While Mainz took Bob Marley at his word and stood up for their rights over Thomas Tuchel this week, the German Football Federation (DFB) showed little backbone, and scored a public-image own-goal that does little to enhance its reputation.
With many senior squad members caught up in DFB Pokal final preparations, the friendly with Poland on Tuesday was an opportunity for German football to showcase its obscene wealth of young talent. But the DFB shamefully shied away from also showing it takes a firm stance on racism in football.
In choosing Sankt Pauli's Millerntor stadium for the squad's last training session, the DFB must have been aware of the club's history and culture, and how that might - and perhaps should - have an impact. Renowned as having a ferociously left-wing fan base, Sankt Pauli have had a banner stating, 'Kein Fußball den Faschisten' ('No Football for Fascists') proudly emblazoned across one of their stands for years.
And yet some clipboard-wielding DFB suit decided the highly public stage of a national team training session, attended by the nation's media, was not the kind of place suited to getting across such a laudable message, particularly with all those young players out on the pitch!
"The Millerntor was neutralised. That means made free of advertising, but also of political statements," a DFB tweet read after the second half of the statement had been covered by officials ahead of the pre-match training session of Joachim Loew's youthful selection on Monday.
Nationalmannschaft spokesman Jens Grittner explained unconvincingly no one wanted pictures of Germany players pictured in the same shot as the word 'Fascist', while kicker noted drolly that "the association were clearly not concerned the players were training in front of a sign that said, 'No football'".
For Sankt Pauli, however, it was - rightly - no laughing matter. "Taking away part of this slogan is for us in direct contradiction to all the initiatives the DFB has taken in the past against discrimination, racism and xenophobia," the 2. Bundesliga club explained in a statement.
Indeed, what were the DFB scared of? UEFA President Michel Platini has been the driving force behind European football's governing body's 'RESPECT' and 'No to Racism' campaigns which - in the ads shown before Champions and Europa League games this season - very clearly send out a 'peace and goodwill to all men and rival football fans' message.
You could argue that by covering it up, and creating the subsequent media storm, the DFB have unwittingly given the cause more of a boost than if they had just left it alone. However, with homophobia rearing its ugly head even during Bayern Munich's Champions League tie with Arsenal, and extreme right-wing elements conspicuous by their presence at games across Germany's top three divisions - and no doubt beyond - the DFB should have just left the banner in place and stood firm.
That is what Mainz are doing with Tuchel, who went behind their backs in talking to both Schalke and Leverkusen earlier in the season. He still has a year remaining on his contract at Mainz, and was clearly hoping to see the club write off the 12 months he has left, thereby allowing him to take charge of a bigger, sexier club. If a club had 'tapped up' a player in such fashion, there would have been outrage, and Tuchel should be made to pay for his actions.
It looks like he will in the shape of 12 months' gardening leave. Undoubtedly, given his success at Mainz, Tuchel will find a bigger job when he has finished pruning his petunias to perfection. Mainz Manager Christian Heidel even "warmly recommended" to Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt that he should appoint Tuchel as of the 2015/16 season. But it is good to see the club standing up for itself, even if it could cost them money unless a rival is willing to stump up a 'transfer fee' for Tuchel.
Perhaps interested parties could use silver-tongued Stuttgart midfielder Patrick Funk in the negotiations after he was awarded a prize by the German Academy for Football Culture for the best football quote of 2013. When asked to explain his versatility and ability to play on either flank, Funk had replied: "The left is similar to the right, only on the other side." It's not certain Sankt Pauli would agree.
Ian Holyman - @ian_holyman
- Sports & Recreation
- Thomas Tuchel
- Sankt Pauli
- German Football Federation