The German FA (DFB) has issued an apology to St. Pauli after partially covering up an anti-fascist banner during the national team's training session at the Millerntor stadium earlier this week.
St. Pauli, a famously left-wing club, has fought against racial and anti-gay prejudice for many years and a longstanding banner on one of the Millerntor's main stands reads: "No football for fascists."
However, prior to the Nationalmannschaft's training session before Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Poland, the DFB covered up the part reading "for fascists" and said on Twitter it had "neutralised" the stadium, adding: "That means the stadium is free of advertisements, but also of political statements."
- Lichterkarussell (@leuchtetnurhier) May 12, 2014
There has been heavy criticism of that decision, initially on the internet but later across news media, and St. Pauli issued a statement on their official website saying the censorship had been "in stark contrast to the DFB's previous efforts to combat xenophobia, discrimination and racism."
It added the banner was "not a political statement" but rather words that "embody an attitude and values that represent a social consensus ... We will continue to make our position clear -- no football for the fascists."
DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach has now written a letter of apology, published in part on the St. Pauli website, in which he said the governing body had made a mistake.
"We stand against every form of discrimination, xenophobia, racism or homophobia and make that clear -- just like your club and your fans do in an exemplary manner," Niersbach wrote, adding that time constraints had played a part in the decision.
The club added: "St. Pauli welcomes this unequivocal statement from the DFB."