Ukrainian Ultras: A Global Ceasefire

2014/05/23 • News

19.05.2014
Kateryna Sergatskova, Ukrainska Pravda Zhyttia

Photo: bbr.org.ua

The football fans, which had been viewed earlier as radicals provoking mayhem by many, are now setting up grand shows akin to yesterday’s fire-show on the Pedestrian Bridge in Kyiv in support of united Ukraine, protecting the activists from attacks and performing the “Putin – huilo” cheer in unison.

“Ukrainska Pravda. Zhittya” talked to several activists of the ultras movement and found out what now united the football fans who had feuded before.

Before it has been as follows: “Dynamo-Kyiv” is fighting with “Chornomorets,” and Kharkiv “Metalist” – with “Dnipro.” Clashes happened frequently between the fans of these teams. Now, however, “Metalist” ultras are walking shoulder-to-shoulder with “Dnipro” ultras in one march for united Ukraine, and “Chornomorets” fans are coming to Kyiv to support “Dynamo.”

The unification of football fans started after “Berkut” had forcefully dispersed the students on Maidan. Back then, the ultras from enemy camps gathered for the first time on Mykhailivska Ploshcha. Later the leaders of the ultras movement addressed all the fans of Ukrainian football clubs with the proposal to sign a “gentlemen’s agreement” regarding a ceasefire.

“Everything lead up to it. When Maidan began, people from various regions came to Kyiv, and already then everything spurred into action, the ultras started getting acquainted with each other,” tells ultras of the Simferopol football club “Tavriya” Oleg.“We are patriots of Ukraine, we understand who is to blame for everything in the country. We were greatly dissatisfied when the students were beaten. What is more, the ultras themselves have been subject to police repressions numerous times.”

“Three years ago the relations with many ultras were, to put it mildly, not very good,” says former organiser of the movement, and now simply a fan of Kharkiv “Metalist” Maksym “Cowboy.” “Now we have agreed on a global ceasefire. This happened for the first time in the Ukrainian fan movement, and in many other countries this had never happened! When a threat exists, like now, when the issue of the country’s integrity is relevant, there is something more than animosity between the clubs.”

The cheer “Putin – huilo” was invented by Kharkiv ultras. But there is no response as to who the author is. People’s masterpiece.

“About Putin – this is an old cheer of the Kharkiv “Metalist” during the times of feuding between Surkis and Yaroslavskiy (president of FC “Dynamo” and former owner of “Metallist”),” explains Maksym. “Only instead of Putin, there was Surkis, Yaroslavskiy did not like him. The replacement of the enemy in light of the situation occurred easily. Therefore the current cheer became much more popular than the old one.”

Screenshot from video

The ultras movement proved to be a serious social force, probably, during the joint march of “Metallist” and “Dnipro” fans in Kharkiv on April 27th. It was then when they were attacked by the representatives of the separatist movement. According to the ultras, the fans did not attack first during any of the latest clashes.

“We did not touch anyone and we wanted to avoid any conflicts,” tells Kharkiv ultras activist Igor. “The first victims appeared among our fans. After the instance in Kharkiv, both sides prepared for possible future conflicts: many acquired chains, bats, I saw traumatic rifles with some of the separatists. Meanwhile the police was completely idle back then and on May 2nd in Odesa.

Blood was spilt, and in such moments all sanity disappears. A necessity to protect oneself arises. And when the police doesn’t work, the people have a right to protect themselves.”

Photo football.ua

Ultras are not some mythical radical group. They are a sort of interest club, small communities of 10-30 people which communicate with one another. In each of these communities, as a rule, there are activists which go to fan pool assemblies, invent actions to support their teams – flashmobs, fire shows, performances.

The football clubs do not sponsor ultras activities – besides, maybe, global actions. The fans have a “universal bank,” to which they make monthly payments. The ultras are represented by a great variety of people.

“These are minors, and people whose children will get their passports soon. And students, businessmen, plumbers, governors,” says Igor. “Of course, a major part of the ultras are students, the youth, as they have a lot of lively energy and free time.”

After the beginning of Maidan the Simferopol ultras, like everyone else, supported the protest movement and became, essentially, the self-defence for pro-Ukrainian activists. Every meeting with blue-and-yellow flags was guarded by young men in sports wear. However, as soon as the Crimea became occupied territory, the ultras started receiving calls with the petition to appear in the security service – “just to talk.” The fans started receiving strange summons.

“The pressure on ultras started back in the autumn, long before the green men appeared,” says “Tavriya” fan Oleg. “The fans that supported the protest movement were being photographed, and their photos were handed out at Antimaidan meetings.”

According to one of the Simferopol ultras Olexiy, back in the end of November the current head of the Republic of the Crimea Sergey Aksionov tried to “buy” the ultras to participate in Antimaidan – he proposed that they become “titushky” for significant daily payments. The fans refused.

Now, after the Crimea ended up occupied, all the ultras who might have been hunted by the local “self-defence” left the peninsula. Younger men have “retreated into the shadows.”

Photo football.ua

“We refused to support “Tavriya” because we are really in danger,” says Oleg. “De facto the club has been left without fans and the majority of supporters. Now the stadium attendance is catastrophic: less than a thousand people come, and the games are, for some reason, being secured by representatives of the “self-defence,” however, in contrast, people have to be protected from them.

The situation with the club is very difficult. On one hand, it seems to me that the Russian sponsor will not take “Tavriya,” as the Crimea is occupied territory and it is unknown what will happen next. What is the Crimea is to return to Ukraine tomorrow? Besides, banks, establishments, the airport are not working. Who would want to invest money in this situation? What is more, we know that the Russian economy itself is not living out its best times now. On the other hand, Ukrainian sponsors will not invest money either. However, the leadership of the club is still waiting for mythical Russian funds.

The only way out is for the team to leave occupied territory and play in the neighbouring oblast. “Tavriya” is a Ukrainian champion, laureate of the cup, and on the wave of patriotism it could be accepted as a club from the Crimea which did not want to remain in occupation and left to retain the history of the team.

If the scenario of the Crimean capture turned out to be possible – then why is this option not possible either?”

Now the ultras are thinking what will happen next to the fan movement.

Photo http://vk.com/fcmk_ultras

If the fans that had been feuding for years managed to unite – further they could become a big moving force in Ukraine, and this force will surpass the framework of football.

“I would want for us never to return to the point when there was animosity between the ultras,” shares Maksym. “Of course, they are all young hot-headed men, and they need to play with enemies besides supporting their team. It is important for them to match their power, without any weapons or knives. This is a fist-fight tactic.

But, I think, there will be no more animosity between the ultras. Because henceforth we are all standing on one side of the barricades and want peace and unity.”

Source: Ukrainska Pravda. Zhyttia

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

 

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