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Football fan culture and politics in modern Greece: the process of fandom radicalization during the austerity era



The article explores the intersection between politics and football focusing on political activism in football fandom starting from its origin in late 1970s to the contemporary mass protests against austerity policies. The analysis focused on ideological conflicts between fascist and anti-fascist fans within football lifeworlds and the ways organized fans use current political circumstances to negotiate and re-interpret their identities. In the context of the Greek economic crisis, the intersection between fandom and political activism as well the newly emerged political formations that come from football elites and big business signify an important turn towards the ‘footballization’ of Greek politics. This trend reflects the growing disillusionment of Greeks towards a discredited political system and their anxious seeking of some savours come from outside the politics, as a magical solution to the social pressures and deadlocks of a society in crisis.
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Soccer & Society
ISSN: 1466-0970 (Print) 1743-9590 (Online) Journal homepage:
Football fan culture and politics in modern Greece:
the process of fandom radicalization during the
austerity era
Yiannis Zaimakis
To cite this article: Yiannis Zaimakis (2018) Football fan culture and politics in modern Greece:
the process of fandom radicalization during the austerity era, Soccer & Society, 19:2, 252-270, DOI:
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Published online: 11 Apr 2016.
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Football fan culture and politics in modern Greece: the process of
fandom radicalization during the austerity era
Yiannis Zaimakis*
Sociology, University of Crete, Gallos Campus, Rethymno, Greece
The article explores the intersection between politics and football focusing on
political activism in football fandom starting from its origin in late 1970s to the
contemporary mass protests against austerity policies. The analysis focused on
ideological conicts between fascist and anti-fascist fans within football
lifeworlds and the ways organized fans use current political circumstances to
negotiate and re-interpret their identities. In the context of the Greek economic
crisis, the intersection between fandom and political activism as well the newly
emerged political formations that come from football elites and big business sig-
nify an important turn towards the footballizationof Greek politics. This trend
reects the growing disillusionment of Greeks towards a discredited political
system and their anxious seeking of some savours come from outside the
politics, as a magical solution to the social pressures and deadlocks of a society
in crisis.
Football communities are often a visible vestige of an alternative, collectivist
approach to life in the atomized societies of late modernity
offering opportunities
for the construction of collective identities. These communities constructed and per-
formed their identities creating symbolic boundaries with the other: rival fans, foot-
ball authorities and police. Sport, in Bourdieu terms, is a relatively autonomous
social eld with its own dynamics, history and chronology where fans construct
their narratives and patterns of behaviour.
However, during times of crisis, political
ideologies tend to pervade sport lifeworlds resulting in new models of collective
action where football fandom meets socio-political activism.
Under these conditions, football functions as a cultural space that dramatizes and
codies wider political and ideological confrontation under the football subcultures
way of thought. Within the realm of football fan clubs negotiation of identity, politi-
cal ideologies and activism was reshaped and reinterpreted by football communities
in their strategies of positive self-presentation and negative other presentation.
fan identities are constructed through a process by which fans take on roles that they
then perform for an audience. Fandom performative acts are contextual, relational
and negotiable: they are grounded within the broader social and political context in
which they occur, they exist in relation to specic people, situations and events and
they constantly engage in negotiation with opposing groups and clubs constructing
identities and determine the relevant counteridentities.
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Soccer & Society, 2018
Vol. 19, No. 2, 252270,
Football activism can be seen as resistance practices which attempt to change the
status quo within power relationships of football world. When football activism
moves beyond sport matters and approaches wider social or political affairs can be
encountered with the discourse of new political movements creating a space where
political ideas, participatory democracy and sites of resistance may be cultivated.
Political activism within football society can be linked either to resistant or to pro-
ject identities. Resistance identities are constructed by fans that are at the wrong end
of social domination, in the sense that they are or felt socially excluded or stigma-
tized within the existing power framework. Project identities are articulated by
politicized groups who are committed to the creation of a different life via the
radical transformation of society.
Football, as a contested ideological terrain, offers possibilities for collective
action and resistance to hegemonic discourse that can move towards the action
repertoire of social movements. According to Snow and Soule, social movements
are challengers or defenders of existing structures or systems of authorities through
collective enterprises acting in various degrees outside existing institutional or orga-
nizational arrangements. They operate to a certain extent of organization and they
typically do with some degree of continuity.
Politicized fan cultures, such as the
Independent Supporters Association Movement in English,
the far left fans in
the neo-fascist-oriented fans
or the left-wing supporters in Italy and
construct politically oriented identities, address civic or political issues
and expose grassroots radicalism. These sites of resistance entail controversies and
ambivalences and often challenge dominant codes by producing alternative practices
and discourses whose content is exible and uid ranging from conservative and
reactive sentiment to progressive and emancipated discourse.
Greek football fan culture has followed, with a few years delay, the patterns of
their counterpart in Southern Europe, especially Ultras movements in Italy and
Spain, in terms of the intense and passionate level of support. In Greece, the vast
majority of organized fans remained non-political keeping political affair away from
stadiums, until the 2000s when political struggles gradually entered the eld. The
process of fan politicization came to a head during the period of Greek severe eco-
nomic crisis when organized football fans participated in the protest movement
against austerity policies and erce political disputes occurred between anti-fascist
and nationalist fans.
