Germany’s Stand on ‘Despicable’ Fans Puts Silent England to Shame

Germany

London – That was some performance from Joachim Löw, the Germany national manager, after the jarring evidence during the international break that there are still a few troglodytes among his team’s support who seem hell-bent on providing living proof of Einstein’s theory that there is no limit to human stupidity.

Löw had just seen his team win 2-1 against the Czech Republic in Prague, maintaining an immaculate record in their World Cup qualifying group, but when he arrived for his press conference, face like thunder, the questions about his team’s performance had to wait. “I am neither upset nor sad,” he began. “I am full of rage, that explains my feelings better. I am really, really angry about this – that some so-called fans have used the stage of an international football match, and the stage of football, to bring shame on our country with their embarrassing behavior and appearance. We don’t want these anarchists. We are not their national team and they are not our fans. Their behavior was the lowest of the low and utterly despicable.”

It isn’t usual to hear a manager speak this way but, then again, these weren’t usual circumstances. A section of Germany’s support had disrupted a minute’s silence, abused one of their own players, Timo Werner, and followed up the traditional chants of “Sieg” (victory) towards the end of the game with an echoed “Heil”. It was an abomination and, at the final whistle, something happened that the people who follow die Mannschaft tell me they have never seen before. Germany’s players refused to go to the away end. They didn’t wave, there was no clapping, zero appreciation. It was a choreographed protest, a public disavowal and a clear, defiant message that they didn’t want any association.

For that, the players deserve our applause and Mats Hummels, in particular, as the captain who directed his team-mates off the pitch and made it absolutely clear it was a time to make a stand. “The chants were a catastrophe,” Hummels said later. “They started during the minute’s silence, which shows you the kind of people we’re dealing with. Timo Werner was insulted and ridiculed. Then the fans started shouting their insults. We distance ourselves completely from it and want nothing to do with it. And that’s why we didn’t go [to them].”

Bravo, that man, and what a pity England’s players did not have it in them to do the same in response to that abysmal night in Dortmund six months ago and the absence of respect for their hosts from the corner of the Westfalenstadion decorated in St. George’s flags.

That occasion needed a strong voice, too, when virtually the entire soundtrack was about the second world war and the only real choreography came in the form of the outstretched arms, creating a fleet of pretend fighter planes, during the various renditions of Ten German Bombers, one lasting fully 15 minutes, and how “the RAF from England shot them down”.

Unfortunately, it did not get one. Gareth Southgate’s comments were, frankly, not nearly enough and let’s not kid ourselves: it won’t even have crossed the players’ minds that they might be in a position to affect change and try to stop it happening again. The modern‑day England footballer just isn’t made that way. You will never find one speaking in the way that Hummels did. And more’s the pity.

The only counter-argument is that the 21,000-capacity Eden Arena in Prague is a much smaller stadium than the Westfalenstadion, making what happened feel even more intrusive and lamentable, and the behavior was on a different, more sinister level than the backdrop to the Germany-England encounter.

Maybe that’s true. Reports in Germany say the 100 or so troublemakers were associated with Dynamo Dresden and a number of other clubs from the former East Germany, where right‑wing extremism is said to be more prominent than other parts of the country. They mostly wore black and targeted their own football association with chants of “scheisse, DFB” during what was supposed to be a minute’s silence. Rudolf Kocek, president of the Czechoslovak FA when they won 1976 European Championship, was one of the people the host nation wanted to remember. Rudolf Bat’a, the organization’s former general secretary, was another; and so was Lenka Civinova, who was on holiday in Egypt during the summer when a terrorist went on the rampage in two beachfront hotels. Civinova, 36, the Czech FA’s accountant, was among the seven tourists stabbed. Two of the dead were actually from Germany.

It isn’t easy to understand why anybody would want to shout that down, but don’t forget what happened when England arranged a minute’s silence against Brazil in 2013 to honor the people who died in the Munich air tragedy, the 20th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death and the 238 victims of a nightclub fire in Santa Maria. Perhaps you might remember the England-Wales match in 2004 and what happened after a request by the authorities for a minute’s silence for Ken Bigley, the news of whose murder by terrorists in Iraq had broken the previous day.

The difference on those occasions is that it is very rare for anyone involved with England – the manager, the captain, any of the players – ever to dare criticize their own supporters, even when criticism would be deserved, and it is a shame they have never found their voice when Löw, Hummels and their various colleagues have shown that it is possible to make a stand and in the process, change the narrative.

The FA did hold a media briefing three months after the Dortmund game to go over what had happened but nobody from the England setup itself was prepared to go on record even though it was clear by that point it was more than just a few beery, offensive chants. The footage of England’s end showed people making Nazi salutes and slit-throat gestures. One member of the choir could be seen holding a finger above his lip to imitate Hitler, in between gesturing that he would stab the German fans. All of which brought to mind the verdict of one Philadelphia Inquirer columnist after the United States had been awarded the 1994 World Cup. “What’s the first word to come into your head when I say: ‘British soccer fan’?” he asked. “It was ‘sub-human’, wasn’t it? I rest my case.”

