Commentary: An oasis of green and white has been flooded with Brownshirt mud
The Bohemians Praha 1905 football club, based in the Vršovice quarter of Prague, is wearing a coat of shame today. Actually, we all are.
I, too, am one of the fired-up fans of that particular club. For a very long time it defined itself as being against the Nazis, racists and xenophobes.
Bohemians Praha 1905 were one of the few clubs, if not the only one in the top league of Czech football, whose fans did not give Nazi salutes during matches or boo at players because of their non-white skin. After the events of this week, that is unfortunately no longer the case.
A Brownshirt wave of racial intolerance has now figuratively broken down the door of the team's home ground at Ďolíček Stadium. Some of the fans of Bohemians Praha 1905 have rejected the idea of the documentary film "FC Roma" being screened at their stadium, allegedly because Nazis might disrupt the event.
I first began attending Bohemians matches in the Vršovice quarter at the beginning of the 1980s. A couple of friends and I used to travel there from Dejvice, at the other end of the city, to watch the "kangaroos" (their mascot) play.
Even in those days the club was different. Even back then it was like an oasis of a free, peace-loving approach to the world.
To go to a football match at Ďolíček Stadium was not just to fulfill your desire to experience sports. It was one of the very last historically-preserved stadiums in Prague, one where an atmosphere of human solidarity and joyous conspiracy against the stagnant Czechsolovak regime predominated.
It was, for us, something like going to church, or to a neighborhood fesitivity, or for a promenade down the avenue. Musicians from bands that were on the edge of legality (and those far over the edge) used to go to those matches for the tolerant atmosphere and the peculiar genius loci of the old periphery of Prague.
During the gray days of the normalization era, the cozy, idiosyncratic green-and-white stadium was a refuge for people who wanted nothing to do with the Communists. After the regime fell, I moved to the Vršovice quarter in the 1990s and kept on going to matches.
I have never had to fear taking one of my three daughters to a Bohemians Praha 1905 match - it was always just like taking them to the fair. Even among the most ardent fans it was always safe for us there.
People used to treat each other with consideration and courtesy at that stadium. Resistance to racism and xenophobia was one of the cornerstones of the identity and worldview of the "kangaroo" fans.
No other football stadium in the country is visited by so many foreign nationals. Every week you can hear people in the stands speaking English, French or Slovak.
Members of the African community in Prague are "kangaroo" fans too. They have never had a problem at Ďolíček Stadium, and the tolerance that predominated there always pleasantly surprised them.
In recent years, however, the first signs began to appear that small groups of young skinhead fans were doing their best to infiltrate the Bohemians fan base. Their behavior had nothing in common with that of the other "kangaroo" fans.
The new fans began to give the Nazi salute a couple of times, but each time they did so, the hardcore, real Bohemians fans concisely and deftly explained to them that they were at the wrong address. Calm was always restored.
Now, though, everything is different. As a Bohemians fan and as a human being, I am ashamed and deeply sorry that this has happened.
The excuses that screening the documentary film would "represent a security threat" and that it would "drag politics into sports" are absurd and reactionary. The HateFree campaign [sponsoring the film's distribution] is not politics - it's an expression of resistance to hatred.
We cannot avoid the fact that the pretext for not screening the film doesn't hold water. We all know what's going on here.
The Nazis have latched onto Ďolíček Stadium and everybody else has backed down in the face of their threats. I am, therefore, decidedly distancing myself from the position expressed by the Fan Club, and mainly from all of the displays of xenophobia going on at Ďolíček Stadium.
What has just happened is proof that the green-and-white oasis is threatened with the acute danger of turning into a home for Brownshirts in these uneasy times of increasing hatred and hysteria. We must not allow that to happen.
Bohemians Praha 1905 must remain green and white. There is no room for Brownshirts at this famous club with its rich tradition of solidarity and tolerance!
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