The article use sources derived from a wider eld research on the social organi-
zation and cultural content (attitudes, meanings, values and identities) of football fan
communities in Greece. This research used the ground theory perspective and a mul-
ti-disciplinary approach in order to grasp and analyse the social world of fan com-
For the research purpose, various forms of information and data were
collected, including questionnaires, biographical interviews, participant observation,
archives, grafti, funs chanting and songs, fanzine texts, newspaper and social
media data. This article makes use of selected sources, namely research diary, eld
observation, fanzines and Internet websites, newspaper reports and banner messages
and seeks to explore the process of politicization in football fan culture in Greece
within the historical and political contexts that surround football societies. Part of
the eldwork consisted of observation at important matches in football stadiums, as
well as at protest events and radical fansgatherings during the last six years. Dur-
ing eld participation, informal interviews and discussion with fans provided us with
Soccer & Society 253
the opportunity to obtain a feeling of the meaning systems and action patterns of the
politicized fans.
The study investigates the intersection between politics and football, focusing on
political activism in football fandom starting from its origin in late 1970s to the con-
temporary mass protests and rallies against austerity policies. The analysis is focused
on ideological confrontations with everyday life football issues and the way that fan
communities made use of the current political circumstances in order to negotiate
and re-interpret identity by cultivating resistant, anti-systemic and anti-establishment
sentiments for their own benet.
The rst wave of political confrontations within football worlds
Football development in post-war Greece followed the political conditions prevailing
in the country after its bloody civil war (19461949). The state apparatus had pene-
trated all elds of social life including football. During the late civil war years, left-
wing athletes and executes had been exiled on isolated islands and over the post-war
decades football was largely controlled by right-wing state apparatus and main-
stream politicians who maintained informal clientelist networks with all leading
The state intervention in the eld of football reached its peak during the years of
Junta of the Colonels (19671974). The military regime manipulated sport, and
especially football, turning the peoples interests in the sports elds away from the
alleged symbolic pollution of politics. Athletic events were used as a mass theatre of
indoctrination, allocating an important role to sport and bodily culture to shore up
their nationalist mission.
The ephemeral success of Greek football teams was
presented by dictators as historical victories of the nation, evidence of its progress.
Greek state television controlled by armed forces started to televise football matches
and cover important football matches, as well as the Colonelsconspicuous presence
at major sport spectacles. The military regime took action against unpatriotic acts
of left-wing and controlled completely the football authorities and the teams boards
of directors expelling those who were regarded by dictators as real or imagined
enemies of the regime.
The rst two decades after the restoration of democracy in 1974 were marked by
intense politicization and radicalization of youth groups. In the context of youth
politicization, football was confronted with suspicion by the sizeable left-wing youth
that became growingly inuential, especially among students.
For them, especially
for Orthodox Marxists, football was a leisure eld manipulated by the forces of
reaction that used it as opium for the people promoting commercialization, political
apathy and alienation.
Despite the ofcials denouncement that football eld should be kept away from
politics, football functioned as a branch of the political system patronage networks.
The teams owners utilized the electoral force of fanbase as a bargaining chip in
their effort to impact the authoritiesdecision to their own ends. By the advent of
professionalism in Greek football in 1979, the cultural practice of clientelism rein-
forced since exceptional rich businessmen with strong political afliation with main-
stream political parties gradually took over leading football clubs (e.g.
Vardinogiannis at Panatinaikos, Kokkalis at Olympiakos and Melissanidis at AEK).
Moreover, in the context of the country booming economy over the post-junta dec-
ades a newly emerged bourgeoisie class entered in the eld. A few of them invested
254 Y. Zaimakis
in football teams and transferred their money from club to club (often regardless
their sentimental ties with the clubs), seeking the best choice in terms of symbolic
and social capital, namely prestige, fame and publicity. Despite their long-age mis-
managements, the leading football clubs secured their viability through the tolerance
of successive Greek Governments and favourable settlements of their debts and
The 1980s was a period of football fandom transformation when the organized
fans appeared in the stadium curves. The phenomenon had emerged in western
countries, especially Italy, England and Spain and diffused in Greece by students
abroad who carried home new patterns of fan behaviour. In addition, reportage of
furious ultras fans in mass media and athletic press excited the interest of football
society. The rise of the Greek fanatics was associated with the intensication of state
apparatus surveillance in the terraces in the 1980s and, mainly, in the early 1990s,
when police started to separate opponent fans in terraces setting railings among them
in distinguished gates.
Gradually, fanatical supporters occupied curves of terraces
located behind the goalposts where the ticket was cheap and made it a space of gath-
ering, social interaction and ritual. They draw their names from the number of the
entry gates to the club ground (e.g. Gate 13of Panathinaikos, Gate 7 of Olympia-
kos, Original 21 of AEK, Gate 4 of PAOK, and Super 3 of Aris) and behaved as
they possessed the curves endowing them with symbols and meanings.
In their curves, organized fans used to sing offensive, easily memorized chants
praising the pride of their teams or clubs and undermining the image of antagonistic
clubs through chants full of irony, sarcasm and hatred. They choreographed rich
repertories of spectacular visual displays, including mufes, coreo, ags, banners
and reworks. The impressive choreographies, the strong sense of membership and
the hostility against the rival fans and what they regarded as systemic forces, espe-
cially police and the media, made this kind of fandom differ from those of tradi-
tional supporters. The new aggressive patterns of behaviour, images and chants
displayed in the terraces, seem to function as artifacts, similar to the Italian Ultras
that appeal to youth because the rebelliousness they represent is conducive to the
same youths pursuit of toughness and virility.
Like Spain and Italian Ultras, the osmosis of the increasing passionate fandom
with the skinhead subculture and its values of aggressive masculinity as a means for
acquiring prestige among peers and provoking outsiders, drew the attention of neo-
fascist groups.
