Saturday, June 25, 2022

Europa League winner Martin Hinteregger retires at the age of 29 after setbacks due to neo-Nazi connections

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The Austrian centre-back organized an amateur football tournament with a far-right politician in his hometown before cutting ties after a backlash

The 29-year-old centre-back had been criticized for hosting an amateur football tournament in his hometown with Heinrich Sickl, a councilor for the right-wing populist FPÖ party and a former member of the banned German neo-Nazi organization Nationalist Front.

Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt defender Martin Hinteregger has announced his retirement from football just two weeks after cutting ties with a far-right businessman.

“I strongly condemn right-wing, intolerant and inhuman ideas,” said Hinteregger in a statement on his resignation. “Those who know me know that. I need to step back and recalibrate my life.”

His first reaction to the excitement surrounding the self-proclaimed “Hinti Cup” was to announce on Instagram that Sickl’s connection with the tournament had ended.

The 67-cap Austria international was a fan favorite in Frankfurt and was instrumental in advancing to the Europa League final this season – where they beat Rangers on penalties to win the competition for the first time.

Hinteregger currently has no injury worries and his contract should not expire until 2024. After talks about his future with the club’s board and head coach Oliver Glasner, however, it was dissolved two years earlier.

“I was already thinking about retiring at the end of the season last fall,” he said. “I was on the pitch during a difficult period: my performances were shaky.

“My improvement in the spring and our joint successes in the Europa League motivated me even more to say goodbye with a great sporting success.

“That’s why I was so happy to win the Europa League, because I already knew it would be my last big victory celebration with the fantastic fans in this city that has become my second home.”

Frankfurt’s President Peter Fischer has made his position on far-right politics clear in recent years, declaring that anyone belonging to the right-wing Alternative for Germany supports him [AfD] Party would be undesirable in the club.

“Sport has to be political, not just in sports politics. Sport must raise its voice against social aberrations,” he said in 2017.

“I will take a clear position at our general meeting that it is not compatible with our statutes to vote for the AfD. Nobody who votes for this party, in which there are racist and inhuman tendencies, can be our member.”

Board member Markus Krosche said that Hinteregger’s decision was a surprise, but that the club understood it “from a human point of view”.

He said: “Martin will always be welcomed in Frankfurt as an excellent player and Europa League winner, not least because of his sincere apologies for his behavior over the past few days and weeks and his clear and credible distancing from right-wing ideology.

“We hope that he will find his footing again after the end of his playing career and wish him all the best for the future.”

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