Initially appearing in the 1960s as spontaneous demonstrations of passion for their respective teams, Ultras have become renowned for their sometimes extreme behavior but also admired for the energy they bring to stadiums across Italy.
They are considered important cornerstones of Italian soccer fandom by many and it’s impossible to talk about supporting a team without them being involved. This post will explore this unique phenomenon from its roots up until today to provide an insight into why Ultras remain such powerful figures within Italian football.
The Origins of Ultras in Italy
The history of ultras in Italy began in the 1960s and 70s, when a new breed of passionate fans started to emerge. The term “ultras” was coined by Milanese journalist Mario Sconcerti, and was used to refer to the most extreme and dedicated supporters of Italian football clubs.
Ultras were known for their choreographed displays, explosive chanting and banners, and wearing the colours of the club. They were also the creators of tifo (visual displays designed to show team spirit and support).
The emergence of ultras was more than just a way to express fandom. It was also a way for some of Italy’s working-class population to express themselves and their identity. This was particularly so in cities like Turin and Milan, where ultras had an important role in creating a sense of belonging and solidarity amongst the disenfranchised youth of the communities.
The original ultras typically belonged to the far left-wing political spectrum, bringing some politics into their fan displays. In fact, Italian football ultras are sometimes referred to as “the children of workers” and “the sons of immigrants” to reflect this political side. Over time, as the passion for football became more mainstream, ultras would take on a slightly different ideology — shifting from left wing to right wing political expressions, or even omitting ideology altogether. As time passed, ultras also began traveling away from home for games across the country and Europe. This gave rise to issues like hooliganism, scuffles with police, and other violent behaviors.
However, despite these issues, awareness of the ultras movement grew — both abroad and at home in Italy — due in no small part to their vibrant displays, which were seen as an extension of Italian culture worldwide.
Today, many Italian teams still have passionate ultra fans dedicated to them, such as Milan’s Curva Sud, Juventus’s Viking Group and Inter Milan’s Black/Blue Boys. In addition, a number of groups have been established to pay tribute to Italy’s long-standing ultra culture — providing a way to keep their traditions alive while respecting Italian laws governing fan activities. With the continued support of these dedicated fans, it is likely that ultras will remain an integral part of Italian football culture for many years to come.
Turin’s ‘Derby della Mole’: A Rivalry Formed from Strife and Suffering
The ‘Derby della Mole’ between Juventus F.C. and Torino F.C., two of Italy’s footballing giants found in Turin, is a passionate rivalry that has grown throughout the years due to the city’s tumultuous history. The intense feelings between the two clubs have even gone so far as to cause friction between residents of the city, a tension that fiercely resonates in each meeting between the two sides, affectionately known as ‘Derby della Mole’. The roots of this rivalry can be traced back during 20th century Turin, where during and after World War II, Italy as a whole felt a sense of strife and oppression which was particularly felt in Turin at the time.
During this period, Torino F.C. had become somewhat of a beacon of hope and resilience for the city’s inhabitants, whilst Juventus F.C., founded in 1891, was viewed as an outsider by those living in Turin who were members of the Partito Nazionale Fascista, however, this sense of bad blood only brought further intensity to the rivalry between the two teams when they first met on the field in 1909.
Since then, each derby is held with a passion and energy which is hard to match in any other rivalry around the world. This has only been further enhanced by several high-profile games between both sides; classifying them as instant classics within Italian football due to their intense nature and dramatic late finishes.
This includes their infamous meeting on April 4th 1966 where Juventus took an early lead through Mazzola but were sent crashing down to earth after a match-winning brace by Francesco Graziani – gave Torino a 3-1 victory at home.
Frequent controversial moments have also been seen in recent derbies between both teams, which mirror historical moments seen during some turbulent events in Turin’s past. These have included major refereeing decisions that have gone against both sides, crowd violence and subsequent banishments from home grounds due to misbehaviour by hooliganism groups such as ‘Tifosi Juventini’ (Juventus fans) and ‘Granata Elite’ (Torino fans).
These developments follow a pattern established by fans from both clubs to use their passion for football to demonstrate their pride for their beloved city and club. Although animosity has been an ever-present factor in the derby between these two clubs, its history is just as much rooted in a mutual respect and admiration for one another which stems from Turin’s suffrage and continues to live on traditionally with the pre-match scenografie that begins each derby day before kick-off.
Thus, it is through hardship that this historic rivalry flourished for decades, ensuring it will live on for many more years to come.
Lazio’s ‘Irriducibili’: Europe’s Most Feared Fans?
