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Ultras (Latin word deriving from ultrā,[1] meaning beyond in English, with the implication that their enthusiasm is 'beyond' the normal) are a form of sports team supporters renowned for their fanatical support and elaborate displays. They are predominantly European followers of football teams. The behavioural tendency of ultras groups includes the use of flares—primarily in tifo choreography—, vocal support in large groups, defiance of the authorities and the display of banners at football stadiums, which are used to create an atmosphere which intimidates opposing players and supporters, as well as encouraging their own team. Consistently rivals with opposing supporters, ultras groups are often identified with their respective team. The actions of ultra fan groups can occasionally be overly extreme and are sometimes influenced by racial violence, political ideologies, cross-town derbies between clubs from the same city, and even from poor performances by the teams.

Contents

Origin

This particular fan subgroup appeared strongly in Italy during the late 1960s when football teams reduced ticket prices in certain areas of the stadiums. The term is seldom used in England, but could be applied to hardcore fans, or hooligans.

The longest standing ultra group is said to be Hadjuk's Split Torcida which was founded in 1950, and takes the name of what are called the supporting groups in Brazil. However, the "Fedelissimi Granata" were founded in Turin in 1951, and are still present in the ultra line-up on the Maratona curva. The Sampdoria Ultras appeared in 1969 (the first to call themselves "Ultras"), followed by "Boys San" from Inter.

Characteristics

Ultra groups are usually based around a core group (who tend to have executive control over the whole group), with smaller subgroups organized by location, friendship or political stance. Ultras tend to use various styles and sizes of banners and flags with the name and symbols of the group. Some ultra groups sell their own merchandise such as scarves, hats and jackets. The ultra culture is a mix of several supporting styles, such as scarf-waving and chanting. An ultra group can number from a handful of fans to hundreds, and often claim entire sections of a stadium for themselves.

The four core points of the ultra mentality[2] are:

  • never stop singing or chanting during a match, no matter what the result
  • never sit down during a match
  • attend as many games as possible (home and away), regardless of cost or distance
  • loyalty to the stand in which the group is located (also known as the Curva or Kop).

Ultra groups usually have a representative who liaises with the club owners on a regular basis, mostly regarding tickets, seat allocations and storage facilities. Some clubs provide the groups cheaper tickets, storage rooms for flags and banners, and early access to the stadium before matches in order to prepare the displays. Some non-ultras have criticized these types of favoured relationship. Some spectators criticize ultras for never sitting during matches and for displaying banners and flags, which hinder the view of those sitting behind. Others criticize ultras for physical assaults or intimidation of non-ultra fans.

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Match day

Varvari tifo at a Montenegrin First League home match

Before big matches, most ultra groups choreograph a large display, (sometimes known as Tifo) for when the teams enter. Ranging in size, based on financial capabilities of the group, the tifo has been displayed just in the section of the stadium where the group is located or the entire stadium. Sometimes small sheets of plastic or paper are held aloft to form a pattern or to colour the stadium. Other materials used include balloons, streamers, huge banners, flares, smoke bombs, and more recently, giant dolls (as used by Sampdoria's ultras in 2002). Popular culture icons are often used on banners, such as Alex DeLarge (from the movie A Clockwork Orange), bulldogs, or Che Guevara.Corporate brand logos and catchphrases are also often used. The displays, which can be expensive to make, often take months to prepare.

Generally, ultra' groups, particularly in Italy, have animosity toward so-called modern football, which refers to all-seater stadiums, more expensive tickets, matches being played at non-traditional times (particularly evening matches), players being bought and sold like merchandise, and the excessive commercialization of football in general. Banners stating "Contro Il Calcio Moderno" (Against modern football) or simply "No Al Calcio Moderno" (No to modern football) are commonly seen in Italian stadiums, and have also appeared in other parts of Europe. A common English language equivalent, seen on banners and flags in stadiums across the United Kingdom, is the phrase "Love Football, Hate Business".

Ultra groups tend to be highly vocal at matches, with each group having several football chants. The melodies are mostly taken from popular songs, such as "Guantanamera" and "7 Nation Army". Other popular songs, sung in their entirety include "Bella Ciao" and "ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards)". In most cases, a group leader, often using a megaphone, coordinates the various activities of the entire group, including chants, songs, and banner drops. Fanzines and websites play a big part in the ultra movement. As printing costs decrease and publishing software improves, fanzines have become increasingly more professional-looking.

Hooliganism

Although ultra groups can become violent, the vast majority of matches go ahead with no violent incidents. Unlike hooligan firms, whose main aim is to fight fans of other clubs, the main focus of ultras is to support their own team. Hooligans usually try to be inconspicuous when they travel; usually not wearing team colours, in order to avoid detection by the police. Ultras tend to be more conspicuous when they travel and like to arrive en masse, which allows the police to keep a close eye on their movements. When trouble involving ultras does break out, it usually takes the form of a political riot similar to the ones in Italy in the 1970s when the Carabinieri used the same tactics with the ultras as they did with the political activists.