It’s a nice line but, in reality, there are plenty of people who go abroad to watch England and enjoy their adventures without restoring to time‑warp chanting, 90-minute xenophobia or pretend patriotism about conflicts from another phase of history.

Yet it was still easy enough to find lads going through “No Surrender” in the queues on Wembley Way after England’s last game and, when it comes to next year’s World Cup, it has been interesting to hear from the relevant authorities about some of the supporters who will be making that trip to Russia and why those people had better wise up bearing in mind what could be waiting for them.

England’s troublemakers still tend to wear the same uniform that was fashionable on the terraces a quarter of a century ago – Stone Island, Burberry, Adidas trainers (more Gazelles than the Maasai Mara) – but it is a different form of trouble these days. The old category-C hooligans have gone, for the most part, and in their place it is a new breed of younger supporters, largely 19 to 25, who are not so dangerous but make up for that by adopting an anything-goes, stag-weekend mentality, whereby they take pride in behaving badly and regard England trips as a bit of escapism. When the FA’s travel club emailed its members after the Germany game a number of replies came back telling the FA to stop being spoilsports, arguing the behavior was exactly how they liked it.

The difficult part is breaking that kind of mentality and perhaps Southgate and his players missed a trick when the alternative, as their equivalents in Germany have shown, would have been to turn their backs and disown the people who still confuse international football matches with old medieval tournaments.

It doesn’t automatically mean that when Germany go on future excursions the demagogues and dunderheads will stay away or come with a new songbook. But at least the manager and players of the world champions have realized this kind of behavior affects them, too, and that it would be better to confront it rather than sitting on their hands and deciding it is somebody else’s problem. That has to count for something and, for that alone, it is tempting to think their English counterparts could learn a thing or two.

The Guardian Sport

House Hunting in … the Czech Republic

Prague

Prague – A 19th-century farmstead with six bedrooms and five bathrooms renovated with an eye to historic detail is for sale in Racice, a small town near Prague in the Czech Republic.

The 2,583-square-foot farmhouse has two stories. It sits on a lot of almost an acre, along with an early 20th-century barn used as an atelier; a building for drying hops from 1926; and a stone rotunda used as a bedroom. The farmstead was renovated between 1989 and 1993 by the current owner, Dagmar Brezinova.

The furniture, much of it antiques, is included in the asking price. The first floor has an office and a bedroom overlooking the village green. Nearby is a kitchen, two bathrooms and a utility room with a new bio-fuel stove. Beyond is a dining room for 12 people and a second kitchen, a stone fireplace and doors opening to the garden. Walls, mostly painted white, are stone and brick; the floors, windows and the staircase, generally pine. The kitchens have wooden countertops, glass-fronted storage cabinets and basic appliances.

A portion of the second floor is taken up by an apartment with two bedrooms and a bathroom. The apartment faces the green and is furnished with a Biedermeier-period sofa and armchairs. The rest of the second floor contains two bedrooms, one with an outdoor staircase to the garden, and two bathrooms. The ceilings of one bedroom and a bathroom are made with traditional rounded beams.

The old hops building has a porch for alfresco dining with a large fireplace and a bar. The property is landscaped with mature nut and cherry trees, along with a pond with waterfowl.

Racice, a village of about 300 people, has taverns, shops, restaurants and supermarkets within a 10-minute drive. There are many castles in the region, along with trails for cycling, tennis courts, fishing, horseback riding and a small airport, Brezinova said. Racice is 50 minutes by car from Prague’s center and an hour from an international airport. It is also an important center for rowing and flat-water canoeing.

“We’ve celebrated the victories of many Czech Olympic sportsmen, canoeists, rowers and others” at the farmstead, Brezinova said.

Market Overview

The housing market in Prague is robust, with well-priced homes in good locations often selling in a matter of weeks, often with multiple bidders, said Tomas Blahuta, a senior property consultant at Svoboda & Williams, which has the listing for this house.

“Due to the limited supply and the lack of new developments in Prague for bureaucratic reasons, prices have been growing in almost every location, sometimes a double-digit increase year-on-year,” Blahuta said.

The market is driven by a low unemployment rate, wage growth, low interest rates and the availability of mortgages that, until recently, financed up to 100 percent of a home purchase, said Blanka Vackova, the head of research at JLL Czech Republic, a real estate agency.

“For foreign buyers, the Czech Republic and Prague represent a safe and stable political and economic environment with a high standard of living,” she said.

Demand for homes may slow this year because of imposition of stricter rules for obtaining mortgages, along with a change that shifts the 4 percent property transfer tax from the seller to the buyer, Vackova said.

Still, constraints on new development may limit supply and help keep prices high, said Peter Visnovsky, the director of the real estate agency Lexxus.

