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WOMEN

Roller derby warriors skate to glory

With the fringe contact sport roller derby gaining popularity in Germany, Melanie Sevcenko heads to the rink to soak up the atmosphere of the country’s first national championship.

Roller derby warriors skate to glory
Photo: DPA

Accompanied by rowdy rock music, packs of girls in lacy tutus, short-shorts, stripped socks and ripped nylons circled an oval track in Berlin on Saturday night, bumping hips and bottoms to push ahead and score.

What might sound like a meat-market nightclub was actually Germany’s first-ever roller derby championship. The arena was jam-packed with the country’s wildest and wackiest skaters, as well as plenty of fans turning out to root for their favourite derby gals.

Andy, a young man whose girlfriend plays for the Hamburg team, said that other sports like football and basketball tended to be too serious for his liking. “This is more fun,” he said with a laugh. “You have a lot of punks and freaks here, and the music is great.”

The Berlin Bombshells hosted Saturday’s competition involving five German teams from Ludwigsburg, Stuttgart and Essen, along with a joint Hamburg-Bremen roster called the Hanse-Connection.

An afternoon of furious and frenzied action rolled into the night, as tension mounted ahead of the final. Despite their home advantage, the Bombshells lost to the Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz in a tight 128 to 124 match.

An American import, roller derby has only recently become popular in Germany and Stuttgart formed the country’s first team in 2006. Since then, its reputation as an expressive and exclusively female sport has soared among young women wanting to get fit while taking a turn as a femme fatale on roller skates.

The Bombshells were founded in May 2008, when the team’s captain going by the moniker Master Blaster came to Berlin from California’s Bay Area.

“When we started, we didn’t know anything about roller skates,” Master Blaster, who is also known as Molly Stenzel, told The Local. “So we did some research and met once a week to figure out how to structure ourselves.”

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Click here for a roller derby photo gallery

With four new teams popping up this year across Germany and almost 50 players in the Berlin-based league, Bear City Roller Derby, the sport is gaining popularity while continuing to recruit roller girls. Three times a year, the league offers an open-call for a 10-week beginner course that teaches skating techniques and the rules of the derby.

“At this point we have nothing but room to grow, so everybody is welcome to come and to train,” said Stenzel.

With two teams full of skaters, a handful of referees, scorekeepers and penalty trackers, the rules and idiosyncrasies of roller derby, developed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), take some getting used to. Basically, each team has an appointed jammer who must break through the pack of blockers, four girls from each team, in order to make laps and score points in a two-minute countdown period called a jam. The restrictions on how a player can block are taken very seriously.

Penalties are doled out for any illegal moves that include using forearms, hands and heads, which can result in wobbling, falling and often creating a five-girl pile up on the track. As for the potential of cattiness among the girls, a referee explained to The Local that fighting is forbidden and that the few minor tiffs that occur during matches are purely for entertainment value.

With a defining dynamic and approach to the game, each team toggles between sportsmanship and showmanship, while combining the styles of the rockabilly and punk subcultures. According to their team captain, the Berlin Bombshells are extremely sport-oriented.

“We are interested in playing at the highest levels worldwide, but we like to have fun too,” said Stenzel, who scored a wealth of points for her team during the final match. “There’s a lot of positive, loud and wacky attitude that keeps everybody excited.”

During the final, flag runners peeled around the track during time-outs and a mascot in a full-bear costume danced in support of the Bombshells.

“This year our focus was really to bring German roller derby to the next level,” said Stenzel.

She has been aided by the efforts of player’s like Stuttgart’s Blitzkrieg Baby, who shined brightly all the way into the stands on Saturday with her powerful style and sexy black and hot pink uniform. “I love this game because every kind of girl can play it,” she said.

Besides willing the first German championship, Stuttgart have performed well against UK teams this year. But that hasn’t stopped them from developing a close bond with London’s Rock ‘n Rollers, whom Blitzkrieg Baby calls their sister team.

Sisterhood was most definitely evident amongst all team members and throughout the mixed crowd of Germans, Dutch, Belgians and Scandinavians. Two roller derby fans and players, Fist F*cker from the Swedish city of Malmö and the 1950’s waitress-turned-movie starlet named Agent Anchor from nearby Copenhagen, traveled all the way to Berlin to catch the German championship.

Holding corncob pipes between their teeth, with the word crack written across the bowls, they said they hope to play against the Bombshells one day.

“It’s good fun,” said Fist F*cker. “You develop yourself and your mind and body. And it’s all girls, which means good laughs and good spirits.”

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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