The union of enemies

07.02.2014 | Rustem Khalilov

Football fans that were ready to fight wall-to-wall yesterday are today united by a single appeal. How strong is peace between the ultras?

Dogs were barking and some guys were quietly talking in the parking lot near the SKS Arena in Sevastopol. A lonely mongrel walked through a group of people looking for something to eat. People kept arriving in taxis and even more came on foot. Fans of Sevastopol FC were heading to the main football stadium in Kharkiv for an away match

Finally, I saw Dmytro, the only person I knew there. I was not sure he would come. He was not let onto the bus. The team owners decided to punish hooligans using the system of registered tickets, draw up blacklists of all fans from the guilty sector and refuse to sell them tickets to the away match. This meant they could go to Kharkiv, but not in the fan bus. And, of course, they would not be sold tickets in the fan sector.

So, what are you going to do now?, I asked Dmytro.

I have a friend here, I will talk to him. I do not think I will have any problems, he replied. And there were no problems. The bus left and took Dmytro on board. If the management had a plan to prevent such fans as Dmytro from going to the away game, it still had a flaw called the human factor.

I remembered that night when I came across appeals not to give in to the temptation to become titushky (hired thugs) on the web pages of football fans in social networks, because among the laws passed on January 16 there is Law 722-VII, which toughened the punishment of football hooligans and introduced the sale of tickets to matches only upon presentation of passports. Authorities decided to fight against the most hot-headed football fans known as ultras. Although, by and large, on the background of the situation in the country the anti-fan law played a minor role for the association of fans and only gave an adrenaline surge to those who are indifferent.

Now, there is a unique situation among the ultras. People who were ready for fisticuffs on the streets declared a truce. Will this friendship remain strong on the day when the protests will stop, will the fight against titushky no longer be relevant or will todays friends organize fights with hundreds of participants tomorrow?

Appeal from the capital

Andriy is over 30. He is one of the most influential members of the movement of Kyiv football fans, works in trade and has been a Dynamo fan for most of his life. Dynamo Kyiv ultras were the ones to decide to form their own self-defense unit to fight the titushky and appealed to fan movements all over Ukraine saying: Guys, do not let your people buy the opportunity to make such dirty money. Andriy explains: ultras had no right to use the human resource and encourage people to go to the barricades in this situation, everyone makes his own choice. Those who thought it was necessary joined the right-wing Fifth Sector. But in return the ultras had the moral right to fight the titushky, because it is a fight against the exploitation of youth for political purposes. The appeal of Kyivans was not only supported in the western and central parts of the country, but also by ultra clubs from all parts of Ukraine. The level of self-organization in fan movements is much higher than that of ordinary citizens.

We know how this happens. There are people who call young men, offer them to earn some money. We tried not to allow such things at least in this plane, says Andriy. In the fan movements there are certain tinges of radicalism and a desire to show off. But overall, there are a lot of decent people that think before they act, perhaps even more than in society overall.

Andriy concludes that the interference of politicians does not divide fans, rather unites them. He is confident that the current unity will leave a mark on relations between the ultras. Indeed, there may be less violence in future confrontations, but what will be, will be.

Donetsk surprise

Unfair, biased and inhumane: such was the response of Anton, an ultra fan that supports Shaktar Donetsk, to the attempt of Ukrainian authorities to sell tickets only upon presentation of passports.

Anton compares the situation with rowdy behavior in a nightclub. Even the clubs bouncers kick the bully out of the establishment and a few days later he will be let in to drink and paint it red again, while such behavior at a football stadium is punished and the guilty is banned from attending matches. Anton says that public space has been turned into a private club, but this will not discourage his friends from joining the movement. So, one must understand that a true fan will always be a fan. It may sound snobbish, but deep in the heart such a person will always have a passion for his team, no matter what.

The Donetsk ultras surprised many people. They did not only support the appeals to not let hired thugs into their ranks, but also came out on the main square of the oblast center to defend average citizens. Perhaps, the surprise came due to the bad reputation of these fanatics. It appears that the team management is trying to control the ultras to the maximum, but at the same time is refusing to give comments on the matter and is trying to counter attempts at associating it with a particular political party.

Anton believes that fighting ultras with the passport system will do more harm than good for Ukrainian football. Matches on home fields in Ukraine do not gather enough spectators and now some fans will not be allowed into the stadium and will have no choice but to watch the matches in local bars. At the same time, losing the opportunity to misbehave at stadiums, ultras still have the opportunity to come to the cities hosting the matches and fight with the fans of home-town teams.

Quiet Sevastopol

Many fans from all over Ukraine responded to the appeal of Dynamo Kyivs ultras, though fans from Sevastopol were not among them. Dmytro, who managed to go to the away match last year, despite having his name on the black list, shared his opinion saying that someone was trying to keep fans on a short leash, though the ultras are also trying to influence the management of the team. Last August during the Premier League match between Dnipro and Sevastopol ultras of the latter threw flares and debris onto the football field. The match was temporarily suspended. At that time, the fans showed their dissatisfaction with the teams management and after the incident at the stadium, according to Dmytro, officials started to heed the sentiments of the fans and the teams staff was reshuffled.

Some participants of this movement support extreme right-wing Ukrainian nationalists, while others support extreme right-wing Russian nationalists. That is the division in our ranks, says Dmytro describing the life of Sevastopol fans.

This division has no relation to the events on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv it has existed for years. As for the relations with fans of other teams, Sevastopol fans have not found any new friends or new enemies: they still are neutral to the supporters of FC Karpaty of Lviv and foes of Kharkiv Metalist. Before the start of the football season nothing has changed in their lives and they have already found a way to go around obstacles that the teams management put up against troublesome fans.

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