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.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
on the 27th April, 2014 at 8:58am
I'm a Toronto FCC supporter. Were about to have the worst start to an mls season. I would kill for that kind of passion from the "fans" of my club. StIll, what the ultras did was way over the top. But deep down inside I'm envious.
on the 1st May, 2012 at 12:04am
I am a proud Italian living in Australia. I have watched 1000s of games on TV from italy & my team as my backgroud is Napoli. To compare italian football with the rest of Europe football is like comparing apples to oranges & this is what makes Italian football special. I agree with what the Ultas done & totaly support this. We here like many around the world are held on strings & we can only do & act as we are told by officials & owners, but they always want our money. ULTRAS YES
on the 29th April, 2012 at 11:41am
I agree and disgree with Rossoneri. I am not an Ultra, but I am in the Curva Maratona (Torino) every match, and we have people of all ages and of both sexes. It's a family and we take care of each other. But I think what happened in Genova was wrong. We can be hard to please, and we hate Sampdoria too, but we wouldn't think of scaring our players.
on the 27th April, 2012 at 10:29pm
Orbita, you are right about Pato, he did cost 22 million euro. I should have mentioned in my previous comment that I was referring to sterling; he cost 19.5 million pounds. My bad. Forza Rossoneri!
on the 24th April, 2012 at 9:43pm
I live in the U.S., and I find Italy's utlras to be a wonderful component of Calcio. They are human beings brimming with love for their teams. These teams represent the city and its citizens, not corporate ownership and media conglomerates. Here, our sports are sterile and businesslike in every way. Ultras, never be violent but continue to always be passionate!
on the 24th April, 2012 at 6:39pm
@derek carty, we signed Pato for €22m in 2007. we have no debts. the 67m berlusconi cleared was going to be covered by the more than 100m the team will earn from the Lega and UEFA. we r doing ok. forza milan.
on the 24th April, 2012 at 3:46pm
Hey Rosario, that money list only relates to income generated. It does not relate to losses or debt. Berlusconi just paid over 60 million to cover Milan's losses. Most of Milan's transfers in the last few years have been Bosman's, which reflects their spending power. They don't have the same financial clout which they once had. Apart from Ibra and Ronaldinho, Milan have not spent 20 million or more on a player since Gilardino in 05/06.
on the 24th April, 2012 at 1:35pm
@Derek Carty. schalke and spurs do not have more money than Milan. you need to do better research. Milan are ranked 5th in the rich money list whilst schalke and spurs are below them. secondly. no players were scared. the ones who were brought to tears were done so because of sadness and disappointment. Genoa are italy's oldest club and have a very loyal support. there was no violence and no one forced the players to take off their shirts. sculli was consoled by the fans when disagreeing.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 6:53pm
I'm not a supporter of violence, but I'm also concerned about the use of the word 'brand' to describe football clubs. Genoa supporters do not have a consumerist relationship to their club, thus they do not see their ownership in terms of 'buying' but in terms of attitude and actions. I personally do not care for a world that tries to turn everything into a 'buy, buy, buy' relationship and it is admirable people stand for something different in the world of football.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 5:49pm
Everyone is ignoring the fact that this was not some spontaneous affair. This has been a situation that has been brewing for two months now. Genoa's ownership and its players have not put in the effort to genuinely improve play on the field and to deal with the Ultras' discontent.

