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.

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Credit to the YouTube uploaded: Oxford vs Leeds, 1990

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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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YouTube Link 1
YouTube Link 2
YouTube Link 3
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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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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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Supporter Snap Back #3: Karlsruher SC vs Bordeaux, UEFA Cup, 08/12/1993

It’s time for another glance back at a vintage match-up from the past, but as usual the sporting action on the pitch is the last thing on our minds.

Karlsruher Sport-Club Mühlburg-Phönix e. V., more commonly known as Karlsruher SC, were one of 16 clubs handpicked to be members of the original West German Bundesliga in 1963. Representing the city of Karlsruhe close to the German-French border, the club bounced between the top two divisions for the next few decades before 92/93 would bring a 6th place finish in the top flight; an all-time high that for the first time ever also secured European competition via the following season’s UEFA Cup.

The campaign started with a noteworthy defeat of recent European Cup winners PSV  Eindhoven, before a 3-1 away deficit to Valencia was overturned with an incredible 7-0 result in Karlsruhe to put the home side into the third round. After two encounters with classic western European teams already, it was now time for another rendition of the Germany vs France rivalry as Bordeaux were the next team drawn, who like the previous two opponents (and unlike Karlsruher) had a history of national league success with continental experience dating back to the 60s.

Evidently in light of the team’s qualification for Europe, the excellent new club nickname of Eurofighter had been introduced by Karlsruher that year (also applicable to the supporters of many clubs in the competition). The moniker would certainly be put to the test, as for second time in a row defeat in the away leg – here thanks one goal from a certain Zinedine Zidane – left a big performance needed in western Germany.

Match File:

  • Karlsruher SC vs FC Girondins de Bordeaux
  • UEFC Cup 93/94
  • Third Round, 2nd Leg
  • 08/12/1993
  • Wildparkstadion, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 25,000 spectators

Before the teams emerge, a respectable blaze is already in full flower in the stands of amazingly named Wildparkstadion:

During team line-up graphics, featuring the magnificent Bordeaux crest, we get a decent look at some sections of the ground in the background:

This is followed by our first proper close-up sighting of the home supporters with their flurry of flags:

As you can see, future stars Lizarazu and Zidane are in he Bordeaux line-up, while Oliver Khan and Slavan Bilić are among the ranks of the home side. In the terraces, the fans brave the cold December night with some red stars of their own:

While confetti is added to the flags and flares from the crowd, below we can see the amount of yellow cards picked up in the competition by the “Eurofighters” so far. Compared to Bordeaux’s amount of zero, this nicely demonstrates the type of “fighting spirit” that Germans were not adverse to at the time, as we have seen recently on the site thanks to Stahl Brandenburg:

With kick-off seconds away, the packed-out Wildpark is living up to it’s name:

The match begins while the pyro continues:

As the smoke settles, the always welcome and very German sight of banners hung along the length of the pitch can be appreciated, on front of densely populated terraces:


Full image

Going from fabric surrounding the pitch to the fabric being worn upon it, the home side’s all-white strip is produced by German brand Erbacher, featuring an appropriately early-90s design. This is demonstrated well by a player in the midst of what is, despite appearances, actually just an unfortunately-maneuvered innocent arm gesture of reconciliation, after an error in play:

With Bordeaux temporarily switching first-preference colours from their recognizable navy and white to white with red trim, beginning in 92/93, the resulting clash here gives opportunity for very a classy crimson away kit to be used by the visitors. Understated compared to it’s Karlsruher equivalent, but with prominent chevron, smart collar, Uhlsport logo, a version of the aforementioned magnificent crest, and a sponsor that looks the part, one word springs to mind – exquisite!:

Despite pipping it in the style wars, Bordeaux find themselves on the backfoot after only 16 mins as Karlsruher open the scoring for the evening. The players are buoyed and the home crowd react in kind:

On 65 minutes the lead is increased to two, putting the home side ahead on aggregate. Likeable manager Winfried Schäfer, in a coat template often used by UEFA officials in the era, reacts as the Wildpark erupts into frenzy once again:

