Last March Roma dramatically lost the Europa League match against Fiorentina in the round of 16. The result forced the players to apologize to their agitated ultras, who had left the Stadio Olimpico in the first half and returned to the stands when there were only a couple of minutes left till the end.

It's no wonder that Italian footballers and officials demonstrate such a submission to their fans. They acted in a similar way in recent times. But it’s necessary to go back in time to understand Ultras phenomenon in Italian football, because it’s the only way to understand why this sport gathers a lot of fans.

In the mid 20th century Italian fans stopped being mere spectators and decided to join the show in an active manner. That was a turning point for the stadiums to brim with colours and noise thanks to drums and trumpets. It became the second nature of the fans and soon this passionate fever was emulated by other European countries.

A certain ideology quickly joined the aesthetics and colourful arenas, since a number of fan groups in the country began to identify themselves with political tendencies. In the 70s Italy experienced a great social instability. It also influenced many young people who were connected with football. They started to do violent things.

The fans saw that if united, group power would be a perfect way to escape problems that they encountered in the streets. The fan groups had clear left tendencies, and of course, soon the problems with the police and acts of violence began. One of the incidents that engendered a nascent period in the country was on 28 October 1979, the day in which the old Stadio Olimpico di Roma was mourning for the death of SS Lazio supporter Vincenzo Paparelli.

He was a 33-year-old mechanic, but a launched firework flew more than 150 metres from Curva Sud side of the stadium to the other one took his life. The executioner of the victim was an 18-year-old teenager, known among the Tifosi of Rome as "Il Tzigano". His whereabouts were unknown for some time. He was hidden in Bergamo by supporters with the similar attitude towards the ultras of Rome. That death worsened the relations between the fans, who shared incompatible feelings and political tendencies.

It wasn’t strange that ultras with political affinity helped one another and even collaborated against opposing groups. For example, Torino, Livorno or Atalanta always emphasized that they share communist inclinations, while famous Lazio Irriducibili or the Hellas Verona ultras (a club that even became champion of Italy in the 80s), maintained strong bonds with fascist movement.

Italian fans pioneered making big organized trips throughout the country, many of which caused lots of frictions between fans of different clubs. Different persuasions that coexisted in Italy appeared in an evident form of fights between rivals. For example, each derby doesn´t have anything in common with their peers from other regions, as they have different colours and different levels of danger emanate from them.

In the 80s thanks to a great performance of Maradona’s Napoli, another renowned football rivalry arose: the one between the North and the South. Besides, the Camorra’s criminal influence in football was noted in many dark episodes, in which the most influential capos were linked to Napoli’s ultras groups.

In 1984 the supporters of the Southern team were welcomed in Verona with a banner: LAVATEVI (wash yourselves). It made the tension between the fans from two parts of Italy grow. They already had core structural differences, but from that moment on they became irreconcilable enemies.

Acts of violence and deaths related to the Ultra phenomenon in Italy reached a huge number in recent decades. Moreover, in recent months the power of these gangs leaders has become evident. They even have obtained the power to decide which matches are necessary to play. The most remarkable case was the 2014 Coppa Italia final between Napoli and Fiorentina. The players of the celestial team had to negotiate with the ultras’ capos so the match could be played.

The reason for a possible suspension was the murder of a Neapolitan fan, who was killed a few hours earlier in the streets of Rome. Such a fact could be a compelling reason for halting the match, even though the images shocked the world, yet it was the ultras who had the power to make such a decision. The game was played because they wanted to.

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Source: El Enganche