I am a Lecce supporter, and our captain David di Michele, and our coach Serse Cosmi, have met with the Ultras on several occasions to discuss issues pertaining to the team. That is how it's done.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 5:05pm
the ULTRA culture is very much a part of Italian and German football. That's the beauty of their leagues. Americans don't have that kind of passion for their teams. Do the ULTRAS have a say in day to day activities? NO. Do the ULTRAS have a say in how that player represents that Clubs colors? You bet they do. I don't want a player coming in that thinks he's all that and do stupid stuff that brings bad publicity not only to that Club, but to the city and fans of that Club.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 4:29pm
i think what the have done was'nt right.
but there is something eles.
last season samp got relegated and this horrible incident will kill the fans.
you should understand this important fact that serie b is a hell for a great old club like genoa.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 4:16pm
Now Spain, England, Germany have 4 teams in the champions league. No violence=no empty seats. No empty seats = more money. Spurs and Schalke have more money than AC Milan. How the hell are Genoa supposed to sign quality players after the weekends events? How does scaring away quality players,fans and potential investors or advertisers with cash for your club count as passionate support? Genoa will never recover from this. Its time these ultras opened their eyes and ears and shut their mouths.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 2:05pm
I definitely understood the reaction of the ultras. They did not do anything violent, they just asked for their shirts which the players are not dying for. I am a Milanista subscribing to the Brigate Rossonere and we demand the departure of Robinho, Bonera, Antonini, Seedorf, Ambrosini, van Bommel, Zambrotta, Emmanuelson and Maxi Lopez they are not Milan calibre, plus Allegri for disrespecting Superpippo. Forza Miilan!
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 1:30pm
Lazio 'Ultras' do not run the official Lazio stores (Lazio Style). They may run fan shops (called Original Fans), but these do not primarily sell official merchandise. Outside of the stadium you cannot buy official merchandise, only fan stuff (as Lazio do not own the Olimpico and therefore do not have a store there). Get your facts right please..!!
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 11:06am
Cant understand how these ultras can just take over. People should be able to attend games without fear of being threatened. You will always have teams that win and lose as all teams are not equal in quality and play. Things go in cycles . I am sure players dont go out to lose a game, but sometimes things happen in a game that you cannot control. Having these ultras take over the stadium is a joke. It does not happen in sport in Australia or the USA and there is no way the authorities would let
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 10:22am
I'm not Italian, but I understand the Ultras culture and love it. In fact I'm with the ultras on this one. Yesterday the protest was strong but it was not violent. So kudos to the police for not inciting violence with action, and to the players who talked to the fans. The fans have every right to be angry when the team week in and week out fails to perform. The ultras never hammer their team because of a single game. They pay the money and have every right to show their anger and frustration.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 10:16am
Its an insult for fans to see their team lose or get relgated or both and then see the players clap! I find it strange and insulting. Fans have the right to be heard and unfortunately this seems to be the only way to make ppl listen. We are in hard economic times so when I see players earning 100k and playing as if they are not bothered or worse 'tired' then I think your asking for problems. In England they used to call rival fans to meet up and fight, now that's stupid! Atleast we protest for something
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 7:34am
I don't agree with violence but to be more like english football would be the worse thing ever. What kind of mentality is losing and clapping? Its ridiculous. I find it the most stupid thing going to watch my team play 'rubbish' and get relegated and then I clap as if to say well done. Sorry that's not What fans pay 50-100euros a game for! If that's what you wish to do go to the park sunday morning and watch a sunday league game. Players earn more in week that most ppl in a year so pressure is there
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 7:06am
I wish fans rebelled in other countries and in other sports like we saw today. Too often the VIP treatment of private boxes, priority seating and expensive tickets is held in the highest regard. In Italy and parts of South America the Ultras still make a difference. They pay those players wages with their money. They have every right to stand up for their club esp. when it looks like Genoa with all it's rich history were not defended today by the players. Nice stab @ Lazio as well ;)
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 4:24am
ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS? Ultras is the BEST part of calcio, do you want us to be like EPL and La Liga BORING FANS? only chanting barca barca barca or chelsea chelsea chelsea. I am a milan ultra and although we hate genoa ultras what they did was right. Whoever is not worthy of the shirt should know it and be humilated. People say its not safe for kids or ladies or blah blah, who cares about kids and ladies, the real fans are the ultras who follow the team to the moon and sing all the time.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 3:18am
Calcio should be family friendly. We realize how important the game is to some people, how it represents more than just two sets of players competing on the pitch, but the suspension of matches last round in light of Morosini's death shows that it IS just a game. Safety and wellbeing come first. The fact that parents are scared to bring their children to games is a serious issue that Italy needs to deal with.
on the 23rd April, 2012 at 12:26am
@Jerry its best to leave issues in relation to racism out of this particular discussion, especially as your own league has been marred by racism all season. A few idiots making a fool of themselves is nowhere near as bad as a whole football club (liverpool) sticking by the racist thug that is suarez. you do not understand the culture of what being a supporter means in this country, so I suggest you do a little more to understand it than just watching it on your sky tv. NO AL CALCIO MODERNO
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 11:32pm
The players, management, television companies, and all the upper echelons of football are making money hand over first. Football belongs to the people, and in Italy this is understood. We are not the anglo saxon influenced people who have been indoctrinated into ideals that appeal to the controlling minority that whenever their impunity is questioned that such behaviour is adhorrent and immoral.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 11:26pm
I dont have any problem with non-violent protesting, flares or crude banners. These are what set apart the beauty of european football to the corporate bull that our game is turning into.. but holding the team hostage is crossing the line.. it's barbaric.

Things can get out of hand really quickly, and we've seen countless times before. Lives were in danger, and that's not cool.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 11:01pm
Purchasing a ticket to a game and your support of a team does not guarantee you the right to act like an animal and abuse the players and management of the team. Purchasing a ticket does not give you the right to threaten violence, and create havoc. This has nothing to with passion. You can be passionate and not act like a caged animal. Racism is not passion, and yet ultras think it's their god-given right to make monkey sounds at players. If all that's passion then I'd rather have none in Italy
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 10:42pm
i am COMPLETELY floored that there are actually many people replying posts on here in responses that appear to be that they not only condone this nonsense, but actually think its necessary and beautiful to have it! if your a FAN and you don't think what happened in genoa is not ugly, then your not a real FAN. your a mercenary and should be completely embarrassed that you are trouble makers. hooligans. since when, does disturbing a match an appropriate thing to do? sick culture!!!
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:48pm
There is nothing to understand. What happened is preposterous and completely unacceptable, as is Rossi going along with it. To capitulate to the ultras is to encourage their behavior and next time it may be even worse. They are ruining the sport for everyone involved. These events were utterly disgusting and indicative of how bad this ultra's 'culture' really is.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:40pm
this violence & ignorance is unacceptable. the soccer culture in italy is sick. many have spoken of this years ago. i love italian soccer but i'm angry that i have to regularly see these kind of strange and gross events happening. 'ultra' extorting the players. making them hostages, and using awful tactics, to some how get what they demand?! they are terrorist if you ask me. players were in tears on the pitch because they play for the colors, but the 'ultras' don't believe they are. very sad.
on the 22nd April, 2012 at 9:17pm

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