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Ssssssh! German fans stage silent protest

BERLIN (AFP) –

Hamburg's goalkeeper Rene Adler saves a free-kick against Schalke 04 on November 27

Hamburg’s goalkeeper Rene Adler saves a free-kick during the German first division Bundesliga football match between Hamburg SV and Schalke 04 in Hamburg on November 27. German fans have reacted against a controversial security proposal, which will see a ban on standing and a cut in ticket availability, by staging silent protests at stadiums across the country.

German fans have reacted against a controversial security proposal, which will see a ban on standing and a cut in ticket availability, by staging silent protests at stadiums across the country.

On Tuesday night, the first wave of nationwide protests was launched at first and second Bundesliga grounds against the German Football League’s (DFL) “Safe Stadium Experience” paper.

Especially at the four top-flight grounds used in Dortmund, Hanover, Hamburg and Frankfurt, the terraces fell silent at kick-off as the first 12 minutes and 12 seconds of each game was played largely in silence.

Once the set time expired, the terraces erupted into a wall of noise from flag-waving fans — and organisers plan to make sure the same happens at grounds across Germany over the next two weekends.

Borussia Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl admitted it was a “funny feeling” playing in front of silent stands at his team’s sold-out 80,100-capacity Signal Iduna Park stadium at the start of the 1-1 draw with Fortuna Duesseldorf.

“They (the fans) want to use the symbolic time of 12:12 to send a clear sign,” he explained with December 12 being the date when clubs will vote on the proposal.

“It wasn’t just our fans, but many more in the Bundesliga. It is a symbol towards the DFL paper.”

Under the slogan “No voices, No atmosphere”, rival fans across Germany’s top 36 teams have united for the “12:12″ campaign against the DFL’s proposals.

The scheme aims to reduce tickets for away supporters at Bundesliga games from the current 10 percent down to five and ban standing areas at stadiums.

Fans are also unhappy about the proposed introduction of body searches.

Germany’s top 36 clubs will vote whether to accept the proposals at a meeting in Frankfurt on December 12 and the fans are hoping their voices — or a lack of them — will be heard.

“The protest is to show the clubs what it would be like if we were not there,” explained Philipp Markhardt, spokesman for the supporters group “ProFan”.

The first night of the protest suffered a few glitches with not everyone understanding the significance of the silence.

At Hanover 96, a goal after only four minutes by Mame Diouf meant some fans started cheering, while Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink admitted he was baffled by the silence during his team’s 3-1 win over Schalke 04.

“I was wondering what was going on at the start, because I didn’t know why,” said Fink, who thought the protest was just by Hamburg fans against the team’s recent poor display.

“I had to ask someone on the bench to explain.

“At first I thought they were protesting because we had played so poorly at Duesseldorf.”

But it is remarkable how the various fan groups and rival supporters have united to show their disapproval.

“In any case, the German Football League (DFL) and the German Football Federation (DFB) have noticed now that even rival fan groups have pulled together,” said Ben Prasse from the fans group “One Curve”.

“That will surely have impressed the gentlemen in charge.”

Fans are threatening to prolong their protest past December 12 if the proposal is not rejected by the clubs.

“If we do not achieve our goal by December 12, it could go on longer,” said Markhardt.

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