The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
I’m not here to answer the age-old and catastrophically point-missing question of whether Adolf Hitler was a Schalke fan. I am here to tell you that Schalke’s PR chief, Gerd Voss, has comprehensively destroyed the Times for asserting that he was one in their “50 worst famous football fans” list last week. In a letter to the editor published today, Voss performs a merciless rhetorical dismantling of the smug moralism and indifferent fact-checking behind the list, yet manages to do so with such a light touch that even the Times is convinced that he’s taken the exercise “in the spirit it was intended” (uh, sic).
Your article on ‘The 50 worst famous football fans‘ on November 26 made interesting reading. Until then we didn’t know Adolf Hitler had a soft spot for Schalke 04 let alone was a fan of our club.
We were very curious to find out what made the well respected Times claim this as a fact. So we checked and double-checked whether the club board between 1933 and 1945 had named a stand the “Führer Stand”, for example, and we watched every episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo in a bid to find a clue. Nothing.
In fact, it turned out he must have been an armchair supporter because he never bothered to turn up at any of our games, even if it was a championship final right on his door step at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Perhaps he was too occupied with his genocidal policies, or… maybe he wasn’t a football fan after all.
This is at least what a scientific study commissioned by the club revealed in 2004. The authors analysed the theory that the fact that Schalke won six national championships during the Third Reich was down to the special support of the Nazis. The result was quite clear: the theory is total rubbish. At best, the Nazis tried to bask in the sun of the great popularity of a team that had ranked among the best in the land since 1927.
Hitler himself never did so for two reasons. First, the physiognomy of footballers with their bow legs and knock-knees wasn’t exactly his idea of a superior German race. Second, he did go to a football match once during the Olympic Games in 1936, but Germany lost 2-0 to Norway. Bugger!
To conclude Hitler was a fan of Schalke 04 because they won most of the titles during his regime must make Margaret Thatcher a Liverpool fan. Funnily enough she didn’t make the list.
Head of Media & PR
My favorite sentence: “Bugger!” In any case, let’s have a slow clap for this genial coup against jingoism. Gerd Voss, you are today’s Champion of Rhetoric.
by Brian Phillips · December 5, 2008