It remains the most talked about issue in Italian football, The Ultras and their power within clubs up and down the Italian peninsula. They force many people away from the stadium but also entice others to see their choreographed shows of support for their team. However with their extreme political views and open hatred towards the state the question remains whether the Ultras are positive for the Italian game and whether they can survive in the 21st century?
Every team has them but does every team need them? Ultras spilt opinion as they try to maintain the old traditional of the Italian game and society.
Ultra in Italian means to go beyond limits, they have a strong, deep and insane passion for their clubs but there is a darker under belly to what Ultras stand for.
The majority of Italian Ultras hold right wing views with only some teams like Bologna and Livorno having left wing sympathies. These beliefs are often extreme and can be seen or heard at stadiums up and down the country.
For example often associated with Right wing thoughts in Italy is the idea of “Patria” or the fatherland. They would argue that Italians are no longer proud to live in Italy and they would blame this on multi ethic models of co-existence.
They point to the fact that to maintain social peace every country’s identity must be respected. They often use England as a prime example where social peace has been disturbed by the multi-ethic society favoured by the UK government and especially Tony Blair.
These views have often been clearly showed on the terraces recently when Mario Balotelli played for Inter and he had to endure racist chants most notable from Juventus, Roma and Cheivo fans. Although Ultras very rarely call themselves racists and often distant themselves away from such claims, it is clear that many share these views
Many families are put off from entering stadia in Italian because of the threat of violence associated with the Ultras. Most Ultras groups were set up in the 1970’s and 80’s. This was a time of great social unrest in Italy as social protests and political violence were interlinked in a time of terrorism.
With that backdrop the Ultras became more and more violent. The tragic events of Heysel where 39 people lost their lives, was a turning point for Italian Ultras. This played into their mind-sets that they were the protectors of the true football fans as the majority who died on that evening were innocent football fans.
The murder of 24-year-old Vincenzo Spagnolo before a Genoa v Milan on 26th January 1995 at the Luis Ferraris shocked Italian football. He died of a stab wound after a mass brawl outside the stadium. The following weekend there were no games played and a tough anti-Ultra line followed but the Ultras would not be silenced.
Another crusade against the Ultras followed after the death of Filippo Raciti in early 2007. He died as violence flared during the Sicilian derby between Catania and Palermo. In the following months the Italian government passed a series of laws with the aim to reduce the amount of Ultras who could travel to away games, to ban flares and fire crackers plus to increase security measures before any game in Italy.
However these measures have had minimal success as you are still able to see many flare at all Italian grounds. Another death involving Ultras occurred in 2007 when Gabriel Sandri was killed by a police officer who was intervening to stop a fight between Juve and Lazio fans at a petrol station on the Arezzo motorway.
But are the Ultras really all bad? They undoubtedly create an atmosphere like no other including amazing pre game choreographed displays. This is unrivalled in Europe and is the polar opposite of the quiet stadiums in both the Premier League and La Liga.
The Ultras believe they are protecting the Italian game. They are totally against the money and riches involved in the English game and they battle to keep the Italian game from going down the same road. They want the best players to play in Serie A but no at the expense of the young Italians and so would be in favour of a tight Quota of foreign players at every club. This would appear to be the right thing for both Serie A and the national side.
It will be impossible to eradicate Ultras from the Italian game. However there needs to be more action taken against them to ensure there are no more deaths at Italian football grounds or any racist chants from any curvas.
The best possible remedy could be education about these issues from a young age. That said the Ultras can still play a massive role in the development of the Italian game and who does not want to continue to see the amazing support inside the stadium of Italian football fans.
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