1) Distinction between Hooligans and Ultras


In European football, there are always two specific groups of fans besides the so-called “normal” fans: Hooligans and Ultras. The distinction of these two is very important, because the difference is crucial in almostevery way. The main reason for so-called “Hooligans” to attend a football game is not their interest in sports, but rather the opportunity to start a fight with other hooligans. Most of these kinds of “fans” have a political background, and most of the time it doesn’t matter who they are fighting, as long as there is a fight. “Ultras” however have a completely different motivation: It is their goal to support their team through an entire game, no matter what. They live for their club, they create banners, flags and signs and they also think about new choreographies in time-consuming sessions. Most of the time, Ultras organise themselves in different fan clubs, which makes it easier for them to plan certain things such as journeys, choreographies and also chants. 2) Hooligans



a. The term “hooligan”

The etymology of the term “hooligan” is not really clear because there are various possible explanations. One would be that in the 18th and 19th centuries, there lived a family of Irish origin in the south of London. The family’s name was O’Hoolihan, and they were known for their excessive consumption of alcohol and for their fighting ambitions. Over the years, “O’Hoolihan” first became “Hoolihan” and later on “Hooligan”. The second theory about the origin of the word “hooligan” is that in the late 18th century, an Irishman called Patrick Hooligan initiated a lot of street fights in London. From that time on, policemen may have used this man’s name as a general term to describe violent men. Regardless of these two theories, it is a fact that the Irish word “hooley” means “wild”. So maybe this is how the word “hooligan” was created.



b. The hooligan movement 

In 1848, when the first rules of football were drawn up at Cambridge University, hooligans did not exist yet, because at first, that sport was only executed by students of the university. These first games could not be attended by people who did not work or study in Cambridge, which means that there was no actual platform for any football fans, especially hooligans. At the end of the 19th century, the first hooligan incidents started, when attacks on referees and players occurred, but they did not draw any attention of the media at all. In 1909, one of the first really significant excesses happened in Glasgow during the Scottish cup final between Celtic Glasgow and the Glasgow Rangers.


(This game is called “Old Firm” and is the oldest derby in the history of competitive, professional football.) After the game, which ended in a draw, fans of both teams rushed the pitch and set the goalposts on fire. They also devastated small shops and fought against each other, but also against the police and the fire brigade. Altogether, almost 100 people were injured. The first appearance of hooligans by definition in Germany occurred in 1931 during a game between Hertha BSC Berlin and Greuter Fürth. After some questionable decisions, including a penalty, some spectators attacked two players -one of each team- and the referee. From that time on until the late 1960’s, violent excesses have only been provoked by situations that were related to the game itself, such as various decisions made by the referees, but never against the supporters of the opposite team. The typical violence in football stadiums began after the FIFA World Cup 1966, which took place in England. Only then did English football fans really start to gain not only importance, but also attention by the media. And most of those fans were what we would call hooligans today.


There were three crucial movements (/actions) that occurred more or less right after the World Cup. First, more and more male teenagers attended both national and international football games. Second, the amount of supporters who travelled around their country to support their team during away games was increasing. The last one is a bit complicated to explain, because one has to mention various things to make this one understandable for outsiders: When the commercialization of football began, the fans quickly realised that something had changed. Football players were no longer paid the normal working class salary; their income was raised a lot because of different reasons, such as Pay-TV, advertisement and higher ticket fees. This change was responsible for the fact that the distance between players who were formerly appreciated and the fans grew bigger and bigger. And this is where Hooliganism started. Caused by this big difference, the fans would have lost their connection to their favourite club or national team. But to compensate this, they started representing their club in fights against other fans or in excesses of destruction. In their raging behaviour, they did not realize that they actually harmed not only themselves, but also their club.



c. The hooligan himself

There is no typical hooligan. It can be a 14-year old boy, looking for a way to express his feelings or looking for attention. But it can also be a 30-year old father of two children who is unhappy with a certain political, social or economical situation. One can not set one defined characterisation for a hooligan. But what they all DO have in common, is that they are unhappy with a certain situation. Most of the time, it is economical reasons, as I have already explained a bit earlier. Social problems are the second most frequent motive for hooliganism. Hooligans use it as a way to set free their aggressions, and this is the one and only explanation for their behaviour. Because of course, fighting is the simplest way to get rid of aggressions. But why do they use the stage of football games for their “performance”? The answer to this question is also very simple. Especially at so-called derbies (games between two clubs who are either close to each other geographically or have a historical background for their rivalry), the potential for aggression is set really high, because a derby is always a competition that either side wants to win. And from the point of view of a hooligan, that competition is the physical fight against the opposite hooligans. An important thing to mention is that hooligan violence is mostly addressed to other hooligans, but NOT towards the police.



