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Fascism & Football: When Germany were the inferior team

FEATURED WRITER
2.08K   //    21 May 2014, 23:41 IST
Hitler, Germany, FIFA Football World Cup
‘Hitler’s manipulation of the sport was an art’

The Nazi government had exploited sport as part of the larger picture- to strengthen the “Aryan race”. Hitler asserted that the German “Aryan” race was gifted above all other races. Nazis wanted to exercise political control over the country through sports and more importantly, prepare the German youth for war. “Non-Aryans”- Jewish or part-Jewish and Gypsy athletes — were gradually and effectively excluded from German sports facilities and associations. They were allowed marginal training facilities, and their opportunities to compete were limited.

Hitler’s use of football didn’t go unnoticed. The German dictator was the master of propaganda and wanted to use the game to his advantage. There was one problem though- the German football team of the time was certainly not one the Führer could count on to execute his master plan.  It was clear to the Nazis that they couldn’t use football to their benefit the way Mussolini had. But Hitler was a conniving man. When he had a vision of something, he sought to achieve it. The world would see the German dictator use football’s popular appeal and mould it to his advantage through manipulation, coercion and corruption.

Like mentioned before, Hitler had seen the power of football. The Nazi party slowly started encouraging more Germans to play it. Their efforts didn’t go in vain as they oversaw the proliferation of clubs across the country. Before it flourished under the Reich, however, football was first broken apart and reorganised, with the worker and church-run clubs eliminated and replaced by outfits run along lines more in keeping with the Nazi movement.  The Nazi party appointed Felix Linnemann as the head of the German Football board, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB). Linnemann controlled the board, from the appointment of coaches to the selection of players. The Nazi party used Linnemann to spread their political ambitions on the game.

Hitler expressed his contempt for democracy by taking out his state from the ‘League of Nations’ in 1933. He then sought to express the potential of his country through football. The ‘beautiful game’ proved to be exactly what he needed to reassure his European neighbours and guise his true intensions as he prepared his country for war.

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