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Cologne warnings fatally ignored: how the explosion of violence in Nice could have happened

Cologne warnings fatally ignored
How the violence in Nice could have exploded

By Tobias Nordman

1. FC Köln is back on the European stage. But the conference away game at OGC Nice is overshadowed by shocking riots in the stands. Eyewitness reports raise urgent questions for those responsible for the security concept.

1. FC Köln is playing in Europe again. But the first away game of the Conference League at OGC Nice (1:1) is not determined by sporting headlines, but overshadowed by shocking riots in the stands. There was naked violence between the camps of both clubs, a man fell from the stands, a total of 32 people were injured. The incident could have serious consequences for 1. FC Köln. The rioters, uninhibited by hatred and a desire for violence, the numbers fluctuate between 50 and 150, not only “more or less ruined the experience for many thousands”, but also “had consequences” “that we don’t even foresee right now can”, the “Express” quoted the Cologne managing director Christian Keller.

The behavior of the majority of the peaceful fans was positive for him. “More than 7,900 of the 8,000 behaved correctly,” he said: “I heard 7,900 singing: We are from Cologne and you are not. That’s civil courage. Or when I see videos where real fans are trying to get the other one Pulling the storm caps off – that’s civil courage. We need more of that. And the club has to lead the way.” The people of Cologne are looking at what is coming from UEFA now. A first consequence is already known. “We now know that the game was upgraded to a risk game next Thursday,” says Keller. Then Cologne will play their second group game against 1. FC Slovacko from the Czech Republic.

Almost 8000 fans of “Effzeh” had traveled to Nice, marched in droves from a peaceful fan festival in the city center along the beautiful Côte d’Azur to the Stade de Nice and finally witnessed brutal tribune fights in the arena. Supporters of the Bundesliga team stormed across the ranks towards the home fans before both camps started beating each other up with fists and objects. The situation was confusing in the evening, but little by little the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. There are statements by officials, eyewitness reports, videos and background information on the escalating violence in the Mediterranean.

An act of revenge?

The attack by the masked men in the stadium is said to have been a kind of revenge action by Cologne for attacks by OGC supporters in front of the stadium. A request from our editorial staff to the local police authorities has so far remained unanswered. But the question of guilt is not necessarily the decisive one. Because eyewitness reports suggest that the security forces massively underestimated the explosive nature of the game. The two journalists Roland Peters (ntv.de) and Tim Plachner (“Siegener Zeitung”), who were there as fans, report that the stewards were totally overwhelmed. “Two hours before kick-off we stood in front of closed steel gates, more and more fans were gathered behind us,” reports Plachner, who was one of the first at the stadium.

At first everything went as usual. Scanning in front of the arena, waiting for the ticket inspection. But in the crowd a gigantic pressure built up. “At some point, the security forces could only give way,” says Plachner. The Cologne team then climbed up the ranks more or less unhindered. Roland Peters was at the back of the crowd. He was no longer aware of security and ticket checks. You could just walk in. Heike Bellinghausen from the 1. FC Köln 1991 eV fan project also has corresponding reports, as she confirms to ntv.de. She has asked her club for full clarification. “We are absolutely appalled by what has happened.” Corresponding inquiries to the local authorities and the OGC Nice have also remained unanswered so far.

Although the Effzeh supporters have often created a fantastic atmosphere at away games across Europe, there have also been riots from time to time. For example in the last season at European level five years ago, in away games in London and Belgrade. It is still unclear whether and what penalty UEFA, as the supreme competition guardian, will impose. Keller believes: “Once you’ve done something stupid, you’re more likely to be watched.”

Baumgart: “It was just naked violence”

Coach Steffen Baumgart, who had to serve a ban in Nice and was therefore in the stands and not with his team, was also severely shocked by the scenes: “I don’t think I’m the most anxious person. But what happened yesterday will happen accompany me for a very long time,” said the 50-year-old on Friday. “I was in the riot police in the early ’90s. And that’s exactly why I left the police force: Because I didn’t want to do that. That’s why it’s not easy for me to deal with it. It was just naked violence. It’s scary when you’re relatively close.” His family also sat in the seats where the brutal thugs walked past. “There’s a lot going on in one.”

As the usually well-informed “GEISSBLOG” reports, 1. FC Köln had previously informed the authorities and the French club that they had security concerns. This is not explained in detail. But these were probably based on the role of the Paris St. Germain fans. While Effzeh maintains a friendship with the capital city club, the two French rivals have a deep dislike to the point of open hatred. PSG supporters are said to have played a leading role in the brutal brawl on Thursday evening. The man who fell down the stands is also attributed to the Star Team camp. At first it was said that he had been pushed down on purpose. However, Twitter videos suggest that he lost his balance when fleeing the rows of seats in the ranks.

The day after, Keller confirmed the “GEISSBLOG” report. “We pointed out that we consider a significantly higher number of police officers to be appropriate. We also pointed out that we consider better fan separation to be very sensible and important,” added Keller. “Because it is known that there are rival camps and that the banned Paris St. Germain supporters’ group is likely to come and have problems with Nice. But the proposals were largely not accepted in the end.” UEFA is also said to have warned those responsible in France about the potential risk.

PSG distances itself from dissolved group

Paris St. Germain has condemned the riots in the strongest possible terms. For more than a decade, Paris St. Germain has been one of the most committed clubs to stamp out violence in football stadiums, PSG said. “The club would like to clarify that the Supras Auteuil group was dissolved by a decree of April 29, 2010, is not recognized as a Paris St. Germain supporters group and is not allowed access to the Parc des Princes (PSG stadium, ed. ) Has.” It is now being examined what measures he can take if the club’s reputation is damaged by the ultra group.

According to media reports, 650 police officers and 600 security guards were on duty. Numbers that eyewitnesses do not want to confirm. On the way to the stadium, some officials were used as accompaniment. Likewise in the environment. But not in the stadium and in the stands. What the Cologne fan project can also confirm from discussions with fans on site, and “not to the extent that one is used to from risky or similarly assessed games from Germany,” says Peters. What surprised him even more, however, was that there was no block separation. The rioters could go their way completely unhindered.

Those police officers who were on duty were apparently partially overwhelmed. As with the alleged attacks by Nice fans before kick-off. As Peters reports from a conversation with another fan from Cologne, the OGC chaotic people beat up indiscriminately in front of the stadium, but the officials did not intervene. “The police stood by and didn’t do anything, grinned in my face when I asked them for help. Never go abroad to France again.” Peters also emphasizes that the incidents in front of the arena have not yet been officially confirmed. Little to nothing is known of the authorities, but there are videos and eyewitness accounts.

Plachner found a scene particularly shocking that underscores the anger and open hatred of the attackers. On their way to the home grandstand, they ran past a group of children who fled their seats, terrified. There was no consideration for anyone. 32 people were injured. It was an evening that will linger on for a long time.

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