Heroic Hang Jobs #6 (Gallery)

As the name suggests, this is the series where we pay homage to our favourite flag-hanging displays throughout the years, ranging from an entire end covered in colour to as little as one single banner. And of course, from any club or country. Click here for the all entries.

Catanzaro vs Bari, Serie B, 23/10/1988:

Bayern Munich vs Hamburger SV, Bundesliga, 24/04/1982:

SG Wattenscheid 09 vs Borussia Dortmund, DFB-Pokal 1st round, 11/08/1996:

East Germany vs Soviet Union, World Cup qualifier, 08/10/1989:

East Germany vs Soviet Union, World Cup qualifier, 08/10/1989:

Watford vs Chelsea, FA Cup 4th round, 01/02/1987:

Portugal vs Italy, World Cup qualifier, 24/02/1993:

Netherlands vs San Marino, World Cup qualifier, 24/03/1993:

Real Madrid vs Napoli, European Cup 1st round-1st leg, 16/09/1987 – Match played behind closed doors after crowd trouble at Real’s semi final with Bayern Munich the year before, but the banished home fans still make their presence felt through huge message-banners:
With public or without public…
“…The Real Madrid is unique.”

More time than ever…

“…Go Madrid!”

Scotland vs Faroe Islands, Euro qualifier, 14/10/1998:

Red Star Belgrade vs Portadown, Champions League 1st round-1st leg, 17/09/1991:

Portadown vs Red Star Belgrade, Champions League 1st round-2nd leg, 02/10/1991:

Sligo Rovers vs Club Brugge, Cup Winners’ Cup 2nd round-1st leg, 15/09/1994:

Sligo Rovers vs Club Brugge, Cup Winners’ Cup 2nd round-1st leg, 15/09/1994:

Mexico vs West Germany, World Cup quarter final, 21/06/1986:

Czechoslovakia vs Faroe Islands, World Cup qualifier, 23/09/1992:

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YouTube links:
Catanzaro vs Bari 1988
Bayern Munich vs Hamburger SV 1982
SG Wattenscheid 09 vs Borussia Dortmund 1996
East Germany vs Soviet Union 1988
Watford vs Chelsea 1987
Portugal vs Italy 1993
Netherlands vs San Marino 1993
Real Madrid vs Napoli, 1987
Real Madrid vs Napoli, 1987
Scotland vs Faroe Islands, 1998
Red Star Belgrade vs Portadown 1991
Portadown vs Red Star Belgrade 1991
Portadown vs Red Star Belgrade 1991
Sligo Rovers vs Club Brugge 1994
Mexico vs West Germany 1986
Czechoslovakia vs Faroe Islands, 1992

*****

People On The Pitch #10: Coventry City vs Nottingham Forest, Football League Division One, 22/04/1978

Last time in People On The Pitch, we looked at a fiery Italian affair in which Salernitana’s hopes of promotion in 1996 were dashed. We now turn to another end of season episode from a couple of decades earlier in England, but one with quite a different vibe.

Background:

In January 1975, Brian Clough became the manager of English Second Division side Nottingham Forest. This came off the back of a disastrous 44 day spell as Leeds United manager the year before, but Clough had already won Second (68/69) and First Division (71/72) championships with Derby County, as well as victories in the prestigious Watney Cup (1970) and Texaco Cup (71/72).

A 16th place finish was followed with an improved 8th in the manager’s first full campaign the next season, before the trajectory continued with 3rd in 76/77. The position meant automatic promotion for Forest, as this was before the days of play-offs when the top three finishers would go up.


A goal and celebrations in Nottingham Forest's City Ground, vs Hereford United, as the home side head towards promotion, 76/77.

By the time 1978 rolled around, Clough’s team had only been defeated three times in Division One, with the latter of these – away to Leeds on November 19th – ultimately turning out to be their last league loss of the season. With two points awarded for a win at the time, a trip to Coventry City’s Highfield Road in April would see Forest take an amazing league title for the first time in their history with only a draw.

In terms of the fan scene, England was swiftly hurtling toward the hooligan hey day of the 1980s. But of course the 70s had also it’s share of chaos, as fighting and pitch invasions became more and more common.

As the decade had progressed, joyful, celebratory invasions (such as this or this) were joined with deliberate attempts to stop matches when the result was not going your team’s way. With organised hooligan firms already in places since the late 60s, at least in proto-form, violent encounters became more and more usual too, as demonstrated by a famous clip of a Chelsea fan outnumbered by flare and platform boot wearing Tottenham supporters in 1975.


A section of the fighting on the pitch between Tottenham and Chelsea fans, 74/75 season.

The activity of making your way on to the pitch went “viral”, with many young, mischievous fans seeing it as a marked target. By the 80s, this would manifest in menacing fencing in many grounds around the country, with disastrous results later. But until then, it remained easy for larger and larger numbers to leave the terraces and hit the grass, as that April day in Coventry would show.

The Match:

22/04/1978: Highfield Road is packed, as 36,881 supporters fill the ground for the game that could decide Forest’s title. A win could be important for the home team too, as a UEFA Cup spot lay within their grasp:

As the away team emerge from the dressing room, we can see the shiny, futuristic Adidas shirts they have acquired since the Second Division, although interestingly goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s jersey is made by Umbro:

As for Clough himself, a characteristic yellow jumper is employed, along with a classic Adidas tracksuit top on his assistant:

A chance for City in the first-half triggers a mini-avalanche in the home end:

Shilton turns out to be the hero of the day for the visitors as he makes a sensational point-blank save in the second-half, much to the adulation of the Forest supporters behind him:

It’s a save that wins them the championship, as soon after the final whistle is blown and Nottingham Forest, having just come up the year before, are champions of England. The fans sing:

For the second time in his career, Brian Clough had taken a Second Division team, gotten them promoted, and swiftly won the league, but this time in even quicker succession than with Derby:

But we still haven’t gotten to our people on the pitch.

The first sign of it is one away supporter, clearly in a state of euphoria at his team’s inaugural championship, who in the clip below can be seen breaking the police line just as the camera zooms in on the raucous terrace. His goal, once on the pitch, is unclear, but presumably the need to burn off some excess energy made a sprint around the grass the most obvious thing to do:

Surprisingly, however, it is from the home end that a leak is sprung. Perhaps due to the polic being busy with the Forest fans, Coventry supporters enter the pitch en masse and head towards the other end of the stadium:

What happens next, though, is a bit of a let down for those expecting all-out carnage. Clearly not knowing quite what they wanted to achieve, the young mob stops short of the penalty box. Corralled by only a hand-full of police, a few Nottingham nut-jobs (they won’t mind us calling them that) do make it on to confront the Sky Blues fans:

Most of the away support continue to sing and hold up scarfs, while the coppers on the pitch move the invaders back towards their own end:

With the constables happy to contain them around their own penalty box, the Coventry fans conduct their own sing-song. The sight of scarfs in the air is one that would become obsolete in the following decade, as casual culture took over:

Just when the situation seems under control, the inverse of the earlier scenario takes place. With the police occupied at the other end, the Forest fans seize their chance and, in large numbers, stream out of their enclosures:

Once again, though, anyone expecting full scale war watching on from the main stand will have been heart broke, as the Forest fans police themselves by stopping around the half-way line, showing an “innocence” still of the age that would quickly fade:

At last, some brawls do actually take place, although the authorities successfully keep the two bodies of humanity away from each other from the most part. Perhaps with two teams of more sinister reputations, a critical scene would have developed. :

Back in the terrace, the remainder of the away fans continue to celebrate their brilliant season and league win:

And so concludes our story. It may not have been a particular aggressive incident – more like young people showboating and taunting each other than hardened hooligans fighting – but the sheer astonishing scale of the invasions clearly displayed that the amount of police deployed would not be equipped to deal with any potentially explosive situations in the might occur in the future, as things got even more out of control.

