On 23 March 1997, alongside the motorway leading out of Amsterdam, a pre-planned battle took place between the F-SIDE, Ajax's ultras, and the Ultras of arch-rivals Feyenoord, although there was no match between the teams that day. In the brutal encounter, known as the "Battle of Borwick" and lasting less than five minutes, Ajax fan Carlo Picorni was murdered - a disaster considered a landmark in the history of European hooliganism.
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Fan violence is a phenomenon that originated in the 60s in Britain and spread around the world from there. It started with young men feeling that the place where they could vent their dark urges was the football stadium. The violence quickly became organized. The first step is sympathy for your team and hatred for sworn rivals. But the next step is that some of these ultras organizations become criminal organizations, dealing in drugs, protection money, money laundering, and more. Football is just a "cover story" for the economic issue.
The authorities have been trying for years to combat the phenomenon, but with very limited success. In England this was much more successful, since hooligans were less organized than in other European countries. It should be remembered that no real ultras culture developed there. When the government decided that all stadiums would only have seating, and when ticket prices became frighteningly high, hooligans were simply left out. In Spain it was the clubs themselves, especially Barcelona and Real Madrid, who decided to fight their ultras. After a few years, this ugly phenomenon almost disappeared.
The destruction at the main entrance to Amsterdam Arena. The actors were also afraid, Photo: Reuters
This is not the case in the Netherlands. Last week, Ajax's ultras made headlines again. 26 years after Pikorny's death – whose chair at the Amsterdam Arena remains empty to this day – they know no rest. This time they decided to blow up the Clasikker against Feyenoord, with the score sparkling on the scoreboard 0-3 in favour of the hated guests from Rotterdam. The F-SIDE members threw flares onto the field, and according to the rules, when it happened a second time, the game was stopped. It was resumed and completed only three days later, without a crowd (miserable Ajax conceded the fourth goal).
The real uproar, believe it or not, began on Sunday after the game was stopped. The F-SIDE members continued on their own and stormed the stadium's grand main entrance, the area where the board members and other VIPs are located. For the Ultras, it was a protest against the team's terrible professional situation, and the scenes were harsh: shattered glass, mobs breaking into offices, and management members fleeing or hiding in bathrooms. The players of both teams also stayed locked in the locker rooms for an hour, fearing that the fans would hurt them. Amsterdam police tried to disperse the hooligans with a heavy hand, including the use of cavalry, such as the sights from Bloomfield two days later.
Last season there were several incidents of severe violence in Dutch football, the peak being when Alkmaar's ultras, wearing black hoods, tried to break into the area where family members of West Ham players were sitting in the Conference League semi-finals. In addition, quite a few league matches were stopped due to fan violence, even though the sensitive games do not allow away fans to attend. Unlike what is customary in Israel, Dutch law states that if a game is stopped a second time due to throwing objects or flares, it is not renewed. Then the disciplinary committee decides whether to hold a rematch or determine a technical loss.
Fans in Greece. It's not quiet there either, Photo: Reuters
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Another country that has experienced severe fan violence is Greece, especially in the city of Thessaloniki. Last February, Elkis Cabanos, a 19-year-old Aris fan, was murdered there when he and his friends were attacked by 12 PAOK fans. It was the third murder in the last five years of football fans in Thessaloniki. To combat the phenomenon, the court decided to impose extremely severe sentences on each of the 12 perpetrators. Seven were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, and the other five received sentences ranging from 19 to 27 years. Still, Greece is not overly optimistic. It is clear to everyone that the next murder is only a matter of time.
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