With the home team firmly control, pyro returns the stands. Given the time of year the swaying enclosure is dotted with Santa hats and points are given for the skull & crossbones flag, but the proximity of the flare-holder to the stewards is noteworthy for the latter’s calm, exemplary response compared to some similar modern situations:

Ten minutes later and it’s goal number three for Karlsruher, topping off another famous European night. More or less safe in the knowledge that the night is their’s, the home supporters celebrate the continuation of their historic, debut continental cup adventure into 1994:

And so it would finish giving Karlsrhuer a quarter final fixture with Boavista of Portugal, and after yet another impressive victory, a place in the final was only denied by an away goal courtesy Austria Salzburg in the semis. Two more third round UEFA Cup appearances came in the following seasons, but 93/94 was to prove Karlsruher’s high water mark, at least up to this point in their history.

Their defeated opponents meanwhile, Bordeaux, were in fact the ones on the true upward trajectory as soon to be runners-up of 95/96 edition of the competition, culminating with another domestic championship win before the end of the decade. And of course, a return to navy shirts with white chevrons.

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What Football Is Supposed To Look Like #8 (Gallery)

Last time in WFISTLL, we zoomed in on the Belgian league scene of the late 80s and early 90s with a whirlwind of pics and gifs illustrating the gritty supporter culture present in that time and place. Now we return to our usual format of a selection of images that demonstrate what used to make football so interesting, in a variety of classic 20th century ways.

Superb away jersey, Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup qualifier, 14/09/1988:

Umbrella crowd, fence, classic hoarding and graphics, Chile vs Yugoslavia, Under-20 World Cup (hosted by Chile), 10/10/1987:

Raised stands and large entrance-way with row of people, Turkey vs West Germany, European Championships qualifier, 24/04/1983:

Snow-patch pitch, East Germany vs Scotland, European Championships qualifier, 16/11/1983:

Competing anthem bands (although the lot on the right look like children in comparison?) and angular team line-ups, West Germany vs Netherlands, World Cup 74 final, 07/07/1974:

Confetti pitch, Internazionale Milano vs AS Roma, Serie A, 24/03/1988:

Arabic Marlboro advert, Zaire vs Zambia, African Cup of Nations 74 (hosted by Egypt), 12/03/1974:

Amazing old-old school end with supporters on roof, Portugal vs Italy, friendly, 15/04/1928:

Rain plus no roof equals many, many umbrellas, Czechoslovakia vs Netherlands, European Championships 76 semi-final (hosted by Yugoslavia, match in Zagreb), 16/06/1976:

Classic graphics, USSR vs Netherlands, friendly, 28/03/1990:

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Pyro On The Pitch #13: FC Utrecht vs Feyenoord Rotterdam, Eredivisie, 15/02/1981

It’s high time for another episode of our flagship Pyro On The Pitch series (hence the name of the site), and also high time we revisited the always interesting Dutch (that wasn’t even a weed joke, take it if you want). But surprisingly we are still not yet focusing on the big three, although one of them does feature heavily here.

Instead, FC Utrecht are granted the honour on becoming the first the club or country highlighted in both this series AND People On The Pitch, after their amazing demolition job seen in episode #6, as this is a type of pyro on the pitch that we have not really come across yet (Note: Anderlecht did appear in PeopleOTP#1 as well as PyroOTP#9, but the former featured the visiting Aston Villa in the starring role).

Background:

In a recent edition of the great Totally Football podcast – presented by legend James Richardson – former Chelsea, Everton (among others) and Scotland winger-turned-dj Pat Nevin admitted that coins and other foreign objects thrown from the terraces at games in the 80s were basically part of the fun for the players of a certain ilk, adding to the “terror-dome” like atmosphere (our words, not his) in big games of the era. This was as evident as anywhere in the Netherlands, where as we saw all the way back in Pyro On The Pitch #2 (and will continue to see), supporters were not adverse to hurling projectiles of the pyro variety also.


A firework is thrown from the crowd in De Kuip Stadium, Netherlands vs Republic of Ireland, World Cup 82 qualifier, 09/09/1981.

As we have already discussed the home side of our featured match – FC Utrecht – back in People On The Pitch #6, we will not spend too long on background here. But briefly, Utrecht had been founded in 1970 through the merger of three smaller clubs, and had gained a respectable following in the decade that followed, with especially big crowds for the visits of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord to their Stadion Galgenwaard.