As for the two teams involved, Clough’s Forest would go on to make even more history with back-to-back European Cup wins in 1979 and 80. Meanwhile, Cov’ would finish in 7th that 77/78 season, one place off the UEFA Cup spots. They would not go on to make history with back-to-back European Cups.

*

YouTube Links:

Nottingham Forest vs Hereford United, 76/77
Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, 1975
Coventry City vs Nottingham Forest, 1978
Coventry City vs Nottingham Forest, 1978
Coventry City vs Nottingham Forest, 1978

*****

Football Special Report #6 (Preview) – Shelbourne Fanzine Special

The third in our now regular guest spot in the Shelbourne FC fanzine Red Inc. has been published. Using the Football Special Report series as our vehicle, we delve into the “Early Modern” world of the football kit and the proto-days of shirt numbers, branding (of both manufacturer and sponsor), non-traditional football boots, printed player names, and national teams sponsors.

Below is a short excerpt and some pictures of the piece, including the excellent front and back covers, with this issue, RI65, celebrating 20 years of the fanzine. Both our earlier contributions are now on the site, so click here for our Shels special Pryo On The Pitch #10 or Retro Shirt Reviews #7, and keep a look out for the article in question here to pop up on online in the not so distant future. Thanks as always to the publishers, supporter group Reds Independent, for having us.

…Organised football does not have quite as long a history, although there is something intriguingly esoteric about nature of the sport (man’s attempt to control the inherent “chaos” of a sphere, or “planet”, within the lines of order, or “civilisation”, that he has created) that seemingly gives it a huge appeal to all classes of human. But as sport, and football in particular, is always a mirror for the greater world, the post-modern macrocosm of society is reflected in the post-modern microcosm of the game.

Considering the grim realities that lay behind the wealth of “western culture” these days, and therefore likewise behind the massive industry of professional soccer, most of us are not fans of this fact and lament the grotesque, corrupted demon-spirit that metaphorically controls the sport at the highest levels. True local football grounds like Tolka Park (for the moment) at least still give real supporters the chance to continue to experience a purer form, unlike conditions at corporatised top flight stadiums around Europe and the Sky Sports-watching culture.
But similar to your average citizen’s concept of “modern” history, some fans may also not realise that many practices currently seen in and around football, and football gear, date back far longer – in experimentation at the least – than is generally thought…

*****

 

 

International Duty – Club Banners At National Team Games #8: Portugal Focus, plus more (Gallery)

Last time in International Duty, we took an in-depth, pictorial look at club sides represented in the stadiums of Euro 88. In this edition, we start with the banners of some of Portugal’s premier domestic supporters at national team games, before moving on to the more general selection that we are used to in this series.

Portugal vs Ireland, Euro qualifier, 07/10/2000
No Name Boys of Benfica:

Portugal vs Austria, Euro qualifier, 13/11/1994
Torcida Verde
of Sporting CP:

Portugal vs Netherlands, Euro qualifier, 17/10/1990
Súper Dragones
of FC Porto:

Ultra Boys of ?:

Portugal vs Latvia, Euro qualifier, 03/06/1995
SC Braga:

Portugal vs Italy, World Cup qualifier, 24/02/1993
SC Braga:

Portugal vs Czech Republic, Euro 96, 23/06/1996
Súper Dragones of FC Porto:

East Germany vs USSR, World Cup qualifier, 08/10/1989
Dynamo Dresden:

Ebersdorf:

Italy vs Finland, friendly, 27/05/1994
Brigate of Parma:

Ireland vs Latvia, Euro qualifier, 11/10/1995
Cliftonville FC:

Italy vs Algeria, friendly, 11/11/1989
Vigilantes
of Vicenza:

Netherlands vs West Germany, World Cup qualifier, 26/04/1989
SC Fortuna Köln:

SV Grün-Weiss:

Germany vs Ghana, friendly, 14/04/1993
VfB Stuttgart:

Brazil vs Latvia, friendly, 26/06/1999
OS Fanaticos
of Athletico Paranaense:

Ultras Do Atlético of Athletico Paranaense:

2nd Comando GB’s of Cruzeiro:

Mafia Azul of Cruzeiro:

*

YouTube Links:
Portugal vs Ireland
Portugal vs Austria
Portugal vs Netherlands
Portugal vs Latvia
Portugal vs Czech Rep.
East Germany vs USSR
Italy vs Finland
Ireland vs Latvia
Italy vs Algeria
Netherlands vs West Germany
Germany vs Ghana
Brazil vs Latvia

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retro Shirt Reviews #7: Shelbourne Fanzine Special

With Shelbourne FC returning to Umbro kits for the first time in 8 years this week when the League of Ireland First Division kicks off, we thought it appropriate timing to upload our most recent Red Inc. fanzine special from last year, which funnily enough includes the first time the Reds wore Umbro in the early 80s. What’s more, a brand new article by ourselves will be in the imminent next issue, RI65, on sale at Shelbourne’s first home game of the season on Friday week.

Red Inc. is the longest running fanzine in Irish football, having been produced by the fan-group Reds Independent since 1999. After a Shels-inspired Pyro On The Pitch installment to start our RI guest slot, our Retro Shirt Reviews series was adapted for RI64, where usually we would breakdown an obscure jersey from our own POTP collection. But for this installment we deviate from that regular format to take a look back at some of the possibly lesser known kits from Shelbourne’s past.

A large thank you to Maurice Frazer and those at Shelbourne FC Photos for picture permission, follow their page if you are a Shels supporter.

Intro:

August 2018: DUBLIN has recently been awash with grown men proud as punch in their new English Premier League jerseys (usually derived from only a handful of clubs), especially when their teams have been playing meaningless cash-cow friendlies in the Aviva Stadium. This is particularly embarrassing when trying to explain to confused, non-Irish friends why there are so many people in Ireland supporting Liverpool for example.

The rise of two certain clubs in the Premier League since the new millennium mean that there are also a lot more blue English league jerseys around than there was in the 90s. But there was a time when the archetypal football club nicknames of “the blues” and “the reds” were synonymous with two native clubs: the blue shirted Waterford FC – who dominated the League of Ireland from the mid-60s to early 70s – and Shelbourne FC of Dublin.

Legends:

Established in 1895, one legend suggests that Shels’ original colourway of red, white and blue was a tribute to the Union Jack, reflecting that football was traditionally a sport of the Anglo-Irish establishment at the time (as opposed to the Gaelic Games associated with “old Irish” communities). Similarly, city rivals Bohemians were known to have close ties to the British Army (as with many clubs from “garrison towns”) and allegedly housed British soldiers during the 1916 Easter uprising. But just like how you would be hard-pressed to find a communist in the fanbase of teams called Dynamo/Dinamo or CSKA in eastern Europe these days, any early links to loyalism were soon long forgotten by the local supporting communities of both clubs.

Another legend states that Shelbourne were true pioneers in being the first Dublin team from any sport to adapt the city’s three castle coat of arms as their crest. There are also theories that the red jerseys used by St. Patrick’s Athletic upon their foundation in 1929 were inspired by an admiration of the already popular Ringsend outfit. Considering the historic connection of the shirt to Irish football history, as well as Shels’ use of red seemingly outdating that of both Liverpool and Manchester United (for whom many of  the Irish public would later develop an infantile fascination), it is no wonder that the club nickname would morph into the “real reds”; and more popular as of late, the “auld (old) reds”.