“When we talk about the mid-range market, you can buy a newly built one-bedroom apartment for $200,000, and a two-bedroom apartment for $260,000, including parking place and taxes,” Visnovsky said.

The average price of a home in Prague is about 65,000 to 75,000 koruna per square meter, or about $266 to $307 per square foot, Blahuta said. “But we’re seeing a real push on prices lately with new homes and apartments trading above 100,000 koruna per square meter,” or about $409 per square foot, he said.

Who Buys in Prague

Foreign home buyers typically account for about 15 percent of the sales over all, and are more numerous at the upper end of the market, Visnovsky said.

They tend to look for homes in and near the historic center, brokers said, including areas like Old Town, Lesser Town, the Castle District and Vinohrady.

The majority of foreign buyers come from Russia, Ukraine, European Union countries, Britain and the United States, brokers said. Smaller groups include Vietnamese and Chinese people who are running businesses in the country, said Lucie Mekhail, a senior consultant with JLL Czech Republic.

Buying Basics

The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union, though it still uses the koruna. Since 2011, there have been no restrictions on foreign home-ownership.

“However, since the administration process is quite extensive and done fully in Czech, we recommend to have a local agent deal with the acquisition process,” Blahuta said.

Many home buyers hire a lawyer, and fees for legal advice start at 2,000 koruna an hour, or $88, reaching 5,000 koruna, or $220, an hour — higher for an international law firm, Blahuta said.

Closing costs include a 4 percent transfer tax paid by the buyer. Mortgages are available from Czech banks, which may finance up to 80 or 85 percent of the purchase for foreign buyers, brokers said.

Languages and Currency

Czech; koruna (1 koruna = $0.044)

Taxes and Fees

The annual property taxes on this house are 3,000 koruna, or about $132.

The New York Times

Five Czechs Missing in Lebanon since July Have Been Found

Five Czechs Missing in Lebanon since July Have Been Found
Five Czechs Missing in Lebanon since July Have Been Found

A security source told Reuters on Monday that the five Czech citizens who went missing in eastern Lebanon in July are now with the Lebanese security services.

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed that the five, who went missing in Lebanon last year, were found late on Monday alive and in “satisfactory health condition.”

“We will send a plane for them as soon as possible,” the Czech foreign minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, on a visit to Oman, said on his Twitter account.

Czech authorities treated the disappearance as a possible kidnapping. Also, Lebanon’s interior minister said in July that it may have been related to organized crime and the drugs and arms trade.

Among the missing Czechs was an attorney to Ali Fayad, a man of Lebanese origin who was in custody in the Czech Republic awaiting a decision on a U.S. extradition request.

The United States has accused Fayad and his accomplices of trying to sell arms and drugs to the Colombian guerrilla group FARC.

According to his office, his Czech lawyer has traveled to Lebanon several times for the case.
The abandoned vehicle of the five Czech nationals and one Lebanese man who went missing was found near Kefraya, in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, in July last year. This incident took place close to where seven Estonian cyclists were kidnapped in 2011 and held for four months.

Neither the security source nor the Czech ministry stated if the Lebanese driver had also been found.

Czech police: Palestinian ambassador killed by blast at Prague home

Police and firefighters at the scene of a blast at the residence of Palestine ambassador, Jamal al-Jamal, in Prague, Czech Republic, 01 January 2014 (EPA/FILIP SINGER).
Police and firefighters at the scene of a blast at the residence of Palestine ambassador, Jamal al-Jamal, in Prague, Czech Republic, 01 January 2014 (EPA/FILIP SINGER).
Prague, Reuters—The Palestinian ambassador to Prague was killed in an explosion at his residence on Wednesday that Czech authorities believe was probably an accident.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said ambassador Jamal Al-Jamal had been trying to open a safe that was recently moved to his new home and a Czech government source told Reuters that the explosion was probably caused by a security device on the unit.

It was unclear what that was. Some safes can be fitted with mechanisms designed to destroy secret documents in the event of the lock being tampered with. The Czech source said the government did not believe it was a terrorist attack.

Czech police said the ambassador died of his injuries in hospital after the explosion on the morning of New Year’s Day in the two-story suburban residence. No one else was injured, police said, although Jamal’s family was at home at the time.

No signs of damage to the house was visible from the street.
“There has been a detonation of a so far unidentified explosive mixture,” police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova said. “The ambassador was … taken to hospital with serious injuries.”

She later said he had died.

A Palestinian official told Reuters in the West Bank administrative center Ramallah: “This explosion happened at his house. He recently moved there.”

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA, citing a Foreign Ministry statement, said the blast happened when Jamal tried to open a safe that had been moved from the embassy’s old offices.

Police cordoned off part of the street and a half dozen police vehicles, firetrucks and two ambulances were there.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it would send a delegation to Prague “to help with the investigation”.