d. Rivalries and concrete examples of football violence (Overview)


In Croatia, there are two main groups of extreme football fans: The Bad Blue Boys, who belong to Dinamo Zagreb FC, and Torcida, who are fans of Hajduk Split. The rivalry between these to groups has been going on since the early 1990’s, when the Yugoslavian federation broke up. Since then, these two groups have been going through a lot of riots and fights, but the most important one, which drew also a lot of attention by the media, took place on May 13th, 1990. After a game between these two clubs, there were a lot of fights going on in the city of Zagreb. Over 500 people were injured, but most of them were actually victims of police violence. This also explains the most important scene of the entire riot: When a member of the Bad Blue Boys was beaten by a policeman, unable to fight back, Hajduk player Zvonimir Boban interfered and kicked the attacker so that the victim could get up. The crucial fact about this is that Boban helped a member of the opposite “camp”, which was a big surprise for everyone involved in this scene. Germany German hooligans are often linked to neo-Nazism and racism, which is easy to understand because of the country’s history, yet shocking and disturbing. Most of the riots and excesses are directed towards black players. But there is also a big rivalry with Polish hooligans, which was easy to see when Germany beat Poland in the 2006 World Cup. After the game, which took place in Dortmund, over 800 Germans and 550 Polish fans were involved in a fight in the city of Dortmund. After this fight, 320 people had to receive medical treatment because of injuries they received during the fight.



English hooligans are well known for being very brutal, aggressive and destructive. They have a very intense rivalry with German fans that has existed for over thirty years now. At the European Cup in 1996, which took place in England, so far the biggest riot between those two groups happened at Trafalgar Square, London, after



had won against England. During this fight, a Russian fan got stabbed accidentally by English hooligans because they thought he was German. Hooligans never received a lot of attention, except for the time period between 1979 and 1990, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the U.K. Colin Moynihan, who was sports minister in Thatcher’s cabinet, even attempted to introduce a special ID card for football fans, but he did not really succeed. Another undertaking that was accomplished by Thatcher was the so-called “Taylor Report”. This report was written by Peter Taylor, Baron of Gosforth after the


Hillsborough disaster:

The Hillsborough disaster is the biggest accident related to football games that ever happened. It took place on April 15th, 1989 during an FA-Cup match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forrest FC. As the game was a semi-final, a lot of people were interested in watching it live, but the problem was that over 40,000 people had come to the stadium, knowing that there were only 32,000 tickets available. 20 minutes before the game, Liverpool fans had problems entering the stadium because there was only one open gate for the entire seating section. Security then opened a second gate to secure that every fan would be located at their seat before kick-off. As there were way too many people entering the stadium, some piles collapsed. Under the ruins, 96 people were killed and 766 were injured and taken to the hospital.


In this report, Taylor organised a countrywide study about every stadium in the first two English divisions. (Premier League and Coca-Cola Championship) The main subject he focused on where seating capacities on the one hand, and security regulations on the other hand. In 1990, the report was published by the government and it initiated a lot of reforms, which mainly concerned security regulations.


The second disaster in football history was the

Heysel Stadium disaster:

The Heysel Stadium disaster occurred in Brussels, Belgium at Belgium’s national stadium on May 29th, 1985. On that day, the European Cup final between Liverpool FC and Juventus Turin was scheduled. The Heysel stadium had a capacity of close to 55,000 seats. One has to mention that Heysel stadium had not received any maintenance service for about 15 years, and so it was not in an appropriate constitution to feature a big game like the European Cup Final. When the selling process for the tickets started, officials decided that the area behind one goal, including sections O, M and N would be booked exclusively for Liverpool fans, and the other one, consisting of the sections X, Y and Z would be for Juventus fans.