However, there does appear to be a crossover in some countries between ultras and hooligans. In Italy, when English club Middlesbrough F.C. played a match against AS Roma in March 2006, three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed in an attack that was blamed on Roma-supporting ultras.[3] Roma-supporting ultras were also blamed for an incident related to the club's match against English club Manchester United in Rome in April 2007, which resulted in 11 Manchester fans and two Italian fans being taken to hospital.[4] These specific incidents may be attributed to an anti-English mindset amongst some Roma fans that dates back to the 1984 European Cup final. Spanish authorities have been concerned about ultra-related violence against supporters of other clubs, such as the murder of a Real Sociedad fan.

Politics

Napoli ultras holding banners aloft protesting about the authorities reaction to the death of a fan from a rival club.

Ultra groups are sometimes associated with politics, such as racism, anti-racism, nationalism or anti-capitalism. Additionally, one growing movement within Ultra groups that transcends traditional left-right politics is the resistance to the commercialization of football. In Italy this movement is called No al Calcio Moderno, which translates as Nay to Modern Football. In some cases, fans have split from the original team and formed their own teams, such as Manchester United F.C. to F.C. United of Manchester, Wimbledon F.C.(now Milton Keynes Dons F.C.) to AFC Wimbledon and FC Red Bull Salzburg to SV Austria Salzburg.

Some Ultra groups — such as APOEL F.C. Ultras ,Livorno's Brigate Autonome Livornesi, NK Zagreb's Bijeli anđeli, A.C. Arezzo's Fossa, Celtic's Gink Brigade, Pisa Calcio's Ultras, Olympique de Marseilles Curva-Massilia, St.Pauli's Ultrà Sankt Pauli , Hapoel Tel-Aviv's Ultras Hapoel ,Atalanta Bergamo's "Brigate Neroazzure" , AEK Athens's Original 21, AC Omonia's Gate 9 and Sevilla FC's Biris Norte — are known for displaying flags with red stars, hammer and sickles, the anarchy symbol, images of Che Guevara or various anti-fascist iconography. In Turkey, Beşiktaş JK's ultra group Çarşı, which is known for left-wing views, has an A in its logo that is similar to the anarchy symbol. Fans of Ajax Amsterdam often display the Star of David and Israeli flags, and regularly chant "Joden! Joden!" (Dutch for "Jews! Jews!") in reference to the club's Jewish roots. Similarly, Tottenham Hotspur's ultras label themselves Yiddos and call the team Yid Army, to relect their Jewish heritage. The annual Mondiali Antirazzisti (Anti-Racist World Cup) attracts more than 6000 people, and is the largest gathering of anti-fascist Ultras in the world.[5]

There are a lot right politician ultras in the world such as Lazio's Irriducibili,Inter's Boys San, Real Madrids Ultras Sur, Hellas Verona's Brigate Gialloblu, Sporting's Juventude Leonina, Espanyol's Brigadas Blanquiazules, Rangers "Union Bears", FC Steaua Bucureşti's Peluza Nord & Peluza Sud,FC Dinamo Bucuresti's PCH(Peluza Catalin Hildan

Rivalries

Fierce rivalries between ultra groups can be found all over the world, although most of the larger rivalries are found in Europe. The rivalries are often based around a basic animosity toward the rival team, mostly in derbies, and some rivalries are partly based on politics (e.g. Livorno vs. Lazio). There have also been rivalries between ultra groups that support the same team; based on personal and/or leadership disputes. Sometimes ultra groups try to capture banners and flags of rival groups. Losing a banner or flag to a rival group is considered a big humiliation, and the faction losing the banner is required to disband.

In the book How Soccer Explains the World, Franklin Foer describes the rivalry between Serb and Croat teams as, "The new, or rather old, enmity could be seen visibly at the soccer stadium... fans sang about their respective slaughters."[6] The ultras of FK Partizan, Grobari (Gravediggers) and FC Red Star Belgrade, the Delije (Heroes) formed the base of Arkan's Tigers, a Serbian paramilitary force who were later implicated in multiple acts of terror during the Wars in Yugoslavia. The Tigers made a dramatic appearance during the Belgrade derby game of 22 March 1992 between Red Star and Partizan; they held up road signs saying: '20 miles to Vukovar'; '10 miles to Vukovar'; 'Welcome to Vukovar'. More signs followed, each named for a Croatian town that had fallen to the Serbian army. Arkan was then director of the Red Star supporters' association.[7] In later matches, after Serbian army retreated from occupied Vukovar, Croatian fans would regularly display signs honoring Vukovar (sometimes spelt Vukowar) and chant: "Vukovar! Vukovar!". When Bosnia-Herzegovina played a friendly game against Croatia in August 2007, Croatian fans formed a human U symbol, representing the fascist Ustase movement responsible for mass killings of Serbs, Jews and Roma people during World War II. This was during a time of rising ethnic tensions in Bosnia between Croats and Bosnian Muslims. [8]

Footnotes

See also

External links


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