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Inter Milan fans unveil huge tifo: What is a tifo and who makes the huge displays?

Never to be outdone by their neighbours, a Champions League semi-final display for the ‘home’ team was required at the San Siro.

Never to be outdone by their neighbours, a Champions League semi-final display for the ‘home’ team was required at the San Siro.

“A tifo that you’ve never seen before.” That was the message being given by the Curva Nord ahead of Inter hosting their city rivals AC Milan in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday night. This double header is the first time that the Italian giants have been paired together in the competition in more than 15 years, and the fans are an integral part of the occasion.

Inter vs AC Milan: tifos play their part

This involvement comes in various forms, most notably from cheering them on their heroes throughout the game and right until the final whistle. But their show of support, as well as potentially intimidating the opposition, can come in the form of a tifo, displayed before the referee gets us underway. The rivalry between these two sets of players and fans is intense and wherever possible they look to get one over on the other. Given what Milan fans unveiled in the first leg, we were excited to see what came out tonight and we weren’t disappointed. It read, in Latin, “Victory gives us life”

Last Wednesday it was AC Milan playing host in the San Siro and their supporters went for a massive tifo of the devil, an image that is often used by fans to suggest domination over the club’s rivals. Aside from the huge, hellish face the Milan fans around the stadium were holding up flags in the club’s colours of red, black and yellow.

At the far side, the Inter Milan supporters in attendance spelt out ‘Curva Nord’, the part of the San Siro that the most vociferous supporters can be found. The roles are now reversed.

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What is a tifo?

The word ‘tifo’ is used to described the vast, imaginative displays made by supporters to celebrate their team and intimidate their opponents. The word is Italian and refers, strangely enough, to typhus fever, which can cause a bout of delirium in sufferers. The fans involved in the tifo are known as ‘tifosi’, which essentially means ‘those infected with typhus’.

Tifos often play on the rivalry between the two clubs and their supporters, using common mascots or symbols to make their point. To the uninitiated they can seen bizarre and cartoonish, but to those in the know they are a carefully choreographed message.

Who makes tifo displays?

The huge visual displays that greet the players are almost always the work of fan groups. Supporters can sometimes feel detached from the multi-billion-dollar industry of football but fan culture is still a key part of the way that millions of people consume the sport.

In Italy, it is typically the ultra groups who take the lead on matters relating the the stadium atmosphere and are often heavily involved in the planning, production and unveiling of tifo displays.

The idea is to create the impressions of a unified wall of support. Sometimes this is achieved with the careful unfurling of a vast sheet of plastic or cloth that has been painted with the display.

In other cases it can be a coordinated effort in which flags or coloured sheets of cards are placed under the seats of fans. At a specific moment all fans hold up their piece to create a vast collage.


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