Austria: Successful anti-racist football tournament and youth congress

Support grows for victimised socialist footballers

Last October, three socialist players were suspended from of their football club, Hellas Kagran in Vienna, by the club’s president, Martin Graf, an MP for the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) (see previous, October 31, 2008 article). This happened one day before Graf was elected as the third president of the Austrian parliament, an important role in Austrian politics.

On January 24, the three players, Margarita and Lucia Döller and Irene Müller, organised a solidarity football tournament, as part of a broader anti-racist campaign, supported by the Socialist Left Party (SLP, CWI in Austria) and Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE – an international anti-racist organisation set up by CWI members) . 150 people took part in this tournament, showing their solidarity with the suspended players. Among them were four players from the Union Mauer club. These four had protested against the suspensions by wearing t-shirts before a match against Hellas Kagran, saying “let Margarita, Lucia and Irene play – show Martin Graf the red card”. After the match, these four were banned for three games by the Vienna Football Association.

Far right connections

In early January, Graf had been in the public eye, as two members of his staff were said to have bought books and t-shirts from the neo-nazi ‘Aufruhr -Versand’ website. The slogans on the t-shifts included “White Power” and “I Regret Nothing”. Olympia, the Burschenschaft (student fraternity) that Graf is a member of, is seen as being on the far right fringes of the already right-wing Burschenschaften movement. Graf is using the football club to increase his influence. At a general meeting of the club held on January 6, a meeting many members of Hellas Kagran knew nothing about, four FPÖ officials (including four members of Olympia) were elected onto the club’s Executive Committee. The restaurant at the club’s football ground is now being run by Marcus Vetter, one of Graf assistants suspected of having bought goods from ‘Aufruhr-Versand’.

In the tournament, both women and men from Austrian and immigrant

backgrounds (including Turkish and Arab) took part. It was supported by the trade unions and a cup was presented to the winning teams by resistance fighter, Dr. Hugo Pepper. The tournament took place at in the sports hall of Hakoah, a Jewish football club.

80 people took part in a meeting after the football tournament. Speaking at the meeting were were Margarita Döller, one of the suspended players, Werner Raabe, an official from ASKÖ Vienna (the Social Democratic Football Association, which Hellas Kagran had been a member of, until Martin Graf’s election as president of the club), Wolfgang Purtscheller, a known expert on the far right, Georg Spitaler, journalist for ‘ballesterer’, a football magazine, and David Ellensohn of the Green Party who supported the campaign.

Socialist solution to racism and capitalist crisis

Margarita’s contribution hinted at the implications of the economic crisis for the development of the far right, as well as the increasing integration of the far right into the political establishment by all parties, including the Social Democrats and the Greens.

She also explained that her stand against Martin Graf would not have been possible had she not been a member of the CWI, which has a tradition of campaigning against the far right.

Purtscheller specifically explained the links between the FPÖ and the neo-nazi scene and Raabe gave insight into the events that had led to Graf being elected president of Hellas Kagran.

Due to this football tournament, the campaign against Martin Graf has again picked up media attention and lots of solidarity from other football players, in support of the suspended and banned players.

The next day, Sunday January 25, a youth congress, also organised by YRE and supported by the SLP, took place. The congress was held to give socialist answers to racism and the economic crisis. Speaking in meetings at the congress was, among others, Giannos Nikolaou, from Xekhinima (CWI Greece), reporting on the recent youth and workers’ movements in Greece.

The weekend was very successful and inspiring for everyone who took part. Many who were present over the two days showed interest in getting active with the CWI, to end racism and capitalist crisis through a socialist transformation of society.

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January 2009