German group in Chile watches 1st football game

Reuters/July 1, 2006
By Claudio Cerda

Villa Baviera, Chile - Dozens of German immigrants who once belonged to a secretive religious sect in southern Chile watched a televised football match for the first time on Friday when Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup.

The group, including many elderly Germans who moved to Chile in the 1960s and did not watch television for 40 years under the strict rules of their cult, drank beer as they watched the game on a big screen adorned with German flags.

"This is the first time that we've seen the World Cup together," 56-year-old Wolfgang Muller told Reuters. "I think very few of us understand soccer. Last week, I had to find out what a forward was, but now I know."

Many of the residents watching the game said they had never seen football on television before, much less a World Cup.

For decades, the residents of Villa Baviera, formerly Colonia Dignidad, submitted to the authoritarian whims of ex-leader Paul Schaefer, who banned almost all contact with the outside world.

Schaefer, 84, founded the sprawling farming commune in the early 1960s, 210 miles (350 km) south of Santiago. Under his rules, men and women lived separately, intimate contact was controlled and children were split from their parents.

The German-speaking community, which last year resumed regular contact with the outside world, reacted enthusiastically when Germany qualified for the semi-finals after beating Argentina 4-2 on penalties after tying 1-1.

"We really cheered," said 71-year-old Daniel Gert. "It seems Schaefer didn't much like soccer, even though he saw the Germany-Holland match in 1974."

In 1997, Chile's courts began investigating Schaefer on sex abuse charges, and he fled to Argentina where he hid until he was found last year. He was brought back to Chile for trial and sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually abusing 25 children.

Courts are also investigating Schaefer on accusations he helped former dictator Augusto Pinochet's secret police kidnap and torture political prisoners.

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