The rst effort of extreme-right fan formation to inltrate into orga-
nized fan clubs dates back to 1977, when NOPO (Nazi Organization of Panati-
naikos Fans) a neo-Nazi, racist group made its presence felt through banners and
ags displaying fascist symbols and Nazi catchphrases. Soon another similar-minded
group, the so-called Vasileios Bulgaroktonosreferred to the Byzantine emperor,
famous for his clash against Bulgarians, appeared articulating an outspoken and
aggressive nationalist discourse. These extreme right-wing groups consisting of a
small number of followers who were periodically involved in various episodes of
racist violence directing to rival fans, had limited inuence on the majority of
Panathinaikosfanbase. For example, in June 1982 during the extensive riots
between hardcore fascist fans of Panathinaikos and supporters of PAOK Thessa-
loniki in Leoforos Alexandras Stadium of Athens, fascist fans made a racist procla-
mation calling Panathinaikos supporters to turn away the alleged Bulgarian-origin
PAOK counterparts and acted as a vanguard in the incidents of organized violence
against rival fans outside the stadium.
Soccer & Society 255
The incidents were disreputable to the commercial brand and the image of
Panathinaikos, the only Greek team which achieved to become a nalist in the Euro-
pean Champions Cup and have constructed a cosmopolitan identity based on its suc-
cess in European competitions.
The defamation of the club due to racist and
violent actions by neo-Nazi groups incited the strong reaction of the club president
Georgios Vardinogiannis, who managed to disperse them in the mid-1980s. In the
early 1980s, another racist fan organization called TOFA (Terrorist Organisation of
AEK Supporters) appeared exposing grafti with nationalist symbols. TOFA had a
long-termed history. In 1982 Original 21 was created. It was afliated with left-wing
and anarchist circles and soon became the dominant expression of AEK organized
fanbase and led to the rapid marginalization of TOFA. In Thessaloniki, the second
largest city in Greece, similar efforts for the creation of neo-Nazi groups had little
success. The impact of far-right political parties in Greek society and football com-
munities was inconsiderable and football authorities employed a market-oriented
approach keeping politics outside the game. As a result, the history of this rst wave
of neo-fascist groups was short with the actions of extreme-right groups being
limited till the end of 1980s.
At the same time, on the opposite camp, the two major formations of communist
youth KNE and Rigas Feraios (afliated with Communist Party of Greece and Com-
munist Party of Greece, Interior, respectively) had a dominant position in ideological
conicts inside the progressive movement. The hegemonic narrative within left-wing
camp remained the perception of football as opium to the people that blunts working
class-consciousness. Football, rebetika, rock and the American way of life were
regarded as space of young peoples alienation promoting political apathy, commer-
cialization of working class leisure, cultural imperialism, conformism, immorality
and hedonism.
In the late 1970s, new agents of left-wing youth politicization emerged. They
were uid networks of autonomous communists who called themselves Χώρος
(Choros) and came mainly from the split of Rigas Feraios in 1978
and various
anarchist groups with several nuances developing new types of protest, including
public squatting and violent juxtaposition with riot police. Within these groups there
were some fans, inspired by extra-parliamentary left, situationist and anarchist per-
spectives, who sought to bridge the passion of working people for the football with
political sentiments, creating the rst cells of politicized far left-wing fans within the
ranks of organized fans in the early 1980s. For example, AEK Original 21 devel-
oped an organizational model based on the principle of direct democracy informed
by leftist and anarchist ideologies and in the early 1990s for the rst time banners of
solidarity with political prisoners raised up by anarchist cells of Original. In January
1991, the widespread student protest against the reforms of the conservative govern-
ment in education pervaded football society. The political tensions were triggered
off by the political murder of Nikos Temponeras, a left-wing teacher, during a pro-
test rally in the city of Patras. On 13th January, young fans of AEK and Olympia-
kos, many of whom were afliated to political groups, involved in widespread
clashes with police shouting aggressive slogans against the state and the police dur-
ing the eventful match between the two clubs in the stadium of Nea Fhiladelphia.
However, such evidence of left-wing activism was rare. The majority of organized
fans, mainly young men, remained either non-political or kept politics outside the
sports, confronting politicized youth formations with suspicion, if not with hostility.
256 Y. Zaimakis
During the 1990s, the mass immigration from the countries of ex-communist
regimes in the Balkans to Greece strengthened nationalist ideas, xenophobia and
racism. In this climate, nationalist fans found an open space to propagandize their
opinions. The passionate atmosphere and the expression of national pride during the
matches of the Greek national team drew the attention of the ofcial magazine of
Golden Dawn, an extreme right, racist and xenophobic party, with very limited inu-
ence in society. On 25 November 1990 during the match between the national teams
of Greece and Turkey, Greek supporters created an atmosphere of intolerance hoot-
ing and booing the Turk players. The ofcial organ of the Golden Dawn praised the
national fanaticism against the alleged inferior others, calling them Mongol subhu-
manand dirty Turksand called nationalist organizations to transform the sponta-
neous and yet immature patriotismof football ground to a mature and conscious
In 1997, the same magazine commented on the presence of strong
cells of nationalist fans not only within major clubs in Athens but also within many
provincial teams underlining that the eld of sports offers opportunities to endow
football society with nationalist spirit.
The spread of nationalism within fan culture was evident during a match
between Greek and Albanian national teams in the Olympic Stadium of Athens on 6
October 1999, when Albanian hooligans burnt a Greek ag in their stand celebrating
the victory of their team. The incident was covered extensively by mass media and
resulted in several attacks of nationalist fans on immigrants. The occurrence seemed
to activate the nationalist feelings of extreme-right fans that started to organize a
social network of nationalist football supporters in order to react vigorously to the
alleged challenges of the racial others. Since all the major football clubs were con-
stituted by fans deriving from all the spectrum of political views, the creation of a
nationalist club in the ranks of a single team was a risky undertaking. The national
team that traditionally consisted of a small number of dedicated fans was a fertile
ground for neo-fascist groups to promote their political goals.
