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

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

The Match:

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the smoke continues to rise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Intro:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Background:

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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


A 1993 ARC fanzine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Match:

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

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

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

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

Aftermath:

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

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

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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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Pyro On The Pitch #12: Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao, La Liga Primera División, 27/11/1983

After a brief mid-Summer break, we’re back and once again have rotated around to our original flagship series. In the last installment we checked out one of Romania’s unsung supporter communities of the early ’80s, in Universitatea Craiova and their fixture with Hajduk Split in 1983. Now we are going to revisit an encounter that we touched on back in Pyro On The Pitch #9: – Anderlecht vs Real Madrid 1984, while talking about the latter’s immediate prior history.

Background:

In 1920 Madrid FC were given the title “Real” by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, as an officially dubbed royal club of the kingdom. Having  been formed 18 years earlier after a split from a university team, they would go on to represent one of Europe’s great capital cities and become the favoured team of Spanish dictator Franco, who restored the “Real” title after it had been stripped during the years of the Second Spanish Republic, along with the crown on the club’s crest.

On the pitch Real were officially a continental powerhouse since the 1950s when the European Cup began. Success in this competition was appropriate, as the club’s president from 1943-1978, Santiago Bernabéu Yeste, was one of the three men to organise the start of the Cup for UEFA in 1955.

Considering all this, it is no wonder that the club became hugely supported and to house this support was also one of Europe’s biggest stadiums. In that same year of 1955, their Nuevo Estadio Chamartín was renamed to Santiago Bernabéu by the club’s board in honour of their chairman and was expanded from 75,000 capacity to a mammoth 125,000 (over-crowded to nearly 130,000 for a visit of Milan the following year, the ground’s record attendance).


Some of the record breaking 129,690 supporters in the freshly redeveloped Bernabéu, Real Madrid vs AC Milan, European Cup semi-final, 1956.

With their history of royalist-fasicst connections, it is also not surprising that the club’s support base swings to the right. In contrast, Madrid rivals Athletico were formed by Basque students as a feeder club for Athletic Bilbao, who’s Basque-only player policy marks them as a de-facto separatist Pays Basque team in the Spanish league, although there is a strong right-element in the Atheltico Madird support also.

By 1980, the movement of organised young supporter units that had been spreading in Europe reached Spain and Read Madrid’s Ultras Sur were formed. The group were based in the stadium’s South Stand terraces (sur of course meaning south), but rabid, colourful support was common on all sides of the massive ground. An especially large attendance was of course most guaranteed for big European ties.


Home fans celebrate a goal in what would be a 3-0 victory, Real Madrid vs Glasgow Celtic, European Cup quarter final, 1980.0.

100,000 in the Bernabéu for the visit of Spartak Moscow, European Cup 80/81.

A respectable crowd of 65,000 even came to see Real effectively play themselves in the 1980 Cope Del Rey final, also in the Bernabéu, when amazingly they ended up against their B-team Real Madrid Castilla. Unsurprisingly the A-team won 6-1, but hopefully there were a handful of hipster types disgusted by Madrid’s success who staunchly supported Castilla only, akin to a modern wrestling fan preferring NXT over WWE.


Real Madrid vs Castilla, Copa Del Rey final, 1980.

There would be a crowd of nearly twice that of the cup final for the following seasons visit of Internazionale – a slightly more challenging European Cup semi. En route to a 2-0 victory that would help win the tie (ultimately followed by defeat to Liverpool in the final), the home players could be seen scaling the pitch-side fence and saluting the packed Ultras Sur enclosure.


Players celebrate a goal at the South Stand, Real Madrid vs Internazionale, European Cup semi final 1981.

As mentioned, other areas of the ground were also home to passionate supporters. A particular section at the opposite end to the ultras and to the left of a dividing fence in the terrace was often eye catching as a sea of waving flags. But Ultras Sur, with their overtly right-wing leanings, had arrived as the dominant group at the in the stadium and would soon make their presence felt on the pitch as well as in the stands.


Home support in the North Stand enclosure, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, Primera División 83/84.

The Match:

The apparent earliest evidence of Ultras Sur’s ire being directed towards the pitch would feature the visit of the aforementioned Basques of Athletic Bilbao, now long divorced from Real’s crosstown rivals. By the time the two were to meet in a November 1983 league encounter, the Bernabéu stadium had been redeveloped again for the 1982 World Cup and as a result had it’s capacity reduced to “only” 98,000, and then 85,000 for the 83/84 season.

Before the match report we see a cartoon image – accompanied by fantastic classic ’80s theme music which really is worth checking out at the end of the article – of what  appears to be an Athletic player with a flaming torch pulling back a Real player, who’s holding a sign containing the following cryptic message in Spanish:

Today we bore more than yesterday but less than tomorrow.

