Pyro On The Pitch #15: Hajduk Split vs Olympique Marseille, Cup Winners’ Cup, 05/11/1987

In the last edition of the aptly named Pyro On The Pitch series we finally got around to covering some Italo-pyro, although an Italian pitch was subject to flares in an early “modern” installment also – just not at the hands of Italians.

Like Italy, our main subjects in this episode have a rich history of football-related disobedience, and they just happen to be the Balkan “cousins” of those who caused a mess in Genoa in 2010. They were last seen back POTP#11 and, as promised then, we now return to take a closer look at those crazy and courageous Croatians (or Yugoslavs as they were then) of Hajduk Split (with a healthy dose of the southern France thrown in too).

Background:

The story begins way back at the 1950 World Cup, when among the 199,854 spectators in Maracana Stadium for the final were a group of Croat-Yugoslav sailors and students. Amazed by the colour, noise and co-ordination of the home Brazilian fanatics, the young men took inspiration and decided to borrow the Portuguese name for the supporter groups they had witnessed: ‘torcida’, meaning “crowd” in English.

Thusly, upon returning to their homeland, a “Torcida” for their own club – Hajduk Split – was organised, with the aim of replicating the passion of South American supporters to spur on the team. The league opener against Red Start Belgrade on October 29th, 1950, was the official debut of the group, making them the oldest of their kind in Europe.

The name fell out of use over the coming years, but was revived at the start of the 1980s by young supporters with a new verve for terrace culture. The revival was the culmination of the the previous decade, which had seen a new rise in flags, banners and chants on the east stand of Hajduk’s old Stadion Stari Place, soon to be replaced by the new Stadion Poljud in 1979.


Hajduk Split's Torcida in full-effect vs Dinamo Zagreb, Yugoslav First League, 09/05/80.

Meanwhile, only a year after Torcida formed in 1950, an equally-momentous event had occurred in Italy as Torino’s Fedelissimi Granata (“Maroon Loyalists”) were born – considered to be the godfathers of the ultras. The movement properly picked-up in the 70s with an explosion of tifo-action across the country, now with the “Ultras” moniker as a handy catch-all title for the like-minded groups.

Soon, the concept was adopted by supporters in other countries, as evident by the naming of Real Madrid’s Ultras Sur in 1980 (although Sevilla’s Biris Notre came first in Spain having been founded in 1975). With Italy and Spain now accounted for, it’s seems natural that the one people who bordered both – the French – wouldn’t be too far behind.

The characteristics of ultra-culture were already well established in France by the early 80s, but in 1984 Olympique Marseille would officially lead the way with the formation of Commando Ultra’ 84. As seen in our recent Football Special Report on Euro 84, the club’s Stade Veledrome was also used to passion and pyro on the international stage, as well as domestic.


Home fans celebrate the last minute extra-time winner in a packed Stade Veledrome at France vs Portugal, Euro 84 semi-final, 23/06/84.

That very same year, Hajduk Split had managed to put together their greatest European run of all-time and made it to the UEFA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur. In England at the time, awe-inspiring masses of flags weren’t uncommon on the terraces (although more and more limited to the Cup by the 80s), but the English players may have been less equipped to deal with the exoticism of the flares let off by the likes of Split supporters on big continental nights.




Flags and a flare from Hajduk Split vs Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup semi final-1st leg, 25/04/84.

From this match can be seen several Yugoslav flags among the Split support, showing that Hajduk was still very much a Yugoslavian-identifying team. The tie is most notable, however, for one of the most bizarre non-football, football related incidents of all time – one which animal-lovers (specifically cockerel-lovers) may want to skip-past reading.


Hajduk Split fans displaying a Yugoslavia flag at the match vs Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Cup semi final-1st leg, 25/04/84.

Before kick-off at the first-leg in Split, a Torcida member ran on to the field clutching a live cockerel (grabbed from a local bar, which in itself tells it’s own story), as seen on the badge of their opponents, and proceeded to break it’s neck. Recounting events years later, the over-enthusiastic fan embodied a general sense of disgust with perceived English arrogance and had spontaneously (perhaps drunkenly) decided to make a symbolic point, while also manifesting his love for Hajduk through the majesty of bestial sacrifice.

UEFA were not at all impressed by the stunt, issuing a hefty fine to the club and banning the stadium from hosting international matches for three years, while Hadjuk themselves were forced to play in Osijek the following season against Dynamo Moscow. Now a lawyer and wracked with guilt, the supporter responsible has since apologised for his actions, having originally made it off the pitch unhampered (whether he left the poor bird laying on the grass or brought it back to the stands is unknown).