Apparently, the Italians were more interested in watching the game than the Englishmen, and so section Z was transformed into a so-called mixed area, which means that fans of both teams were seated there. One hour before kick-off, riots between section Y and Z started. Both Liverpool and Juventus fans started to throw glass bottles and smaller stones, causing about 30 injuries. As the riots went on, Liverpool fans managed to destroy the small fence between the two sections and entered section Z. This was very easy for them because of two reasons: First, the fence was not really a solid fence, but more of a decoration, meaning that it was no serious obstacle. Second, there were exactly twelve policemen -yes, TWELVE- standing in the entire area, a fact that is unthinkable nowadays.


When they entered the mixed area, they pushed the other fans towards the front wall of the section. Unfortunately, this wall was built by CMUs (Concrete Masonry Units), which collapsed under the great forces that were applied to them. 39 people were killed, and over 600 were injured. After this disaster, Margaret Thatcher urged the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) to withdraw all English teams from their tournaments. After an 18-month long investigation, English teams were banned for five years. Liverpool were banned for one extra year because it was them who were responsible for the accident.



3) Ultras


a. The term “Ultrà”

“ultrà” is the Italian term for “beyond the borders”. Being applied to the actual circumstances, this description signifies that ultras are more than just normal fans. The name for this specific type of supporters was given to them by the Italian newspaper “Gazzetta dello sport” in 1968, when fans of AC Turin followed a referee to the airport. A few months later, in 1969, the “Ultras Tito Cucchiaroni” were founded in Genoa. This was the initiation of the everyday use of the term.



b. The history of Ultràs

Italy [Italian Ultràs are the only “real” ultras; the ultra scenes of other countries are only spin-offs or diminished versions.] 

The first serious group of football supporters, the Fossa dei Lioni (The Lion’s den) were founded in Milan in 1968. It consisted of supporters of AC Milan. In 1969, a lot of other ultra groups were founded, especially in the north of Italy, such as the Boys S.A.N. (Squadre d’Azione Nerazzurre; “Black and Blue Action Units”), who were the first group of ultras to declare themselves a decided right-wing organisation. Then, in 1972, the ultra movement reached southern Italy as well, when the Commando Ultrà was founded in Naples. Finally, the supporters of AS Roma established the “Commando Ultrà Curva Sud” (CUCS) in 1977, and this is the point where the spreading of the ultra movement covered all of Italy. At the beginning of the 1970’s, there was not one single Italian team in any of the three highest divisions (Serie A, B and C), who did not have at least one ultra group among their supporters. Most of these groupings -except for the Boys S.A.N. in Milan- were founded by people who were at least sympathising with the left-wing parties in Italy, for example the “Partito Comunista Italiano”, the Italian Communist Party. This is very easy to understand: When the Italian people realised that the end of the 60’s and 70’s was also the end of juvenile resistance, the soccer stadium must have appeared to them as sort of an area where no one kept them from being together and “celebrating” street fights.


Apart from that, the stadium gave those mostly young men the opportunity of a large and continuous reunion, which was also easy to schedule. But it is very probable that this was also the reason for the formation of the stereotype of ultras, which -even nowadays- displays them as brutal, aggressive and non-cooperative individuals. Another outcome of this process was that the mentality of the ultras became a very important part of those groups. It features the following points: Faithfulness towards the group, respect for the elder members and the concept of honourable fighting. The last one is very important, because it excludes attacks with weapons or against innocent. Another very important development at that time was the fighting against other groups. It was based on the political street fights in the early 1970’s, and now they were taken from the streets to the stadium, because back then, no one in Italy cared about what happened at football games. The uncompromising devotion towards a certain grouping also included the duty to not only defend the banners, flags and signs, but also to fight for them. This fact raised the potential aggression within the groupings, and this was one of the main causes of football violence. At the beginning of the 1980’s, the Italian ultra scene faces a crucial change: The generation which were responsible for the foundation of this movement slowly start to disappear from the stadiums.