Unfortunately we only have black and white footage of the match, which makes it  look far older than it is. But as always, the Madridistas are unmistakable with their mostly white tifo material, which is the first sight we see from the stadium:

While we don’t have an attendance figure, the ground seems as packed as for any big game. Indeed Real had finished 2nd the previous year to Bilbao and the two were again main competitors for the title in 83/84. At the north end, the section to the left of the goal is even more densely flagged than as seen above against Bacrelona in the same season:

But of course the main action was to occur at the other “Sur” end of the ground, as while Real attack at some stage in the first half, at least one “Bengal” flare from the crowd lands near the penalty spot. The goalkeeper immediately points an accusatory figure towards the packed terraces behind him and the camera pans up following suit:

The black and white footage makes it hard to see what has happened at first, but the definite billowing of smoke from the pyro gives it away:

We have previously seen a situation at a Spanish home international fixture where a foreign referee happily allowed a match to go on around pyro on the pitch, but in this case the native official stops the game and runs to the touchline to alert the authorities that trouble is afoot:

The announcer of the footage possibly gives an explanation for the action as part of a protest of some sort, but unfortunately as we are not fluent in Spanish this is more of a guess. However if you do understand what is being said, please get in touch!

Back in the stand, fighting among the supporters has also broken out. Whether this is rival factions clashing over the flare being thrown, or something else, is again unclear. On the other side of the parameter fence below, the press quickly assemble to document  the unfolding drama:

Before long, a hand-full of local constabulary are on the scene. But displaying the obvious unreadiness for such an occurrence, they have to sprint from the main entrance to the pitch by the dugout – a common scenario in the era that we have seen several times before:

There may have in fact been more officers already on hand though, as quite quickly the first alleged perpetrator emerges and is forcibly escorted away from the mass of bodies at the front of the stand:

Even in black and white, the fashion of the time is evident by the supporter’s big hair, flared trousers and possibly heeled shoes. He is led away out of the stadium (presumably destined for a physical beating), swiftly followed by another captive who is more obviously a football fan due to his long scarf:

The next arrest is not so easy for the police. It appears an entire regiment have surrounded the Sur-suspect and are leading him away, when a Christ-like fall occurs, quite possibly resulting in some harsh treatment to get him back on his feet:

The football has been continuing as this is going down, but after a half-hearted scan back to the game the cameraman shows that the action off the field is far more captivating, much like the ethos of this very blog. Well done, sir (or should I say, sur):

Also ignoring the match – and in a scene you would be unlikely to see today (partly because most supporters would be taking their own videos and pictures anyway) – the press form a neat phalanx to get the best shot for Monday’s papers:

Having been sufficiently subdued and back on his feet, the supporter is finally led away as the journalist jackals scurry to get one last vantage point of the pathetic, defeated face of football crime:

This was the end of the off-field story, but the remnants of the situation can still be seen later in the game as a slight gap in the crowd is visible in the same section of otherwise congested terrace:

Those of you paying attention earlier will have noticed that the report opened with a spoiler that the match ended 0-0. It would be one of many instances of dropped points for Real Madrid that season that would ultimately cost them cruelly, as Athletic Bilbao took their second consecutive championship only by goal difference. But what may have hurt most for the capital city club was that including Real Sociedad’s two title wins at the start of the decade, it was the fourth year in a row that the title went to a Basque side since Real Madrid themselves had last won it in 1980.

Youtube link.

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Pyro On The Pitch #11: CS Universitatea Craiova vs Hajduk Split, UEFA Cup 1st Round-1st Leg, 14/09/1983

In the previous episode of Pyro On The Pitch, we went all “Pyro On The Print” with a special Shelbourne FC fanzine-exclusive to celebrate the 10th edition of the series, as well as our 50th article overall (including the Cold War Classic series produced in conjunction with Museum of Jerseys.com). You can see a preview and some of the pictures used here in the corresponding blog post, and perhaps in the future we will upload the post in full as a special treat. MAYBE.

But so as not to deprive you fine folks who aren’t lucky enough to frequent Tolka Park – and especially considering it’s been quite a while since Pryo On The Pitch #9 – we are rushing out a second consecutive episode in an unprecedented move not seen since the early days of the site when it was our only feature (a simpler time). And as one of our Cold War Classic posts linking to the full articles on Museum of Jerseys.com contained two instead of one, this is in fact the actual 50th post to appear on PyroOnThePitch.com, so it is still a sort of special occasion (not that any of this matters in the least).

Today’s featured game takes us to Romania for the first time, having already seen hints of the country’s pedigree through the national side’s ability to casually thrive in the face of pyro on the pitch away from home back in episode #5.

