UltrasBible takes you back through the last twelve months of ultrascene, in a time which has been heavily marked by the Covid-19 outbreak. Some countries have been hit more than others, but the unity in the hottest ultras cities managed to overcome also this severe situation, with still some noteworthy ultras actions which become even more significant if related to their own time.
Despite the first little evidences of the virus later renamed as Covid-19 in both China and Europe date back to november 2019, we could point January 2020 ad the true starting point of the pandemic. China gets hit on its very bowels, mainly in the Hubei region, which has the city of Wuhan as its chief town.
Both the Chinese government and the WHO (World Health Organization) live a very busy first 10 days of the month, truing to collaborate in order to limit as much as possible the spreading of the virus, which was already confirmed to be transmissible from a person to another, and divided in few stumps. The first official hospitalization happens on the 10th of January, and in less than five days more than ten countries confirm Covid-19 cases.
In the ultras world the only relevant nation involved is France, where we could find the first infected Europeans. 23th of January becomes a significant date, as China formalizes a total lockdown in the Hubei region, after some cases involving the metropolis of Beijin and Shangai; we’re talking about the first official lockdown in history, a decision which puts to an end the preparations for the Chinese new year, a very felt and sensed celebration in the whole country. The decision causes dissent and disagreement between people, but later on it will be confirmed as the best solution to contain the virus. In few days the Chinese government enlarges the lockdown to a stunning number of 60 milions people; Hong Kong quickly becomes the second country to chose to quarantine their citizens. Before the end of the month new cases are official in USA and Germany, among many other smaller countries.
France register its first few number of hospitalizations, while WHO advise every single country to prepare an action plan to limit Covid-19 spread. The epidemic still seems to be under control, but it already has the full attention from the main health associations, confirming the big and imminent risk. New cases in Europe are still a very small number, but many videos and scattered news coming from China, from which is always very hard to have precise infos, start to advise all the citizens of what it looks to be a surreal situation, far from the western world, but still on our own planet. For what concerns the ultras world, China was the only country badly hit by the virus in January, and beyond having a narrow ultrascene, the Chinese Superleague always starts by the end of February; no actions were therefore limited by the spread of Covid-19 up to this time.
Below, our chosen five January actions, in chronological order.
Aris Salonicco vs PAOK Salonicco, Souper Ligka Ellada, 04-01-2020, Salonicco.
A true and real classic of the Greece ultrascene, a derby with many cultural, religious and traditional sides, other than the football side. Every year the city of Thessaloniki prepares itself for the clash between its factions, Aris and PAOK, in what became a globally famous match for the insane atmosphere on the stands. Few years ago some pictures of the derby were used in a number of social pages about football, attracting the attention of many passionates. This derby really has a long tradition, and during the years the main habit has become to litterally set on fire the stadium, with every kind of pyro known to mankind, creating a true hellish cauldron. As every other high-risk match in Greece, away fans are not allowed in any case, a decision which makes it easier for the home fans to create inflamed and unique scenarios. Coronavirus reached Greece only at the start of March, and in the European carnage, the Mediterrean country always appeared to be one of the less hit ones, at least with their declared numbers; this is also the result of a hard politic, which reduced to the bone their typical summer tourism, putting down to knees many activities, but yet limiting as much as possible the arrival of the virus from external people. At the start of January though, these only were far thoughts in a country suffering of a massive economical crisis since decades, and which often takes refuge in football passion in order to stay away for few hours from the daily problems. The alight stands of Stadium Kleanthis Vikelidis in this occasion, are the clear demonstration.
