First of all I’d like to apologise for not writing anything recently. There hasn’t been too much action in terms of football hooliganism or fan problems so I haven’t had any exciting news stories to write about. This has however changed during the last week thanks to the second round of the Europa League and Champions League qualifiers, which have matched up some pretty large clubs and also some regional rivals.
One game in particular caught the eye for all the wrong reasons. Levski Sofia’s 1-0 win over FK Sarajevo of Bosnia was a tight game where the Bosnians defended efficiently and countered well while Levski had plenty of possession but maybe didn’t use it as well as they could’ve. Typical early season matchup. I am not going to bore you with a report from on the field as not much happened, however off the field there were plenty of problems.
On the Wednesday when the Sarajevo fans arrived in Sofia the Levski hooligans were on the streets near their hotel trying to attack them. Sarajevo fans also apparently tried to fight and two cops were injured where groups were throwing missiles trying to get to each other. In a separate incident twenty members of Levski’s group “Sector B” attacked twelve to fifteen Muslim Sarajevo fans who were singing songs around a shopping centre in Sofia. These incidents were however relatively minor compared to what happened at the game.
During the match played on the Thursday Levski’s Sector B Ultras displayed a banner aimed at the Sarajevo fans that read “Ratko Mladic and Arkan fucked you, now it’s our turn”.
For those who don’t have knowledge of Balkan politics or recent history I’ll explain why this is such a terrible message….
Mladic (known in the Western media as the “Butcher of Bosnia”) was a Bosnian Serb army general who last year was tried at The Hague for war crimes during the Bosnian war that took place in the 1990s. He has been accused of being responsible for the Srebrenica massacre where over eight-thousand Bosnian men and boys were systematically murdered in what is now officially classified as genocide.
Arkan (real name Zeljko Raznatovic) was a Serbian gangster who later became the leader of a paramilitary group known as the Tigers during the Yugoslav war. Their focus was in the North-Western region of Bosnia where they fought Croats and Bosnians. He also was accused of mass-murder but never made it to trial due to being assassinated in a Belgrade hotel. He was also a former leader of Red Star Belgrade’s hooligan firm the Delije (Heroes in English).
The message sent out by the Levski fans was the equivalent of Hitler being glorified/praised in a stadium where an Israeli team was playing. The “now it’s our turn part” is a threat to mass murder. The intent behind the message was based on race and nationality and was delivered in the lowest possible manner. Levski are known for having many Neo-Nazis in their group and this message was maybe the most shocking piece of racism I have seen in a football stadium. It is even worse than the Delije’s infamous countdown to Vukovar due to the fact that the opposition were actually from the nation who were the victims of the named atrocity.
Rather than apologising or regretting their actions like rational people the Levski Sector B Ultras took things a step further by releasing a poster which is a threat to the FK Sarajevo fans ahead of the return match in Bosnia. The poster says “knife, wire, Srebrenica”. The first two words clearly state their violent intent to attack Bosnian fans using weapons. The last word is self-explanatory if you read my description of Ratko Mladic’s crime. It’s basically the equivalent of using the word “Auschwitz” to offend or insult Jews.
Most shocking of all these incidents have not been described in the British mainstream media even though they claim to care about racism in football. When racist incidents fit their agenda they will emphasise them to the greatest extent. They will even create racism when it isn’t really there. However when something so awful and so big happens in a country not on their agenda it doesn’t even merit a minor story in their newspapers, websites or on TV reports. The fact is that to the media racism only seems to matter if it involves millionaires rather than at regular games. UEFA are the same. No punishment was been confirmed yet but I doubt they will take any action against Levski other than a minor fine. They are happy to fine every FA represented at the Euros or other tournament because of the spotlight they create yet when something far worse that isn’t in the media occurs nothing is done. This is why racism will always exist in football. Nothing is ever done unless it is politically useful to do so.
Another team who’s fans and employees became victims of hooliganism last week were the Polish club Slask Wroclaw who travelled to Podgorica to face Buducnost in a Champions League qualifying match. For some Slask fans the trip became a nightmare before they even reached Montenegro. They were stopped at the border of Slovenia and Croatia and were held for between ten and twelve hours due to having flares in their car. Those who did make it to Podgorica were attacked by local hooligans many of whom had weapons. Even the Slask media manager was attacked by hooligans. The police were no better. They apparently beat one Polish fan so badly that he ended up in hospital.