In the same period football activism was cultivated as a reaction to the sport laws
that had been instituted in the context of the media-orchestrated and often governed-
sustained process of criminalization of illegal immigrants, juvenile delinquents,
hooligans and other forms of disorderliness.
Covering the issue with contentious
comments, the Greek press confronted hooligans as particularly threatening (anti)so-
cial gures fuelling the image of their dangerousness
and created a climate of
moral panic that mounted a sense of insecurity in football society.
Since the decades of 1990, football executives and owners used organized fans
to resolve and handle on their account inner controversies concerning mismanage-
ment of clubnances, changes of coaches and property status. Public rallies and
mass protests were often called by the owners of the teams or the fan club leaders
forcing football authorities and ruling parties to settle their teams debts and decits
to their benet or to repeal authoritiesdecisions which were against their interests.
In order to avoid political costs, leading parties supported the settlement of the debts
and accumulated accounting losses of football clubs, often under the legal shield
provided by laws. The article 44 of the Law 1892/90 was a striking example. It
allowed the deletion of a big part of the teamsdebts and the settlement of the rest
through long-term installation, running the risk of never being collected by the
Politicians intervened on behalf of their favourite clubs, increasing the
political patronage networks within fan communities.
Soccer & Society 257
Football transition in the new millennium
Since the early 2000s, a growing number of ofcial and unofcial sports-related
websites, sports radio stations provided the opportunity for fans to discuss on foot-
ball issues. Until the outbreak of the crisis, nine daily national sports newspapers
were in circulation and the majority of them were afliated to the most afuent and
popular clubs in the metropolitan centre of Athens. They handle a populist discourse
imbued with fanaticism and prejudices in the service of the football club owners
interests. In the dawn of the new millennium the wider political struggles between
grassroots anti-fascist and nationalist groups seem to inltrate football society and
the sporadic presence of nationalist and left-wing symbols were evident in and
around Greek football grounds. The formation of the Galazia Stratia (Blue Army)in
the early 2000s in the local ofce of the far-right party Golden Dawn triggered off
the political conicts within football societies. According to Ilias Panagiotaros, a
leading member of the Blue Army and later a Golden Dawn deputy, the main target
of the club was the promotion of nationalism and consequently the afliation with
Golden Dawn was an effective means to achieve its purpose.
The rst public appearance of the Blue Army was dated on 7 November 2000,
when their members exposed banner with the swastika and performed Nazism salute
during the match between the national teams of Greece and Finland. The action of
the organization became widely known during the riotous demonstration of its mem-
bers against the joint bid submitted by Greek and Turkish Football Federations to
host Euro 2008. On 20 November 2001, around 60 members of Blue Army pro-
tested loudly against the Greek Football Federation joint, hung a swastika banner,
gave out leaets saying Greece is above alland chanted xenophobic slogans, such
as Turks, Mongols, Killersor Gagatsi [the president of Greek Football Federation]
Turkish seed. Sport and political press covered extensively the events, in some
cases with tolerance, while the ofcial organ of Golden Dawn welcomed the
patriotic outbreakof the Greek fans.
The victory of the Greek national team in the Euro 2004 competition was a
watershed moment in the rise of nationalism within stadiums. In the climate of
national enthusiasm for the victory of the underdogs, members of the Blue Army
celebrated the national triumph in the roads of big cities and played a leading part in
various racist attacks on immigrants. The ofcial organ of Golden Down gave a
racist account of the incident regarding it as a presumable outbreak of the Greeks, a
reaction to the system which is unable to control the thousands of criminals and
bums of all sorts of nationalities allowing them to move in our country and
baptizing them as economic migrants.
In September 2004, the victory of the Albanian national football team against
the Greek counterparts shook up the climate of nationalist euphoria which had been
cultivated after the Greek victory in Euro 2004. Moreover, it disputed the disdainful
sense of Greek superiority to Albanian counterparts that had been grown during the
period of economic immigration from Albania to Greece. In this climate, various
violent episodes against Albanian immigrants took part all over the country, without
a strong reaction of the police forces that are traditionally characterized by attitudes
of patriotic nationalism, often accompanied by xenophobia.
Aftermath of the racist
violence was the death of a 20-year-old Albanian (who was stabbed by a Greek sup-
porter) and the injury of his brother and another Albanian man. Another striking
incident occurred during the match between the Greek and the Turkish national
258 Y. Zaimakis
teams in Karaiskaki Stadium on 24 March 2007. Blue Army launched a campaign
through social media calling Greek patriots to create a hostile atmosphere in their
curve stirring up hatred against the football representatives of the hateful nation.In
so doing, nationalist fans greeted the Turkish national anthem with hooting and
catcalls and a few hardcore nationalists performed Nazi salute.
On the opposite camp, different narratives and understandings of football fandom
emerged. The major left-wing parties entered the eld elaborating political postures
referring to the potential of a football out of the chains of capitalism. The Greek
Communist party (KKE) and the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA) attempted to
develop their politics on the football issue and to handle the popularity of the peo-
ple gamefor their own benet. Extra-parliamentary left groups started to inltrate
into football fan communities society recruiting new members to their formations.
Building their worldviews on the old extreme-left groupuscularstheories concern-
ing the working-class football culture and the unmediated expression of autonomous
community passion, a new generation of leftist fans sought to articulate and to
reinvent fandom identities constructing an anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and
non-conformist agenda. They respond to the fascist and neo-Nazi groupsaction that
threaten to appropriate and colonize the space of fandom spreading a xenophobic
and anti-immigration discourse.