60s-70s:

In standing with the time, Shelbourne’s kits would remain minimal in design for the next several decades, with white collar variations and cuffs on the shirt being the only possible addition to the crest – if one appeared. A stylishly noteworthy strip that did offer a splash of colour was used at the time of the famous Cup Winners Cup tie with Barcelona in 1963, featuring a crew neck jersey with no trim and a blue crest with gold castles. Ten years later, huge winged collars with v-insets hearkening back to the 30s would again be all the rage. Shels were no exception to the trend with an otherwise plain shirt (crest later added), but like the national team, stripes now appeared on the white shorts.

The club continued to keep up with the ever-evolving kit styles, as by the end of the decade red shorts were employed for the home attire; the v-inset disappeared from the collar; and three elegant white stripes ran the length of each sleeve. But it was the brand of O’Neills that appeared parallel to the badge on the chest, not adidas. The shirt used the same template as the Irish national team jersey, meaning three stripes were also on the turnover of the collar. In what appeared to be clearly a blatant act of plagiarism of the West German company’s famous design – that would go on for decades, with the company shamelessly take “inspiration” from other well known shirt features later – amazingly after much legal battling it was declared that O’Neills would be allowed to continue to produce three striped sports gear, but in Ireland only.

1980s:

The peak of Shelbourne’s later success would coincide with the club’s association with English kit-masters Umbro. But few are aware that Umbro were also briefly around as Shels began to embark upon the 1980s, a decade that  would see them hit their lowest ebb until that point. By this time jerseys were changing from heavier materials to sleek, streamlined and slim-fitting polyester, and an away game to Bohemians in 1981 shows a shiny white alternate shirt featuring a modern (for the time) red v-neck and cuffs, with Umbro diamonds and wordmark. The earlier-used diamond-only Umbro logo appears on the red shorts, which are accompanied by red socks with white trim. We can assume that the home shirt was a straight reversal. Although great, the unfortunate lack of a crest prevents this becoming an all-time Shels classic.

Shelbourne would soon be donning the three stripes again, but while O’Neills would later return, this time it wasn’t them. Much is made of Cork City’s early Guinness sponsored Adidas kits – a partnership that made sense since there was a factory producing Adidas licensed kits in the city – but again many modern fans may be unaware that the Reds wore Adidas before Cork City had even been founded in 1984. As well as a trefoil, a sponsor appeared by 1983 on a Shelbourne shirt for what seems to be the first time, in the form of Iveco.  This was an impressive combination as the van and truck company’s name was also being seen on the Adidas shirts being worn by Bayern Munich at the time, with their red and white colourway making some versions virtually indistinguishable from a Shels jersey if it wasn’t for the addition of the corporate name Magirus underneath.

In addition to the white sleeve stripes and Iveco sponsor, a home strip from this time featured a turn-over collar and a shield crest, which was apparently placed over the Adidas logo. The reason for this, as seen through other versions of the shirt, was that the trefoil on these basic teamware templates was positioned to the left where a badge usually would be, and so instead of going with a reversed “off” look it seems it was decided to put the crest there instead. The real beauty was the magnificent all-white away strip, which differed in it’s red v-neck and cuffs, red stripes, and a trefoil, but lacking a crest. The absence of this meant that the Adidas logo was placed on different different sides on different players jerseys, the likes of which was not uncommon at the time.

If Shelbourne were moving surprisingly well with the times, 1984 would see a slight step back. While still “shiny” material, a template was used that brought back the wing-collar/v-inset to an absurdly large degree, rivaling any huge collars from bygone eras. This was because the design was actually from several years before, as worn by Limerick FC in their in League winning 79/80 season. Their FAI Cup final version of the same year also displayed a black trefoil within the v-inset as well as chest (and humorously the clearly shoddy print job meant that even as the teams lined up the L and C in “Limerick Savings Bank” had fallen off several players’ jerseys) while Paul McGrath-era St. Pat’s also employed the template. Shels’ identifiable Iveco version was used as part of a lesser seen kit colour combination for the club, in red shirt, red shorts and white socks.

Another new strip was brought in for 1985 as a turn-over and v-neck collar returned, and delightfully pinstripes were seen on a Shelbourne shirt for the first – the most quintessential feature of 80s football kit fashion. Also freshening things up was the revival of white shorts, while Iveco was replaced on the shirt with a white panel containing the logo of “Corona Holidays”. But now, there was no sign of either crest nor trefoil, again possibly depriving this kit of a higher place on the pantheon of the club’s greatest gear. While the three stripes should still have left no doubt as to who the manufacturer was, as we have seen the O’Neills situation could have made things a little less clear if it wasn’t for the classic Adidas sweatshirts used by the subs.

The following year of 86, the remarkable turnover of kits continued with what was to be the Reds last Adidas offering, but what a way to go out it would be. Again pin stripes were the theme, but beautifully used to divide red shadow stripes, meaning alternating shades of vertical red strips. A tidy white v-neck was used, with the Adidas trefoil returning again in the “badge position”. Another significant change was the addition of popular Irish clothing retailer Penneys as sponsor. Like the previous shirt, their wordmark appeared in a white panel across the shirt. Red shorts were also used again with the home strip. Even without a crest, the ensemble was a marvelous piece of art thanks to a jersey that many supporters today would be undoubtedly willing to part with large sums of money to get their hands on.

1987 saw a new make and a new sponsor, as O’Neills took back over the reigns and a company called TransIrish replaced Penneys. It was the most unremarkable Shels jersey in years, as besides the two companys logos there is little else to mention; even the v-neck and cuffs were red. White shorts again returned, and the away strip was a straight colour reversal. The kits nearly were actually quite nice in a minmalist  sort of way, but one thing definitely of note was the team tracktops, which were mostly red but featured a white inner hood with white strings, and a white horizontal section on the torso and sleeves, with “Shelbourne FC” in the centre. A crest and white O’Neills logo appeared above, while a squad number was placed around the left ribs section. Great stuff.

Although TransIrish remained as sponsor for another year, Shels changed kit provider for the third consecutive season as 1988 brought possibly the most intriguing shirt yet. The O’Neills tracktops also stayed but the kit was now being produced by little known brand Union Sport, who also made kits for Bray Wanderers ,Dundalk FC, and, in a similar red and white style to Shels, Sligo Rovers. The kicker is that Union Sport’s logo was a literal Confederate flag (minus a couple of stars), which did appear on the chest of a Shelbourne shirt. With said flag being a common symbol of far-right white nationalists in Europe (this came up last time too), it is especially hilarious considering the Union fought against the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

Another change was the crest, which was now permanently on the chest for the first time in years. The white shield used since the 70s was gone, leaving three larger white castles standing independent over the red background of the shirt. A Union Sport wordmark was also used instead of the flag logo, but white bars running down the sleeves and sides of shirt were interjected by the flag. From afar, this gave the appearance of Denmark’s 1979 Hummel kit which had chevrons in the same places, as well as a similar collar and the same colourway. It seemed that once again Shelbourne were in a plagiarised template, as well as politically incorrect by modern standards.

1990s:

As the 1990s dawned, Shelbourne made a deal with O’Neills for the third time. After the four different kit providers of the 1980s, the Irish brand would retain some stability by staying around for the next eight years, coinciding with Shelbourne’s return to league and cup dominance. A new era dawned with many of the jerseys worn fondly remembered today. But the teams lack of success in the decades before, coupled with poor coverage of the League of Ireland in general, meant that many of the shirts we have looked at are sadly less recognised; particularly Shels’ Adidas era.

