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Allie Gamble, in the second of a series of pieces on the Ultrà style of support, attempts to examine the metality and philosophies of the European Ultrà

This is the second of a three part series of articles focussing on various aspects of the Ultrà phenomenon in mainland Europe. This second piece deals with the mindset of the Ultrà. For the first piece, on the history of the Ultrà, click here.

As you may remember from the first article, Ultra groups are often highly structured and well organised. This is one of the aspects that sets true Ultrà apart from hooligans, or ‘casuals’, whose objective is violence rather than supporting their team in the Ultrà style. Another aspect than separates Ultrà is their adherence to four core rules, which help to define them from other supporters. These rules are as follows; never stop singing, regardless of events on or off pitch, attend every match, never mind cost, distance or difficulties obtaining tickets, never sit down, since this promotes a lazy ‘armchair fan’ mentality too often seen in modern football, and stay loyal to the Curva.

The Curva, meaning bend in Italian, refers to the section of the stadium, usually the cheapest, to which the Ultrà have attatched themselves. They occupy this section every week of every season, with the section representing the group itself and taking on the aura of a spiritual homeland for the Ultrà within the stadium. Many Ultra groups name themselves after their part of the stadium. An example being the Greek Ultrà tradition of naming themselves after the entry gate number, e.g. Gate 13 (Panathinaikos) or Gate 7 (Olimpiakos).https://youngsportswriters.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/gate13.jpg?w=300

These then, are the four principle commandments of the Ultrà style. Different groups may add others, but all true Ultrà conform to the rules above. These four pillars of the Ultrà way show that emphasis is placed upon the creation of an atmosphere that will encourage their team, and intimidate their opposition. Rules two and three also highlight a dedication required from the Ultrà that ignores discomfort or inconvenience. The Ultrà must make sacrifices for their team. The fourth rule shows the tribal sense of community which members share, as well as their strong sense of tradition.

Another common side to the Ultra mindset is a fierce regionalism. Ultrà are local supporters, usually natives of the town their team comes from. They are proud of this and view their support of the football team as a way of demonstrating their love for their hometown. The away fans see themselves as invading enemy territory, flying their city’s flag all over the country. The Ultrà are very attatched to the colours of the club, and demand that the players honour them and the shirt. This militaristic mentality can be intoxicating, and can lead to violence between opposing groups.

Swedish Hammarby Ultrà at an Ice Hockey match

Ultrà in many countries are not content to limit themselves to religiously following their football team. Often in mainland Europe football teams make up the largest branch of a whole sporting organisation, with professional teams in other sports too, particularly basketball, volleyball and, in the case of Scandinavian teams, even ice hockey. It is increasingly common for Ultrà to attend all matches in which teams that form part of the club participate. In Greece a 22 year old Panathinaikos fan, Mihalis Filopoulos, was killed by Olimpiakos supporters at Panaia, near Athens, on the day of a women’s volleyball match between the two teams.

Panathinaikos Ultrà at a Volleyball match

And again at a Basketball match

Far Right Lazio Ultrà

Another part of the Ultrà mentality is often politics, as already mentioned in passing in the first article, on the history of the Ultrà. More often than not if an Ultra group is going to associate itself with politics it will be with the extreme right. Extreme because Ultrà rarely do anything in halfmeasures, and right because they are often very tribal and regionally patriotic, sometimes to the point of xenophobia. However, there are also several major Leftist Ultrà groups in Europe. The most notable include those of St. Pauli Hamburg, Olimpique https://i2.wp.com/profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/50495_89631442262_1700125_n.jpgMarseille, AS Livorno and AEK Athens. The latter three of these clubs’ Ultrà (Commando Ultras 84, Brigate Autonome Livornesi 99, and Original 21) form a threeway left-wing ‘triangle of brotherhood’, one of the biggest international Ultrà friendships in the world. A friendly match between Livorno and Turkish team Adana Demirspor in 2009, another team with left-wing Ultrà, sparked a Communist rally in Adana, to the consternation of the Turkish government.

The mentality of the Ultrà is a difficult subject to examine, since the culture is so widespread and diverse. There are certain things that they all share though, as this article has hopefully made clear. The most obvious is that they must adhere to the four rules. If they do not then they are not true Ultrà. Another mindset most share is their furious passion for their hometown and team. You don’t get glory fan Ultrà. Politics may also have an impact on their mentality, but this is not of vital importance for the majority of groups. The most important thing for most Ultrà is the continuation and success of the group, and of course the club that inspired it.

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