Pyro On The Pitch #3: Serbia away to Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 12/10/2010

The incidents featured in today’s bumper edition of Pyro On The Pitch are not exactly retro at the time of writing having only occurred in 2010 (7 years ago), but certainly by the time the majority of people will read this after the author dies in 29 years time, it will be looked back on as a classic crowd trouble episode.

The scene was the Stadio Luigi Ferreris in Genoa for a Euro qualifier between Italy and Serbia, two nations who’s proud supporter heritage goes without saying. Trouble outside the ground preceded affairs inside and allegedly included Serbian supporters of Red Star Belgrade storming their own national team’s bus and attempting to assault goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who’s crime was recently joining rivals Partisan Belgrade (on loan from Sporting Lisbon) having previously been a Red Star favourite. A shaken Stojkovic withdrew from the squad.

Once inside their section of the ground, the real “fun” could start for the Serbs. What happened would result in kick-off being delayed for 36 minutes, and as there is a lot to cover here we might not get the order exactly right. But first of all, a professional hooligan (who shall be henceforth referred to by the code-name “HOOL”, with all due respect sir) takes up a position of command, perching high atop the plexiglass barrier. With flares already igniting below him, HOOL first savours the moment…

…before he lights his own flare, gives it a good old swing around, and, to the sound of rapturous cheers from his fellow countrymen, launches it effortlessly in the direction of Italian supporters in the neighbouring stand:

Naturally, this occurs much to the chagrin of the Italians, many of whom feel compelled to rush towards the Serbian section, perhaps with the intention of physical retribution. Some of the Serbian supporters welcome this reaction and indeed appear to goad their harrowed hosts with the raising of arms and such:

The miracle of television was to pick up the professional’s best work. Always the consummate professional, HOOl had done his homework and produced a pair of wire cutters brought from home in order to break through the protective netting which hung down to the top of the barrier. Whether this was a trusted tool used in many such actions, or a shiny new pair bought specially for this occasion remains unclear:

A hooded accomplice of HOOL appears to assure the concerned stewards and stadium officials of his colleague’s expertise in the field. “Don’t worry, lads, he’s a safe pair of hands”:

With a large opening now produced in the netting, Serbian supporters are free to fulfill the pitch-bound destiny of a few flares, as HOOL dutifully holds the portal open for tossing:

While the majority of the unfolding chaos is occurring on the lower tier of the Serbian section with more flares, the upper tier also helps contribute. From up here, some pyro inadvertently creates a sort of “waterfall” effect of smoke which we have no problem describing as beautiful:

Quite a humerous episode is next captured by videographer “Lider”, as some Serbians attempt to antagonise a steward in an adjoining sector. One has just revealed his buttocks to the steward, who is looking quite unimpressed. The bare-all bully then turns around while apparently forgetting to re-fasten his lower garment, as a couple of seconds later his arse is again hanging out and the angle suggests that perhaps his male sexual organs were also making an appearance:

The steward’s reaction seems to confirm the inadvertent full-frontal reveal as he turns away embarrassed, no doubt dismayed at the state of society these days, or perhaps uncomfortable in his own sexuality and therefore unable to consume the male form in a healthy way. The Serbian supporter hastily attempts to make himself respectable again and in the process comically stumbles backwards through the admittedly cumbersome terrace steps. He and the steward had shared a moment that neither would forget for years to come:

Eagle-eyed Lider next spots (presumably) Serbian supporters who have infiltrated deep within the Goldeneye-esque complex of the stadium and are unsuccessfully attempting to break through a locked door. The intentions of the would be intruders once on the other side may have been unknown even to them, but perhaps deep-seeded “holes” within their psyche brought about by socioeconomic and/or environmental issues during their upbringing contributed to this manifestation of rage here in Genoa years later:

At this point, our old friend HOOL makes an executive decision that it is time to send more heat the way of some innocent Italians, and lets fly with a direct hit. Objectively speaking, it’s a fine throw. A steward is immediately on hand with a fire extinguisher:

This latest display of aerial aggravation was just too much for one blue-jacketed Italian fan, who perhaps in a display of “classic Mediterranean passion” rushes to the Serb sector and earnestly climbs the dividing barriers. He at first appears to symbolically throw his own “projectile”, before switching tack and making a passionate (but frankly useless) plea to end the aggressive behaviour. The Serbians eagerly welcome their new friend and urge him to come closer in a similar way to how a scorpion might, before officials are able to remove the have-a-go hero:

An at least partial motivation for all the trouble is revealed when HOOL produces the flag of Albania to burn and later a “Kosovo is Serbia”-related banner is displayed. The political status of Kosovo, which had declared independence from Serbia in 2008 (and who’s population comprises an ethnic Albanian majority), was and continues to be a commonly referred to topic of supporter actions in Eastern Europe. Here we have another example of sport being used as a tool for the expression of a “greater” cause:

Eventually, a crack team of Carabinieri arrive on the scene in a somewhat disorganised fashion before standing around for a while trying to figure out what’s to be done. Naturally, the Serbian supporters use this as a cue to launch more flares:

Lider again catches a novel incident on camera as a Serbian supporter manages to scale quite a height in order to whip a dividing glass barrier with his belt, while seething Italians swarm around the other side. As reader “One Of The Lads Said” upon seeing this (he requested to be referred to that way) “You’d have to wonder what he was hoping to achieve there, he doesn’t even seem angry…He’s like a dog pawing a door to get back in the house.” Too true. This is a scene you are unlikely to see anywhere else in life, cherish it:

The two teams had at some stage come out and then been brought back to the dressing rooms by the referee upon review of the chaotic situation. Shots from around the ground show sinister hooded and masked figures on both sides preparing for further escalations…

…and from a wide shot of the Serbian sector we see some commendable banner-hanging:

Going back once more to de facto leader of the Serbian actions HOOL, we see him descend from his perch, but first he displays what can only be described as a primate-like feat of strength as he hangs down from the top of the barrier by his arms and repeatedly propels himself with force, feet first into the glass. This was clearly a symbolic gesture of alpha male dominance, as a seasoned vet’ like HOOL will have likely known that there was little chance of the barrier giving way. Duly, the Carabinieri looked on like captivated school children:

The game eventually did start, but amid more flares and more chaos the game was swiftly called off after about 7 minutes. A 3-0 victory would be declared for Italy:

It’s been a long and emotional journey in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch. Frankly, we had not foreseen it being this long, but you have to admit it had a bit of everything. Of course HOOL was arrested and spent months in Italian prison before doing more time at home for other offenses. Sources later revealed that he and other supporters had always intended on having the game called off, perhaps for awareness of their political cause, or in protest of the president of Serbian football association (among other theories).

But throughout those long, endless days behind bars, we are sure that his heart will have been warmed by the enduring memory of the Serbian players that night, who before being forced to originally leave the field had made sure to show their respect for their supporter’s efforts, as a chorus of boos rained down from the rest of the stadium:

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