Ultras in the focus of the fubball scene

Ultras in the focus of the fubball scene

For some, they are the personification of evil in the soccer stadium. For the others, the only preservers of good old soccer culture – and a protective shield against commercialization and undermining of the club system.

At least since the recent protests and insults against hoffenheim’s mazen dietmar hopp, ultras have once again been at the center of fubball discussions. The newly flared-up power struggle between the most conspicuous groups in the stadium and the DFB has many facets – just like the scene itself.

The ultras of the bundesliga clubs differ in terms of their political stance, their tolerance level with regard to violence and their closeness to the clubs and their committees, and sometimes even within a fan curve.

When ultras draw negative attention to themselves through their actions, with dirty posters, insults or the use of pyrotechnics, the following can always be heard: "but they are not fans!" The opposite is the case. According to the literal sense of the word, there are hardly any fans, i.E. Fanatics. "Being an ultra – that’s the extreme form of being a fan, away from the game, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says author christoph ruf, who takes an in-depth look at the subculture in his book "kurvenrebellen" ("rebels of the curves").

The ultras’ unconditional devotion to their club and their rebellion against actual or perceived grievances repeatedly pushes the boundaries of legality and good taste, and in some cases goes beyond them. The use of prohibited pyrotechnics, assaults on opposing ultras or massive insults like last weekend are examples of this.

However, the truth is that the ultra movement, which originated in italy and established itself in germany in the 1990s and early 2000s, together with other active fans in the stands, has played no small part in significantly reducing hooliganism and open racism in stadiums in recent decades.

"In quite a few stadiums, it is the ultras who take massive action against it when they notice right-wing extremist, racist, sexist actions in the stadium or anywhere else," harald lange tells the german press agency. The fan researcher from the university of wurzburg says: "in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, there were regular brawls during, before and after the game. This phenomenon has almost disappeared from fan culture. Stadiums have never been as safe as they are at present – and they are becoming safer all the time."

The difficulty of evaluating the ultra-phanomenon is shown, among other things, by a look at the munich group schickeria, whose decisive participation in the protest and the insults against hopp in the FC bayern game at TSG 1899 hoffenheim on saturday almost helped to provoke the cancellation of the game.

"The ultras of the schickeria have done an unbelievably intensive reappraisal of the nazi era of FC bayern over decades," explains the head of the fan project coordination office (KOS), michael gabriel. The group recalled the history of the former jewish bavarian president kurt landauer, who was persecuted by the nazis, with several actions and received the prestigious julius hirsch prize for it in 2014. In addition, the fan scene is often socially engaged, for example in refugee work, explains gabriel.

Such commitment can in no way justify personal insults or other misconduct on the part of the ultras. However, it belongs to the overall view of the scenes. And is a reason why it is difficult to find the right way in the deadlocked situation, in which the fans are mainly concerned with the abolition of collective punishments.

"It’s all about self-promoters, and it’s very rarely about football," said DFB president fritz keller last saturday in the ZDF-sportstudio with reference to the actions of bayern fans in the hoffenheim game. The schickeria contradicted this in a statement. Those who accuse the group of this "are ignoring the fact that it’s not about us," they say.

Accusations of self-promotion are made time and again, regardless of protests and questionable banners – even in the fan stands. Even other supporters sometimes accuse ultras of self-aggrandizement and self-centeredness.

The fact is: the loud and visual presentation of one’s own group actually plays a major role in ultrascenes – even independent of what happens on the pitch. But it is also a fact that the images of colorful fan blocks and creative choreographies, often initiated by ultras, can be marketed very well. For example, the DFL shows sequences of such actions in its bundesliga video trailer published for the second half of the season.

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