A new generation of men, who were not really impressed by the group spirit, but rather by the potential of aggression, joined the ultra scene. They completely ignored the feeling of coherence within the ultras, which had been the most essential aspect for the ultra scene until then. Instead of that, they used the stadium as a stage for self-actualisation. Individualism became more and more important, and this is why a lot of groups were dissolved. Generally said, the scene became less coherent and much more dangerous. The second decisive movement in the 80’s concerning Italy’s supporter scene is the separation of certain smaller groups because of political reasons. The most obvious case is the one of the “Granata Korps” (which is already a very unambiguous name) in Turin. Actually, the “Toro”, as the fans of the AC Torino are called, are a very definite left-wing group. But in 1981, the Granata Korps appeared. To give an example of their pretty obvious right-wing attitude, I would like to mention the derby against Juventus in August 1981. At this game, the Korps rolled out a transparent which said “Jew-Hunchbacks. Hitler forgot you in Turin”. This is probably the most obvious right-wing statement ever committed in football history. The main consequence of this right-wing expression was that finally, Italian politicians and also the media started to notice what was happening in the football stadiums.


And so, they started to label the ultra scene as a package of right-wing groups. To explain this, I have to go into greater detail to make it understandable: At the beginning of the scene, ultras were not rejected by the “soccer system”. They were great supporters and also granted a certain income for their clubs. But bit by bit, they began to become a problem which was almost impossible to handle, and their function as an advantage for the clubs decreased constantly. Of course, the media still described them as wonderful supporters and brilliant entertainers, but the people in charge realised that every fight, every incident and every fine the clubs had to pay were harming them more and more. After this baseless political classification, the next step was the criminalisation of the ultras. This happened in 1987, when 12 members of the Brigate Gialloblù (The Azure Brigade; fans of Verona) where arrested. They were accused of “having founded a criminal federation”. This was the first time ever that ultras were declared a criminal organisation, and the response of the fans was very unique: Not one single person of the Brigate attended the following game, the only statement was written down on a transparent that said: “Not only 12, but 5000 culprits”. Four years later, the Brigate decided to dissolve, because they were “not capable to take responsibility for over 5000 individuals”, as it was described in their final manifesto.


In the time between 1987 and 2003, nothing significant happens in the Italian football scene, except for various ultras being killed.

(As this is a specific topic, I am going mention those murders in the next section.)


On November 12th, 2003, the Italian military base Nassirya in Iraq is being attacked, and 28 policemen (“carabinieri”) are killed. The following week-end, all Serie A games were cancelled, while the ones in Serie B and C were still executed. For the biggest part of the ultras, the minute’s silence in commemoration of those who were killed is a moral conflict: On the one hand, it is understood for every single Italian that the dead are to be respected. On the other hand, the police are the second biggest enemy of the ultras, and so they would feel like hypocrites if they honoured the dead. This caused a nationwide debate, because everyone had their own opinion about what would be the appropriate reaction. Some started whistling right after the minute’s silence, other did that even during the 60 seconds of honour.


This incident was the beginning of the end of the Italian ultra scene, because the gap between the radical fans, who are not willing to compromise, and those who desperately wanted to persist, grew bigger and bigger. Also in 2003, a movement called B.I.S.L. (Basta Infami, Solo Lame; “Finish the traitors, only blades count”) appeared in Rome. Their motive was to remind not only ultras, but also other attendants and the media of the fact that being an ultra was a matter of honour. By that, they meant that a real ultra was born beyond the influence of law and that he had to remain there. Of course, this was a very serious thought for most of the ultras at that time, and the only goal of the B.I.S.L. was to “purify” their scene, which means that they wanted to get rid of all those younger pseudo-ultras who were only interested in expressing themselves as individuals and not as part of a group. On April 12th, 2005, the Milanese derby between Inter and AC Milan takes place in the course of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal. Two torches, also known as “Bengals”, were thrown at the pitch, whereof one hit AC goalkeeper Dida.


After a short discussion with the officials, the referee decided to end the game. But as this had been a game that attracted a lot of attention from all over the world. This was the reason why the Italian football federation (F.I.G.C.; Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio) and the government decided to make an enactment. This enactment planned personified tickets, augmented security conditions and the exact identification of a spectator by the location of his seat. Unfortunately, as Italy was (and probably still is) a very corrupt state, those innovations were practically not executed. So, in fact, concerning the security within the stadiums, nothing had really changed. But still, it had some effect on the ultras. The Brigate Nerazzurre from Verona as well as the Fossa dei Lioni in Milan were dissolved because they “couldn’t stand the modernisation of football anymore”… and this probably marks the end of ultra history.


c. Specific incidents of ultra violence (overview)

Vincenzo Paparelli

Paparelli was killed on October 28th, 1979 during a derby between Lazio and AS Roma. After some smaller fights, AS Roma fans ignited a signal flare, which exploded outside the stadium. So did the second one. But the third one had a slightly different flight path: It was directed towards the Lazio section of the stadium. About 200 meters away from its origin, the flare hit Vincenzo Paparelli in the middle of his face. His wife desperately tried to remove the skyrocket, but as it was still burning, she only burnt herself. When someone finally managed to pull the object out of Paparelli’s head, there was still smoke coming out of his head. A few minutes later, he died in the ambulance car.