The ground was noteworthy for it’s eccentric terracing at both ends, featuring steep concrete slopes partially covered with advertising, while the side stands also used unusual “diagonal” architecture for it’s terraces. One end, the Bunnikside (named for the town of Bunnik behind) gave name to the what would be one of the earliest hooligan groups in the Netherlands, formed in the early 70s and famed for their use of bicycle chains and other weapons.

Unfortunately, as we saw in PeopleOTP#6, the ground was not destined to survive in it’s original quirky form past 1981, with a PSV scant on away fans the visitors for it’s last game, but just over two months earlier fellow continental-qualification contenders Feyenoord were the guests on a February Sunday, when the Galgenwaard was treated to one last big-match vibe. It would be an encounter that was memorable for several reasons, on and off the pitch.

The Match:

February 15th, 1981: The day after Valentine’s day, a packed Galgenwaard is rocking as Dutch supporters rally behind their true beloveds, in this case FC Utrecht and guests Feyenoord Rotterdam. To paint the picture, first we see some of the unusual design of the ground itself (and the wonderfully degraded pitch that it surrounds):

The home side are wearing a rather unremarkable kit made by a smaller manufacturer, but interestingly numbers appear on the shorts – a feature usually only seen at major international tournaments:

Denied of their regular red and white halved shirts, Feyenoord are using a basic yet smart Adidas template in white with red trim, that combines with black and white shorts and white and red socks to create a great look. More importantly, a man with two buckets walks by in the background:

Here we get a better view of the jersey in action and a closer look at some of the detailing on the Utrecht sleeves, as well as that fascinating side terracing:

The sizeable away support is located behind the goal to left, with an early chance demonstrating their enthusiasm:
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At the opposite end, Bunnikside is also getting behind their team. The sounds of small explosions from the supporter’s bombs and fireworks adds to hot atmosphere:
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On the bench meanwhile (we’re not even sure of which team) is a classic scene that needs no words:

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, we come to our featured incident. With “bangs” still going off all around, Feyenoord goalkeeper Joop Hiele (wearing a template and colourway also later used by Ireland in their first competitive game with Adidas) is preparing to take a goal kick when something is thrown and explodes right behind his head, followed by a plume of smoke:

The accuracy is of course met by cheering and jeers as the keeper walks around shocked, holding his apparently damaged ear:

As the crowd continue to sing and the young player doubles over in pain, finally the linesman and a teammate come over to each give a reassuring hand to the shoulder and probaly say “kom op zoon, je bent oke”:

At last the game goes on with no substitution, but the home support clearly now feel that they have the psychological edge:

And it was indeed to manifest on the pitch as soon after as a goal is scored to send Bunnikside bonkers:

But then, with things not going their way at all, trouble immediately sparks up in the away end. It is unclear exactly what happens, but a crowd rush occurs that causes more than one nimble lad to leap to the sanctuary of the massive Nikon hoarding above:

As Dutch hooliganism is already well established at this time – with Feyenoord’s own Vak S group also active since 1970 – the riot squad are of course on hand and quickly move in:

One fan in particular clearly thrives in this type of environment and brazenly stands up the authorities. After passionate pleading his case, he gets a smack of the baton for his trouble, while “normal” supporters can been seen huddled fearfully in the background trying to keep out of harm’s way:

Various police and dog units can also be seen keeping an eye on things throughout the rest of the ground:

With the excitement finally quashed, the game could proceed as normal. The action off the pitch was over, but the second half did produce this extremely unusual dance-like technique for helping an opponent to his feet:

Before we leave it is worth noting one of the greatest advertisements at match of all time also: DRUM SHAG (as in Drum tobacco leaf):

Although we don’t usually highlight match action, the game was tipped off in Utrecht’s favour with a rather bizarre own goal, adding icing to the cake of a miserable day for the keeper:

The 2-0 result would ultimately help Utrecht finish one place above Feyenoord at the end of the season, and only by goal difference. But in 3rd and 4th, it wasn’t to make much difference as both sides progressed to the following season’s UEFA Cup.