Background:

In the early ’80s, Clubul Sportiv Universitatea Craiova were one of Romania’s top sides. The club was originally founded in 1948 following an initiative by a group of students and professors from city’s first university-level institution, and upon dissolution of the area’s previous club – FC Craivoa – the team were quickly entered into the national league. Demonstrating the profound difference in which post-War communist Romanian football was run compared to that of a modern league, the entry of the team was coordination by the Ministry of Public Education and the National Union of Students under the mouthful team name “Uniunea Națională a Studenților din România Craiova”.

The new club proved popular among locals and those in the surrounding area, and after several name changes “CS Universitatea Craiova” was settled on in 1966. The following decade saw title challenges for the first time, with a 2nd place finish on goal difference to Dinamo București in the 72/73 season. But this moral victory was important for resulting in the creation of one of the greatest club nicknames in football history, and one that couldn’t have been more fitting for the decade: “The Champions of a Great Love”.

Coined by poet and supporter Adrian Păunescu, the name indicates Craiova’s status as a people’s champion in the face of the state-supported Dinamo side who dominated the league for much of the 20th century. A real league victory did indeed come the following year, cementing the Champions of a Great Love as champions of Romania as well.


Classic, grainy Iron Curtain footage of Craiova supporters celebrating the 73/74 Romanian league title win.

The 73/74 season was also notable for the club’s first continental involvement, with an impressive debut victory against Fiorentina in the 1st round of the UEFA Cup. Domestic cup wins in ’77 and ’78 kept the team in Europe before a return to league success saw back-to-back championships in 79/80 and 80/81, the latter of which was a league and cup double. This golden age demanded it’s own snazzy new moniker, totally apt for the dynamic ’80s: Craiova Maxima (“The Maximum Craiova”).

The league title brought a return to the European Cup, with the 80/81 edition seeing the visit of the club’s most distinguished foreign opposition to date: Internazionale. In a game that brought 35,000 supporters to the Stadionul Central, Craiova admirably held the Italians to a 1-1 draw. Despite this they were eliminated on aggregate, but the following year saw the greatest continental performance of any Romanian club up to that point with an advance to the quarter finals, before elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich.


The Stadionul Central crowd for the visit of Inter, UEFA Cup 80/81, 1980. Note the fans perched above the tunnel.

The distraction of these tournaments possibly helped contribute to 2nd place league finishes both of these years, but an 82/83 UEFA Cup run – only cut short by defeat to Benfica in the semi-finals – along with another Romanian cup win the same season, kept the Craiova Maxima’s momentum going. The period had seen victorious cup ties against significant opposition such as Dynamo Moscow, Monaco, Leeds United, Bordeaux, Kaiserslautern, and even Shamrock Rovers.


Craiova vs Bordeaux, UEFA Cup 82/83, 1982

Pyro emanating from off screen at Craiova vs Kaiserslautern UEFA Cup 82/83, 1983

On the back of this growing pedigree, confidence was no doubt high in progressing one step further the following season and reaching the final as Craivoa were drawn in the 83/84 UEFA Cup first round against Yugoslavian league runners-up Hajduk Split. The all Balkan battle would not be the club’s first European tie against a club from the Slavic super-state as they had been knocked out of the 75/76 UEFA Cup by Red Star Belgrade.

Somewhat interestingly, Craiova were not the only Romanian team with links to education in that year’s competition either, as FC Sportul Studențesc București – another club formed under the initiative of students and professors, established in 1916 – were taking part in one of six UEFA Cup campaigns for them in the era. But for comparison in status between the clubs, Sportul’s current ground only holds 1000 spectators.

As for Hajduk, it goes without saying that the Croatian side boast one of Europe’s most enviable supporter culture histories, with their “Torcida group having formed way back in 1950; the first of it’s kind in Europe. After some quarter final appearances, the club were of average European quality at the time with their most recent big tie a 3rd round defeat to Valencia in the 81/82 UEFA Cup, despite a 4-1 win in the home leg. This was followed in 83/83 with victory against Zurrieq of Malta before elimination to Bordeaux.


Hajduk Split fans celebrating a goal against Valencia, UEFA Cup 81/82, 1981

The Match:

We join the action late in the game on that beautiful, sunny September 14th of 1983, along with 40,000 fans in the stadium. The figure shows the increase in popularity of the club since the Inter game, who in theory should have been a bigger draw than Hajduk. With the score at 0-0 in the 86th minute, midfielder Ion Geolgău breaks into to the box and strikes the ball in to the net for the hosts, queuing a pitch invasion from the ball boys. Through the resulting celebration we also get a nice look the Craiova kit, which had changed from Adidas the previous year (any ideas on the brand, get in touch!).

