This series shines a light on how football shows the best and worst of ourselves, and where the football authorities have lost touch with the very thing that makes this sport great: the fans.
Chapecoense returned to football this weekend in a friendly against Palmeiras. The most emotional moment occurred before the match, as the three surviving players from the accident took to the pitch to raise the Copa Sudamericana trophy. The stadium was extreemely emotional, as 20,000 fans held final moment to say goodbye to their fallen heroes. At the 71st minute, the stadium rang out in the now famous “Vamos, vamos Chape!” chant, remembering the 71 people lost in the crash.
It is moments like this that remind us of the impact football can have on a community. In the face of tragedy, Chapecoense and the football world in general has come together in unprecedented fashion. As fans, we will continue to remember Chape, and all sights will be on the small southern Brazilian town, as Brazil take on Colombia on Wednesday night, in a special friendly to celebrate how the two countries have come together since the tragedy.
This weekend a match between Anorthosis and Omonia Nicosia nearly ended early as a result of rioting in the stands. Usually this would be nothing of note, but this is reflective of a general trend in Cypriot football which is quickly becoming unsustainable.
Fan culture in Cyprus is very closely tied to politics, and particularly in the case of Anorthosis and Omonia, this can often provoke a great deal of tension. This most recent instance of violence comes off the back of a string of car bombings under the football association of referees. Last year, Omonia Nicosia’s Gate 9 were banned from attending matches following political infighting.
Cyprus provides some of the most exciting atmospheres in world football. Attempts to unite the Turkish and Greek sides of the island’s via the football association have spurred on many of the tensions leading to the chaotic situation out there. It will be interesting to see how the tension on the terraces of the this small european island continues to reflect its political struggles.
Fans in Tunisia and Morocco regularly struggle with authorities. Last year, Moroccan Ultras were banned from bringing in any sort of fan related materials by the police following a riot between Raja Casablanca fans. In Tunisia, Ultras groups are often subject to repressive searches, imprisonment without trial, and unreasonable stadium bans.
Two moments which took place recently which truly show the extent of passion, and repression in the North African supporters scene. The first is with the Ultras of ASS Sale. Their main group, Ultras Pirates 2007 celebrated their 10 year anniversary. Due to the fact that fan materials are not allowed in the ground, they held their festivities in empty lot away from the ground.
This weekend, the Ultras of one of Africa’s most successful clubs, Esperance de Tunis, pelted police with flares.