Before Shelbourne did win finally win the league again in 91/92, O’Neills provided a perfectly 90s piece for 90/91, which was slightly understated compared to the “geometric shards” shirt that would come a couple of seasons later, but suave enough to make it an absolute classic. With a smart collar and button combination, white “flecks” appear all over the red of the shirt. An O’Neills logo joined is by a new sponsor, SpeedWay, who’s red and white logo fits seemlessly into the overall design. But most significantly, a new crest which incorporated the blue background and gold castles of the past was introduced. The white away shirt with red shorts was a perfect match.

The 90/91 kits may be among O’Neills greatest work in football, slightly redeeming themselves for their indiscretions. The above mentioned 1992/93 shirt was also a crazy classic. But around the same time they would be up their old tricks with another shirt that was extremely familiar, using identical shoulder bars and general layout on a white Shlebourne away shirt to that of the Adidas Equipment range, used by the likes of Spain and France at the time. Before O’Neills left for good – to be replaced by Umbro in 1998 – they proved that it wasn’t just Adidas that they were prepared to rip-off. The FAI Cup final and subsequent replay of that year was significant for another another rare appearance of a red-red-white kit, but in classic O’Neills-level subtly, the shirt looked suspiciously similar to what Brazil were about to wear in the 1998 World Cup.

*

Pic sources: British Pathé YouTube; the41.ie; finnharps.com; corkpastandpresent.ie; Sportsfile.ie; Shelbourne Cult Heroes books by Séan Fitzpatrick with photos courtesy of Maurice Frazer and the Frazer family; Getty Images; Shelbourne vs Shamrock Rovers 1987 progamme thanks to @1895Barry; The Bar At Tolka (framed team photo); vintagefootballshirts.com; 1993 FAI Cup Final preview; retroloi YouTube.

*****

 

 

Supporter Snap Back #4: Leeds United away to Oxford United, Football League Second Division, 10/03/1990

So far on the site, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the rich history of football related chaos in England from the 1970s to the 1990s. One side that will pop up more than once in this era, both for player and supporter malfeasance, is Leeds and starting now we shall be seeing more of them. For previous entries in this fan-focused series, including some UEFA Cup ties and a Scottish trip to Switzerland, click here.

Leeds United’s golden age began around 1964, when the team were promoted from the Second Division and the following season finished second to Manchester United. They would win two league titles in the following nine years while finishing runners-up a further four times, as well as FA Cup, League Cup and Inter City Fairs Cup x2 victories (the last ever holders in the case of the latter).

Renowned for their hardmen players and style of play, the nickname “Dirty Leeds” was as apt for the the team as it was for the swathes of the support who, like clubs the country over, were playing their own new game on the terraces. Leeds’ hooligan element first made a name for itself internationally at the 1975 UEFA Cup final in Paris against Bayern Munich, throwing ripped chairs after dubious ref calls, clashing with police and invading the pitch.

As a results, Leeds were granted the honour of being the first English club to be banned from European competition, with a four year sentence later reduced to two. The ban would turn out to be inconsequential, however, as the golden age on the pitch ended, ultimately resulting in the team’s relegation at the end of the 81/82 season.

Throughout the club’s 80s run in the second flight, supporters incidents around the country continued to haunt Leeds’s public relations department and terrify regular opposition fans and unfortunate third party onlookers alike. Their firm, the Leeds United Service Crew (formed the same year as the trouble in Paris), became so feared by 1987 that tiny Telford United understandably refused to host an FA Cup 3rd round fixture against the Yorkshire club, with the game moved 30 miles from Shropshire to West Brom’s Hawthorns.

In order to contain the likes of the LUSC, most grounds around the country (a noticeable exception being Highbury) had menacing, but often ineffectual, fencing around the pitch to keep wayward rouges in the stands. The aftermath of the disaster at Hillsborough in 1989 would see the end of fences and terracing in the top leagues, but it would take a few more years for the full transition.

After years of upper-mid table mediocrity, the 89/90 season set the scene for Leeds to finally make it back to the First Division. A great start to the season was followed by a new year dip in form, with only one win in six going into what had become a must-win game away at Oxford in March.

Match File:

  • Oxford United vs Leeds United
  • Football League Division Two, 89/90
  • 10/03/1990
  • Manor Ground (Oxford)
  • 8397 spectators

With the away fans filling the steep terrace behind the goal to the left, the main thing of note is the imposing fence in appropriate Leeds blue and yellow, also the colours of their hosts Oxford. It is a striking visual for a post-Hillsborough world:

While we don’t have much footage of the home supporters, there are one group of standing “lads” in the corner adjacent to away end. Although these could very well be a group of Leeds:

And we can see that the main stand opposite the camera is divided into at least three roofed parts at this time in the Manor Ground:

In the first half, the main traveling contingent can only watch on silently as the home team score twice, their side’s bad run looking set to continue:

Shooting towards their own fans in the second half though, Leeds pull one back to reignite the terrace:

Buoyed, the smell of a comeback is in the air:

Soon after (we don’t have exact times, hence the vagueness) the equaliser comes, queuing cascading chaos behind the goal:

The visiting supporters are now collectively purring like kittens as they suckle from the mother cat that is Leeds United:

Next comes the most epic moment, as the Oxford ‘keeper can do nothing about a beautiful looping header that makes it 2-3 Leeds. The result: pure, high grade terrace carnage, including one fan who ungracefully launches himself through the air in joyful abandon:

Feeling a euphoria like no other in life, more that a few bruises and cuts will have been sustained among the “lunatic” Leeds faithful (they won’t mind us calling them that) in the orgy of triumph, not least for our flying Yorkshireman.

But the wounds wouldn’t be stopping there as a while later as a fourth goes in to confirm the comeback victory. More mayhem and climbing of the fence ensues as the Leeds support erupt, while goal scorer Lee Chapman admirably attempts to elevate himself up towards the fans on an advertising board, but the hoarding proves weaker than first thought forcing Chapman to celebrate with his teammates:

Wild celebrations continue as more fan avalanches are triggered. With the impending transformation of English stadiums, it is a scene that would soon be obsolete:

The jubilation that day in Oxford was not in vein as Leeds United went on to win the Second Division title, with a huge invasion of Bournemouth on the last day of the season (a toxic affair that we will come back to). Following promotion, it would only be two seasons before another league championship as Leeds won the last English First Division before it became the Sky-backed Premiership, making them the final winners of an irrelevant competition in many modern eyes for the second time in their history.

*

Credit to the YouTube uploaded: Oxford vs Leeds, 1990

*****

Pyro On The Pitch #14: Venezia vs Hellas Verona, Serie B, 19/10/1997

We took our first look at Italy’s rich domestic fan scene back in People On The Pitch #9, with Salerntiana’s invasion of Pescara and their pitch. Check out that article for our original introduction to Italian ultras but we are certainly not stopping there, as we now once again head to Serie B in the 1990s.

Background:

The idea of two clubs merging together is one that most supporters instantly balk at, and understandably so. Most modern mergers involve smaller clubs, but some examples of famous teams who exist as the result of mergers include Ipswich Town (1888) and Newcastle United (1892) in England; FC Twente (1965) and FC Utrecht (1970) in the Netherlands; Hamburger SV (1919) and 1.FC Köln (1948) in Germany; and Fiorentina (1926), AS Roma (1927) and Sampdoria (1946) in Italy.

All of the above became huge staples of the community, and any opposition to a union with a local rival at the time of the merger has been long forgotten. Of course these were of a different era, with the proposed merger of Sampdoria with enemies Genoa in 2001 being an example of a modern mash-up that was never going to fly.

