Clubs end appeals in former refugee Jatta identity dispute
BERLIN (AP) — Three soccer clubs that had refused to accept losses to Hamburger SV in Germany’s second division due to questions over former refugee Bakery Jatta’s identity have withdrawn their appeals.
Nuremberg, Bochum and Karlsruher SC said Tuesday they were taking back their objections, one day after Hamburg authorities said they had ceased their investigations into Jatta’s identity and ruled out any further measures.
“This is a very positive development and an important step in the right direction,” Hamburg coach Dieter Hecking said of the authorities’ decision.
Karlsruhe, the last of the three clubs to lodge an appeal with the German soccer federation (DFB) following its 4-2 loss at home to Hamburg on Aug. 25, said the decision had “clarified the facts” and there were no longer any grounds for an appeal.
Bochum and Nuremberg, which lost 1-0 and 4-0 to Hamburg respectively, issued similar statements.
“We very much regret that the discussions over Bakery Jatta became particularly emotional in the past weeks,” Bochum said. “The hostility against him and the populist or party-political exploitation is something we condemn in the strongest manner.”
The dispute began when Sport Bild magazine suggested Jatta — the first refugee to play in the Bundesliga — was playing under a false name and was in fact two years older than he claims.
However, other clubs such as German Cup opponent Chemnitzer FC, city rival St. Pauli and league opponents Darmstadt and Hannover said they would not appeal results despite Jatta’s participation for Hamburg.
The 21-year-old Gambian player scored the final goal in Hamburg’s 3-0 win over Hannover on Sunday.
Hannover said in a club statement on Monday that the loss “was only because we were the inferior team. In football what counts is what happens on the pitch. Everything else has no influence on winning or losing. Luckily, identity and background don’t play a role on the grass. That’s the way it should stay.”
Hamburg has consistently backed the player, arguing his documents were checked and are valid, while he had the green light from both the DFB and German soccer league (DFL) to play.
Jatta entered Germany without a passport in 2015 and was subsequently issued with a valid passport from Gambia. He joined Hamburg in 2016 and made his Bundesliga debut in April 2017.
Altogether Jatta has 16 appearances in the Bundesliga and 30 (five goals) in the second division. Hamburg was relegated in 2018.
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP