Mainz and Freiburg Fans Take to the Pitch in Protest Match

Monday night matches in the Bundesliga are widely unpopular, as evidenced by protests in Frankfurt, Dortmund, Bremen, Leipzig, and, most recently, Mainz. As a response to the DFL stipulating that their match be played on Monday, April 16th, fans of 1. FSV Mainz 05 and SC Freiburg* united in a protest that not only voiced contempt for the expanding commercialization of football, but also induced fond feelings of nostalgia and romanticism.

 

Photo: Rheinhessen on Tour (rheinhessen-on-tour.de)

As part of an initiative called “Samstags Halb Vier – Fußball, Bratwurst, Bier” (Saturdays at 3:30 – Football, bratwurst, beer), Mainz and Freiburg fans organized a football match, in which members of both fan scenes took to the field to play in their club’s kit. The match was played at the Bruchwegstadion, Mainz’s former stadium, which is now home to the Nullfünfer’s youth teams.

There was no admission price for the match; this protest was not intended to generate profit. 3,105 spectators were in attendance, meaning that this match played by football fans drew more spectators than nearly one-third of the clubs in the 3. Liga. Approximately 200 Freiburg fans made the 280 kilometer trip from the southwest of Germany.

As the teams entered the pitch, the song playing on stereos around the Bruchwegstadion was thoroughly appropriate: “We Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats. Both sets of fans walked onto the pitch in their club’s kits, but the shirts sported by Mainz’s side were particularly unique. While Freiburg’s players wore their club’s away kit with individual numbers and no names on the back, similar to what the youth teams wear, Mainz’s players all wore shirts that were numbered either 15 or 30, an obvious nod to the traditional 15:30 (3:30) kickoff time.

 

Photo: Nur der SCF! (nur-der-scf.de)

In the 18th minute of the match, after a Freiburg player was fouled in the penalty area, the referee humorously ran to a computer monitor on the side of the pitch as if he were going to use VAR to review the incident. Much to the pleasure of the fans in attendance, the primary organizer of the protest initiative, Jürgen Girtler, grabbed the monitor and placed it in a trash bin. If this action did not make fans’ opinion on VAR clear enough, there was also a large banner that read “Reclaim the game – Videobeweis abschalten!” (“Reclaim the game – disconnect VAR!”).

 

Photo: Rheinhessen on Tour (rheinhessen-on-tour.de)

Throughout the match, the atmosphere among the spectators was phenomenal. In both the home (Mainz) and away (Freiburg) blocks, singing, drumming, and fan-waving persisted for essentially the entire 90 minutes and were accompanied by pyrotechnic displays from both sets of fans.

 

Photo: Nur der SCF! (nur-der-scf.de)

With a final score of 9:3, Freiburg won the match handily. The lopsided result did not at all take away from the exuberant atmosphere; rather, it added to it. In response to the score, the Mainz block sarcastically sang, “Wir haben die Schnauze voll!” (“We are fed up!”).

Both sets of fans are hopeful that this protest match will be effective in encouraging the DFL to reconsider kickoff times. Helen Breit, an organizer of the initiative, as well as a member of Supporters Crew Freiburg, said, “We wanted to make good use of this creative, novel, and perhaps unique opportunity and spent a lot of time on it. The response from the fans reassures us. We hope that is noticed by the representatives of the DFL.” As of yet, it is unclear whether the DFL was impressed by the initiative, but Mainz 05 representative Jan Lehmann voiced support, saying, “We also would like to have played on Saturday at 15:30. As a club, we are glad that the protest happens in such a positive and creative way, which suits Mainz 05. That’s why we endorsed the action from the beginning.”

Today, the professionals will be back on the pitch as Mainz play Freiburg in matchday 30’s dreaded Montagsspiel. As a continuation of their protest, both fan scenes have confirmed that there will be an atmosphere boycott in the Opel Arena, meaning there will be no singing, drumming, or flag-waving during what is sure to be a closely contested fight between the two relegation battlers.

 

*Organizers of the protest action: Corrillo Ultras, Supporters Crew Freiburg e.V., Freiburger Gruppe IWF, Fanabteilung of 1. FSV Mainz 05 e.V., Q-Block, and Supporters Mainz e.V.

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Zach Townsend

Zach Townsend is a freelance writer covering the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga from the United States. He follows and writes about German football all the way from the Schwarzwald-Stadion up to the Holstein-Stadion. You can find him on Twitter at @fussballerisch.

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