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Football Special Report #4: BSV Stahl Brandenburg vs FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, 2.Bundesliga Nord, 16/11/1991

Welcome back to the Football Special Report, a series in which we look at games that are noteworthy for unusual events on and/or off the pitch. After two gritty early-mid 90s affairs in Ireland and Scotland, we continue the era and the theme but shift over to the heartland of continental Europe as it began a new era of unity.

Background:

While the German political entity that appears on maps at the time of writing (it seems stable right now but you may be reading this 1000s of years in the future) seems a totally natural fit to the 21st century world, in the late 1980s many of Europe’s governments were “icy” at the idea of a potentially strong and militarised new German state, should the reunification of it’s two divided halves occur. In football too the potential was recognised, as Franz Beckenbauer predicted “Deutsche domination” (our words, not his) for many years to come should East Germany be wiped off the map, due to the quality of talent that would be combined in the playing pool.

But another aspect was at domestic level, and after German reunification in 1990, the 1991/92 league season was to the be the first that once again saw clubs from the former East and West compete against each other (apart from through European competition, which did occur throughout the years). Teams originally associated  with the old communist regime such as Dynamo Dresden entered the Bundesliga, and in it’s second tier, 2.Bundesliga, the likes of Lokomotiv Leipzig, Chemie Halle and BSG Stahl Brandenburg.


East meets West in Europe, UEFA Cup 79/80 (a tournament that would contain a combined six German teams across the two states, and ultimately be unique for it's all-West German semi-finals) second round 1st leg, 24 /10/1979.

The above clubs had at one time been associated with the secret police, the train industry, the chemical industry, and metallurgy, respectively, within the previous state system, before becoming traditional football entities. Some changed their name to reflect this, such as Lokomotive reverting to their former VfB Leipzig title, and Chemie Halle becoming Hallescher FC, but the Dynamo Dresdens of the world held on to an identity they had adopted as their own.

As a piece looking deeper into some of these matters is in the pipeline, we won’t dwell too much on the topic here. But there was one club who’s name only changed by one letter (sort of) in this period in the above mentioned Stalh (translating to Steel in English) – renamed as such upon their backing by the local steel company in 1955 having began life as BSG Einheit Brandenburg five years earlier – who merely changed their East German “BSG” (Betriebssportgemeinschaft – Cooperative Sports Collective) to a BSV (Ballspeilverein – ballgame club, effectively football club) upon reunification.

Meanwhile in West Germany, another club had been created in a similar way two years before Stalh in the form of FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen, who sprang into existence in 1953 due to the merger of FC Uerdingen 05 with a workers’ team from the Bayer chemical plant in the area. After hitting their high point in the 80s with a cup win and some European runs, 1995 would see Bayer ditch Uerdingen to focus solely on it’s original workers’ team founded all the way back in 1904, FC Bayer 04 Leverkusen.


Bayer 05 Uerdingen home end with banners vs Athletico Madrid, Cup Winners' Cup 85/86 semi-final 2nd leg, 19/04/1986.

So the 90s were a decade in which working class clubs like BSV Stalh were shedding their communist-connected past and entering the cut-throat capitalist world of the west, just as Uerdingen were about to be abandoned by their own corporate interests which in turn contributed to a calamitous fall down the leagues over the years that followed. As the rich western clubs snapped up all the best players the east had to offer, sadly the system also took it’s toll on Stalh as they declared bankruptcy in 1998, replaced by non-recovering legacy clubs in the regional divisions.

But before all that, the two teams mentioned had met for the first time in that inaugural unified season via the northern section of 2.Bundesliga. We now look to the second of their two games that year with a fixture that was anything but clean and commercialised; so much so that it would earn the title of “Das Skandalspie” (The Scandal Game).