This triggers jubilation from the stands the the likes of which could maybe only be seen in a country suffering through an authoritarian regime, with the ecstasy of football providing a release valve for real world problems as it does on some level for supporters in stadiums all over the world. First we see two smoke bombs coming from the grass behind the running track (extra points for athletics stadium, which we love) before another explodes in the middle, as the perpetrator appears to retreat into the mass other of cheerful Craiovans:

These are proper, old “bombs” rather than the modern colourful kind, with an aurally satisfying bang like a distant gun shot accompanying each one, as well as the defining noise coming from the supporters themselves. A wider shot reveals several more going off around the ground along with many flags, as the players continue to celebrate:

As many other plumes of grey smoke billow, it is important to recognise that this is coming from all around the ground rather a single, dedicated ultras section as you might expect in western stadiums, demonstrating the immense supporter culture at the club:

The Hajduk players prepare to kick-off but the bombardment goes on:

Oddly for the era, experienced French referee Michel Vautrot is reluctant to restart the game while this is happening. Ion and co. must continue to wait as the stadium continues to erupt, giving us another look at the unusual jersey which appears to have branding on the sleeve:

But instead of subsiding to allow the game to finish, the rapturous display only gets closer. As you can see below, one bomb lands right at the border where the track meets the field, which for our purposes we are happy to acknowledge as pyro on the pitch. A Craiova player can be seen reaching the end of his patience and appeals to the crowd with arm gestures, as the flash of yet another bomb lights up the running track itself:

It turns out is the player in question is the hero of the hour himself, Ion, who is now clearly lamenting his sporting achievement due to the fact it has caused this evidently distressing display of positive emotion which is preventing the sport itself from reaching it’s conclusion. You could call it the ultimate “Ion-y”.

The irritable Ion had need not fret, as the game is eventually restarted and the last few mins played out, his goal enough to secure the win on the night. We leave with with one last scan around the packed Stadionul Central, as grey of clouds of Maximum Love still hang in the air:

Despite those scenes, it was not to be a happy ending for Craiova in that year’s competition. The return leg in Split saw the hosts win 1-0 to draw level on aggregate before securing the tie on penalties, which set them on their way to what would turn out to be the greatest continental run of all time for a Croatian side in reaching the semi-finals before defeat to eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur. Unsurprisingly for Hajduk, the game saw plenty of it’s own pyro action:

While we say goodbye to Craiova, who’s fans we can thank for the amazing images above, we will leave you with some more scenes from the second leg as a reminder of Hajduk’s own supporter heritage, as we are definitely not saying goodbye to them. Look out for their return in the not too distant future, on another episode of Pyro On The Pitch.



Youtube link 1

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Pyro On The Pitch #10: Shelbourne FC Fanzine Special

Well, it’s been a while since the previous edition of the feature that originally gave this blog it’s name. We last checked out a hot atmosphere at Anderlecht vs Real Madrid, 1984, but unfortunately for those of you online (and if you’re reading this then you obviously are online), the wait for a new full article will have to go on for a little bit longer. That is because to mark the 10th episode of the series, as well as our 50th article overall, “Pryo On The Pitch” is going “Pyro On The Print” with a special edition that is for now exclusive to the Shelbourne FC fanzine “Red Inc.”.

Red Inc. is produced several times a season by the supporter group Reds Independent (RI) who formed in 1998, and is now the longest running fanzine in the League of Ireland. We were kindly invited by RI to produce a piece for their latest issue and we were happy to oblige, focusing on a pyro on the pitch incident when Shelbourne visited near-by rivals Bohemians in 1994, and some of the club’s preceding supporter culture history. This of course also follows up nicely with our recent League of Ireland themed Football Special Report #2.

The Red Inc. in question went on sale for Shelbourne’s home game against Wexford Youths yesterday (01/06/2018) and thankfully early reactions have been positive:

So if you are desperate to get your hands on a copy of this historic issue, then do order one over at RedsIndependent.com. For the rest of you, below are some shots of the fanzine and a preview, along with some of the photos used in the piece. Peace!

“…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 Reds; the first winners of the IFA Cup not to have come from present day Northern Ireland…”

Shelbourne away to Dundalk, 1992:

Shelbourne vs Bohemians, 1992:

Shelbourne vs Bohemians, 1993:

Shelbourne vs Karpaty Lviv , Cup Winner’s Cup 93/94:

Panathinaikos away to Shelbourne, Cup Winner’s Cup 93/94:

Shelbourne away to Bohemians, 1993:

Shelbourne away to Bohemians, 1994:

Shelbourne away to Bohemains, 1994:

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Pyro On The Pitch #9: Anderlecht vs Real Madrid, UEFA Cup 3rd Round-1st Leg, 28/11/1984

We first came across Anderlecht back in People On The Pitch #1, with the infamous visit of Aston Villa to the then Emile Versé Stadium in 1982. Like with their Dutch, German and French neighbours, supporter mischief had no doubt been progressively observed through traveling British support at games such as this.

In a culture like Belgium’s, where not all was as innocent as it would seem, this influence would converge with growing youth cultures and continental Europe’s own unique supporter style to manifest in intimidating atmospheres that on their night could stand equal with their international equivalents, especially on big European occasions.