Many other Italian clubs have complicated histories of name changes and mergers, one of which being Venezia FC from the city of Venice, founded as Venezia Foot Ball Club in 1907 after the union of Palestra Marziale (Martial Gym) with Costantino Reyer. Over the years they would also be known as Association Calcio Venezia, Società Sportiva Serenissima, Associazione Fascista Calcio Venezia, Calcio Venezia, Calcio VeneziaMestre, Associazione Calcio Venezia 1907, Società Sportiva Calcio Venezia, Foot Ball Club Unione Venezia, and Venezia Football Club Società Sportiva Dilettantistica before finally simplifying back to Venezia FC in 2015.

The main merger in question with regards Venezia occurred in 1987, as club chairman Maurizio Zamparini took over as owner of financially weak neighbours Mestre, also of Serie C2 at the time. The clubs were fused together and became Calcio VeneziaMestre, moving to Mestre’s Stadio Francesco Baracca and adding orange to Venrzia’s traditional black and green strip.

Naturally none of this went down well with many supporters in Venice, particularly the team being moved out of town. In response, Calcio Venezia – a new amateur team claiming the true spirit of the club and wearing the traditional black and green strip – was formed and entered the lower leagues at the start of the 90s.

But there was those who were not opposed to the changes and accepted it as part of football. While old ultras groups at the club such as Panthers, Brigate Neroverdi (Black-Green Brigades) and Gioventu’ Neroverde (Black-Green Youth) had already dissolved pre-merger, Vecchia Guardia (Old Guard) of 1986 continued to offer support into the new era and were joined by a large new group who’s name reflected the reality: Ultras Unione VeneziaMestre.


Banners of groups such as Front, Kaos, and Ultras Unione, Venezia vs Casale, 90/91.

The name VeneziaMestre only officially existed for two seasons and the club moved back to the Stadio Pierluigi Penzo in Venice upon their promotion to Serie B in 1991 (a result of the combination of talent from both former teams), the popularity of which saw the collapse of the amateur Calcio Venezia side. The change of ground also gave rise to new legacy sides in Mestre, who were now without a team.

The memory of the merger was still maintained through the kits (the neroverdi now the  arancioneroverdi) and through the terraces, as the huge Ultras Unione VeneziaMestre banner hung for many more years. The progress that had seen the club rise from Serie C2, to Serie C1 to Serie B continued, and hopes were high as the 97/98 season started that this would be the year top flight football would return to Venice for the first time since the 1940s.

Another side in Serie B that season with an eye on promotion were recently relegated Hellas Verona, who had been unexpected Serie A champions in 1985. Financial collapse soon after brought demotion and the folding of the club, reborn simply as Verona in 1991 before becoming Hellas Verona once more in 1995.

Verona of course possess one of the top followings in the country with dozens of ultra groups throughout the years, spearheaded by the historic Brigate Gialloblu’ (Yellow Brigades) to which many sub-groups claim allegiance. Despite the name being originally drawn from left-wing influences (based on the terrorist Brigate Rosse group, founded in 1970), the Verona curva became known as mostly right-wing by the 1980s, although the peaceful co-existence of left-wing groups such as Rude Boys prove that love of the club trumps politics.


Hellas Verona supporters following a goal during a home match against Udinese, 90/91.

The Match:

1997: A fine sunday in October sees a packed Stadio Pierluigi Penzo in Venice, named after a World War 1 fighter pilot. The ends of the ground are unusual in having no discernible sides or roof:

Many Veronese have made the 121km journey for the clash between two of northern Italy’s famous historical cities:

Before the teams come out, it’s scarves in the air time in Venezia’s curva sud:

With the arrival of the two squadrons green and orange smoke is let off, thickly billowing in an impressive  effect:

Zooming back we can see the reason that this match is eligible for a POTP entry, as a white smoke bomb has made it’s way into the penalty box. A fireman dutifully jogs over to remove it:

The rest of the smoke continues to rise:

A text banner is also unfurled among the home fans, but unfortunately we cannot make out what it says:

Demonstrating a common expression of displeasure, the Venezia ultras banners are placed upside down, probably in lament of some sort of disagreement with the club. From this shot we can also see the “VeneziaMestre” portion of the Ultras Unione banner.

With the comparatively short distance between the cities, the two clubs are among each other’s known rivals and as always security personal are on hand:

While nothing major occurs, carabinieri are on the scene at the away end as the traditionally belligerent Verona supporters get extremely animated at some sort of injustice:

At the other end, Venezia’s capos watch on pensively:

In the end, a single second half goal is enough to give the home side the win and send curva sud bouncing to see out the day:

The scoreline would be repeated when the sides met again in March 1998 with both results being crucial in Venezia’s ultimate 2nd placed finish and promotion to Serie A, while Verona would have to wait another year. The dream of Zamparini had been realised, but whether the merger from 11 years before was a success for the city or remained a soulless selling out of the Venezia’s football tradition, is up to you.

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Pyro On The Pitch #10: Shelbourne FC Away to Bohemian FC, League of Ireland, 23/10/1994

The following piece was first published in the June 2018 edition of the Shelbourne FC fanzine Red Inc., produced by the group Reds Independent (as reported here at the time). As a festive, end of year treat we now present online this special “print debut” installment of Pyro On The Pitch in full.

 

Intro:

Although a health and safety aficionado’s nightmare, the practice of pyrotechnics emanating from the stands and ending up on the playing surface at football matches has a proud, mischievous tradition that goes back decades and can represent several profound meanings. Sometimes it’s appearance acts as a symbol of euphoria upon a goal or team victory, while on other occasions flares and smoke bombs have been used as a tool by disaffected supporters in “political” fan actions. Random pyro on the pitch was somewhat of a regular occurrence in the ’80s and ’90s in certain European grounds with players and referees alike often happy to play on around the flaming phallus on the grass, contently accepting an intimidating and difficult atmosphere as simply part of the magic of the game back then. Of course on other occasions, it was a straight forward act of belligerent “hooliganism”.

The League of Ireland is no exception to any of these tropes, with it’s own unique supporter culture added into the mix. Indeed the use of pyro in Irish football has a far longer heritage than one might imagine, with a Dublin newspaper reporting in 1905: “Tar Barrels and bonfires were blazing across Ringsend and Sandymount that night as the Irish Cup was paraded around the district”. The team responsible for such celebrations were local side Shelbourne FC, the first winners of the IFA Cup not to have come from present day Northern Ireland.

In the early 2000s, the modern cultural ancestor of that 1905 mentality emerged in the form of the Irish ultras scene, now approaching two decades of existence at the time of writing.  Tifo-centric features such as pyro, large flags, stadium displays and most notably organised named groups have become commonplace for the larger League of Ireland clubs. St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers led the way with establishment of the Shed End Invincibles and SRFC Ultras respectively in 2001, and heavily influenced by continental leagues that had become accessible in the media driven ’90s, “tifo flags” began appearing at clubs even yet without groups – as evident at Shelbourne vs Drogehda United in 2003:


Shelbourne and Drogheda supporters with flags in 2003. Credit to Marucie Frazer - Youtube

By the end of that season Shels would have their own group in the form of Briogáid Dearg (BD), with the appearance of an “SFC Ultras” banner at games even preceding this. The one remaining Dublin club, Bohemains, were still on the “tifo flags level” and would take a few more years to progress to a named ultras group in the Notorious Boo Boys, although the existence of the Bohs Soccer Casuals since 1992 perhaps filled the vacuum. Meanwhile, BD would be recognised among the Irish supporter culture community as an influential player with it’s own unique identity, and will no doubt go down in future histories as an integral part of the original scene.