The Match:

November 11, 1991: A crowd of 2400 are in attendance at the Stadion der Stahlwerker in  Brandenburg an der Havel near Berlin, where local side Stalh Brandenburg call home. As usual we  first take a look at the kits, with the home team using a “Chelsea style” blue/blue/white strip of unidentifiable make, featuring navy and white striped trim on the collar, sleeves and torso (and one short leg), and yellow “TRP” sponsor; very German, and all good stuff:

On the back appears a common German jersey trope in placing the team name above the number (as seen back in Retro Shirt Reviews #2). In this case we get a simple “BRANDENBURG”:

The visitors’ first choice jersey that year featured blue and red vertical stripes and so wouldn’t do against Stahl’s own blue. White was also an option, but an all-red kit was chosen with a shirt template featuring sleeve hoops and underarm panels, also used by the likes of Dynamo Dresden and Bulgaria (round-neck for long sleeve, v-neck for short):

Unlike their Leverkusen equivalents at the time, who instead used the company insignia in their crest, the logo of the Bayer corporation sits in the centre as sponsor. Evidently, the tight shirts of the previous decade are already beginning to head to the other extreme, but it would take shorts a little longer to follow suit.

On the back of the jersey the naming protocol differs to Brandenburg, as the city of Krefeld (located all the way over the other side of the country near the Dutch border) is represented above the number, within which the locale of Uerdingen is located. But Uerdingen also gets a place at the bottom, another positioning not uncommon in the country’s “trikot traditions”:

The fantastically named “Stadium of  the Steelworker” is a classically terraced and fenced small ground (capacity 15,000), which one would  be advised to keep an eye on in the background throughout. But getting to the match action, the first half is characterised by a series of wreckless challenges from Brandenburg with an apparent game plan to physically destroy the superior quality opposition:

Before long, a brutalised Bayer player needs medical attention. Thankfully for him, the most up to date procedures are employed by the crack physio team, mostly consisting of a draped blanket and giving the injured party a good, reassuring rub while a coach stands by shiftily:

Inevitably, after two enthusiastic challenges too many, the referee has enough and gives the first yellow card of the day to Stahl’s number 5 Falk Zschiedrich:

This is followed up by a vague incident where we are honestly not sure what is happening (if a German speaker can fill us in by watching the video in the link at the bottom, please get in touch!). Whatever has occurred, the referee once again summons Zschiedrich, who had not seemed to be involved:

Pleading his case, Zschiedrich’s teammates are incensed, particularly the number 6 who argues passionately and won’t get out of the referees way to let him do his job:

Despite this, the ref succeeds in delivering the red card. A slightly shaken Falk wanders off the pitch as his manager offers a token touch on the arm:

The manager in question, Günter Reinke, earnestly encourages his men to do things better. In the background can be seen an interesting corner section of the ground with a large German flag at the front; possibly the away supporters:

The hardcore home support are located at the other end of the  ground, as demonstrated by the impressive array of home made banners (the way we like it). Prevalent on one flag is one of the most popular club slogans: “Stalh Feuer” (Steel Fire):

We are honestly not exactly sure which side these agitated fans are on or what is happening in the game, but their message is clear: “Hey kameramann, das spiel ist in dieser richtung!”:

Things also boil over on the touchline as what appears to be the Stalh assistant manager is provoked in some way and starts fronting. Thankfully he is prevented by a player and the other non- plying staff from launching what was presumably about to be a lethal assault on some unfortunate soul from the opposition:

After a goal we forgot to mention earlier in the game, Uerdingen go into the half-time break battered and dazed, but in the lead. The focus is on the referee though – in a spiffingly sharp Erima ref’s kit – as while still walking off the pitch a media person brazenly asks if he has lost control of the game:

During the intermission we see that riot police of several varieties are hand in case the crowd turn as nasty as the match, along with other top level emergency personnel:

The second half would take everything the first half had brought and double it, starting with undoubtedly the highlight of the match (which you will be already aware of it you have been following our Facebook or Twitter pages).

Just after the hour mark Stalh have a kick-out, but as goalkeeper Wolfgang Wiesner attempts to retrieve the ball a Uerdingen ball-boy scoops it up and casually flicks it in the other direction:

For one thing, this raises the subject that apparently away teams took youth players as their own ball-boys in this time and place (and presumably elsewhere). But evidently, as the boys did not move with their team’s keeper after half-time, scenarios of skullduggery like the above were bound to occur.