Background:

Just over a year after the Villa game (a European Cup semi-final defeat on aggregate), Anderlecht cemented their place as one of Europe’s top clubs by beating Benfica in the 1983 UEFA Cup final, graduating from Cup Winner’s Cup wins in ’76 and ’78. We shall take this moment to lament the loss of the Cup Winners Cup, which was a great competition in our eyes and can also be celebrated for having the word “cup” in it’s name twice (and also shares an acronym with another great institution of our time). On the other hand, it would obviously be ruined by now anyway so maybe it’s better off left in our memories.


Anderlecht supporters celebrate at the conclusion of the 1983 UEFA Cup Final.

En route to a second successive UEFA Cup final the following season, a third round fixture against RC Lens in November ’83 would prove that English teams needed not to be involved for trouble to spark at European games. First, in an incident which must again be covered if we ever follow through on a “Projectiles on the Pitch” series, a rock apparently thrown from the home Lens supporters caused a back-passed ball to bauble past Anderlecht goalkeeper Jacques Munaro and into the net:

This had come in the 89th minute, only two minutes after the Belgians themselves had scored to take the lead, and naturally chaotic scenes followed with Munaro clutching the offending rock and several beer cans also thrown from the terraces. After the final whistle the Anderlecht support retaliated, launching projectiles of their own at a home section resulting in riot police moving in:

As with Villa in Belgium in ’82, Anderlecht now knew what it was like to be antagonists faced with local constabulary on foreign soil. They were eventually defeated in the 1984 final by Tottenham Hotspur, where in the home leg at least one supporter had to be stretchered away. For the sake of narrative, we are going to assume this was a result of malicious actions:

This would prove the end of Anderlecht’s golden age on the pitch, as to date they have not reached another final in European competition. But supporter culture in Belgium was still on the rise, as would be evident in our featured match.

Meanwhile, for their part, supporters of Real Madrid were also already known to be no angels. The foundation of Ultras Sur had come in 1980 and disturbances at games such as against Athletic Bilbao on November 26th, 1983, (which we will revisit at a later date) resulted in police intervention in the Bernabeu:

The Game:

If this was an actual football website, I’d probably say something about how Anderlecht were unlucky to come up against eventual winners Real Madrid in the third round of the ’84/’85 UEFA Cup, perhaps prematurely preventing the expected progress of the previous few seasons. But I wouldn’t know about that. What is true is that the visit of the Spanish giants (ugh, what a cliché, sorry), a year and 5 days after the toxic game in Lens, provided the perfect scene for a hot atmosphere (perhaps hot like a pyronical device) in what would be a famous European night for the Belgian giants.

By this time, the Emile Versé had been revamped and renamed as the Constant Vandan Stock Stadium, which would be more heroic if it wasn’t named after the reigning club chairman of the time, although I’m just going to assume he was a lovely man (I guess I’m also assuming he must be dead by now). Whatever the name, 41,000 were packed into the beautifully classic, compact ground on November 28th, 1984, eager to witness the first leg battle of what may well have been Europe’s top two white and purple clad sides.

The home team went 1-0 up on the 65th minute through Vandenbergh, cueing great noise from the Constant Vandan Stock Stadium faithful. A mere minute later, Czerniatynski (yes, the names are irrelevant, but they’re good names) doubled the Belgian’s lead with a nice header, causing a jubilant, ecstatic orgy of denim in the terrace behind the goal to which he ran, with at least one supporter making it out of the enclosure:

With a big victory now in their sights, the density of the passionate home support could be seen even at the halfway line of the pitch. Flags flew from within an uncomfortably tight mass of bodies as police kept a watchful eye:

In the 85th minute, a penalty converted by Vercauteren made it 3-0 to Anderlecht, putting them in an excellent position going into the away leg in Madrid a fortnight later (I mean I would say that if this was a football site). One Real Madrid player displayed extreme petulance in response to this by crankily slamming the football to the ground:

With the win on the night now all but secured, it would be only fitting that pyro should make it’s way on to the pitch, perhaps as a beacon representing the historical magnitude of the game.

And this is exactly what happened as a flare swiftly appeared in the Anderlecht box, with a “smoking gun” effect from the section of support parallel to the box seeming the suggest the origin:

Contrary to being phased (of course, since he was an 80’s footballer), an Anderlecht player nearly appeared to halfheartedly perform some soccer skills on the the flaming phallice before it naturally reached the end of it’s life and burned out, content in death having fulfilled it’s ultimate destiny:

But as the flare burned out, so too would Anderlecht’s European hopes that season as they would lose the tie after a dismal 6-1 defeat in the return leg. At least that’s the kind of crappy metaphor I would probably use if this was an actual football website. Instead, their inclusion here has earned them a sort of intangible, metaphysical, hyper-dimensional honour, greater than could ever hope to be achieved through sport.