Despite this, as most Shelbourne fans will know, it is common for derision to come from the likes of Bohs regarding the perceived gap in support between the clubs. Obviously this sort of “banter” is tiresome at best, and while it may be true that there is somewhat of a gulf in numbers at games these days, it is also likely that the Bohemian support base would find themselves in a very similar position had their club gone the through the financial collapse and year-after-year of First Division football that the Shelbourne loyal have had to put up with.

Further to this, the league can actually thank Shelbourne fans for being among the original pioneers of bringing the European supporting style to Ireland, even before any of Ireland’s ultra groups had been conceived of. For the reasons why, we must go back to the proto-years of the era we have been talking about.

Background:

Non-club affiliated “supporter units” were nothing new as, like in England, feared organsied mobs had sprang up in the 1970s. The “Black Dragons” and skinheads of Limerick FC, along with “Red Alert” and the boot-boys of Sligo Rovers were among the most notorious and violent. Waterford also had a bad reputation, and games involving certain Dublin clubs always had the propensity for trouble.


Front page of a Limerick newspaper after some of the worst Irish domestic football violence to date, involving a mob of 80 Sligo youths following a tense Limerick FC cup game against Sligo Rovers, 1975.

 

***For more old school League of Ireland grittiness, click here for Football Special Report#2: Derry City vs Shamrock Rovers 1994***

For Shelbourne, the ’70s were a decade of gradual decline that would continue into the ’80’s when the club experienced one of their lowest ebbs until modern times. For comparison, in the domestic attendance golden age of the ’50s, a league game against Shamrock Rovers had drawn 11,000+ spectators to Tolka Park and the ’60s saw European competition for the first time. But many poor years cumulated in 1987 as the Reds suffered relegation and were soon being watched by a paltry fraction of the above figure at a derelict Harold’s Cross.

However, there was one bright spark born of the dark days of the era. This arose in the form of a new supporters group, autonomous from the club but also not hell bent on mindless violence like the chaotic mobs of the ’70s. The politically minded and opinionated Alternative Reds Club (ARC) was formed in the 84/85 season, with a new mentality more in style with continental sides.

While Shels were not in European competition themselves, some ARC members were known to travel abroad with the national team and perhaps this experience of foreign environments was influential at club games back home. Either way, Shelbourne’s long awaited return to success with a 1992 league win saw some exemplary fence climbing on the last day of the season away to Dundalk, fitting for any classic European arena; or indeed Oriel Park:

One outlet for the ARC to express themselves was through the group’s fanzine “From Home To Home” (presumably the first fanzine in Shels history) from which their philosophies could be spread to other supporters. The title was in reference to the clubs varied history of home grounds which included Shelbourne Park, Irishtown Stadium and at times Dalymount Park, as well as the aforementioned Tolka Park and Harold’s Cross. It remained an appropriate name as Shelbourne moved again to Tolka Park on a more permanent basis in 1989.


A 1993 ARC fanzine.

The ARC were also making their presence felt in the grounds with the appearance of an another important development: the group banner. Along with other flags, the banners went a step further in using the platform of the football stadium to deliver an overtly political message; also a feature of certain continental support basses. At the above mentioned Dundalk game for example, we can see the classic ARC banner baring group initials along side hammer & sickle, while at a home game against Bohs the same season, an actual Soviet Union flag is also present. Both left little doubt regarding the direction of the group’s leanings:

At the corresponding fixture the following year – where we can also see another beautiful ARC banner, in this instance devoid of other insignia – the hammer & sickle flag (now with added Irish tri-colour) is humorously placed near an American Confederate flag. The “Battle Flag”, as it is known to American history, is commonly displayed as an extreme right-wing symbol in certain European countries, but more than likely innocently employed for the colour-scheme here:

Despite the appearance over the coming years of some other left-associated symbols at Shels games, such as Che Guevara (see the picture vs Drogheda above), the Starry Plough (associated with Irish socialism), and the national flags of Euskal Herria & the Lebanese Republic, the support base remains apolitical on the whole. If anything in these divided times, the club provides a common ground for Dubliners of different ideals to come together over the slightly absurd but shared cause of the Reds, which can only be a positive thing. In that way, the Confederate flag sitting side by side with the Soviet symbol is an apt image, although a little extreme for most supporters real ideological beliefs these days.

Speaking of flags and banners, the European style was also appearing through external forces as Shels’ resurgence on the pitch brought back continental competition. Being drawn in consecutive years against recently independent Ukrainian opposition – Tavriya Simferopol in the 92/93 Champions League preliminary, Karpaty Lviv in the 93/94 Cup Winners Cup preliminary – meant that at first very few away fans were present, with ARC banner again visible at the latter; perhaps wisely without hammer and sickle:

But victory against Lviv meant the visit of ultras royalty Panathinaikos in the Cup Winner’s Cup first round proper on September 29th, 1993, and the resulting adornment of Tolka Park with several impressive standards displaying exotic Greek characters and symbols:

Visible on one banner is a “13”, of course referencing the mammoth Gate 13 supporters association that was founded in 1966 – more than likely the first ultras group to be represented in Tolka Park. At the same game on the Shels side, a very pleasing, long red and white banner could be seen, the bold simplicity of which is quite beautiful. The thoughts of one inspired and heroic supporter (or several) going to the effort of constructing this piece, bringing it to matches, and erecting it on fences brings us much joy, as well as indicating the increased pro-activity of the display minded Shelbourne fans:

At Dalymount Park (home of Bohemians) in the same season, the Shels fans inhabited the Tramway End (now closed) behind another classic parameter fence, perfect for hanging flags. While the ARC flag appears notable by it’s absence (or just off camera), an amazing large red and white banner with huge black “SFC” text can be seen to the left of the goal, more than making up for it.

The ARC would soon wind down as an active and cohesive unit, their mythical place in Shelbourne folklore already sealed as the revered, original fan culture group of the club. But the next generation had already begun, doubtlessly spurred on by the presence of a respectable “in the know” group like the ARC paving the way. This new attitude was especially evident the following season, as yet another game with northside neighbours Bohemians would provide a seminal supporter culture moment for the Reds.

The Match:

The game in question was the first of three league encounters between the sides for the 94/95 season, with a home tie for Bohemians on October 23rd, 1994. Again the away fans were in the Tramway End, as always providing a perfect banner hanging fence at the front of the terrace with the vintage staple of some steamers on the pitch. An interesting red and white saltire is also in view:

But from that same terrace early in the game would come the whole reason we are writing this article, bringing us right back around to where we started hours ago. As a Shelbourne team in sky blue away shirts (unlike the previous year’s white) defended their goal, a small but definite smoking flare landed on the pitch just inside the box:

If you had to classify it, the throwing of the flare was of the random mid-match variety that we highlighted earlier; a truly pure endevour of European supporter passion. As was expected of professionals in this gilded age, the players played on around the burning hazard and the game continued without question, as a closer camera angle gives us a better shot:

After this, the match went on as usual and eventually ended in what would probably be described as a thrilling 3-3 draw in some publications. But more importantly, history had gone down with what we are calling beyond doubt the first reported incident of pyro on the pitch in League of Ireland history (that may not be true but it suits our narrative). Incidentally, we have it on very good authority that the launcher of said flare, also present as a young supporter at Dundalk in ’92, would unsurprisingly go on to be a highly influential member of the Shelbourne supporter community.

