People On The Pitch #11: Northern Ireland vs Italy, friendly match, 04/12/1957

Last time out in People On The Pitch, we checked out a mass-confrontation at Coventry’s Highfield Road as Nottingham Forrest won the 1978 English league title. Previously we have gone back as far as 1966 in this series, with a Wales vs Scotland Euro 68 qualifier, but now we go back further still to the 1950s and a spicy “friendly” game in Belfast that was meant to be a World Cup qualifier.

Background:

Following the lead of the first three football associations in the world – England (1863), Scotland (1873) and Wales (1876) – the Irish Football Association was founded in 1880 while the whole of the island of Ireland was still under British rule. In 1921, the Irish War of Independence, and resulting peace treaty, divided the country, with the majority of territory breaking away from the United Kingdom as the so-called Irish Free State in 1922, leaving the remaining north-eastern six counties to become Northern Ireland.


Flag of Northern Ireland, 1924-1972.

Following the split, the Football Association of Ireland (originally Football Association of the Irish Free State) was created to represent the new “Free Irish”, but both the Dublin-based FAI and Belfast-based IFA claimed to represent the entire island. In football terms there was no Northern Ireland, as the IFA Ireland team of 1880 continued as normal selecting players from both sides of the border, as did the Irish Free State from 1936. Both also wore green with shamrock crests, but at IFA games the English national anthem of God Save The King was played, while at FAI games an anthem glorifying the fight against the same king was proudly sang.

In 1937, the Irish Free State name was dropped in a new constitution, legally creating “Ireland”. Hence, there now was officially two Ireland teams, although one was a member of FIFA (FAI) and the other (IFA) on boycott, along with the rest of the UK nations following political disagreements. In 1946, however, the IFA and the rest did rejoin FIFA, meaning that the “two Irelands” would be present in the upcoming 1950 World Cup qualifiers for the first time, with several players amazingly turning out for both in the campaign.


"Ireland", which shamrock-shield crest, emerge at Maine Road ahead of a 9-2 defeat to England, World Cup 50 qualifier/British Home Championship 49/50.

The undeniably farcical situation forced FIFA to step in to make a clear distinction between the teams. In 1949, this was helped as the Irish had adopted another constitution in which the country was formally declared a republic (a move which alarmed British unionists who saw it as a potential threat to the existence of Northern Ireland), and while not the official name, the term “Republic of Ireland” was made legally acceptable as a national title.

The timing was perfect, as FIFA declared that the FAI’s team be known as the Republic of Ireland, and the IFA’s as Northern Ireland, and that both would stick to selecting players from within their borders (which would remain until 1994 when the Good Friday Agreement made it possible for players born in Northern Ireland to represent the Republic). The North also adopted the IFA’s Celtic cross as their badge; a somewhat ironic choice considering many of their supporters’ hatred for the Celtic culture and language of the “non-British” Irish.

One notable exception to the name was within the British Home Championship, where the IFA were still known as Ireland until 1971. During this time, when the 1953/54 and 66/67-67/68 editions doubled as World Cup and Euro qualifiers respectively (as 1949/50 had been for World Cup 50), the odd situation arose where “Ireland” would be playing in the British tournament and Northern Ireland in FIFA/UEFA competition, within the same match.

After having failed to qualify for 1950 and 54, Northern Ireland would participate in a non-British World Cup qualifying group for the first time in the next campaign. Placed in a tough Group 8 along with Italy and Portugal, each team were to play each other twice throughout 1957 with two points awarded for a win, and a spot at Sweden 1958 for whoever topped the group.

Involved in the first three games, the North started with the two tough away ties first; an encouraging draw was secured in Lisbon against Portugal in January, before a 1-0 defeat to Italy in Rome in April. On May 1st, a brilliant 3-0 home win over Portugal put Northern Ireland right back in contention, before the Portuguese’ own 3-0 victory over Italy later in the month really blew things wide open. The last games were scheduled for December, with the Italians set to visit Belfast on the 4th before finally hosting Portugal on the 22nd.


Some of those in attendance for Northern Ireland's 3-0 win over Portugal in Windsor Park, World Cup 58 qualifier, 01/05/1957.

Before The Match:

With Northern Ireland ready for their biggest international to date, an unexpected crisis struck the day before the game when Hungarian referee Istvan Zsolt was stranded in London due to dense fog. An English ref closer at hand was put on stand-by, but it was decided to wait and see if Zsolt, who was also manager of the Budapest Opera House, could make it the next day.

