3rd-tier soccer game abandoned in Germany after racist abuse

DUISBURG, Germany (AP) — A third-division soccer game in Germany was abandoned Sunday due to racist abuse directed at a visiting player.

Referee Nicolas Winter initially stopped the game between hosts MSV Duisburg and VfL Osnabrück in the 33rd minute after monkey chants were aimed at Osnabrück forward Aaron Opoku.

“There was a corner for Osnabrück, and when the player wanted to take it, there were monkey sounds from the stands. He noticed it immediately and so did the assistant. Both of them described it to me,” said Winter.

The referee also said he could see how shocked the 22-year-old Opoku was.

Duisburg press officer Martin Haltermann said the alleged culprit had been quickly identified with the help of other fans.

Osnabrück did not want to play on and the game was called off around 10 minutes later with the score at 0-0.

“It cannot be that we always come up with slogans, that we stick slogans on T-shirts. We have to react when something like this happens,” Osnabrück managing director Michael Welling said.

“Aaron is very, very deflated and no longer able to play. That’s one of the reasons we said we would not play on,” Welling said. “Regardless of what the sporting consequences may be, we had to show that we as a club do not accept it.”

The German soccer federation is investigating the incident. Its vice president, Rainer Koch, condemned all forms of racism in a statement Sunday and called for those responsible to be punished.

“This is the only way to put an end to these incorrigible ones. The perpetrator must be held fully accountable,” Koch said. German soccer as a whole had a long and uncompromising stance against any form of racism, he said, adding that racists have no place in German stadiums.

“I’m glad that the referee, those responsible from both clubs, and the overwhelming majority of the spectators in the stadium made this clear,” Koch said.

Fans from both teams clearly positioned themselves against racism and shouted “Nazis out” among other chants afterward, while an anti-Nazi song from German band Die Ärzte was blasted around the stadium.

“Osnabrück – and that is more than understandable – can no longer compete. The guy (Opoku) is in bits and everyone — the whole team — is distraught. Honestly, we are too after this incredible incident,” Haltermann told Magenta TV. “We’re all pretty speechless at the moment.”

Welling suggested Duisburg’s Leroy Kwadwo also suffered racist abuse. The 25-year-old Duisburg defender was among several players who rushed to support Opoku after the initial racist incident.

Welling expressed his thanks to the Duisburg supporters “for reacting how they reacted. MSV identified the perpetrator through its fans.”

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