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Czech football team models clothing brand with neo-Nazi associations

Plzeň, 11.9.2012 23:05, (ROMEA)
ilustrační foto

It has been a relief over the past few years to see some Czech football clubs in the Gambrinus League start taking clear stances against racism in football stadiums - a step out of the wilderness and toward a more cultivated environment in the sport, all to the good. Unfortunately, even though it might seem that those fighting against the throwing of bananas at black players on the pitch or the promotion of the number "88" (neo-Nazi code for Heil Hitler) have firmly planted their roots in the game, the first cracks in the anti-racist facade are starting to show here.

The cadre of young talents in the Viktoria Plzeň football club, which is playing in the European Cup for the second year in a row, entered "uncharted waters" last week. When one hears the term "fashion show", one might imagine Milan Baroš on the runway in a thong, or a room in the Top Hotel Praha at about 4 AM - but football players modeling the Thor Steinar clothing line here is something truly new.

Just to be clear: Thor Steinar is presented on its official website as a "legendary German clothing brand" (which is surprising, since the brand only came into being 10 years ago and is actually sewn in China and Turkey). Its logo is based on runic symbols linked to Nazism. When we look into the brand's name a little more, we see that "Thor" is the name of a god in Norse mythology and "Steinar" may have been inspired by Felix Steiner - the Nazi SS commander who participated in the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

We can speculate as to whether the young founder of this brand, David Štípek, knew all this or not when creating it. That basically doesn't matter, but you wouldn't know it from the club's response when asked about their involvement: "The Viktoria football players were at an event organized by Casino, one of the main youth partners of FC Viktoria Plzeň. The fashion show was completely directed by Casino, and six Viktoria players participated in it in the role of models only. The clothing they wore does not belong to them and was supplied by the firm. I am aware that the Thor Steinar brand has a controversial reputation, but neither Viktoria nor any of its football players are connected to it," Pavel Pillár, spokesperson for the Plzeň club, wrote to me.

Hands off ! Not that I'm surprised. However, instead of merely distancing itself from that reputation, Viktoria could have made it clear that it has nothing to do with neo-Nazism or racism by boycotting the clothing line. After all, Tomáš Marek, who distributes Thor Steinar clothing in the Czech Republic, is the bass player for the not exactly squeaky-clean band called Conflict88. "We have been collaborating with the Plzeň football club starting this year and our cooperation is excellent. I don't want to say anything more about it to you than that," he told news server Aktuálně.cz, adding that the recent fashion show was a one-time event.

Does anyone else sense the internal contradictions there? The Thor Steinar brand has been blacklisted in Germany, for example, because of its neo-Nazi associations. If such a trend were to take hold in the Czech Republic, then porn star Robert Rosenberg might not have anything to wear - but it would be a positive kick-off to some truly fair play. This article originally ran in Czech at http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/ct24/blogy/195407-nazi-fotbal-na-hnedem-molu/.

Gwendolyn Albert, Ondřej Nováček, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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