Footballer retires after neo-Nazi links discovered
Austrian international Martin Hinteregger announced his retirement at the age of just 29
Eintracht Frankfurt and Austria defender Martin Hinteregger has announced his retirement from football two weeks after a media frenzy was ignited following the discovery of links to an alleged neo-Nazi figure.
The 29-year-old, who recently won the Europa League with his German club, has revealed that he is to step away away from the sport after he faced a torrent of criticism after helping to arrange a youth football tournament in his native Austria with former business partner Heinrich Sickl.
Sickl was allegedly involved with a neo-Nazi movement in the 1990s, as well as being involved in business dealings with the far right nationalist group Identitarian Movement Austria.
Hinteregger immediately distanced himself from Sickl when reports on his neo-Nazi past became public and expressed regret at his prior dealings with him.
However, he added that he had been considering retirement since late last year after become disillusioned with what he saw as a calamitous drop in form.
“Last autumn, I’d already started to think about retiring at the end of the season. I was in a difficult period on the pitch: my performances were shaky,” Hinteregger said in a statement.
“The wins didn’t feel as good anymore, and every defeat hurt twice as much. My improvement in the spring and our joint successes in the Europa League made me even more motivated to bow out with a great sporting success.
“That’s why I enjoyed the Europa League victory so much, because I already knew it would be my last big victory celebration with the fantastic fans in this city, which has become my second home.
“I will think back on my time with Eintracht with only great gratitude and joy, continue to feel closely connected to the club and their fans, and support the team as a fan on their continued journey in Europe.
“I thank my teammates, the coaching staff, the backroom staff, all the employees and the sporting management for the faith, the support and the wonderful time I’ve experienced here. Above all I thank the fans, who have always been behind me, including and especially in difficult times.”
Hinteregger, who has been open with his past struggles with depression, added the controversy surrounding his ties to Sickl also convinced him that he needed some distance from football.
“In the past few weeks, a number of issues have arisen around my ‘Hinti Cup’, which I have run with passion and the best intentions, the implications of which have only become clear to me in retrospect,” he explained.
“Some emotional and perhaps ill-advised words from me have caused irritation and I would like to apologize for that. I regret that very much. To make it clear once again: I condemn right-wing, intolerant and inhuman ideas in the strongest possible terms. Those who know me know that.
“For now, I need to get some distance and readjust my life. I’m grateful that Eintracht have given me the opportunity to take this step now.”
Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, said that Hinteregger would always be welcome at the club after having explained to them that he was entirely unaware of Hickl’s controversial past when they partnered on the youth football tournament.
“Martin will always be welcome in Frankfurt, not just as a proven player and European Cup winner, but also due to his sincere apology for his behaviour in recent days and weeks, and for his clear and convincing distancing from far-right ideology,” they said.