Meanwhile, the swarthy Italian team – who had already landed successfully – surveyed the sights, sounds and flavours of Belfast:

(The newsreel from which this is from, incidentally, opened with the caption “Irlanda vs Italia”, displaying that the “Northern” distinction was yet to be fully observed inside or outside of football)

But the aforementioned London fog didn’t give up, and it soon became too late for the back-up official to travel either. The IFA offered the Italians a local referee, which was understandably refused (presumably calling upon an FAI ref was out of the question). With the count-down to kick-off approaching, and with thousands of fans haven taken valuable half-days from shipyard work, it was decided that the match must go ahead, but as a friendly rather than a World Cup qualifier.

The Match:

A huge crowd of over 50,000, who have only been informed of the match classification downgrade upon their arrival, pack into Windsor Park. With their half-days now “wasted” on a meaningless match, many disgruntled worker-supporters loudly voice their disapproval, although others are clearly happy to make the most of the day:

From a narrow gap between the terraces, the teams emerge. Despite the black and white footage, at least we can see that Northern Ireland’s green shirt is quite a dark shade, while Italy’s blue crew-neck is suitably stylish (click here for our Politics On The Pitch post explaining why these two and other nations wear colours not seen on their flags):

The booing and jeering from the crowd ceases for the national anthem, but resumes and drowns out the Italian anthem, much to the shock and horror of the away team:

A section of home supporters take their aggression to the camera also, with some choice gestures on show:

The captains and referee offer each a token sign of peace through handshakes…:

…but the negative vibes coming from the pissed-off fans has entered a feedback loop with the pissed-off visiting players, who’s memories of gentile strolls around the capital have now been erased by the perceived booing of their national anthem

Despite the meaningless of the game, the new found aggressive tension manifests in Giuseppe Chiappella punching Danny Blanchflower in the face off the ball, among other incidents, before brave Italian ‘keeper Ottavio Bugatti casually bares several knees to the head:

Of course this type of action is not too unusual for the time, but rarely ultimately due to a referee being stranded elsewhere. Speaking of archaic aspects, here we see the problem with certain types of goal-frames as the ball gets stuck on the roof of the net:

Going back to the disgruntled fans, the same group are still busy abusing the cameraman, but this time with less smiles, as if they are really serious now. One of the ringleaders has switched from the cut-throat sign seen earlier to an upward thrusting motion with fingers held together, which must be popular at this time:

A great camera shot from beside one of the goals displays the density of spectators crammed into the other sides of the famous, old ground:

Some have avoided the claustrophobic enclosures entirely by taking to the safety of the roofs, with classic ads for cigarettes beneath them:

In the second half, poor Bugatti is subject to more ill-treatment as he is pushed to the ground for no apparent reason (while people casually walk across the roof), much to the appreciation of the crowd:

The disgruntled fans, meanwhile, have, if anything, become ever more disgruntled and are still furiously gesturing:

Throughout all this, several goals have been scored. On the hour mark, the fantastically named Wilbur Cush scores his second to make it 2-2, as the crowd gyrate with pleasure:

A while later, Bugatti is brutally hacked down once again as he collects the ball. The linesman in the background clearly sees no issue with the “challenge”:

This time the Italians have had enough, and a melee breaks out:

Shockingly, it is a player in blue who is dismissed by the referee

The fans are now even more riled up, and as the final whistle is blown many spill on the pitch, despite the efforts of a few policemen. Some go to congratulate their heroes for holding their pride in the match, while others have more sinister ambitions:

Before long, vast swathes of supporters are on the grass and the atmosphere is dangerous. Despite the violence of the game, some Northern Irish players begin to fear for their Italian counterparts safety, conscious of the terrifying and telling fact that a Belfast Celtic player was dragged into the terraces and suffered a broken leg at the hands of Linfield fans in the same ground ten years before:

With at least one being carried, the Italian players were quickly ushered off the pitch and down the tunnel, away from the baying mob:

northern-ireland-italy-1957-i

Some of the more bloodthirsty fans attempt to storm the dressing rooms too, but the Italians have made it to safety. Now to do the whole thing again for the rearranged fixture.

Aftermath:

The game was quickly dubbed the “Battle of Belfast” by the media. Despite their escape, the Italian team received backlash upon arrival in their homefront as they were booed getting off the plane; the 2-2 draw would have meant elimination if the game had been competitive.

On January 15th, 1958, the game was replayed in Windsor Park, with the esteemed Mr Zsolt finally officiating. Wearing a fresh new kit and crest, Northern Ireland arrived on the pitch with British Pathé again informing us that this was “Ireland” playing, rather than a small portion of the island ruled-over from afar. This “Irish” side were in luck, as a 2-1 win meant that they would make it to their first World Cup that summer. The Italians may have wanted to stay in Belfast this time, rather than again face the ire of their countrymen upon returning from the match, as they missed out on their only finals until 2018.

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YouTube links:

England vs Northern Ireland, 1949
Northern Ireland vs Portugal, 1957
Northern Ireland vs Italy, 1957
Northern Ireland vs Italy, 1958

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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.

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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

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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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