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Sunday April 22 2012
Ultras culture

The events of Genoa may be difficult to understand for anyone outside of Italy’s ultras culture, says Susy Campanale.

Ultras culture is something people outside of Italy cannot comprehend and one has to admit it’s a bizarre aspect of calcio. It can sometimes be great fun, like the banners, huge choreographies, charity events and the fact fan groups can hold press conferences. In Genoa on Sunday we saw the uglier side of a group of people who truly believe they own the club.

With Genoa losing 4-0 at home to relegation rivals Siena, the ultras took matters into their own hands and threw fireworks on to the pitch. By clambering up the security fences and on to the tunnel towards the locker room, they effectively held the team hostage. This isn’t just an overblown comparison either – captain Marco Rossi personally negotiated with the furious supporters and even accepted their demands that the “unworthy” squad remove the jerseys. It was bizarre seeing Rossi walking around with a pile of shirts like a PE teacher.

Even stranger was what followed, as Giuseppe Sculli shouted his passion for Genoa in tears until he was comforted and cuddled by the same ultras who were hurling abuse. It was this moment, this bowing down to the will of the supporters and looking to them for forgiveness, that allowed the game to resume.

You may well wonder, what were the police doing exactly? Well, they were standing around in case things got out of hand. More out of hand than the match grinding to a halt for 40 minutes while the ultras took control of the stadium and gave orders to the players, that is. There were no arrests at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Instead, they were caught on camera by the television companies covering the game and will be identified at a later date. They will probably get a ban from the stadium for a year or so, but there will be no prison time. Is it any wonder the ultras believe they can act with impunity?

Lilian Thuram was famously stunned that Lazio ultras could organise a meeting with the Parma player during a training session in order to reassure him there would be no racist abuse if he accepted the transfer. The ‘reassuring’ meeting only frightened him even more. Only Italians seem to understand the sheer power these figures have in the football world and why it is considered perfectly normal.

In the Peninsula, Presidents, Coaches, players, they all come and go. The ultras believe they are the only firm points in the football world and the moral guardians of the club colours. The footballers and owners? They are just tenants in this precious old building and the landlords can throw them out at any time if the reputation of the locale is damaged. It’s the same reason why Lazio supporters run the official club shop and counterfeit merchandise is on sale outside every stadium. The ultras own the brand.

It’s not right, of course, but it does help explain the events in Marassi.

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Have your say...
If everyone thinks this behaviour is acceptable in the wake of the tragic week we've all suffered with the loss of Piermario Morosini then we will never learn anything in italy. I get bored of hearing that we should learn from England but its so true now more than ever! Today Wolves were beaten & relegated yet still were applauded off the pitch by their fans. Football has forever been run by the ultras in Italy. It's time for it to change. The clubs, the presidents, CONI need to do something!
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:36pm
Italy is at a crossroads. This is not a difficult problem to deal with, if you have the will to deal with it. Break up the curvas. Jail people for lighting flares. Ban people for life. There will need to be scapegoats. Examples will need to be made. Give fair warning at the start of the year, then punish with malice. Sure it will be a change from 'tradition'. Sure it will never be the same. Serie A needs to start filling stadiums or the league risks being left behind. Writing's on the wall.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:35pm
With regards to Rosario's comment 'HD tv watching armchair fanatics' are exactly what they want the fans to become. Draconian measures have watered down the average attendance at Italian football matches to a point I never thought I'd see.

Club owners see fans in attendance as the least worthy of their concern behind the pay-per-view tv companies and the like.

What happened today wasn't right, however the tv money bubble will pop and eventually they'll be begging people like these to come back
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:26pm
'the uglier side'? I mean come on, they've been unworthy the whole season and 4-0 against bloody Siena after 50 minutes? They really had the right to question the players' passion. This is what true football is.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:20pm
Susy Campanale! You don't deserve to write for football-italia. Take your shirt off!
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:10pm
If you don't understand ultra culture, you don't know anything about calcio. LIBERTA PER GLI ULTRAS
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 8:56pm
calling for the unworthy players' shirts was wrong? what do you want the real fans to become? HD tv watching armchair fanatics? these are the real fans. week in week out they are present home and away, rain or shine and defeat, draw or win. like normal people, the players at genoa needed to wake up and realise that they are in fact betraying the great history of the club they play for. losing 4-0 at home to one of the smallest clubs in italy is a disgrace. unworthy indeed.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 8:45pm

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