“A past still present?”: Lokomotive Leipzig and its fan scene

The Megapark open-air disco in Mallorca where two henchmen of the extreme right hooligan scene of the Leipzig-based attacked a Senegalese bouncer. © imago/Lars Berg

Police confirms: Mallorca thugs are Leipzig hooligans“: This headline – caused by two henchmen of the extreme right hooligan scene of the Leipzig-based club 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig (Lok Leipzig) – was the most recent one to cause massive repercussions in public and media. Both men attacked a Senegalese bouncer during a disco attendance at Mallorca (Spain) and injured him severely. They were part of a group of approximately 70 Lok-hooligans from different groups who were spending their “ending of the season”-holidays on the Balearic island in June 2019.

The roots of resistance against state authority of the fan scene of Lok Leipzig can be traced back to the 1970s, shortly after the clubs (re)foundation in 1966 (1893-1946:VfB Leipzig). In simplified terms it all started with some chants “1,2,3 – Knüppelpolizei” (“1,2,3 – cudgel police”) or “Nieder mit der NVA” (“Down with the NPA, (National People’s Army)”). Furthermore, it resulted in the foundation of violent and nationalist fan clubs like “Problemgruppe Wolfen” (“problematic group Wolfen”) who used chants like “Zyklon B dem BFC” (“Zyklon B for BFC”, referring to the Berliner Fußballclub Dynamo, the so-called “Stasi-Club) or “Aue und Chemie, Judensympathie (“Aue and Chemie, Jewish sympathy”, referring to a close link between the fans of their archrival BSG Chemie Leipzig and BSG Wismut Aue). A culmination point was reached shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall when football hooligans and boneheads formed an unholy alliance that spread (racist) violence across the country from 1989 to 1994. Hooligans of Lok Leipzig (1991-2003: VfB Leipzig) described these times – in the first and second division – as the “wild 1990s”. After the last relegation to the second division in 1994 things seemed to ebb down. Exceptions were the derbies against Chemie Leipzig (1990-2011: FC Sachsen Leipzig) and matches against other former DDR Oberliga (GDR-Premier League) clubs with powerful hooligan firms (Dynamo Dresden, 1. FC Magdeburg, BFC Dynamo).

The current situation illustrates revitalization and the (re)radicalization of the scene around the turn of the millennium. This development was triggered by four major factors. First, after the relegation down to third, later fourth division, the fan scene was reduced to a core of supporters, controlled by violent and extreme right groups. Second, the spreading of the Ultra movement in Germany attracted new, especially young fans who founded new groups and firms, also in Leipzig. Third, the growing influence of the far-right movement in East Germany, fostered by an alliance of the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD) (National Democratic Party of Germany) and extreme right groupuscules. Last but not least, the double insolvency of VfB Leipzig in 2000 and 2004.

After several unsuccessful attempts to return to the second division and a consequent bankruptcy the club was relegated to the fourth division in 2000. The (still) growing influence of the extreme right within the fan scene became visible during a local derby against Chemie Leipzig where the scene was able to raise two banners with the following message: „Rudolf Heß – Bei Lok rechts außen“ (“Rudolf Heß – On the right wing of Lok”) and „Wir sind Lokisten – Mörder und Faschisten“ (“We are Lok-supporters – murderers and fascists”). With these groups being present in the scene, the omens for a new beginning without extreme-right influences were not favorable but inevitable due to the financial situation of the club. As a result of inconsequently conducted insolvency proceedings, the club had to declare itself insolvent in the beginning of 2004. Some (former) hooligans and far right supporters around Steffen Kubald and Nils Larisch anticipated this situation and founded the club Lok Leipzig again in December 2003. After the insolvency of the former club VfB Leipzig, Lok Leipzig started out again in the lowest, the 11th division, while most supporters came from the violent and extreme-right core of the scene. Three out of four Ultra groups (self-image, but with a lot of support from old(er) hooligans) – “Scenario Lok” (and its predecessors “Inferno Lok Leipzig”), “Blue Caps” and “Ultras Lok Leipzig”– were clearly dominated by the extreme-right leaders and members while the fourth group “Blue Side” focused on Ultra-typical issues, without taking a clear stance on politics and against the other groups. The first two groups were also mentioned in the Sächsischer Verfassungsschutzbericht (report of the Saxon State Office for the Protection of the Constitution).

