German football in mourning after Berlin youth player (15) is beaten to death at a tournament

A photo collage of the victim Paul was shared by his former football club BFC Dynamo with parental consent. — © BFC Dynamo

Emergency services still fought for his life, but yesterday a 15-year-old German youth football player died after a fatal brawl at a youth tournament in Frankfurt. German football is one more tragedy richer and the clubs involved are shocked.

Last Whitsun weekend, 15-year-old victim Paul took part with his club JFC Berlin in the Germany Cup, an international youth football tournament in Frankfurt in which teams from sixteen different countries participated. After the last whistle in the match between the U17 teams of the Berlin club and the French FC Metz last Sunday, things suddenly got heated.

A brawl ensued, in which a 16-year-old Metz player allegedly first punched an opponent in the face. He then allegedly targeted the 15-year-old victim. He hit him in the stomach and held him in a stranglehold, German media report. The boy was able to escape, but the perpetrator would have run after him and then hit his head and neck from behind so hard that the boy collapsed on the spot and had to be resuscitated.

The teenager was taken to the hospital, but doctors there could only determine that he was brain dead. He was kept in an induced coma for three days with a view to organ donation, but finally succumbed to his injuries yesterday. Before proceeding to organ donation, an autopsy will first have to show the exact cause of death.

Loyal friend

In a statement on its website, JFC Berlin says it does not want to comment on the tragic incident for the time being, “out of respect for the family and because the investigation is still ongoing”. BFC Dynamo, the former club of the 15-year-old youth player, has already posted a memorial on its website: “Our old and former youth player Paul has been taken far too early. This unexpected tragedy has stunned the entire BFC community and deeply touched our hearts. Paul was not only a talented player, but also a loyal friend and a model member of our club. We will always remember his commitment, his enthusiasm and his positive attitude.”

“Self defense”

The suspected perpetrator has been in pre-trial detention since Monday. The Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office suspects him of assault and battery leading to death. FC Metz says it is “deeply shocked by this tragedy”, emphasizes that the match took place “in a good atmosphere” and calls it “incomprehensible” that the fight could have started. According to the French club, the alleged perpetrator indicated that he did not intentionally injure the victim. According to the alleged perpetrator’s lawyer, it was the Berlin players who incited the violence, his client acted in self-defense and “only” punched the 15-year-old in the face. He also points the finger at the emergency services, as they would only have been on the scene twenty minutes after the incident.

The German football association DFB also reacts with dismay at the news, through Vice President Ronny Zimmermann. “This terrible act of violence has shocked football in Germany. We have to relearn how to treat each other decently – and that means non-violence first and foremost,” Zimmermann told the German news agency DPA on Wednesday. “As a society, we have a problem with respect and how we treat each other. You see that not least in football.”

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