Many people have their own views and opinions on the Ultra culture and how they fight to control Italian football, whether it is for good or for bad.
The government and the Italian football federation masquerades these diehard fans as nothing more than mindless violent hooligans, hell bent on tarnishing the name of Italian football.
Ultras are certainly no angels but there is definitely more to them than meets the eye with most groups pinning their political beliefs and ideas to their clubs colours.
Not only do these groups of supporters live, die and breathe for their clubs, they attempt to control their clubs destiny and perhaps rightly so in today’s modern climate where billionaire owners treat clubs as nothing more than businesses or play things. This article will take a look at what the Ultras do and the justice they fight for.
Earlier this season Fiorentina Ultras locked their players in the dressing room after witnessing their sides’ home defeat to Lecce. It was Lecce’s second win of the season and they were bottom of Serie A at the time.
A group of Viola Ultras also hurled abuse at the clubs owners and demanded a meeting with director Mario Cognini who later had to be escorted home by the police. Although this sort of behaviour is not acceptable at any level of football you can understand why it happened when you look at the players and coaching staff they have at their disposal.
This is nothing new for the the Viola. In the past they showed their disapproval of how their club was being run when angry supporters painted graffiti in the streets surrounding the Stadio Artemio Franchi in reaction to reports that Felipe Melo was on the verge of being transferred to their fierce rivals Juventus.
One such message read “Pantaleo Corvino should sell shoes, not champions.” The sale of the Brazilian was nothing compared with events 19 years previous when the Ultras rioted in the streets of Florence after management decided to sell the clubs prize asset Roberto Baggio for a then record fee of £10 million.
The riots where horrific with wide spread vandalism across the city. Banners where pinned up displaying slogans aimed at Baggio while they chanted “Baggio, puttana, l’hai fatto per la grana! (Baggio you slag you did it for the money!) Time healed this relationship with Baggio, regarded by many as the greatest player they ever had, but still to this day the board has never been forgiven for their actions.
Lazio’s biggest ultra-group, the Irriducibili, held several protests during the first couple of months of 2002, claiming the multi million pound team was under achieving despite being one of the biggest and best teams in Serie A. At the time they claimed the current crop of high profile players didn’t show enough commitment.
During one of these protests the Ultras held aloft signs bearing former player and club legend Paolo Di Canio’s name, proclaiming he was the role model they expected everyone to follow ( Di Canio also claims he was a member of the Irriducibili in his youth).
Later in the same month, Lazio won 5-0 but the Irriducibili refused to cheer or celebrate any of the goals. They also abandoned the Curva Nord 20 minutes at a time during games to show their disgust for the poor performances they had to endure. They also turned up at the clubs training ground demanding to speak to then club captain, Alessandro Nesta, threatening further action and violence unless the performances of the players drastically improved.
Stretching even further afield a small group of Lazio fans arrived at Parma’s training complex requesting a private meeting with Lilian Thuram who was rumoured to be a transfer target of the Biancocelesti. The Irriducibili claim the meeting was set up to tell the player if he decided to move to the Rome club they would be fully supportive of his decision and he would be accepted.
However, it is widely thought that the meeting was really more of a warning to the player not to join as many Lazio supporters have very strong fascist links and are often accused of racism. The notion of fans telling a player whether he would be welcomed at a club because of the colour of his skin is a sickening thought. However, to use this influence when a club is negotiating with a player of pure incompetence could be much more benficial and better way of using this supposed influence.
The Ultras took matters into their own hands by blocking the entrance to the tunnel before throwing flairs and other objects onto the pitch, forcing the referee to call a halt to the game.
After play had been stop the the fans instructed Genoa captain Marco Rossi to collect his fellow team mates shirts claiming they were clearly not fit enough to wear the clubs colours.
Eventually the match resumed under the agreement that the Genoa players would play more passionately for the remainder of the match.
Before the start of the current season, 4000 Atalanta tifosi, mostly Ultras from their notorious Curva Nord, took to the streets of Bergamo armed with flares, fireworks and banners designed to support their captain Cristiano Doni who was being investigated for his involvement in the ongoing match fixing scandal.
Not only had they lost their best player but the club was also expected to be hit with a six point deduction. The protests were not aimed at the punishment but for the treatment by the media who had publicly revealed their penalty even before the courts had reached a verdict.
Some media sources went as far as blaming Atalanta and Doni for everything that was ever wrong with Italian football.
Claudio “Il Bocia” Galimberti (leader of Curva Nord Atalanta) is one of the most feared names in the Italian Ultras scene, notorious for his fearlessness and violent past. However, he has become a household name in Bergamo, but not for negative reasons.
Il Bocia has been responsible for countless fund raising events and family gatherings, like La festa della Dea (Party of the Goddess) where fans and their families join with the Atalanta players on the streets of Bergamo to celebrate the achievements of the season.
As a club, Atalanta and its fans have been lauded by many for their involvement and support they have given to past players and fans that have sadly past away. Atalanta is a real family club and this would not be possible were it not for the Ultras.
Probably the most astonishing story involving Italian Ultras occurred in 2009, when groups from all over Italy united without club colours. They descended on Rome in their thousands to demonstrate against the introduction of the Tessera del Tifoso, a government scheme aimed to restrict Ultra groups travelling to away games and banning anyone they classed as an undesirable in the process.
Effectively these were ID supporter cards which police and clubs would only issue to people who had never been involved in any previous trouble. Only with a “Tessera” can you buy a season ticket or ticket for away matches.
The Ultras that marched in 2009 passed by government buildings, all wearing plain white shirts and waved banners, in complete unison. It does prove that behind all the violence and abuse the most important thing to all of them is the future of Calcio.
A big thank you to http://www.ultras-tifo.net/ for their help with references, pictures and Video.
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