Mayor stabbed for taking in refugees backs basketball
Henriette Reker, who was stabbed in the neck in 2015, governs in Cologne
Special envoy to CologneHenriette Reker is not just any mayor. One Saturday in October 2015, a man shouting against refugees stabbed her in the neck with a knife because she had led a refugee reception in Cologne. The day after the attack, she won the election in the German city council with an absolute majority. Once arrested, the man accused Reker of flooding Germany with refugees, since the mayor had promised to improve living conditions for Syrians as winter approached. Many were living in tents and she wanted to avoid that.
"The cleansing phase has started with Walter Lübcke. It will be followed by many others. Among others, you two. Your life will end in 2020". As Andreu Jerez explained to ARA, this is the beginning of one of the death threat mails received by the mayor of Cologne and the mayor of Altena, Andreas Hollstein. The two politicians were stabbed in 2015 and 2017, respectively, in two attacks with far-right undertones. Both Reker and Hollstein have actively defended Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee-welcoming policy. Both of them almost died for doing so.
The threats were not carried out and Reker is still the mayor of Cologne, the city which is hosting the Final Four of the Euroleague. After years of successfully organising the European handball finals, the German city made a strong commitment to basketball. The pandemic has suspended the 2020 edition and has condemned the 2021 edition to be played without public, but the Lanxess Enarena will become this weekend the world epicenter of the orange and black ball.
"I hope we can come back next year"
"It's been very difficult, but we're very proud that finally the Final Four finally be played in the Lanxess Enarena. Last year it was impossible and I hope to see a good show, that everything goes well and that we can come back next year", said Reker in statements to RAC1. The Euroleague has not yet designated a venue for the 2022 finals, but Cologne is hopeful. "We do not have any closed commitment, but I think that after the Final Four there will be meetings", she said.
The Euroleague is letting itself be loved. "I want to thank the mayor of Cologne, Mrs Henriette Reker, for welcoming us in such a wonderful city, for her help, her support, her commitment and giving us the possibility to come back after the season that unfortunately had to be cancelled. And I would also like to thank Lanxess Enarena for waiting a year for us. It is about the long awaited Final Four of the Euroleague and I am sure that we will once again experience an incredible event", said Jordi Bertomeu, CEO of Europe's top competition.
"Sports are very important for our society. It is important for young people to see and experience athletes playing and preparing themselves through commitment, performance and energy. In these times we have learned that sports are essential, a vital source. Young people learn the things they need through sports: fair play, team spirit, competition and strategic thinking", Reker recalled.