Similar processes took place within the anarchist camp. In the context of the
increasing repressive policies of the Greek state against hooliganism, the deep-seated
rivalries between football organized fans and police forces in and out the football
stadiums pave the way to the construction of temporary alliances between anarchist
groupusculars and football fanatics. Some anarchist groups saw passionate and vio-
lent fandom as a potential force in their effort to recruit and mobilize the oppressed
people towards a desirable social uprising. This mobility favoured a newly emerged
football activism informed, to some extent, by wider political struggles and social
tensions. In mid-2000s, fans grafti adorned with anarchist or left-wing symbols and
slogans saying intriguing phrases spanning football and political questioning (e.g.
Utopia is the revolution; utopia is PAOK being the champion) appeared in the
visual landscape of Exarcheia, a central district known as the anarchist and leftist
home of Athens.
In the late 2000s, football activism was increasingly developed as a reaction both
to the strict enforcement of the past draconian sport law by Greek football authori-
ties and the climate of moral panic against hooligans cultivated by press and the
media. A violent incident had preceded in March 2007, when a 25-year-old fan of
Panathinaikos was stabbed to death during a prearranged street battle in an eastern
suburb of Athens between fans of Panathinaikos and Olympiakos.
In this vein, the
authorities banned the organizational autonomy of the football fan clubs and obliged
them to run under the control of team ofcers, settling the teams responsible for the
possible deviant behaviour of organized supporters. Teams were forced to implement
the nominal electronic ticket and electronic surveillance, organized fan trips to away
games were banned and strict penalties to deviants with concise procedures were
imposed. Many fan clubs issued furious statements expressing their strong opposi-
tions to the new policies that confronted fans as potential deviants and infringed
their rights.
The resistant spirit within fan communities against the repressive policies had
paved the way to the rise of a new generation of fans informed by extreme and
radical political ideologies. Activists, attached to extra-parliamentary formation,
Soccer & Society 259
anarchist or radical left groups, created an anti-capitalistic alternative football net-
work of fans, the Radical Fans United (RFU), with main goal to unite politicized
and anti-fascist groups all over the country against authoritarian state policies. They
issued the Rfuzine, a political fanzine and the Humba, a quarterly magazine focused
on the social and political meaning of sport, the experience of football pitch and
the fandom culture. In these magazines the targets of the network were presented:
the exchange of views on football issues, the advocacy of their rights, the creation
of a tier of socially conscious fansaddressing wider social issues, such as solidar-
ity, the impoverishment of Greek society, the squats and anti-fascism.
Since 2009,
RFU has organized ve festivals including football and basketball matches, lm
shows, sports documentaries presentation, photo and book exhibitions and groups
discussions. Moreover, radical fans have participated in two international anti-racist
fan festivals, the Mondialli Antirazisti festival in the summer 2009 at Bolonia, Italy
and the Antira Tournament in May 2008 in Sankt Pauli, Germany.
Some months after the formation of RFU, a network of nationalist fans attached
to far-right political formations was built around a website called No Fair-Play 88.
It became a central meeting point for all, some newly emerged, hardcore fascist cells
not only in the leading clubs of Athens and Thesaloniki but also in the provincial
ones. Employing a exible anti-systemic rhetoric mingling nationalist, anti-capitalist
and racist sentiments with aggressive tone, they displayed images taken by national-
ist curves with fascist, Nazi and racist content and declared the faith to the spread of
patriotism in every curve of the Greek stadiumsthrough the action of united,
imaginative and ideologistnationalist fans.
Another hallmark in the process of the radicalization of fans was the killing of
Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old schoolboy fan of Panathinaikos, by a
police ofcer in Exarcheia, on 6 December 2008. It gave rise not only to vigorous
demonstrations all over the country followed by erce clashes between young pro-
testers and riot police but occupation of schools, radio stations and town halls as
well. The sad event activated deeper feelings of frustration in the younger generation
concerning specic economic problems of the country, the increasing unemployment
rate of young people and the common sense of corruption in Greek state
The youth uprising triggered off left-wing criticism against the repressive appara-
tus of state and police violence. The fact that Grigoropoulos was a Panathinaikos
fan came to the front the organized fans. During the Champion League match
Panatinaikos-Anorthosis Famagusta, Gate 13 fans greeted riot police in Athens
Olympic stadium with boos and catcalls and hung up a banner reading No Justice,
no Peace. In the streets around the football grounds a lot of grafti were
appeared with artistic images of Grigoropoulos accompanied by anti-systemic and
anti-authoritarian messages.
For the rst time, blocks of organized fans were involved in street politics and
protest marches consorted with a motley crowd of protesters, including schoolchil-
dren, students, anti-fascists, communistsand anarchists in a young revolt. A part of
organized fans adopted politics that transgressed the limits of football activism
claiming wider social and political changes. Narratives informed by civil rights
movements were articulated reinforcing the criticism of hardcore fans against the
restraint of their rights and linking them with anti-systemic and anti-establishment
sentiments, often employed a shallow or populist political discourse.
