Beyond the violence, the shocking power the ultras wield over Italian football

Topic Selected: Sport

General Article icon Type: General Article

April’s thuggery in Liverpool highlighted a subculture with a dark and deadly side.

By Tobias Jones

The grim violence outside Anfield on Tuesday night, in which Roma fans attacked their Liverpool counterparts, was like a flashback to the dark days of the 1980s: romanisti were carrying belts, bottles, stones and even a hammer; one man, 53-year-old Sean Cox, remains in a coma.

 Although it seemed like the hooliganism of old, its roots are actually very different. The Roma fans are part of what Italians call ‘ultras’, meaning ‘beyond’, ‘intransigent’ or ‘extreme’. Every Italian football team has its ultra gang and big clubs have dozens. I’ve been researching the subculture for years and, violence apart, they’re nothing like old-school British thugs.

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