Death of the (almost) forgotten fan: When the football world paused just once

35 years ago, the DFB canceled a competitive game for the first time in its history out of fear of spectator riots. The reason for the decision was dramatic: Shortly before, Schalke had beaten a Saarbrücken fan to death. The football world was in shock. Unfortunately far too short!

After the tragic death of SV Werder Bremen supporter Adrian Maleika in October 1982, fans in Germany hoped that it would never happen again. But just six years later it happened again. The football world paused back in September 1988. Once again. But it would take another ten years until a terrible time of fear and terror in football finally came to an end after the “Disgrace of Lens”, when French police officer Daniel Nivel was beaten almost to death by German hooligans.

This development came too late for Frank Bayer. The 1. FC Saarbrücken fan was only 20 years old when he was hit with a wooden crossbar by a Schalke player after his club’s game. The young man from the village of Quierschied was then taken to the hospital with a gaping wound on his head. At the time, no one had any idea how serious his injury actually was. A few days later, Frank Bayer was dead.

On a late summer Wednesday evening, the trained carpenter went to Ludwigspark with his friends. Only just under 5,000 visitors came to this second division game against FC Schalke 04. The atmosphere in the stadium was still good. Especially when Wenanty Fuhl scored the 2-1 winning goal for the home team in the ninetieth minute. Frank Bayer and his friends ran cheering to their cars after the game.

Just 124 hours later, Frank Bayer was dead

But on the way, between two buses, a few Schalke players were already lurking for the Saarbrücken fans. Frank Bayer had no chance. The wooden slat hit him directly on the head. While his companions were able to escape unhurt, the young supporter collapsed, covered in blood. Still fully conscious, he was taken away in an emergency ambulance. His friends drove to Frank Bayer’s parents that night – and calmed them down. Doctors told them they had diagnosed a laceration and concussion. But the young fan’s condition soon deteriorated. 124 hours later, Frank Bayer was dead. The bleeding in the brain could no longer be stopped.

The news of the Saarbrücken supporter’s death sent the football world into shock. And for the first time in its history, the DFB canceled a planned competitive game due to concerns about spectator riots. The DFB Cup game between Saar 05 and FC Schalke 04 was only rescheduled in November. On the evening of the actual encounter, Saar 05 and 1. FC Saarbrücken arranged to play a charity game for Frank Bayer’s surviving relatives in Ludwigspark.

“We didn’t know any other way out”

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  • His current book “60 Years of the Bundesliga. The Anniversary Album” is a modern classic from the publisher “The workshop”

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Two years later, the German football world received the next shocking news. On November 3, 1990, Berliner Mike Polley was fatally shot by a police bullet in Leipzig. There had previously been serious riots around the game between FC Sachsen Leipzig and FC Berlin. The police, who were hopelessly understaffed, were never able to get the situation under control. When the officers finally found themselves in an emergency situation at the Leutzscher train station, police operations manager Karl-Heinz Krompholz had a momentous reaction: “Since we were then relatively trapped and had no other way out, I gave the order to use the firearm to make use of it.” One of these bullets hit 18-year-old Mike Polley, who died at the scene. To this day, the exact course of the crime is unknown. Nobody was held accountable. The investigation was stopped at that time without any results.

It was only eight years later that the dastardly attack on the French police officer Daniel Nivel in Lens would mark a turning point and end point for the violence surrounding football. The journalist Christoph Ruf once said: “The tacit sympathy between normal football fans and hooligans, which only existed sporadically anyway, was completely extinguished with Lens.” But for Frank Bayer this development came ten years too late. The football world only paused for a moment. 35 years ago in September.

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