DFB apologises for censoring banner

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."

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."