke to Hansi Küpper

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