football

Carnival photos add to woe of coach accused of faking Covid pass


A German football coach who resigned over allegations that he forged his vaccine certificate has drawn condemnation and derision after it emerged that he attended a carnival party this month that was exclusive to people who had received the jab or recovered from the virus.

Markus Anfang announced his resignation as the head coach of German second division club Werder Bremen on Saturday morning after the state prosecutor in the northern city revealed there were doubts about the authenticity of the document supposedly proving the 47-year-old had received two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

The coach, who had joined Bremen in mid-June after stints at Kiel, Cologne and Darmstadt, cited “the extremely stressful situation” for his club, team and family, but did not confess to having faked the documents.

On Monday the state prosecutor for the first time published details about the inconsistencies around Anfang’s vaccine certificate.

When Anfang joined Werder Bremen in the summer, he said he had not yet had the chance to be vaccinated but would soon do so. In August the club checked on his vaccination status after one of its players tested positive for Covid, and told him to quarantine after it emerged he had not yet received a jab.

When another Bremen player tested positive in November, Anfang was suddenly able to brandish a certificate supposedly proving he had been vaccinated twice – first in April and then in June.

The location and timing in the document aroused suspicion. Anfang claimed to have received his first dose in Cologne on the same day his then club Darmstadt played a match in Würzburg, 200 miles south-east of the city.

The batch number on the certificate could not be matched to the central database, and the vaccination centre in Cologne said it had no records of Anfang’s visit, the senior public prosecutor Frank Passade told the Werder Bremen news portal DeichStube.

Anfang, whose assistant coach Florian Junge has also stepped down over similar questions relating to his vaccine certificate, could face a fine for forgery of official documents, as well as the loss of his coaching licence.

Shortly after the Bremen coach’s resignation on Saturday morning, football fans reacted with mockery. At that afternoon’s match against Schalke 04, visiting supporters chanted “Markus Anfang no longer has a vaccine pass” to the tune of Belinda Carlisle’s song Heaven is a Place on Earth.

However, the mood changed on Monday when several German media outlets published pictures showing Anfang at a carnival party on 11 November wearing a chef’s costume. In keeping with new restrictions in several regions around Germany, the Cologne carnival event was held under so-called “2G” rules, meaning only those who had been vaccinated or recovered from the virus could attend.

“His visit to the carnival in the middle of the pandemic is absolutely irresponsible”, wrote the tabloid Bild. “It doesn’t get more brazen that that, Mr Anfang!”

Meanwhile, the husband of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel made a rare intervention in political debate, saying that vaccine hesitancy in the country could partially be traced to “a certain laziness and complacency of Germans.”

“It is astonishing that a third of the population does not follow scientific findings,” Joachim Sauer said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “In part, this is due to a certain laziness and complacency of Germans. The other group are people who follow a personal conviction, a kind of ideological reaction to what they consider a vaccination dictatorship,” Sauer said, a cohort he said also included doctors and scientists.

Like his famous wife, Sauer is a quantum chemist, and was in Italy on an academic visit.

AFP contributed to this report



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