260 Y. Zaimakis
In the second half of 2000s, new fan communities of middle-level teams arrived
on the scene using symbols of international social movements and opening up new
horizons of politicized football activism. Autonomous Gate 10 of Iraklis Thessa-
loniki, Fentagin of Atromitos, Che-Gevara of Pansseraikos, Apei-rotan of PAS Ioan-
nina, Warriors of Panaitolikos and Alternatives of Ergotelis are some striking
examples. Within all leading clubs, political opinions were expressed by radical fans
and intragroup conicts related to the identities politics and the hegemony within
each club took place. However, the ideological confrontations remained limited
within the circles of politicized fans and the wider network of organized supporters
deliberately attempted to avoid intragroup or opposing clubs conicts related to
political tensions. The process of politicization within football communities reaches
its peak during the onset of economic crisis
The economic crisis and the football crisis: the protest movement of fan
By May 2010, the austerity measures taken in the wake of bailout offered by Troika
(the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European
Union) were followed by rapidly increasing unemployment, impoverishment and
precariousness of Greek labour relations. The economic crisis changed dramatically
the eld of professional football. The policies of strict austerity deteriorated the liv-
ing conditions of the Greek supporters, excluding many poverty-stricken fans from
the attendance of football games. Although football clubs have cut down drastically
the price of match tickets, the ofcial data show the decline in average attendance in
the Super League matches during the age of austerity (7.547 per match in
20092010 season, a year before the countrys entrance to the austerity age, 6.424
in 20102011, 5.149 in 20112012, 4.896 in 20122013, 3912 in 20132014).
The rapid fall of teamsrevenues from ticket, advertisement, grants and state
subsidies was followed by the drastic reduction of clubs expenditures and footballer
transfers from abroad. Football authorities imposed transfer bans and nancial
charges on clubs with strong economic problems not being able to pay footballers
and to reduce their debts. Aftermath of the severe economic crisis was a poor quality
championship with sharp reduction of club investments and an increase in the gap
between rich and poor clubs. The unequal competition led to a predictable
championship since Olympiakos, the only thriving club, has been the permanent
It is worth mentioning that AEK Athens, one of the most popular clubs in the
country, was relegated after the 20122013 season from the Greek Superleague to
Football League (Second division) for the rst time in its history. Melissanidis, who
took over the club with the full support of its fanbase, dropped AEK into the third
division (Football League 2) benetting from a rule, according to which any profes-
sional club can have its debts write off provided that it had chosen to be relegated.
In so doing, during the two next seasons AEK lled its depleted roster and became
a competitive team dominating in domestic championships on its way to return to
the Super League. Similar to AEK, three historical teams (Larisa, Pansseraikos,
Kavala) utilized the favourable legislation to their own interest and dropped out of
the Football League to compete in the amateur Football League 2 purging, by this
way, their nances.
Soccer & Society 261
The crisis of the Greek professional football in combination with the precarious
living conditions of many fans triggered off the political questioning in football
communities. In the era of the memoranda mass demonstrations and a grassroots
social movement emerged expressing erce opposition to austerity policies. In these
contexts, politicized groups within fan communities attempted to activate organized
supporters to be involved in political struggles against strict austerity and state
At the same time Golden Dawn, which has managed to accelerate its force
within the electoral body, reinforced its inuence in football communities. Employ-
ing conspiracy theories about the suspicious role of the foreign usurers in the Greek
tragedy, the Golden Dawn articulated a populist, ethnocentric discourse based on an
anti-immigrant, anti-globalization and anti-communist agenda. Nationalist symbols
appeared on several curves and neo-fascist ideas and pictures were spread in fans
During the mass demonstration against austerity policies in the late 2011 and
early 2012 politicized groups of fans expressed their strong opposition to the
governing policies and the Troika surveillance of the country through orchestrated
symbolic protests. Although the authorities banned the presence of political symbols
at the stadiums, organized fans with joint effort managed to pass into their stands
banners with political messages, offering commentaries on wider political and social
issues and protesting against austerity and neoliberal policy measures.
These banners conveyed a multiplicity of messages reecting various political
sentiments within organized fans. Some of them employed an aggressive nationalist
or anti-systemic discourse (e.g. Politicians betrayers: we will burn you and the Par-
liament, Olympiakos, Gate 7). Other used more playful, intriguing slogans lifting
up the spirit of revolt within football worlds and connecting football activism with
street politics and anti-systemic discourse (e.g. In order to save the banks from their
failure, they have led us into poverty and unemployment, they have sold our country
out and whatever belongs to us, turn the t.v. off on the way to the victory(Panathi-
naikos, Gate 13), The ame has been burning for a while now in the pitches and
roads. Now it has become a blaze and it will burn all of(AEK, Original 21).
Provocative slogans, related to extreme ideologies commenting on urban guerrilla
and social inequality, also appeared: Steal from the rich and give to the poor,
(PAOK, Gate 4), In your eyes they are terrorists, in ours they are rebels: Freedom
to the armed guerillas, (Aris, Super 3).
Fans from small clubs intervened in the joint actions, displaying sometimes
messages that move from the context of football rivalries to the realm of political
struggle (e.g. [Papandreou, the then prime minister of the country] The people do
not want you. Take the Troika and go away, Gate 4, OFI; Do not seek enemies in
other teams, come with us to ght for a different society, Ergotelis, Alternatives).
Cyprus supporters expressed their solidarity with their Greek counterparts and sent
warning messages to their governments (e.g. Solidarity with the Greek people,
People should not be afraid of their governments, Governments should be afraid of
their people, Omonoia, Gate 9 and Death to the Banker, Freedom to Greece,
APOEL, The Oranges).
The anti-memorandum spirit of fans spread in everyday life. Live athletic radio
programmes and social media hosted views of indignant supporters calling the peo-
ple to participate in political actions. Since political polarization was at its climax,
various unexpected incidents with political signicance within football pitches
262 Y. Zaimakis
sparked off political confrontations and ideological contestations between extreme-
right groups and antifa supporters. On 16 December 2012, three fans of AEK,
members of the Golden Dawn, attacked and beat the Radical Left Coalition deputy
Dimitris Stratulis in the Super League match AEK-Atromitos outside Athens
Olympic Stadium.
The incident caused a strongly worded protest of Original 21
through an announcement that disapproved the carcinoma of fascismcalling the
attacker blusterer worms. The announcement highlighted the historical identity of
the club that originated from refugees and immigrants coming from Asia Minor,a
community without colours and bordersand warned the misanthropesattackers
that they were undesirable and outlawedwithin AEK family.