Lazio’s ‘Irriducibili‘ have long established themselves as among the most feared of Europe’s Ultras. For over forty years since their foundation in 1979, the notorious group have been the most passionate support behind the Biancocelesti and their intimidating presence and fervor have become legendary across the continent.
The Irriducibili can always be found in the Curva Nord with banners, flags and flares, dedicating themselves to the cause of their beloved team and creating an intense atmosphere in which every other team must try to operate.
The Irriducibili are not just an informal fan group, they are well and truly an integral part of Lazio’s culture. As such, they have developed and maintained a remarkable connection between their membership and the team itself.
Whether it be through their feverish chanting at the Stadio Olimpico or their organisation of large scale shows of support in major cities across the country, the Irriducibili are an invaluable asset. Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for European football authorities to keep control of Lazio’s passionate supporters and as a result, some controversial incidents have arisen.
Many have witnessed members of the Irriducibili engaging in violent clashes with opposition fans or even with police forces trying to contain them, which give them an even more menacing reputation. There is no doubt that this uncompromising attitude has earned them a certain level of respect among other Ultras in Italy and all over Europe.
Yet despite this, the Irriducibili still remain some of Lazio’s greatest supporters. Songs reverberate around the Curva Nord before games, banners are proudly unfurled and the team is fervently cheered on for every last moment of every match.
Furthermore, when away from the stadium, members have been known to remain active and organise various initiatives, meetings and social events inside and outside Rome. In short, their commitment and dedication over four decades has made them an intrinsic part of what makes European ultrà culture so distinct and extraordinary.
Inter Milan’s ‘Curva Nord’: From the streets to San Siro
The history of Ultras in Italy began with Inter Milan’s ‘Curva Nord’ (North Curve). This group of die hard fans has been responsible for many of the great football moments that have taken place in the San Siro, Inter Milan’s home stadium. The group first formed in the late 60’s, when Inter Milan was a club on the rise.
The core of the group were made up of the youth of Milan who were passionate about the club and their city. They were known as Interisti and they were an integral part of the Inter Milan culture.
The original Curva Nord was in the Piazza Duomo, near the Duomo di Milano, but they soon moved on to San Siro. Here they would create a wall of noise behind one of the goals, chanting and singing in support of their team. The Curva Nord symbolized loyalty and commitment to Inter Milan, as well as an unwritten code among its members that no other group would be allowed to stand in their way.
The Curva Nord was also a force for change inside San Siro. However, it was not until long after the war that they finally would start to gain recognition outside of Italy and by 1982 their chants and banners had become renowned across Europe.
Today, the Curva Nord are still one of the most recognizable fan groups in all of Italian football. At each match they come together to create a sea of black and blue flags, banners and scarves behind one of the goals in San Siro.
They are passionate about their team and their identity is intertwined with that of Inter Milan‘s. They also provide a positive image for Italian football, standing up for values such as loyalty, respect and good sportsmanship.
AC Milan’s Brigates Rossonere: One Club, Multiple Identities
AC Milan’s Brigates Rossonere, or ‘the Red & Blacks’ as they are often known, are one of the most famous Ultras groups in Italy and throughout the world. Founded in 1967, the group is best known for their passionate support of AC Milan, encapsulating the mentality and attitude of the club as whole. Brigates Rossonere has many identities, with fans of all ages bringing an extremely diverse range of backgrounds and beliefs to the group.
Their core values include a deep commitment to the liberal Milan traditions, loyalty to their colours and a strong sense of local unity, which reflects the rich heritage of the city. Brigates Rossonere is an intricate part of the fabric of AC Milan and their passionate fan base can be felt across all parts of the stadium on match days.
The Brigates Rossonere stand directly in front of one of the most iconic parts of San Siro Stadium – the Curva Sud – and is known for its vocal support for both home and away matches. During home games, large banners and chants are often created by dedicated members to display captivating slogans about their team or messages about world events.
The idea behind much of these displays is to demonstrate solidarity with other Ultras from around Italy and across Europe, as many of their identity symbols and symbols from around Europe often appear on these showcases.
This culture of European Ultras travelling to show support for each other is best seen during European tournament matches, when teams from all corners of Europe can unite in celebration of a shared identity. It could be said that Brigates Rossonere embody everything that makes AC Milan great. Not only do they bring an immense level of passion to every game, but they also demonstrate loyalty, respect and a powerful spirit that binds together fans from all over Italy.
Through all this, they are a crucial part in helping AC Milan remain one of Italy’s best football clubs, achieving success on a global scale. Overall, this dedicated group helps to represent what it means to be a true supporter from one of Italy’s most successful clubs.