CE Europa vs Sant’Andreu, Tercera Division, 11-01-2020, Barcellona
For demonstrations of the calm situation characterizing Europe circa one year ago, we decided to put in our January shortlist this Barcelona derby, played in the Spanish four division. In a country in which the ultrascene doesn’t really have solid traditions as in many others, and which finds their best presenation in some urban fights before their many derbies, a match able to give such images surely is suggestive and significant. Passion and mentality in these clubs are certainly better and more intense in factions such as CE Europa and Sant’Andreu, the ones involved in this derby, than in many others top clubs in Spanish football. However, its significant how a match played in the fourth division in a Barcelona suburb, a city mainly owned by FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol, could call to the arms such a big number of people, and with such fervor! Numbers talk about 5000 attendance, with choreos and a lot of support from both fanbases. Such scenes are being deleted by Covid-19 limitations, and will hardly come back in the near future. Action plans for the next few months are planning a gradual return of fans in the main matches of each countries, a shereable decision mainly for the easier way of controls and match visibility, but at the same time a decision which hurts football belonging to the lower divisions, where in many countries we often witness the best ultras actions at national level.
Lazio vs Napoli, Serie A, 12-01-2020, Roma
Even in a month that didn’t see this nations in a big hospital crisis, we couldn’t exclude Italy from the first shortlist of this series of twelve articles, as the number of the months, pronouncing the best ultras actions of 2020. Italy has been the first European country to face this hard war against the virus, and numbers of new contagions and deaths rarely went down during all these months. Scoring the first point for Italy, Lazio ultras brings us a magnificent scenario at the half of the month. Having many groups close to influent tattoo artists of Rome, an influence also coming from the abdication of the historical group Irriducibili, with a more traditional model, Lazio ultras managed to offer a number of great choreos in their last big matches; this game against Napoli happened to be also in the weekend of SS Lazio 120th birthday. Double the reasons, double the fan, double the show! Codiv-19 and all the misery with it was only a far immagination, and mastering the scene at Olimpico during that night it wasn’t concern and desperation, but instead a glorious choreo referring to love. Various faces of Lazio history passed through the display of the capital city stadium, all framed by a massive work from all the curva boys, colouring and painting the whole sector with cardstocks and banners. Between the faces on the display, our favourite one was the one of Gabriele Sandri, ultras killed by the police violence, and quickly become an emblem of the ultras movement in Italy and in the whole world.
Rapperswil-Jona Lakers vs ZSC Lions, Swiss National Hockey League, 17-01-2020, Rapperswil-Jona
As a reminder of the fact that each sport is suffering from Covid-19 pandemic, and the fact that each sport have its own ultras, the example brought by the guys from Rapperswil-Jona really fits. Celebrating the 75th birthday of their hockey club, all the fans organized a great choreo able to involve all the 6000 people inside the Diners Club Arena, in a medium sized town close to the chief town St. Gallen. Hockey is and will be one of the most hardly hit sports, being played exclusively in indoor stadiums, where it’s more difficult to assure social distancing and body scanners. May these scenes of celebrations become a big reminder of how each sport can give emotions, always through fans and ultras!
Olympiakos vs Panathinaikos, Souper Ligka Ellada, 11-01-2020, Atene
Greece finds its way twice in our January choices, with another legendary match. This time we’re talking about the Athens derby, taking the scende only seven days about the Thessaloniki’s one. We’re used to see fierce derbies in Athens, always violent and suggestive in the last years, but this match enters our shortlist for another reason. Other than the away fans, always prohibited in rival stadiums, also Olympiakos fans weren’t allowed to assist to this winter derby. The reasons of their absence comes from a fine received by the club after the riotting behaviour of their supporter in their match against PAOK, once again involed, and not to Covid-19 limitation, only happened since the half of March. However, it’s very rare to see a big derby taking part behind closed doors, or at least it was before Coronavirus. The Athens derby without fans was a close anticipation of many other worthy ultras clashes, which never existed due to all the limitations we’re living in now. Greece was already living what in few time became normality, without anyone aware of it. No scenes on the stands, but violent clashes and many people outside the stadium ready to fight for their colours: still, a valid alternative in the Athens derby time in January.
Thanks for reading again and stay tuned for more!