Every ultra, Montague writes, has an equivalent “origins story, an equivalent recollection. They checked out the pitch, but were drawn to the danger and therefore the noise of the crowds behind the goals.
They didn’t just want to observe football. They wanted to feel it too.”
Montague never shies faraway from the darkest aspects of this subculture. At Boca Juniors in Argentina the Doce crew allegedly pull in $3m a month. albeit other sources have suggested a lower figure of $400,000 a month, it’s still pile , especially since many come from the slums. The stakes are so high that a lot of ultras have, over the decades, been murdered. Much of that cash comes not only from dealing tickets and medicines , but from being hired as foot soldiers to try to to the dirty work of politicians, unions and narcos, who need boots on the bottom . together ultra in Brazil says: “The politicians, judges, the chief cops – on one side they reject me. But on the opposite side, they need to speak to you, to urge closer, to rearrange something with you.” fairly often the ultras are like mercenaries, hired thugs who can fight, intimidate and cajole: “It’s organised like a military ,” says a Serbian ultra. “In a really short period of your time they will organise ten thousand men here in Belgrade.” maxbetsbobet.org agen sbobet
The disorganised, drunk brawls of British hooligans have now been replaced by arranged fights in forests between sober, highly trained martial arts obsessives. So it’s not, perhaps, surprising that – for all their avowed independence from power – ultras have sometimes been pawns in geopolitical scraps. quite 60 per cent of Azov (far-right) fighters who helped liberate Ukrainian Mariupol from Russia came from the ultra scene. The Russian oligarch, Ivan Savvidis (who owns PAOK in Greece) was imagined to have funded Macedonia ultras to campaign against the renaming of the country, which was seen as a prelude to Nato access. The ultras are the toughest fringe of football’s soft power.
But even as one is becoming jaundiced about this subculture, Montague offers samples of ultras going toe-to-toe with autocratic states. They were instrumental in protests in Tahrir and Maidan squares in Egypt and Ukraine respectively. they need often been on the frontline of direct action in Turkey, Brazil, Sweden and Germany. They “despair at the commercialisation of the fashionable world” and sometimes fight, literally, against corruption. Without organised fans, it’s likely that German’s revered “50+1” rule (meaning that fans have a majority say within the running of their clubs) would are abolished. It’s almost as if only ultras can endow football with the metaphysical profundity to which it aspires. Montague describes one silent stadium protest as “sucking the importance and therefore the significance out of what was happening on the pitch. The 22 footballers seemed small and irrelevant compared to the load of self-discipline and control that was bearing down from four sides of stage .”
1312 is such a worldwide tour that the reader occasionally risks jet-lag. The countries, clubs and characters come so thick and fast that it are often , even for an expert, bewildering. But that, perhaps, is that the point: the reader is left as woozy and punch-drunk as if that they had been on the road themselves, with “the light from skyscrapers smearing past on either side”.
• 1312: Among the Ultras – A Journey with the World’s Most Extreme Fans is published by Ebury. to shop for a replica attend guardianbookshop.com or call 020-3176 3837. Tobias Jones’s Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football is published by Head of Zeus.