Wiesner, obviously a stern disciplinarian of a certain ilk – while no doubt also motivated by the personal slight – immediately takes matters into his own hands once he has the ball and proceeds straight to the offender. After a sort of faint-turned-warm up swing, the large 24 year old (ok, we were hoping he would be a more grizzled veteran for greater effect)  delivers a devastating slap to the troublesome teen before jogging off like a remorseless terminator, while the other shocked youths react:

Besides the bodily harm to the culprit, it is an undoubtedly hilarious moment. The referee of course has no choice but to summon Wiesner over, and literally shrugs him a red car rather than show him one:

A kindly coach consoles the keeper as he leaves the pitch, but the ridiculous situation has meant that with two men down, Stalh also have to use one of only two allowed substitutions on a fit outfielder in order to put someone else in goal:

As is clearly customary, the TV crew are instantly on hand to get the dismissed players thoughts (as had been the case for Zschiedrich earlier in the game). While gesticulating in disgust, we get a closer look at his interesting pink and black Uhlsport top (Note: as this was the era when separate goalkeeper kits were not uncommon, goalkeeping specialists Uhlsport were probably not the brand of the outfield gear despite also later producing very goalie looking outfield shirts for the likes of Albania), which features diagonal bars coming down from the shoulders, coincidentally (or not) similar to the design Adidas had just launched themselves that Autumn:

Elsewhere on the sidelines, manager Reinke and his top coach consider their next move carefully. But the most important thing here is that we get a better look at his tracksuit top, which was visible briefly under under his jacket earlier. The design is of course the famous West German 88-91 template (among others, also used on official tracksuits of several teams) in a groovy colourway:

The next incident occurs on the 72nd minute, as Brandenburg midfielder Jan Voß (Voss) over-zealously cuts through a Uerdingen player while in pursuit of an equaliser, bringing him down:

While an innocuous enough foul, the ref deems it a bookable offensive and as Voß had already been given a yellow card…:

That’s right, it’s another red card and the home side are now down to 8 players. We see another crowd shot of what this time must be Uerdingen fans, who are clearly enjoying their long adventure from Krefeld:

The rapidly over-populating Beandenburg sin-bin, meanwhile, looks a very sorry sight as Voß has joined a dejected Wiesner and Zschiedrich:

Shortly afterwards, karma takes it’s toll on Stahl’s dangerous play as one of their own go off injured. We don’t see exactly what has happened, but clearly it’s something horrific:

With a large percentage of their XI now nowhere to be seen, the home team quickly fall apart and conceded two goals in two minutes to make it 0-3 with eight minutes to go. As the ball goes in for the latter, the bodily position of replacement goalkeeper Detlef Zimmer says it all:

The payback continues as before the end another Stahl player ends up on the thick end of a tackle and limps off the pitch in agony, amazingly leaving Brandenburg with only 6 outfield players in addition to their emergency keeper:

With their boys in blue now a bewildered husk, the home support are undoubtedly simply laughing in bemused shock at this point, although probably not overly surprised. But at the death, incredibly Stalh have the chance to score what considering the circumstances would be the greatest goal of all time:

It would have meant everything, but unfortunately the shot went wide and the game ended in a 3-0 defeat, with an even greater margin in terms of men on the field. It had been a beautifully tragedy and was basically a perfect microcosm of the season, as come May FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen found themselves promoted as league winners, while somewhat unsurprisingly the heroes of BSV Stalh Brandeburg were relegated in last place.

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #4

In this gallery series we take a look back at a somewhat random assortment of flags and banner collectives at both international and club level from the 80s and 90s (and maybe even the 70s some day), united through being made correctly and hung the way banners were supposed to be hung (that is, chaotically). The first three installments can be found by clicking here, here and here.

Luxembourg vs Hungary, World Cup 94 qualifier, 09/09/1992:

Malta vs Italy, World Cup 94 qualifier, 19/12/1992:

Vitesse vs Parma, UEFA Cup 94/95, 13/09/1994:

(Click here for our Supporter Snap Back episode on this match)

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:
(Noteworthy: use of “Celtic cross” right-wing symbol)


(Click here for full image)

AS Roma vs Bayern Munich, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 20/03/1985:

Athlone Town vs Derry City, League of Ireland 94/95 Premier Division, 22/04/1995:

Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav First League 89/90, 19/11/1989:


Netherlands vs Germany, European Championships 1992, 18/06/1992:

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