Soccer / German federation slams anti-Semitic harassment of Israeli Itay Shechter

Germany’s soccer federation declared Tuesday it will not tolerate anti-Semitic or racist attacks after a small group of people verbally abused Israeli player Itay Shechter during a Kaiserslautern training session.

The incident took place on Sunday, a day after relegation-threatened Kaiserslautern’s 4-0 defeat at Mainz 05 left it in 17th place, level on points with bottom-placed Freiburg.

A small group of people attended training, shouted anti-Semitic insults at Shechter and did the Nazi salute. A few hundred fans had met with players and officials to discuss the club’s sporting situation.

“Together with the president we want to underline that the [federation] will not tolerate such actions and we must act decisively,” said Wolfgang Niersbach, who will take over from the German soccer federation boss Theo Zwanziger next month. “Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in [soccer]. We must defend ourselves against this and we wish that the authorities chase up this incident.”

Police have launched an investigation to identify those involved. The club, which has called on fans to help identify the people involved, condemned the incident, saying those responsible were not soccer fans.

“The players understood the feelings, views and fears of the fans,” Kaiserslautern chairman Stefan Kuntz said yesterday, in reference to the meeting with the Kaiserslautern fans. “As a conclusion, it is this meeting with 300 club fans that should be in focus and not the inexcusable behavior of a handful of radicals.”

“The club’s fan representatives want to distance themselves from any racist, discriminatory or anti-Semitic comments of any kind,” Kaiserslautern fan clubs said in a joint statement yesterday.