German police suffer tear gas injuries at fourth-tier melee

Some 155 police officers were injured in clashes with Dynamo Berlin and Energie Cottbus fans over the weekend — most of them from the use of their own tear gas.

Berlin police said 116 officers suffered injuries from tear-gas use, 28 from assaults and 11 after being hit by pyrotechnics fired by supporters after the fourth-division match at Dynamo’s ground.

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“I absolutely condemn it,” Berlin’s senator for sport, Iris Spranger, said Monday. “The club has to tell us now what it wants to do with its fan base. This is taxpayers’ money that we had to spend, with 1,000 police officers for security.”

Security at football games is a priority for police, with Germany hosting the European Championship for 24 national teams this summer.

Police have been training for potential trouble at matches.

“Such violence destroys sport,” Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, said on X, formerly Twitter.

It broke out Saturday when the rivals met at Dynamo’s ground in eastern Berlin for a match with promotion at stake for both.

The two clubs have fallen from the heights of their heyday — Cottbus played in the Bundesliga from 2000-03 and 2006-09.

Dynamo won 10 successive East German titles from 1979-88 amid allegations of match-fixing as Stasi chief Erich Mielke’s favored club. Cottbus was forced to give up its best players to the Berlin team at the time.

Both clubs are known for having a far-right element among their fans.

Police said trouble flared when Dynamo supporters fired pyrotechnics at the visiting fans and burned Cottbus scarves, forcing the game to be stopped for around 15 minutes.

Police said they prevented the situation from escalating as the game resumed, but that the rival groups covered their faces and fired pyrotechnics at each other after the match, when Cottbus fans burned Dynamo paraphernalia in return.

The rival groups made several attempts to break through police lines to meet each other, forcing the police to use tear gas.

“Police dogs were also deployed, and two home fans were bitten and injured,” the police said in a statement.

The unrest continued away from the ground, where some fans threw bottles at police and tried loosening small paving stones to throw. The officers responded with tear gas and water cannons.

Police filed a total of 62 criminal charges, including for breaches of the peace, attacks on law enforcement officers, resistance, physical assaults, freeing prisoners and insults. Some 74 people were apprehended and later released.

Cottbus won the game 2-0, ending Dynamo’s hopes of promotion while boosting their own. Cottbus remain top in the northeast regional league.

Cottbus coach Claus-Dieter Wollitz criticised what he said was a lack of security at the game despite its potential for violence.

“I’m used to being insulted, especially here. But having to be afraid of being pelted with stones during the game, of being threatened, is unimaginable for me in 2024. It’s no longer aggression, it’s way beyond that,” Wollitz told broadcaster MDR. “When you’re threatened like that, you don’t know how far these people will go.”

Dynamo refuted the Cottbus coach’s claims in a statement.

“Mr. Wollitz is known for his sometimes over-emotional and provocative behavior on the sidelines toward referees and representatives of other clubs,” Dynamo said, adding that it was “very irritated” by the coach’s past and regular criticisms of the club.