Aftermath:

Up until this point we have not yet included an “Aftermath” section in our articles, but our story here certainly warrants it’s debut. As the decade progressed, usage of pyro at games involving League of Ireland clubs increased, all leading up to the inevitable evolution to actual ultras groups post-millennium. Sligo Rovers, for example, could be seen lighting up Tolka Park’s Ballybough End away to Shels in the 1996 League Cup 2nd leg, a match that we will cover in full in the future:

As for Shelbourne themselves, new groups such as Reds Independent and BD would pick up where the ARC left off, resulting in this very fanzine and many future flags, banners and displays at Shels games. While the likes of Shamrock Rovers will always try to boast the biggest following, and St. Pat’s the earliest Irish ultras group, we have demonstrated here that Shelbourne supporters were as important as any in introducing a more dynamic atmosphere to the country’s domestic league, as well as a new mentality. And since that Dalymount game in ’94, rightly or wrongly flares have made their way on to the pitch to accompany several other historic Reds moments including a last minute winner away to Bray Wanderers, an FAI Cup Final goal in the Aviva Stadium, and perhaps some other obscure occasion. Of course we would never condone or condemn such actions, as we are a 100% objective website. We are simply reporting history.

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People On The Pitch #9: Pescara vs Salernitana, Serie B, 09/06/1996

Welcome back to another edition of People On The Pitch, the series in which the “People” in question should not technically be on said pitch (as opposed to the players and match officials). As we have seen already, there can be several reasons for this such as spontaneous outbursts of celebration, supporter demolition jobs, and pure drunken mischief. But we have also seen episodes of pure violence and this is once again another one of those times, so send the children to bed right now.

Background:

In Europe, certain fanatical supporter groups such as “Torcida” of Hajduk Split (established in 1950), “Gate 13” of Panathinaikos (1966), and many in England, are often rightly cited as pioneers of the universal fan scene that has evolved to the present day. But surely few would disagree that the location of the true historical crown is Italy – home of the ultras and arguably the most influential of all of nations in the supporter culture world.

While “Torcida” was formed in Split by inspired Yugoslavian sailors who had been on hand to witness the colourful home support of the 1950 Brazilian World Cup (“torcida” being Portuguese for “crowd”), the Italians weren’t far behind as their own domestic breed of group reportedly began to spring up from 1951, with Tornio’s “Fedelissimi Granata” (Faithful Maroons) leading the way. In 1968 came Milan’s “Fossa Die Leoni” (Lions Den), considered to be the first true ultras group.


Demonstatrion of early "ultra action" - pyro comes from the crowd as AC Milan and Ajax Amsteram emerge for the 1969 European Cup final, Santiago Bernabéu Madrid, 28/05/69.

The term “Ultras” itself (from the Latin for “beyond”) was originally used by some groups as a stand alone name. But the phrase was so apt that it soon came to be synonymous with these ultra-passionate tifosi (fans) units as a whole, with an explosion of activity particularly from the 1970s onwards.

Partly inspired by the flourishing English fan scene (much more colourful at the time than it would later be), but very much born of a uniquely a continental zest, most clubs across Italy soon had their own ultras groups; each with their own name (many deriving from a set selection of motifs), stadium sector, group banner, and often a political affiliation. Large flags, immense creative banners, chaotic pyro and tremendous noise were characteristics on the “curva” behind the goal, where the groups were mostly to be found, but an equally important element was that of violence.

With provocative new regiments from rival cities now entering your turf as away fans on a regular basis, it was natural that like minded supporters organised to defend their town, stadium and the club’s “regular” support, as well as to urge on the team during the game. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere was reflected in some regularly incorporated group names that evoked images of New York city street gangs, such as “Commandos“, “Fighters“, “Brigate“, “Militia“, “Vigilantes“, and “Rangers” (as well as the straight up “Hooligans” moniker”).


Scenes from the Italian ultra scene, circa 1980.

As in England, a general sense of meaningless in the post World War 2 decades had left a generation disillusioned with a society that was hollow to them. But the football club and the group was something real and tangible; a social microcosm to be defended with pride and an important local symbol, as well as being a platform to promote the extreme political leanings of many supporter pools.

By the 1990s, club success in Europe and increased domestic footage through lucrative international television deals meant that Italian football and it’s fan scene were exposed to new audiences, many of whom marveled at the amazing atmospheres and tifo displays. Again as in England, big clubs like Juventus, Milan, Inter, and other premier teams of the 90s greedily increased their global fan bases as they began to evolve from football clubs into corporate brands.

But away from the eyes of the world, lower league match-goers continued to support their less glamorous sides with just as much passion as those in Serie A, along with equally passionate clashes against rivals and the police. Thusly, for our featured incident it is to the Serie B of 1996 that we now turn, with a tie between two clubs that have only spent a combined 8 years in the top flight of Italian football at the time of writing: Pescara and Salernitana.

Pescara are a club we have come across before on the site through International Duty #1, with some groups’ banners present for an Italy vs Norway friendly hosted in their Stadio Adriatico in 1988 (a common theme for Italian clubs with the national team’s brilliant rotation of home staiums). While many sides’ fans would generally swing one way or the other with regards politics, Pescara present an interesting (but not unique) example to the contrary using the two groups on show at this match: “Park Kaos” display a Jamaica/Bob Marley flag in the middle of their group banner signifying a left-wing leaning (with Jim Morrison on one version), but this regularly sits happily beside the “Bad Boys”‘ equivalent that featured a US Confederate flag (with overlayed Confederate solider parelling Marley), indicating the opposite alignment.


Pescara group banners at Italy vs Norway, friendly, 19/10/1988.

Of the other Pescara groups, among the most prominent were “Rangers”, “Bronx” and “Cherokee” (with the banner of Vicenza’s “Fabio Group” also often present, due to a strong friendship between fans of the two clubs). While Some members of these groups were no doubt involved in the incidents that were to come on the last day of the 95/96 season (with nothing to play for for solidly mid-table Pescara), it was the promotion pushing visitors from Salerno who would take the main focus.

Salernitana, another maroon/granata wearing team of a mostly right-wing persuasion, were very well represented on the terraces of their 30,000+ capacity home Stadio Arechi. Throughout the years, this included the groups “South Force”, “Ultras Plaitano”, “Salerntiana Bersagliera” (Sharpshooters), “East Side”, “Fighters”, “Dragano Granata”, “Panthers”, “Wild Group”, “Nuova Guardia”, “Nucleo Storico”, “Point Break” “Iron Boys”, “Scon Volts” (sconvolti directly translating to upset, but Italian slang for “Stoners”), and “Ultras Ghetto”.


Salernitana's home curva in all it's glory, circa 1988.

Going into the final series of games in 95/96, the team needed a win away to Pescara in order to be in with a chance of securing the last promotion place of the top four still up for grabs – and in doing so make it to Serie A for the first time since their one and only appearance up to that point back in 47/48. But going up would be still out of their hands, as they had to hope that Perugia didn’t get more than a draw at home to Verona at the same time.

The Match:

Pescara vs Salerntiana, Serie B, Stadio Adriatico, 09/06/1996

With a decent home crowd in the Adriatico for 9th placed Pescara’s low-pressure last game of the season, the away end is definitely packed out with hopeful Salernotanians, many of whom are volatile young men:

Arguably this is Salernitana’s biggest game of all time, as victory on the pitch could potentially deliver huge away trips to Italy’s top clubs the following season for the first time in many of the supporter’s lifetimes. Showing their appreciation for the concept of the club itself rather than the player’s efforts, emotional text banners are displayed roughly translating to “You are our pride” and “There is not a thing as beautiful, as unique, as immense as you are when you want; thank you for existing”:

The sentiment may seem grandiose to those football fans who lazily support bigger clubs on television, which often also brings a tendency to look down on underachieving sides like Salernitana. But the great days and sense of community that the club had given the Salerno tifosi over the years had clearly instilled something in them that will forever be lost to many unknowing bar-stoolers.