On 16 March 2013, a Nazi salute gesture performed by Giorgos Katidis, a
20-year-old AEK footballer during a Super League game at the Olympic Stadium
caused erce disputes between supporters and critics of the player in social media.
Except the Golden Dawn, all political parties condemned his behaviour. The Greek
Football Federation decided Katidislifetime exclusion from playing in all Greek
national teams because the Nazi salute insulted the public sentiments and the victims
of Nazi atrocities, violating the peaceful spirit of football. Original 21 made a harsh
statement through which denounced Katidis for his offensive behaviour that insulted
the cultural heritage of the team, called him scurvy, trivial and swankand asked
politicians to let them free to settle the issue alone expressing its hostility to political
system. The political circumstances favoured various grassroots conicts between
Original and nationalist groups in Athens and provincial cities too, including
exchanges of aggressive statements, offering the opportunity to Originalistas to
bring the memory of their historical origins in the forefront in order to reinforce a
modern construction of their identity associated with libertarian, antifa and
anti-racist ideas.
The politically fuelled juxtapositions between the Golden Dawn and anti-fascist
hardcore supporters soon have spread in the Northern Greece. On 4 September
2013, Kaçe, an Albanian player of PAOK who was born in Albania and moved to
Thessaloniki at the age of three, was involved in a scandal posting on the Facebook
a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt with the symbol of the Kosovo Liberation Army
(UCK). This gesture set off criticism in the football world and the Golden Dawn
issued an inammatory statement, imbued with ultra-nationalist spirit and hatred
against multiculturalism and globalization, accusing Kaçe for his action and called
the Gate 4 to take a stand on this question.
The announcement prompted the vio-
lent reaction of PAOK supporters attacking with stones, bottles and recrackers at
the ofces of the Golden Dawn. The Gate 4 made an announcement by which it
denounced the appropriation of the cultural tradition of PAOK, which has being
offered for political games by any political party. Recalling historical narratives,
the announcement articulates a story of the club which consists of proud migrants,
who came butchered and expelled from Turkey and when they arrived in Greece
the locals treated them like dirt because they regarded them as Turks.
supporters, just as AEK Original did, negotiated current political conicts for their
benet, reinforcing the sense of community solidarity and of belonging to an under-
dog, unprivileged club, a popular narrative within PAOK fanbase.
Another incident that brought into action a new circle of ideological juxtaposi-
tions was the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas, an antifa rapper supporter of Olympia-
kos, by a Golden Dawn member outside a coffee shop in Keratsini of Piraeus where
he was watching a European Champion League match of his favourite team. Radical
Soccer & Society 263
fans expressed their feeling of grief and loss through anti-fascist banners and grafti
inside and outside stadiums during the following matches of the domestic leagues
and some clubs made announcements stressing their indignation against fascist
threat. Since the club of Gate 7 did not issue a statement, furious intragroup disputes
between anti-fascist and non-politicalfans were taking place in social media. Anti-
fascist fans of Olympiakos in Exarcheia disapproved the silence of Gate 7 on the
Facebook, criticizing its afliation with Greek and Serbian nationalists followed by
an aggressive announcement by the local club of Porto Leone in Keratsini. Employ-
ing a macho rhetoric, Porto Leone defended the honour of a club where right-win-
gers, left-wingers, workers and bosses become one, and slashed the use of
Facebook reminding that the real condemnation took place during the mass
demonstration of 20.000 people in Keratsini.
Despite the criticism against the fascist inltration in stadiums the existence of
nationalist symbols within the stands of Gate 7 continued to signify its ties with
nationalist circles. In the Super League matches Olympiakos-Anterlext on 9 Decem-
ber 2013 members of Gate 7 hung up a skull and bones ag, historically associated
with fascism, incited the prompt reaction of UEFA. It punished Olympiakos, due to
the racist conductionof a part of their fans,
with the closure of the lower tiers of
the northern stand at the Karaiskakis stadium for the next UEFA competition. The
UEFA decision led to the withdrawal of nationalist and aggressive symbols from
Olympiakos game and brought into the foreground of public discourse the danger of
far-right spread into football lifeworlds.
The process of footballisation of politics, in Scalias terms,
is another landmark
in the process of intersection between football and politics. In the 2012 national
election, the inltration of football society into the political system was strengthen
since prominent organized fans were elected as deputies and came in the foreground
of political stage. For example, Vangelis Diamantopoulos, a founder member of
Aris, Super 3, Grigoris Psarianos, an ex-president of the grassroots formation of
AEK, Enosis 1924, and Ilias Panagiotaros, a leader of Blue Army and ex-member of
Panathinaikos Mad Boys, became members of the Greek Parliament with SYRIZA,
Democratic Left and Golden Dawn, respectively.
The double local and euro-election in Greece in May 2004 was marked by an
unusual invasion of football elites in politics. Yiannis Moralis, the vice-president of
Olympiakos and, then, president of Super League gain the mayoralty of the biggest
Greek port with an independent combination called Victorious Piraeus, a term
inspired by football jargon. The combination was constructed by the chairman of
Olympiakos, Vaggelis Marinakis, a shipping tycoon, who got into the Town Coun-
cil, along with others prominent executives of the club, such as Petros Kokkalis, son
of the former Olympiakos owner Sokratis Kokkalis who has been running the team
for 17 years. Using the votes of 1000s of dedicated fans of Olympiakos, they gained
political power aiming at the promotion of the ambitious enterprising plans: to reor-
ganize the port of the city into a hub of international trade, attracting foreign invest-
ment and creating a job for each citizen, with the same business acumen that led
the club to the domination of domestic leagues.
