December 18 – Sudan’s leading club has been reprimanded after supporters taunted rival fans by erecting banners displaying an image of Adolf Hitler during a bitter championship decider.
Al Hilal Omdurman has been fined SDG 40,000 ($6,000) after a group of fans unfurled the banners during the final of the Sudanese League, a derby against Al Merrikh.
Both clubs are based in Khartoum’s Omdurman neighbourhood on the west bank of the Nile, with al-Merrikh representing a district once considered home to Sudan’s small Jewish community.
Local reports say FIFA has opened an investigation while the UK-based football anti-discrimination body FARE described the incident as “a gruesome first for sub-Saharan Africa”.
Fare said it “was not a cultural misunderstanding but a deliberate anti-Semitic attack against the opposing club. The display is unacceptable in football or in society and we are disappointed with the low sanction imposed by the Sudan Football Association to al-Hilal Omdurman.”
Club secretary, Gen. Hassan Ali Issa, said in a statement: “Al Hilal Football Club strongly condemns this incident, and we would like here to stress our keen commitment to the values of peace, love, and coexistence. We question how this banner was allowed to enter the stadium and the roles of the organisational committee and the police force who were tasked to inspect the fans as they entered the stadium.”
Photos of the banner, displayed by a group calling themselves Blue Lions Ultras, made headlines on sports pages in Sudan and were widely shared and condemned on social media.
As well as erecting an image of Hitler, the ultras group also held aloft a banner spelling out the word ‘Holocaust’ but claimed they were merely sending a message to al-Merrikh supporters.
“We are claiming responsibility for the appearance of the Hitler banner with the word Holocaust and we are ready to bear the consequences. The only aim was to send a mocking message to our opposing fans,” the Blue Lions, who are not officially associated with the club, said in a statement.
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