Youtube link 1
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Pyro On The Pitch #8: Eintracht Braunschweig away to VfL Osnabrück, Regionalliga Nord, 05/02/1998

Eintracht Braunschweig (of course also known as Braunschweiger Turn- und Sportverein Eintracht von 1895 e.V.) are a club that have been tangentially mentioned here already through Retro Shirt Reviews #1, so it is truly a glorious occasion that they can now take pride of place as the featured side in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch.

The scene was February 1998 and the heroically unglamorous Regionalliga Nord, part of the third tier of German football at the time. Eventual league winners VfL Osnabrück played host to their biggest rivals for dominance, the aforementioned Eintracht Braunschweig.

Background:

Statistically, Eintracht were the best supported team in the Regionalliga Nord for six of the first eight seasons since the league began in 1994. For most of it’s existence, the club had been Bundesliga regulars with a national title win in 66/67, but a decline in the mid-80’s would see them bounce between the 2nd and 3rd tiers for the next couple of decades.


Eintracht Braunschweig supporters celebrating in 1967

While the Regionalliga Nord featured many smaller clubs and some B-teams, such as Hamburger SV II and Werder Bremen II, Braunschweig’s major rivals Hannover 96 were also present. As for Osnabrück, they too possessed one of the bigger support basses in the league, despite having never reached the top tier of German football. And so, combined with the fight for the league title, Eintracht’s visit to their Stadion an der Bremer Brücke was always going to be a big occasion.

The Match:

We join the action in the 89th minute with Osnabrück leading 1-0. Perhaps in an attempt at one last passionate push to motivate their players to pull a goal back, or more likely in a display of joyous abandon in the face of inevitable defeat (aka “fuck it”), the Braunschweig ultras have decided that it’s pyro show time:

You can’t blame them really as it would have been a waste to have come all that way with all that pyro and not use it just because the team hadn’t performed. A fabulous red glare can been seen in the sections of the ground close to the Eintracht end:

Some great banners are also on show such as the above “Braunschweig ‘Family'” and “Cor Leonis” (“Lion Hart” in Latin):

As Eintracht prepare for a free kick we can see that at least one flare has already been launched pitchward, of course amidst much booing and whistling from the home supporters. An as of now unidentified man casually tosses one off to the side (a flare that is, to the side of the pitch):

The classic 20th century football sound of police dogs barking can be heard as police keep a watchful eye on Eintracht supporters perched high atop the perimeter fence.

Yes, I know it appears as if the man above is delivering a politically alarming salute. But don’t fret, through the power of gif we can see that he is actually in the midst of giving a friendly wave and maybe a misguided attempted at a “cool” hand gesture:

Nice man. If you thought we were done with pyro on the actual pitch here, you’ll be happy to hear that you are very wrong. As the game enters injury time and Eintracht attack again, we can see that a flare has now been launched into a very prominent position on pitch. A fine effort, but perhaps not ideal for the players to have to deal with as they attempt to find their way through the Osnabrück defence:

As we showed back in Pyro On The Pitch #5, a little bit of intensely burning flame on the playing surface wasn’t really a big deal back in the day. Here, the referee shows tremendous discretion as he at first appears to go to blow his whistle upon sight of the flare, but realising that the supporters cerebral placing of the flare is merely an extra-dimensional part of the game, he allows play to go on:

Sure enough the flare burns out with seconds as play goes on around it, proving the referee right for not holding play up. The ref probably had experience with such instances in the past and was more than likely able to identify the brand of flare and it’s specific characteristics from quite a distance away. Similarly the players must be commended for not being phased in the slightest, although as mentioned it really wasn’t that big a deal to these real 20th century pros, and it only goes to show the decline of the game that I would even feel the need to commend them for playing around such a natural element.

So Osnabrück don’t feel too left out, I will mention there is a nice terrace running all along the side of the pitch. The sight of people standing in a side-stand like this I’m sure is even more foreign to modern eyes than than standing in the ends:

Also a small mish-mash of their flags (of course there could be many more hung off camera):

The Braunschweig end is by now an impressive chaotic collage of blue, yellow and red, along with a lot of smoke:

More police can be seen tentatively keeping an eye on things as the pyro goes on til the final whistle, but the last of the main action is over:

With their side defeated, the Eintracht fans show themselves as jolly good sports and give their team a very positive reception despite the loss:

Ok, there may or may not have been one politically alarming salute in there.

Youtube link

Pyro On The Pitch #7: Brazil vs Chile, World Cup Qualifier, 03/09/1989

Over time, World Cup qualification in South America has been consolidated into a pretty cool and unique system that sees all countries play each other twice in a league format. The top four sides earn qualification and the fifth advances to an inter-continental play-off. Before this, for the ’94 campaign when the World Cup had less teams, it had been two groups of four and five teams with three automatic qualification spots along with the play-off for the next best side.