Over in France – by chance home of the cockerel – Marseille’s ultras had been making their presence felt in the stands, with a late 1986 home game against PSG being one of the earliest examples of the amazing colour and chaos created in the Velodrome. The game also gives us a good look at some unique numbering of the back of L’OM’s jerseys, which are also uniquely surrounded by “houses” due to the club’s property-based sponsors at the time Maison Bouygues.




CU'84 banner and flags followed by a huge pyro display from Marseille's ultras vs PSG, Division 1, 28/11/86.

The unusual numbering style seen on the back of Marseille's 86/87 Adidas shirt.

As the dynamic new supporter culture continue to grow, CU’84 were joined on the terraces of the Velodrome in 1987 by the groups “Yankee” in the north of the stadium and “South Winners” in the Command’s own Virage Sud tribune. More tremendous scenes from the stands greeted players as they emerged onto the pitch, such as the sea of white and blue flags ahead of Marseille’s 87/88 Cup Winners’ Cup first round-2nd leg match against East Germany’s Lokomotiv Leipzig (with the first leg having taken place in a stadium that could not have been more communist), in which a single goal was enough to give the French side an 1-0 aggregate win.


The view from the back of Virage Sud in Stade Velodrome, as Marseille prepare to take on Lokomotive Leipzig, Cup Winners' Cup, 30/09/87.

Elsewhere in the competition, none other than Hajduk Split had been entered as cup winners of Yugoslavia and were drawn against Denmark’s Aalborg BK for an all-round more civilised affair. There would be no flares or animal sacrifices when the two teams met on Danish soil, which obviously gave the home side an advantage as they took a suprising 1-0 lead going into the the return game.


Polite but enthused clapping as Danish cup winners Aalborg take the lead at home to Hajduk Split, Cup Winners' Cup first round-1st leg, 16/09/87.

Torcida, who were de-facto now an ultras group, had also been joined by new factions in Stadion Poljud such as White Boys. Even this ominously named group must have been impressed by the design of the visitors’ shorts at the second leg, sublimely continuing the thick stirpes of the Aalborg shirt (for a Scandinavian team, it works) which itself displayed huge “Denmark-style” numbers on the back.




Aalborg's all-stripey shirt and shorts, and large Hummel numbering on back, away to Hajduk Split, Cup Winners' Cup first round-2nd leg, 30/09/87.

Another single goal for the home team meant penalties, which the Croats won 4-2 to progress. For the second round, the draw threw up some interesting ties such as Hamburg vs Ajax and Den Haag vs Young Boys Berne, but the pick of the bunch as far as off the field antics went was Marseille vs Hajduk, with the first leg to be held in France.

It was Split’s fourth time taking on French opponents in Europe, after Saint-Éttiene (European Cup 74/75), Bordeaux (UEFA Cup 83/84) and Metz (UEFA Cup 85/86), while the only Yugoslav club that Marseille had played to date was Hadjuk’s great Croatian rivals Dinamo Zagreb, at the same stage of the same competition in 1969. What’s more, Dinamo had even defeated their Gallic opponents in the tie, but a repeat result seemed unlikely here as Marseille comfortably took the first leg 4-0, much to the delight of their flag and flare waving supporters.




Celebrations in Stade Veledrome as Marseille easily defeat Hajduk Split, Cup Winners' Cup second round-1st leg, 22/10/87.

Although the tie seemed effectively over, the ever-active Hajduk supporters made the second-leg in Croatia essential viewing.

The Match:

Split, 05/11/1987: 22,000 are in attendance at Stadion Poljud, located in the Poljud neighbourhood of the city, and as always the home end is draped in banners. After using a red and blue change shirt in the first leg, the hosts are back in their familiar white shirts and blue socks and shorts, while the visitors don the inverse with blue/white/white:

In the 9th minute, the passionate fans behind the goal – which is in inhabited by their own ‘keeper – throw some smoke bombs that land near the pitch. This isn’t so unusual but it quickly becomes clear that something is not quite right, as Zoran Varvodić in goal covers his mouth with his jersey while fans can be seen traveling across the stand in the background:

As orange and white mists plume, it turns out that the one of the bombs is not actually smoke but industrial grade tear gas, burning at 2000 degrees. As the gas spreads back up into the stands, the effected supporters begin to make their way out of the end and into the next section, with the terrifying threat of mass panic and crushing now a distinct possibility:

