Before 1933, football had been dominated by the workers’ sports clubs, which counted 700,000 members, and by the 240,000-strong Catholic clubs. Although the German Labour Front rapidly absorbed them and the Nazis reorganized the whole structure of the football leagues, making them far more competitive and exciting, they could not really control the fans. In November 1940, a friendly match in Vienna ended in a full-scale riot, with local fans storming the pitch after the final whistle and throwing stones at the visiting players before they could get away. The windows of their bus were smashed, and even the car belonging to the Gauleiter of Vienna was wrecked. Although the Security Police saw this as primarily a political demonstration, they were almost certainly mistaken. In fact both clubs had a traditional, fiercely loyal and formerly “Red”, working-class fan base; and the match itself, billed as a friendly, was seen by all the supporters of Vienna’s local clubs as an opportunity to take revenge for Admira’s humiliating 9-0 loss to Schalke in the 1939 German cup final – a loss which fans inevitably credited not to the Ruhr team’s incredible string of successes but to biased refereeing in Berlin.

Nicholas Stargardt, “The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-45”.

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