But before THAT, for 1990, it had been three groups of three with only two guaranteed qualifying places and the play-off for the worst group winner. It was this system that saw Brazil face Chile in the last game of qualification in Group 3 on 3rd September, 1989. With the sides even on points, a spot in the following year’s World Cup was on the line.

Background:

The previous meeting in the group between the two sides had taken place less than a month earlier in Santiago and had been marred by a controversial Chilean equaliser in the 81st minute. After the Brazilian goalkeeper apparently holds on to the ball for too long, an indirect free kick is awarded inside the box and Chile quickly take advantage of the confusion to score:

In a classic, old school South American scene, pandemonium reigns on the touchline with a heard of generals (I’m just going to say they were all generals) and of course journalists surrounding an incensed Brazilian management team, and I think there’s a FIFA official in there somewhere:

The last competitive game between the two nations before that was also an embarrassment for Bazil, with a 4-0 Chilean victory in the 1987 Copa America:

The Match:

So all this made for an extra spicy occasion for that crucial last game of Group 3 in ’89, as a nauseating 141,072 spectators filled (well, not even filled) the world famous Estádio do Maracanã:

As was more common in those days, supporters of local sides proudly display their clubs colours rather than Brazilians flags in a move that would absolutely baffle some modern football fans:

Due to superior goal difference, a draw would do Brazil to go through and they increase the likelihood of this by going 1-0 up on the 49th minute to much jubilation:

With time running out for Chile, a commotion can suddenly be heard from the crowd in the 67th minute as the ball is being played around the Chilean half. The camera cuts and we see that Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas is writhing on the ground clutching his face with smoke billowing around him like a literal smoking gun. It seems apparent that some pyro has indeed been thrown on the Maracanã pitch:

Roajas teammates surround him in concern and gesture in dismay at no one in particular:

As the Chilean physio tends to the injured party, one of the other players performs a staple of the classic, angry athlete with an “up yours” gesture towards the offending supporter, or maybe at Brazil in general:

An action replay (in this case a supporter action) shows the offending flare, whitish green in colour, fizzing away. Unfortunately they weren’t quick enough to catch the actual moment of impact but this is good enough for me:

After some moments of deliberation, the referee makes the decision to abandon the match as Rojas is carried off with a bloody face. As this was in the days before stretchers were invented, his team mates carry him in a huddled mass as if he was a martyred comrade in a depressing Middle Eastern conflict:

Naturally the crowd are not at all happy and quickly become pensive, as the implication is that the game will now be awarded to Chile, meaning qualification for them and an unthinkable elimination for Brazil. The Chilean team disappear down the tunnel (which is actually more like a big hole at the side of the pitch) surrounded by the press, apparently on their way to the World Cup in Italy:

But something clearly wasn’t right. Any logical thinking person will have wondered why an attack would have occurred by a Brazilian, knowing it may well disrupt the match and Brazil’s qualification hopes, when Chile would have needed two unlikely goals at the time to knock Brazil out. And lo and behold, shock horror, after an investigation it turns out the whole thing was a ruse. Through video evidence it was revealed that the flare never actually hit Rojas, who feigned injury and cut himself with a razorblade hidden under his glove in a move straight out of a worked professional wrestling match.

A treacherous Brazilian named Rosemary had been had been hired by Chilean manager Orlando Aravena and team doctor Daniel Rodriguez to participate in the cunning scheme. How she was acquisitioned is not known (well, I mean by me, somebody knows), but she was perhaps chosen on the basis of her excellent throwing skills, as despite not exactly hitting her target it was one hell of a shot. So maybe there was some sort of trial under the guise a free public flare throwing exhibition, used as a recruiting scheme by Chileans who had infiltrated Brazilian society.

With the brazen plan having backfired embarrassingly, the game was forfeited as a 2-0 victory to Brazil while Chile were punished with expulsion from the next World Cup qualifying campaign, along with lifetime bans for Rojas, Aravena, and Rodriguez. But the incident shows that by the late 1980’s, the social phenomenon of football crowd trouble was so fully woven into the fabric of society where the game was popular, that it would inevitably be subverted and used as a tool by some within football themselves. Corruption like this is of course usually the result of a hideous lust for profit, which would have been plentiful if the desired goal of World Cup Qualification had been achieved.

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Pyro On The Pitch #6: Sweden vs Italy, European Championships Qualifier, 03/06/1987 (with Bonus)

The game featured in this edition of Pyro On The Pitch is noteworthy for the fact that this writer completed his very first full orbit around Earth’s sun on the day the match was played. I.e., first birthday. But this entry might have been more appropriate last week on Halloween, as this is somewhat of a ghost pyro on the pitch.