Stefano Furlan

Stefano Furlan, a 20-year old student, died on March 2nd, 1984 after he was seriously injured by a policeman on February 8th. Furlan received multiple beatings on his head with a bat, due to which he lapsed into a coma. By the way, the policeman only had to face a 1-year prison sentence.


Antonio de Falchi

18-year old de Falchi’s death is probably the most unfair one, if one can classify murders. On June 4th, 1989, Antonio wanted to attend the game between Inter Milan and AS Roma. De Falchi and his friends, who travelled to Milan by train, were asked by a person who suddenly appeared, if they had a cigarette. As they responded, their Roman accent revealed their origin. The person snipped his fingers, and suddenly a group of THIRTY grown-up men, who were hiding behind a wall, appeared and started to chase the four Romans. All of his friends managed to escape, but Antonio stumbled. The entire Milanese group attacked him with multiple kicks and punches. It took the police 15 minutes to get to the railway station, a period of time in which de Falchi had already suffered injuries. But those injuries were not lethal at all; de Falchi died of a heart attack caused by the shock he had suffered. A rather atypical death for an 18-year old…


Vincenzo Spagnolo

This murder is a very significant one, because it is the first murder in the history of football violence that is committed on purpose. But first things first: On January 29th, 1995, Spagnolo, a 24-year old Genoa fan, was on his way to a game against AC Milan with his friends. Spagnolo was NOT an ultra, so he didn’t have any intentions concerning violence. But when some AC Milan fans started a small riot and began to run towards the stadium, he became curious and followed them on his own. After some minutes, the Milanese fans recognised him and the fact that he was a lonely Genoa fan, so they suddenly stopped and started running towards him. For some reason, probably because he was shocked, Spagnolo didn’t move, even when he saw that most of the Milanese had a knife in their hands. One single fan was really getting close to Vincenzo, and they stared at each other for same seconds. And then, he got stabbed. Right in his neck. Spagnolo instantly died.


Gabriele Sandri

On November 11th, 2007, Roman DJ Gabriele Sandri was killed. That day, Sandri wanted to attend the game between Inter and Lazio in Milan. His friends wanted to take a short break at a roadhouse. A few minutes after Sandri and his friends, some Juventus fans, which were on the way to Parma, appeared. The groups recognised each other, and they started a small fight, but after a few minutes, the fight ended. Both groups wanted to leave the service area to continue their journey, when suddenly something broke the window of the car Sandri was sitting in. First, the driver thought that the Juventus fans had thrown a stone or something similar, but in fact, it was a bullet that hit Sandri straight in the neck. There was no chance for him to survive, and he died seconds later. The deadly bullet was fired by a policeman who had watched the entire fight. When the two cars left, he fired two shots: One directed towards the sky as a warning, the second one well-directed towards Sandri.





  • http://www.ultras1860.de/deutsche-ultras.html
  • http://forum.hool-ultras.de/thread.php?postid=66376 
  • http://www.fsf.org.uk/uploaded/publications/pdfs/hillsborough%20stadium%20disaster%20final%20report.pdf 
  • http://www.fsf.org.uk/uploaded/publications/pdfs/interim%20report%20hillsborough.pdf 
  • http://www.hausarbeiten.de/faecher/vorschau/42425.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_hooliganism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultras


  • Giovanni Francesio: Tifare Contro – A history of Italian ultras
  • Nick Hornby: Fever Pitch
  • Mark Perryman: Hooligan Wars – Causes and Effects of Football Violence
  • “ballesterer” magazines #58 & #60


  • Personal interview with Domenico Mungo (author, professor of history and AS Fiorentina ultra) and “Tommaso” (Rapid Vienna ultra)

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