While Lok Leipzig quickly made its way back to the fifth division – by sporting success and an amicable merger –, the strained relationship with the fan scene remained. For example, in 2006, about 30 Lok Leipzig supporters formed a human swastika on the terraces during a youth match of Lok Leipzig. Furthermore, the groups “Blue Caps”, led by Enrico Böhm, a high ranking NPD official and former city councilman in Leipzig, and “Scenario Lok”, headed by Benjamin Brinsa, current city councilman for the far right party “Neues Forum Wurzen” (“New Forum Wurzen”), high-class MMA-fighter (temporarily contracted by the UFC) and spiritus rector of the Leipzig based extreme right fight club “Imperium Fight Team”, continued troubling the club, predominantly with racist, anti-Semitic and anti-leftist riots. The club (officials) did not take a clear stance against these groups, despite banning them from the stadium as a group. But after the dissolution of “Scenario Lok” in 2014 the former members were allowed to return and they continued as if they never had dissolved, while anti-fascist and neutral groups such as “Fankurve 1966” and “Blue Side” were driven out of the stadium or to its isolated fringes. Since then, former members of “Scenario Lok”, “Blue Caps” “Ultras Lok Leipzig” and other single persons, now united under the banner of “Fanszene Lokomotive”, dominate the public sphere around the club and certain areas in the city and its suburbs.

To enforce this control against other firms at home and in foreign territories they form alliances often rooted in single occurrences that lead to a friendly relation or they grow out of enmities towards common enemies. In the case of Leipzig, their brothers in arms are on the one hand “Hallescher FC” and “FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt”, united by the battle cry: “Erfurt. Leipzig. Halle. Fußballkrawalle” (“Erfurt, Leipzig, Halle, football riots”) and on the other “S.S. Lazio” and “BFC Dynamo (as “Legion Germania”). These alliances almost exclusively include extreme-right firms. This casts another slur at Lok Leipzig and East German football in general – besides other ostensibly dissolved groups appearing to support the “Chemnitzer FC” (HooNaRa) and “FC Energie Cottbus” (Inferno Cottbus ’99).

Most prominently, varying alliances of firms were marching and fighting together during the raid on Leipzig-Connewitz (“Storm on Connewitz”) on January 11th 2016, a borough often perceived as a leftist stronghold, where a group of predominantly extreme-right football hooligans (Lok Leipzig, SG Dynamo Dresden, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt, Hallescher FC, FC Carl-Zeiss Jena and Chemnitzer FC) caused a swath of destruction by attacking everything and everyone perceived as hostile. While most of them were caught by the police, this was not the case during the riots in Chemnitz at the end of August 2018. In Chemnitz the situation was so conspicuous – also to a wider public – that the network of extreme-right hooligans worked almost perfectly with regard to the degree of the mobilization. Within hours they were able to bring hundreds of hooligans – also due to the spatial proximity, preponderantly from the East – to the streets, marching through the city of Chemnitz with an adaption („Wir sind die Krieger, wir sind die Fans, Adolf Hitler Hooligans“ (“We’re the warriors, we’re the fans, Adolf Hitler hooligans”)) of the battle cry – used by Lok Leipzig hooligans: Wir sind die Krieger, wir sind die Fans, Lokomotive Hooligans“ (“We’re the warriors, we’re the fans, Lokomotive hooligans”). With these slogans and their physical presence, the alliance of hooligans reared the ugly head of “the radical-right narrative of a ‘people’s uprising’ in Eastern Germany”.

The case of Lok Leipzig serves as an example of a football club where multiple cross-pressures (sporting success versus authenticity and financial solidity) and failures (lack of accounting for the past and a clear political stance) from the macro to the micro level as well as within and by different involved groups (from the club management down to the fan base) were made, or occurred by hardly influenceable conditions (the process of political and economic transformation). This conglomeration amounts to massive structural problems for football (culture), civic society and, most importantly, democracy.

Mr Maximilian Kreter is a Doctoral Fellow at CARR and a Doctoral candidate at Hannah Arendt Institute Totalitarianism Studies, TU Dresden. See his cprofile here.

© Maximilian Kreter. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).