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Atlético Madrid becoming isolated in failing to tackle their ultras


We’re still in September and Atlético Madrid’s ultras have already made the news on four occasions. In Burgo de Osma (pre-season friendly game vs. Numancia) they chanted sinister threats in case the club signed Cristiano Ronaldo; against Villarreal, Mario Hermoso and the Frente were involved in an incident (as the defender confronted fans in the stands) with the group yelling abuse at him with the substitutes having to restrain the player; against Porto in matchday 1 of the Champions League we saw an empty stand, the result of a sanction for racist incidents in Manchester from the previous season; and on Sunday the chants of: “You’re a monkey, Vinicius, you’re a monkey” at the south stand gates with the video becoming a major embarrassment for the club, the city and the entire country.

Atlético Madrid fans
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Atlético Madrid fansJavier LopezEFE

Ignoring the problem

Looking at how Barça and Madrid have acted in alienating their particular hardcore groups, (Boixos Nois and Ultras Sur respectively) Atlético, who look to emulate the ‘big two’ and become a global brand, continue to look the other way when it comes to Frente Atletico. This posture contrasts with solid work in other areas of the club as Atleti continue grow and attract new followers throughout the world. For too long the club have listened to the ultras, offered a consenting approach and even look to accommodate them by ensuring that the recent UEFA ban did not affect their part of the stadium. When incidents occur (caused by Frente Atlético), the club will simply issue a bland statement and offer to open an ‘investigation process’, always leaving a series of loopholes with no apparent resolution to these investigations.

Madrid players celebrate victory at the end of the Spanish League football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid
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Madrid players celebrate victory at the end of the Spanish League football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid OSCAR DEL POZOGetty

Growing anger

Sunday’s incidents however have triggered responses from the top with Madrid’s mayor (and life-long Atleti fan) José Almeida and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez both joining thousands in expressing their exasperation at the racial abuse aimed at Vinicius on Sunday with both men demanding a solution. Every football club in Spain know who their hardcore supporters are. CCTV has the ability to record and identify the perpetrators of these incidents and the club could expel individuals or groups from their place behind the goal at the south stand of the Metropolitano. Despite an abundance of unsavoury incidents involving these fans, the Atlético management have prefered to look the other way and this is now undermining the club’s image as a result of the actions of a few dozen (or a couple of hundred) of undesirables.