Oh dear, the ultras are back again

The Spirit of Ermua

The death of ‘Jimmy’ in 2014 provoked a general reaction against violence and bad manners in Spanish football. That tragedy indeed triggered a collective response in favour of peace in football, of zero tolerance against abusive language, inappropriate placards and aggressive attitudes. LaLiga set out to get all the radical groups to enroll on a register. Some took longer than others, but finally they all did it. That ‘Spirit of Ermua’ worked. During the last couple of years we had had a football devoid of hooliganism, with a just few isolated cases that were identifiable and almost always resolved with the club banning those responsible.

Sevilla ultras

Old habits die hard 

I say “had had” because I fear that we are beginning to see old habits return. Last week, Valencia’s ‘Yomus’ aggressively jeered their own players. A little while ago, thugs from Sevilla attacked a group of Juventus supporters sitting at a bar on the eve of the game. Those from separate Zaragoza gangs, the ‘Ligallos’ and the ‘Avisperos’ don’t even need to attack fans from rival teams: they happily fight between each other, be it in Zaragoza, Soria or Getafe. In Vitoria, eight followers of Espanyol ended up injured. In Pamplona, ultra-style banners were unfurled by Atletico aficionados.

New outbreak of hooliganism needs to be shut down 

There is a new outbreak going on and it needs to be shut down immediately. I’m talking about the verbal abuse shouted from the stands too, which has also reappeared. A short time back the courts, which Sevilla had appealed to, ruled in favour of LaLiga after it fined the club for fans insulting a rival player. It is a good precedent, which will help remove the simple-minded idea that there is no difference between insult and freedom of expression. LaLiga chief Tebas believes that this resurgence has come about through mimicking fans from other countries, raising the issue again to a priority issue. It’s a matter in which we must all collaborate.