When the Slask fans arrived at the stadium many were not even allowed in and were left on the streets unprotected and vulnerable to attacks from locals. Many of the fans who made it into the stadium wanted to leave after hearing this news but were not allowed to by the Montenegrin club’s security and police. They were also beaten inside the stadium by the police during an ugly confrontation. After the game the Slask team bus was attacked by Buducnost hooligans as it left the stadium with the players on board.
Due to their experiences on the trip the Slask hooligans and UItras have now planned to meet in the centre of Wroclaw before the return leg next week. Hooligans from Lechnia Gdank and Wisla Krakow are also expected. They will be hunting for Montenegrins with the aim of exacting some revenge. This seems to be another situation that could potentially end up out of control. The main positive is that Buducnost fans will not travel in huge numbers so there is not the same likelihood of trouble as there is in Sarajevo.
Once again I am sceptical as to whether UEFA will take action against Buducnost or the Montenegrin FA for the disgraceful scenes surrounding this game. Something should be done about the policing and security arrangements and the club should be punished for this. It is however very unlikely because the incidents were not at a high profile game so won’t be a priority on UEFA’s agenda.
Another game that had some off-field trouble was Hungarian club Videoton’s trip to Bratislava, to face Slovan. Hungarian right wing hooligans have had major problems with Slovak clubs/fans and the Slovak police since a game between Slovan and DAC (a Slovak League club based in a town with a majority Hungarian population) in the Slovak First Division in 2008. Hungarian far right hooligans from the two major Budapest clubs had travelled to Dunajska Streda for the game hoping to fight against Slovan (Slovak nationalist club) hooligans and also the police. The Slovak cops however beat some of them so badly that they became disabled. The police claimed that the Hungarians shouldn’t have been at a Slovak match and deserved what happened for their violent behaviour. The Hungarians however couldn’t forgive them.
In infamous 2008 game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLlcDExauZA&feature=related
This match was billed by some hooligans and nationalists as a chance for possible revenge. The main positive here was that Videoton are a relatively small club who don’t have too many travelling fans or hooligans. If Ferencvaros or Ujpest played Slovan instead the problems would’ve been far worse. The Slovak police were also well prepared for any potential trouble. They met the Hungarian travelling fans on the border of the two countries and escorted them to the stadium.
One Hungarian and several Slovaks were arrested before the game for trying to fight before the game but the police stopped any major incidents from happening. Hungarians hooligans tried to fight against the police in the car park before the game but their efforts weren’t the best so nothing too serious happened. Also due to it raining heavily and the game not been seen as too big by Slovak fans there were not too many people there which mean the atmosphere wasn’t great or too violent. The reported attendance was around 3,400 with nine hundred of them Hungarians.
There was however a hooligan battle where one hundred or so Videton hooligans managed to cross the border avoiding police detection. They then got lost and ended up in a fight with fifty to sixty Slovak hooligans. The police however came and arrested them. Here’s a video showing the end of the incident http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2djWzbQcfpc&feature=player_embedded
It is more likely that trouble will occur in the return leg due to Slovan’s travelling support being pretty hardcore and the Hungarian police being less violent and dangerous than the Slovak police. It’s one to keep an eye on.
One disgraceful incident took place that didn’t involve hooliganism or any type of conflict between fan groups. Dinamo Zagreb’s BBB (Bad Blue Boys) were lied to by their own club. They were told that Bulgarian club Ludogorets had refused them tickets for their away first leg in Razgrad. It turns out that was not the case at all. Dinamo sent back the tickets after taking one hundred or so which they dished out to selected people who they knew. The BBB being some of the most hardcore fans in Europe decided to travel to Bulgaria to support their team anyway. They were however stopped a few hours from their destination and sent out of Bulgaria due to not having tickets. It will be interesting to see what comes of this seeing as they have only just ended their long-running feud with the club’s management. This is maybe the worst lie I have every heard of from a club’s directors to their own fans.
There were a few other incidents that took place. None are major enough to merit writing about so I will show them through pictures, which is probably a more interesting way for people to view them.