Here we have a very similar situation to that featured in Pyro On The Pitch #4, when Denmark showed their supporter pedigree against the highly feared English in 1982. This time it’s their Scandinavian brothers in Sweden welcoming another of Europe’s premier supporting class, Italy. The pyro for both games revolved around a possible foul by a goalkeeper on an attacker and whether it should have been a penalty.

Just over 40,000 were in attendance at the Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, which was the home of the Swedish national team until it’s demolition in 2012. Anticipation was high for the big game with the crowd perhaps particularly buoyed on by the reputation of the visitors in the football supporting world and smoke can be seen rising from the terraces before kick off in pictures.

Early in the first half, Roberto Tricella breaks free down the left for Italy and into the Swedish box. Famous Swdeish goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli comes out to challenge and his outstretched right leg appears to take down Tricella:

Immediately after the foul we can just about see a dangerous/exciting crowd heave (or avalanche) in the terrace behind the incident, typical of the time:

The penalty is given much to chagrin of the home supporters triggering a wave of protests in the form of projectiles on the pitch (Note to self: Possible future series “Projectiles On The Pitch”), and of course booing and jeering. Initially ticker tape/til roll is thrown into the box:

As paper rains down from the surly Swedish supporters, who can be seen packed to the fence in the background, referee Dieter Pauly notices and picks up an altogether more serious foreign object:

Pauly, in nice Ermia ref shirt it must be said, sternly displays a golf ball which has just come from the packed terrace behind the goal. Now, either the golf ball was brought preemptively with a view for malicious activity at such an occasion in the match, or one supporter had simply come straight from the golf course and had merely let one of his/her balls slip from his/her pocket on to the pitch:

Pauly is not impressed at all and tosses the golf ball to a Swedish official with somewhat of a disgusted sneer, but with form as to suggest that this is not the first golf ball that he has had to remove from a field of play that wasn’t a golf course:

What happens next is extremely unfortunate for the interests of this website as another replay of the foul/maybe dive is played in slow motion and when we return to live-time it is clear we have JUST missed some pyro being thrown on the pitch. What remains is a plume of smoke from a flare which has just gone out, or else the smoke is from it’s own weak smoke bomb:

As the players pick up more objects from the ground, a large cloud can be see coming from more pyro out of view to the left of the goal and a steward removes what may or may not have once been the flare. Unfortunately this is as close as we come to seeing any real pyro, but a bit of smoke, eh? Not bad. Or is it a cop out to include this?

All this combined to create quite a beautifully chaotic scene to be fair. But wait, that’s not all! Just when it seemed order is restored, more projectiles come hailing down including something that is a direct shot on the head of poor, young 27 year old Ravelli, basically exploding off his crown and rolling to another Swedish player:

The keeper reels in shock at this apparent betrayal by his countrymen, although also comically puts out his hand in a sort of “is it raining here or what guys, eh??” gesture:

The fans behind the goal watch on, with the younger, more rebellious sorts no doubt caught up in the exhilarating, tense atmosphere:

Although more than a bit miffed, Ravelli in his beautiful green kit is fine and returns to his goal ready for the penalty, removing another projectile from the goalmouth as he goes:

But the supporters have one last laugh, as one more roll is thrown into the box delaying things slightly longer:

Pauly makes a hilariously slow and deliberate walk over which just screams “…sigh” and takes so long to remove the paper that it has to be divided in to two gifs:

After all this, Ravelli saves the penalty with a nice one handed save to the left onto the post and the rebound is driven over the bar. Cue ecstatic jubilation from the terraces as the entire previous five minutes is forgotten:

Sweden would go on to win 1-0 for a famous victory, but Italy would ultimate pip the Swedes for top spot and qualification (not that that part is relevant but just thought I’d throw it in there to sound professional).

Youtube Link

Bonus: Greece vs Cyprus, European Championships Qualifier, 14/01/1987:

Even though we think the incidents covered above are a stellar example of a classic 80’s atmosphere, we do hold our heads out for the chopping block for not being able to produce any physical pyro on the pitch in this edition. So for this sin, here is a special extra bonus…where unfortunately once again we cannot actually see pyro on the pitch. Sorry about this.

Unlike with Sweden-Italy though, here we actually do see some flames. As Greece go 1-0 up en route to a 3-1 win against their Mediterranean rivals Cyrpus, what some would call an orgy of joy can be seen erupting in the crowd. Among this nearly cinematic scene of gay abandon, we catch a flare ignition, which is no sooner let off before the handler is launching it pitch-ward. It is nearly in his/her blood to do so:

Unfortunately, in an inverse to the Sweden incident, the director cuts off to a replay just before we get to see if the flare actually reaches the pitch or just lands on the running track. We would like to say that we will make it our mission for the next several years to gain a categorical confirmation of this. But instead, we will just say that yes, it did reach the pitch.

Youtube Link

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