Bundesliga club cuts player over ties to organization linked to Salafism
BERLIN (AP) — Bundesliga club Darmstadt parted ways with Tunisian player Anis Ben-Hatira on Wednesday following criticism of the midfielder's ties to an organization with alleged links to the radical Islamic Salafist scene.
Darmstadt president Ruediger Fritsch said the club "feels Ben-Hatira's private humanitarian assistance for the organization, the one he is serving, is wrong."
Ben-Hatira had been criticized for his work for Ansaar International–described by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as "firmly interwoven in the German Salafist scene."
Before Darmstadt's draw with Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, fans unfurled a banner calling on Ben-Hatira to distance himself from Ansaar, leading the Berlin-born player to respond on Facebook, "Are you not ashamed of such actions? Do you really think I'll let myself be intimidated by that?"
Politicians have also spoken against his work for the organization.
"You cannot let a professional footballer like Ben-Hatira carry on when he's in the vicinity of extremist organizations that are being observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. You have to draw a clear line here," said Peter Beuth, interior minister of the state of Hessen that includes Darmstadt, on Tuesday.
Fritsch did not refer to Ansaar by name in what he called a "very complex and sensitive issue," but he wished Ben-Hatira, "who has always behaved impeccably and as an example at our club, all the best for his sporting future."
Ben-Hatira joined Darmstadt from Bundesliga rival Eintracht Frankfurt last summer. He scored one goal in 11 league games for the side. The 28-year-old previously played for Hertha Berlin, Hamburger SV, MSV Duisburg and Tennis Borussia Berlin. He has made 11 appearances for Tunisia.