Yes, Thank You, Effzeh . . . For Things On and Off the Field

Oh, my dearest Effzeh, I have known that I love you for quite some time. I can’t say that it was a case of “love at first sight,” but since I did come to realize that you and I were perfectly matched as football fan/club member and football team in a football club, I have been given regular reinforcements that our union was righteous.

Like many, I was a little bit disappointed that you did not decline to wear the Bild logo on the jersey sleeves for the derby match, but clearly because I didn’t care for how the editor of that publication responded to St. Pauli’s decision to opt-out, not because I disagreed with the notion that the Bundesliga and its clubs should publicly support humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.

Hence, when you announced that you were wearing “Toleranz” last Friday in the place where “REWE” normally goes as the jersey sponsor, while also inviting 1,000 refugees to the match with Ingolstadt and treating them with food, beverage, and red-and-white scarves as a gesture of goodwill, my faith in the club’s belief in doing societal good was again bolstered. Even better, included in the statement of Friday’s events was a bit of distancing from the way Kai Diekmann conducted himself as Bild‘s voice in the “Wir Helfen” campaign the week before.

And if the positioning of the club in this matter ended right here, I think we could all have been somewhat satisfied, even as some folks jumped on the club’s Facebook posts to voice their anti-refugee thoughts masked as concern for the needy people already in Germany whose welfare are being ignored in favor of these newly arrived leeches to the social-support system, while dropping the obligatory empty threat of revoking their support of the club for taking such a position.

But OUR 1. FC Köln clearly was not content to make a good public-relations play and then walk away, as was evidenced by one vitriolic anti-refugee post made under the video posted of coach Peter Stöger’s press-conference before the Ingolstadt match, in which the poster angrily cursed the burgeoning support of the refugees and then openly pondering “whether this really is still my club.”

“Should the FC really be your club, tolerance, respect, and (refugee)-aid would be taken for granted. That’s what the FC stands for and has traditionally taken its social responsibility of helping people in need quite seriously. We appreciate everyone who supports the FC in these matters.”

That is, ‘all of your support of the club in the past has helped fund similar action in the past and will continue to do so going forward. We always appreciate your business, but if it’s dependent on going against what we believe to be part of the core of our being, well . . . there’s the door, I suppose.’

My experience is that when big public entities are attacked by dissenters in public forums, they tend to stay mute, presumably so as to not further upset those people in the interest of losing as little business over the matter as possible. While you can see the logic in such behavior, it’s hardly admirable.

Which is why the club’s social-media responses to the vocal minority has been so enjoyable.

On Monday, the club published a wrap-up to it’s “United for Tolerance” event, touting its success and thanking everyone for their support in the matter, naturally with additional mention of the club’s foundation and corporate partners. The Facebook posting of the story was, like the earlier pieces about Friday’s plans, targeted by the anti-refugee folks.

The club noticed and responded in kind with a response amid the commentary.

effzeh slapdown“Dear critics who ‘have nothing against foreigners’ and would like to know why the FC ‘never does anything for Germans’:
You can inform yourself about the social engagement of the FC, among other things, on the home page under ‘Club/Foundation.’ And whomever then still must ‘vomit’ or feels unfairly treated — because the FC invited people, many of whom once fled from war and violence with nothing but their bare lives, to a football match — we are not reliant on your ‘Likes’.
The trolls, who currently control and purposely spread the same hateful propaganda at every opportunity under the assumption that we would take their bait, are thereby notifed: We shall not.
Many greetings from #effzeh”

With no inside knowledge as to how this response was crafted, nor the personalities behind it, I read a lot of subtext here:

  • We see through your “nothing against them, but . . .” nonsense and plainly call you on it.
  • Your ignorance is neither our fault, nor our problem, but here’s a resource for your own enlightenment anyhow.
  • Your enlarged sense of self-importance may not have as much value to the FC as you appear to believe.
  • Being unable to maintain some sense of scale by being outraged over football matters in relation to “war and violence” doesn’t speak well for you.
  • We not only know what an internet “troll” is, but we also know how to address them while not being drawn into a debate over what is not really open for debate.

I love the way the FC conducts itself socially. They are a force for good, from my perspective. I note their participation in the Christopher Street Day (Europe’s LGBT pride day) parade and events, among other occasional activities such as the one from last weekend and feel quite good about paying my annual membership dues, even if I’ve yet to take advantage of many of its benefits.

This bold public face also shows a certain amount of confidence in itself, overall. The effzeh knows who it is when it comes to matters concerning its Foundation and is happy to defend those aspects, even if by simply saying, “This IS the FC, and we do not shy away from who we are.”

With the membership meeting coming in just two days amid Peter Stöger and Jörg Schmadtke being somewhat defensive of the team’s to-date accomplishments under their stewardship as some fans criticize recent results and performances, it’s a good time to take a wider view of who we are as a club.

My club, the FC (or effzeh, in the dialect of the Kölsche people who power it), has always promoted itself as being very open to all comers. Having jumping into the club primarily through the magic of the internet, I can say that I was accepted warmly and immediately by nearly everyone who bothered to offer an opinion on an American joining the conversation in either awfully broken German or plain ol’ English and since launching a blog and website to sing the praises of and love for Mein Verein.

So I hereby offer my heart-felt THANK YOU for all you’ve done to take a relegated team known outside Germany mostly for the “ultras'” smoke show on their way out of the Bundesliga to a solidly first-division side doing its part to help deal with one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent times.

And, as always and in all things . . . COME ON EFFZEH!

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