Whether this was a mix-up and the ultras had intended to use a regular smoke bomb, or the gas was intentional, we don’t know. The match goes on, but, as can be seen from the man that comes into shot below, soon those on the sideline can smell what is happening:

The white smoke can next be seen drifting on to the pitch…:

…before the referee finally realises what is going on and stops the game. The players run for the safety of the dressing loom, with some of the Frenchmen clearly in a far greater hurry than their Balkan counterparts:

Through the lethal fog, which is now an awe-inspiring sight, some supporters are clearly reveling in the mayhem as flags continue to be waved and more pyro lit:

At this point we get our first attempt to land a flare on the pitch, because “jebi ga“. It is an admirable effort, but just falls to the left:

With all the smoke, the gas, the flares, the flags, the streamers and the fleeing fans, it is quite the chaotic scene, and there is possibly clashes with police in there somewhere. It is probably just as many like it, to whom this is all far more fun than the match:

Another attempt is made to get a flare onto the grass, but the throw is just about lacking:

Meanwhile there is more mass movement along the terraces, with what may or may not (we’re really not sure) be a line of riot-cops moving in:

The camera man keeps himself busy with a nice, smooth panoramic shot of the “war-zone”:

In one section of the ground, perhaps where the wind was blowing, the gas seems to still be causing people to climb over fences and escape out of the stand:

Either for protection from the smoke or to conceal their identity in the unfolding riot, that is happening for no apparent reason, some young supporters below cover their faces with scarves as guards idly stand by:

More smoke bombs are also thrown, with their vivid yellow and orange clouds creating a striking artistic effect. Again, they have just about fallen short of the pitch:

Even though the tear gas alone would have qualified this whole incident for Pyro On The Pitch, we finally get the moment of truth as a flare is lit just as everything else seems to be settling down. First comes the wind-up…:

…And then (to be truthful, several seconds later) the throw. It’s good:

We officially have pyro on the pitch. Another supporter runs on to try and retrieve the flare, but it quickly burns out:

From a wide shot, we see that another one had nearly made it too:

The officials, a West German contingent (as can be seen by their Erima kits and a DFB badge on one of their shirts) led by referee Dieter Pauly, re-emerge to inspect the situation. The gas has dissipated, so they return to tell the cowering teams that it is ok to come out now:

We lastly see one stoic cameraman, who has been caught up in all this, retake his post position right in the middle of where the action had been. Business as usual:

Fifteen minutes after the interruption the game restarts, and a few minutes later Hajduk take the lead through a penalty. The score is doubled in the last ten minutes to give the home side a 2-0 win, but they still go out 2-4 on aggregate.

Aftermath:

The gas had resulted in two male supporters ending up in hospital that night and UEFA, naturally even more furious than over the cockerel incident, decided to take drastic action. First, the result was declared void and Marseille awarded a 0-3 win (not that they really needed it), but more importantly Hajduk Split were banned from European competition for two seasons and not allowed use their own stadium for a season more when they did return.

Having served their suspension, the “Bili” (Whites) would next appear in continental competition again in the Cup Winners’ Cup of 91/92 playing in the neutral venue of Linzer Stadium, Linz, Austria, and who were their opponents only their old friends from Tottenham. It was somewhat of a momentous occasion, as the final time that Hajduk – the last winners of the Yugoslav “Marshal Tito Cup” in 1991 – would be playing in Europe representing Yugoslavia.

For since the dictator himself died in 1980, the Balkan superstate had been on an inexorable slide into fragmentation as the stability, peace and prosperity that Tito had brought, died with him. By the Spurs game in 91, the flags baring the red star of Yugoslavia were gone from the Split supporters, now replaced by their own standard which would soon, after many had paid the ultimate price, take it’s place among the flags of the nations of the world:

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YouTube Links:

Hajduk Split vs Dinamo Zagreb, 1978/79
Hajduk Split vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1984
Hajduk Split vs Tottenham Hotspur, 1984
Marseille vs PSG, 1986/87
Lokomotiv Leipzig vs Marseille, 1987
Marseille vs Lokomotiv Leipzig, 1987
Aalborg vs Hajduk Split, 1987
Hadjuk Split vs Aalborg, 1987
Marseille vs Hajduk Split, 1987
Hajduk Split vs Marseille, 1987
Hajduk Split vs Marseille, 1987
Hajduk Split vs Marseille, 1987
Hadjuk Split vs Tottenham Hostpur, 1991

*****

 

 

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
*****

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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