Notorious hooligans in bucket hats waving flares and shouting racist nonsense are back conquering international news. Their pyro shows and rowdy behaviour don’t just blur the on-field view but take away from what most fan groups actually stand for. To get away from the messy scenes that blighted recent times, here is a list of some of the kindest fan gestures from across Europe.
Borussia Dortmund and the #bedforawayfans
Often referred to as the “best fans in the world”, these guys know how to keep their reputation up. Although they faced a lot of criticism for attacking Red Bull Leipzig supporters in February 2017, a massive opportunity for polishing their image came up two months later. After explosions led to the postponement of the Champions League match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco, fans of the German club offered shelter to stranded Monegasques via social media. #bedforawayfans was an initiative created by fans for fans and showed once again that football unites us all.
ADO Den Haag’s toy attack
The Dutch have a long history of fan violence and their supporters even burnt down the club’s stadium in 1982. So there is no wonder they used to be flatteringly called “the Millwall of Holland”. The club have not won the league since the Second World War and after a Chinese investor failed to fulfil his promises, the ultras started tensing their muscles. The worst was expected and during an away-game against Feyenoord Rotterdam in 2016, the Den Haag fans threw cuddly missiles at the opposition. No fight erupted, but cheering, as on the receiving end were child patients form a local hospital. There are all sorts of tension-relieving methods and this one benefits more than just one side.
Rangers FC stand up for justice
Although Scotland’s ultras’ scene is comparatively small, Rangers FC still struggles with rogue groups targeting those without the lion’s crest on their chest. 78-year-old John Burkhill was fundraising for cancer support when Rangers took on Sheffield Wednesday away in a pre-season fixture in July 2017. He was allegedly robbed by Rangers fans. Upon hearing about the incident, the largest supporters’ group of the Glasgow side, “Club 1872”, raised £1900 for John. They are also the club’s second largest shareholder. Standing up ‘against modern football’ and foreign investment, the fans are aiming to become an independent body, defending supporters’ interests and making their voices heard.
FC St. Pauli: Pirates, punk and politics
If a group in black hoodies waving black flags with skulls and crossbones crosses your path you would instinctively turn and get out of their way. Yet, those pyromaniac hardcore supporters use their intimidating performances to promote all the right (or rather left) things. They launched an initiative against racism, printing the image of a fist smashing a swastika on merchandising products. In 2016, the pirates helped to establish the first all-refugee team, FC Lampedusa, with an all-female coaching staff. It is no surprise that they have the largest number of female fans in Germany.
TSV 1860 München ultras call on fans
No, Bayern Munich are not the only professional football club in the Bavarian city. The two teams used to share the Allianz Arena but after a catastrophic season and demotion to the German fourth tier, the Lions have had to return to their old stadium for the 2017/18 season. The Grünwalder stadium and the nearby residents faced tough times in the past when match days meant roadblocks and special police forces. To protect their beloved neighbourhood, it was the 1860 ultras who published a statement on their official website calling on fans to behave respectfully during home games. You do learn from the past!
Hajduk Split fighting fire
Everton fans got a taste of what it means to provoke the Croatian side’s ultras during their Europa League qualifier with Hajduk Split. Just like Rangers’ Club 1872, Torcida – the group’s title – started an initiative to distribute shares of the club to fans, giving them the rights to interfere in board decisions. Torcida’s influence has grown over the years and so has their reputation. This summer, the city of Split faced the biggest wildfire in its history and Torcida called on their members to fight the fires side by side with their arch rivals, “Bad Blue Boys” from Zagreb. 200 people reportedly gathered to extinguish the flames ravaging Split.
Football fans are not all about kicking each other’s heads in or throwing missiles at the officials. Most fan groups are fighting internal battles against corruption in their countries, racism and homophobia. Some use questionable methods to get their voices heard but the examples above should remind us of the true football fan spirit.
Featured Image © COPYRIGHT ANDREAS KASSEBAUM