30. August 2021
Fussballaballa in Kassel @ documenta 15
For the first time, Fussballaballa left its Berlin-Moabit home for Kassel for this years Euro 2020. The weekend of the quarterfinals was the beginning to an alternative public viewing experience, providing critical perspectives on football and bringing together communities.
For the knockout stage of this year’s EURO 2020, Fussballaballa came to Kassel to experiment with the format in a new setting. After three installations in Berlin, ZK/U’s citytoolbox collaborated with Dynamo Windrad, Streetbolzer e.V. and the ruruHaus to bring the non-commercial, critical public viewing experience to a new audience. For Fussballaballa, watching football is less at the centre of things but rather a backdrop to a programme critically engaging with the sport. Screenings of short films, artistic interventions, discussions – the Fussballaballa programme offered various counter points to the many issues produced, perpetuated or ignored by the football shown and celebrated at the events. On the weekend of the quarterfinals, a host of different people from Kassel gathered to enjoy events at the Windpark Jahn and in the Nordstadt.
With documenta fifteen getting under way in Kassel and the ZK/U building in Berlin being renovated this year, the time was right for Fussballaballa to move out of its established comfort zone and into new territory. The goal was always to find local partners who would lead the way in integrating the tool in a new setting, and, within the documenta framework, able and willing partners for the collaboration were quickly found. Founded in 1982, Dynamo Windrad is a football club that emphasises its engagement with questions that go far beyond football and “has been a political and leftist project since day one”, as Max, member of the clubs board, explains. The association Streetbolzer e.V. emerged out of Dynamo Windrad and was founded in 2009. While not a proper “club”, it uses football as a vehicle to engage kids and teens from Kassel in variety of social and cultural activities. Football as a means for coming together – this intersection of attitudes towards the sport between ZK/U, Dynamo Windrad, and Streetbolzer e.V. made for a great foundation to organise a joint public viewing project.
The opening of the programme under the motto “Queer Narratives” was reserved for the first two quarterfinals which were shown at the edge of the city on the pitch of Dynamo Windrad, called Windpark Jahn. Reorganised for the day, the penalty box had become the public-viewing box. Similar to the decentralised organisation of the tournament across European countries, the public viewing was not centred around one, big screen, but many, small tube TV sets – eleven in total. The audience composed of old and young alike, quickly made themselves at home in front of the intimate TV setups which facilitated interaction and modulation. Some were seen to adapt their setups to their individual needs, be it to seat everyone or to protect from the sun which had come out just in time for kick off.
During the first half time break, “I love Hooligans” - a Dutch short film about a hooligan having to hide his gay identity – was shown and received with interest by the audience. Carefully curated, the programme which artist Jan van Esch had prepared in collaboration with the partners was interrupted when Spain and Switzerland couldn’t find a winner in 90 minutes. Instead of the short film “Zwei Gesichter”, the screens showed extra time and penalties.
As the event progressed, people came and went, and the audience composition changed from young families to students. Even without extra time and an interruption of the schedule, the second match proved to be as suspenseful as the first. A collective celebration of diversity with the help of pyrotechnic in all colours of the rainbow marked not only the conclusion of the match, but also that of a successful first day of Fussballaballa. The local community had embraced and enjoyed the format which had brought together people who might have otherwise never met and explored the issues surrounding queer communities and individuals in football.
The event the next day, or rather its preparations, began with a little bummer. Streetbolzer e.V. had provided its 10m by 20m football cage which was supposed to be set up on an intersection in Kassel’s Nordstadt and filled with the TV sets from the day before. A few missing signs to direct traffic, however, meant that the field could only be setup in the driveway of the cultural centre “Schlachthof” right next to the intersection. Not as interruptive an intervention as planned, Fussballaballa wouldn’t be citytoolbox tool if adaptation to changing circumstances wasn’t in its DNA. Preparations commenced undeterred and for the 18:00 kick off everything was ready.
The second day of quarter finals was organised under the motto “Collectivity Wins” and emphasised the role of horizontal communities as opposed to hierarchical institutions in or associated with football, in particular the UEFA. To this end, not only three short films were shown, but the entire cage was cloaked in white cloth. The idea behind this was two-fold: anyone with a critical message concerning football was welcome to leave it on the cage’s clothed outside and simultaneously the cloth and messages erected a barrier between the football on the inside and anyone who wanted to boycott it on the outside. The opportunity was well appreciated and the available space was almost entirely taken up by the end of first match. While some expressed their displeasure with the big football associations and their politics, others painted their support for diversity in football in the cloth. In any case, people had some strong opinions about the established football institutions and their culture.
While first match of the day, the Czech Republic played Denmark was a close match until the last minute, England took the suspense out of their match with Ukraine by scoring an early goal and three more in the remaining time. Which made for a great Fussballaballa experience: the programme could, unlike the day before, be realised just as planned and a lack of suspense in the match opened the door for more meaningful conversations than who might score the next goal. Some of the subjects in the short documentary films shown were probably part of a conversation or two. Depicting a Sao Paulo football tournament for refugees, a Kenyan coach struggling to clean a garbage dump to play football, and a South-African team of grandmothers breaking taboos, they provided a contrast to the access to and portrayal of football by the UEFA and their EURO 2020 tournament.
Unlike the day before, when the night ended in a colourful bang, the second rather fizzled out. England winning their match handily diminished interest in the match towards the end and while some had already left, many others had turned their attention elsewhere. And so, the second day came to a rather calm, yet successful end.
The experimt of bringing Fussballaballa to a new city and new partners was, we hope, the beginning of trusting relationships between organisations and people who might have otherise not met. In 2022, documenta 15 and the world cup in Quatar provide not only the opportunity but – in the case of Quatar more of a necessity – to come together again and reflect on the state of football and the communities and cultures in and around it.