Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Ultras are a specific type of sports team supporter group. They are mostly European and South American supporters of football teams.

This particular fan subgroup first appeared in Italy during the late 1960s when football teams reduced ticket prices in certain areas of the stadiums. The word ultra is Latin, which means radical in English. Since the early 1990s, the ultras subculture has increasingly become similar in style to the hooligan firm and casual cultures.[1] Violent acts of hooliganism by groups of ultras have led to some deaths.[2]

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 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.

Contents [hide]
1 Match Day
2 Hooliganism
3 Politics
4 Rivalries
5 Footnotes
6 See also
7 External links

[edit] Match Day

Fans of Derry City display a flag depicting Che Guevara.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). Pop culture icons are often used on banners, such as Alex DeLarge (from the movie A Clockwork Orange), bulldogs, or Che Guevara. Galatasaray SK's ultrAslan use large lion figures around the stadium in reference to them considering the club to be the king of Turkish football teams with the team name coming from the word saray, meaning the palace of Galata. Corporate brand logos and catchphrases are also often used. The displays, which can be expensive to make, often take months to prepare.

Some 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 "No al Calcio Moderno" (Against modern football) is commonly seen in Italian stadiums, and have also appeared in other parts of Europe.

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". 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.

[edit] 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] Spanish authorities have been concerned about ultra-related violence against supporters of other clubs, such as the murder of a Real Sociedad fan.

[edit] Politics

FC Porto Ultras Super Dragões, PortugalSome ultra groups are associated with specific political factions, which results in rivalries and alliances based on political allegiances. Some extremist groups distribute propaganda to members of ultra groups, to various degrees of success. Some ultra groups reject political symbols and forbid their members to display them within the context of the group.

Lazio's Irriducibili, Roma's Boys Roma and TDR, Paris Saint Germain's Boulogne Boys, Real Madrids Ultras Sur, Dinamo Zagreb's Bad Blue Boys and Hajduk Split's Torcida are known for displaying Celtic crosses and Swastikas. In Spain, the term ultra is understood primarily as ultraderechista (far rightist), and some Spanish ultra groups use Nazi symbols such as the runic SS logo. However, other ultra groups, such as Livornos Brigate Autonome Livornesi, A.C. Milan's Fossa dei Leoni, A.C. Arezzo's Fossa, Pisa Calcio's Ultras, Olympique de Marseilles Curva-Massilia, Celtic's Green Brigade and Hapoel Tel-Aviv's Ultras Hapoel are known for displaying flags with red stars, hammer and sickles, the anarchy symbol or images of Che Guevara. 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. In Turkey, Beşiktaş JK's ultra group Çarşı has an A in its logo that is similar to the anarchy symbol.

[edit] Rivalries
Fierce rivalries between ultra groups can be found all over the world, although most of the larger rivalries are found in Europe and South America. The rivalries are often based around a basic animosity toward the rival team, mostly in derbies (e.g. Roma vs. Lazio, Torino vs. Juventus, Inter vs. Milan), and some rivalries are based on politics in addition to team difference (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 a 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.

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