Football: Welsh game in Germany called off

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JUST WHEN they thought it was safe to go back on to a pitch, the German football team has been tripped up again by an awkward date from the Nazi past.

Last week, it was 20 April: the proposed date of a match between England and Germany in Berlin which was cancelled because it coincided with the 105th anniversary of Hitler's birth and, it was feared, might have provoked neo-Nazi violence.

This time, the date was 26 April 1995. To compensate for the 'loss' of the England match, Berlin had hoped to host the Germany-Wales European Championship qualifier due to be played on that day. But then somebody revealed that this was the 101st anniversary of the birth of Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess - and the Berlin Football Association promptly announced it no longer wanted to hold the match.

'Unbelievable]' thundered the Bild newspaper. 'Who now decides when and where our national team plays? If this nightmare wasn't so tragic, you would have to laugh.'

While regretting the decision to shy away from the Wales match, the city's sports authorities said that after the row over the England match, called off by the English Football Association, it did not want to take any more chances. 'We argued against the cancellation of the England game, but we were put in a difficult position,' said a spokesman for Berlin's sports ministry. 'If a Hitler birthday can be used as an excuse to call off a game, why not Hess? Where do you draw the line?'

Bild provided further 'no-go' dates: 12 January, 7 October and 29 October, the birthdays of Goring , Himmler and Goebbels.