The home support display banners of there own, including at least the words “you will be luckier” – presumably as part of a message implying that luck won’t be with their opponents today:

But the dramatic optimism of the traveling contingent seems to pay off, as after only ten minutes striker Giovanni Pisano pounces on a rebound to knock the ball into the goal on front of  the away end. Through the ecstatic scenes that follow on the terraces, we get a look at “Bologna Maroons“, “Iron Boys” and “Nucleo Storico – Ultra Salerno” group banners:

Earlier in the season, Pescara had come to Salerno and won 0-2. But expectations of a reverse result tentatively rise as the ultras’ drums beat:

Things get even better after half an hour when a supporter with a classic 90s mobile phone relays that Verona have scored in Perugia, triggering another heartwarming outpour of emotion among the away fans:

Everything seems to be going to plan for the Granata, until two goals in two minutes for Perugia just before half-time suddenly shifts things around. The second half produces more nervy moments as the home side go close to scoring, giving us a chance to see more of the away support’s array banners:

At least two flags from allied fans seem to be among them. Salernitana are known to have links with Bari, Brescia and Reggina, but here an unknown “OFC” is represented in blue and white on the left:

While on the other side of the goal, a possibly related banner hangs. If you have idea of what team(s) this could be, do get in touch:

80 minutes into the game, news suddenly filters through that Verona have scored again to make it 2-2; as it stands, a relieved Salernitana are going up:

But in a matter of moments, the Salerno May-daydream turns into a daymare, as Federico Giampalo shockingly equalises for Pescara only one minute after the Verona news. This is shortly followed by Marco Negri scoring the goal that will send Perugia up in the other match, making the whole thing academical.

The Pescara fans have been generally quiet in this whole affair, but members of their support are the first people on the pitch as the final whistle is blown, clearly taking great joy in the part their side have played in ruining the visitor’s party:

Meanwhile, the understandable devastation of the away fans swiftly evolves into rage among some, who are quick to make their way through the containment fence off screen. Clearly anticipating something like this, a combined riot squad of state police and Carabinieri (we’re guessing) begin to make their way from the running track by the centre of the pitch towards the away end:

They are met with a barrage of projectiles, including smoke:

Seen in the background of the gif above, a small troop (including one in a brown suit and helmet) is already on hand at one section where some ultras have attempted to break through through, plugging the hole:

Never  the less, the coppers are stretched and many fans do make it to the pitch. Hand-to-hand confrontations between the two sets of fanatics occur on the grass, with the ever popular belt a common choice for auxiliary weaponry:

With some police standing around utterly aimlessly, eventually they attempt to break up the main scuffles. But not before one topless Pescara maniac clearly gets the best of a stripy-topped Salernitana supporter (visible in the gif above already on the back foot), who has obviously been caught up in the excitement and is in over his head:

Below we see another popular weapon of choice in this sort of situation, as a long bendy flag pole stick is employed. A devastating graze on the knuckles may have been delivered before the clumsy coppers swarm, with the threat of a whack off the butt of a rifle enough to send the fan back towards the away end:

The security forces later get a grip on things and successfully divide the supporters. In one somewhat farcical scene, an entire army surrounds a woman as she “delivered” to a sinister man in a beige suit:

On a progressive note, her presence proves that the hooligan game is not male exclusive, demonstrating that perhaps the infamously chauvinistic Italian culture could learn some lessons from the tifosi. The camera man still makes sure to get a shot of her legs as she led away, just to make sure we know it’s a female:

Back to the main “front” at the running track and there are still a lot of shady characters lurking around and throwing things, while smoke bombs continue to reign down from those in the stand:

It would be remiss not to highlight that one smoke canister does end up on the playing surface, meaning that this whole episode would have qualified as an entry for Pyro On The Pitch, but it’s a small footnote in the over all story with the match already long over. As this happens, a photo-journalist argues with an officer along side the man in the brown suit and helmet, who has shown his experience by confiscated the corner flag:

One careless supporter gets too close for comfort to the guards, receiving several licks of the baton before fleeing and probably exclaiming the Italian equivalent of “Ow! My back! My comfort!”:

By this stage, the hardcore home support has realised that this is no longer their battle and have retreated to stand on front of their curva, curiously watching the show:

The overall scene now appears to be a warzone, with “Nuovia Guradia”‘s large NG banner hanging defiantly in the middle:

In addition to the smoke from the fans, the police also appear to be firing something into the crowd:

A large majority of the Salerno support take this as their cue to get out and turn to escape through the exit in a potentially dangerous panic/crush situation. Here we see that many others are also wearing the horizontal striped shirt seen on the fan on  the pitch earlier:

But not all are intent on leaving, such as one incensed man who careers back down the steps with a huge flag poll (and no flag to wave with it):

On the track below, the riot squad now zone in on individuals, with the old bill taking their anger out on this unlucky fellow who had been holding a pole earlier as well as seen on the picth:

Clearly identified as a serious threat, he is engulfed by even more police (now including the man in the beige suit – he too has found himself a riot helmet to add to his expensive ensemble) and given a violent thrashing:

Amazingly the beaten man actually walks away from the assault, bruised but free. His jersey appears to be an away shirt using the clubs original colours of sky blue and white vertical stripes:

Some police briefly attempt to infiltrate the away sector itself via an internal stairwell, before furious fans make sure to know they are not  welcome. A helicopter surveys the scontri (clashes) from above, showing the seriousness of the situation in the eyes of the authorities:

As the Iron Boys take down their banner, here we get a view of the action from the perspective of  the home supporters who are left:

Needless to say, they are absolutely loving this:

Finally the last stragglers are literally hunted down in the corners of  the ground:

With all banners now removed from the curva and most fans on their way out, the exhausting situation at last simmers down:

No amount of sticks, smoke or rage were going to change the fact that Salernitana wern’t going up. But for certain individuals, the ritual conflict that transpired may well have been just as exhilarating as watching a group of strangers winning a sports game.

Within a couple of years, the long wait to get back to the big time would in fact end as promotion was achieved at the end of 97/98 (going straight back down the following season, never to be seen in Serie A again).

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Youtube Links:

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #5

In this gallery series we look at a classic selection of flag and banner collectives at both international and club level in the 80s and 90s, united through being made correctly and hung the way banners were supposed to be hung (that is usually chaotically). All entries can be found here.

Sligo Rovers vs Derry City, FAI Cup final 1994:

Japan vs Brazil, Olympic Games – Atlanta 96, 21/07/1996:

Luxembourg vs Greece, World Cup 94 qualifier, 12/10/1993:

SK Rapid Wien vs Sporting CP, Cup Winners Cup 95/96 2nd round-2nd leg, 02/11/1995:

SK Rapid Wien vs Sporting CP, Cup Winners Cup 95/96 2nd round-2nd leg, 02/11/1995:

Royal Antwerp FC vs Dundee United, UEFA Cup 2nd round-1st leg, 18/10/1989:

Bayer Leverkusen vs PSV Eindhoven, UEFA Cup 94/95 1st round-1st leg, 13/09/1994:

Ajax Amsterdam vs Feyenoord Rotterdam, Eredivisie 85/86, 06/10/1985:

Ajax Amsterdam vs ADO Den Haag, Eredivisie 82/83, 21/03/1983:

Germany vs CIS, (featuring Finland, and Yugoslavia; suspended from UEFA and exiled from the tournament two weeks earlier), European Championships 1992, 12/06/1992:

FC Karl Marx Stadt vs Berliner FC Dynamo, DDR-Oberliga 88/89, 07/05/1989:

Netherlands vs England, World Cup 94 qualifier, 13/10/1993:

Switzerland vs England, friendly, 28/05/1988:

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