Similarly, Axilleas Beos the former owner of Olympiakos Volou who was
brought to court for match-xing was the winner of the local mayoral contest. Using
a populist discourse against the alleged discreditable local party politicians, he
attracted the voters of Volos promising a fast truck economic development, promot-
ing successful citizens, mainly coming from market and sport worlds. In Athens,
264 Y. Zaimakis
Panathinaikos Movement, a political party founded in 2012 by supporters of the
team, got 2.91% of the vote in the local election and participated in the
Euro-elections promoting football-related interests in its campaign. In Euro-election,
Theodoros Zagorakis, the former player of PAOK and captain of the victorious
Greek national team of the 2004 European championship, was elected with the
conservative New Democracy to the European parliament.
While in the past, the clientelist networks between club ofcials and the political
system were behind the scene, nowadays the unusual open mingling of big business
surrounding football world with hybrid political combinations signies an alarming
turn in the political culture of the country towards the footballization of politics. It
reects the growing disappointment of Greeks towards a discredited political system
in the austerity era that leads indignant people to seek anxiously some savours, not
being in traditional politics. Popular football celebrities and owners of clubs, who
exemplify the ordinary yet specialmen among us, fulll the capitalist dream of
attainable and self-producable stardom and richness.
They seem to offer a
magicalsolution to the social pressures and deadlocks of a society in crisis.
Although fandom activism criticized the commercialization and the embour-
geoisement of professional football they often follow interest-driven politics charac-
terized by opportunism and uidity. A remarkable example is the recent dispute
between Original 21 and activists who are opposed to the Melissanidisplans to
build a new luxurious stadium with commercial facilities in the location where AEK
had its home ground, trespassing on part of the neighbouring public park space. In
June 2014, approximately 200 organized AEK fans vandalized the anarchist squat-
ting Strouga, attacked on protesters and beat the left-wing major of Nea Fhiladel-
phia-Nea Halkidona Aris Vasilopoulos. During the 2015, national election
campaign, this conict was continued and Original 21 expressed publically its dis-
approval for the Syriza pointview.
Original issued an announcement criticizing the
mayor of Nea Philadelphia and calling Syriza to take a clear stand on the issue and
on 8th January during the AEK-Atromitos match raised up a warning banner saying:
having our own stadium we support and accordingly we vote. What the research
ndings show is that the protection of their favourite club interests remained a basic
motivation of fandom collective action and thus the identity of dedicated football
supporter often prevail over the political identity of the fan.
As Brown has pointed out the osmosis of football fandom with political activism
reects the uid, changing and contested nature of football community of the late
where people from different communities and subcultures can con-
stantly be reinterpreting and re-negotiating their identities transgressing the symbolic
boundaries of their communities.
In this changing space the lines between fandom
modes of action and traditional civic and political activities are blurring, opening,
with Foucault terms, more possible sites of struggle and resistance to dominant order
in everyday life within and outside football societies.
During the last 30 years, Greek football has become a highly charged eld
encompassing wider social, political, racial and economic conicts. Traditionally,
hardcore football fans perceived themselves as agents of a counter-culture resistance
to the system of corrupted football governance, the repressive state and the height-
ened commercialization of football. They called for changes of the clubsownership
Soccer & Society 265
and for the unequal power relationships within football society, beneting for their
groupsinterests. The mainstream political party used the fandom in order to
increase their electoral base and the owners of leading teams pressed the political
system to pass laws favourable to their interests.
During the era of the nancial crisis, football became a fertile ground where the
borders between football, politics, economy and society became increasingly
blurred. The austerity measures spread rapidly from wider society to football world
deteriorating the long-standing nancial problems of clubs and increasing the gap
between a few powerful clubs and the rest. In the context of political uidity, eco-
nomic interests around football tycoons and executives have controlled not only
local authorities in important cities, but also several mass media and sport press.
Football celebrities became members of the Greek Parliament and political discourse
has been saturated with football culture and jargon leading to the footballisation of
On the other hand, the alarming deepening economic crisis of the country that
has deteriorated the living conditions of Greek people and has hit football societies
gave rise to the construction of an expressive protest movement by radical fans
against austerity policies and the country surveillance by the Troika. To some
degree, this movement is a continuation of the 2008 youth uprising after the assassi-
nation of Grigoropoulos, a milestone in the process of politicization of football
world. Politicized fans have constructed resistant ideologies inspired both by the
unequal power relationship of Greek professional football and the political conict
in surrounding society, utilizing them for their own benets. In this context, new
fandom identities and counter identities were constructed, including political acti-
vism, performing through street politics, collective action and protest demonstration.
For radical fans political activism is a source of meaning and a means of the con-
struction of collective reputation and identity.
Organized fans articulate and display criticism against opponents: modern foot-
ball, commercialization, police, media and football authorities and also wider politi-
cal entities and social process, for example, state, capitalism and globalization.
Within the realm of their discourses, nationalist fans have focused on issues of the
nation, region, migration, sex and race, promoting local pride, ethnocentric chauvin-
ism, manliness, sexism and anti-globalization sentiment. In the conjuncture of crisis,
the xenophobic, anti-systemic and populist agenda of the far-right Golden Dawn
have promoted hostility against the sexual deviant, the female, the globalization and
the racial others. Connecting the passionate hardcore fandom with the populist
patriotism and machismo of the Golden Dawn, nationalist fans construct a space
where different cultural subjects and behaviours (e.g. black clothes, shaven head, tat-
tooing, heavy metal music and skinheads norms) are interwoven in order to make
sense of nationalist sentiments and to express publically the distinctive identity of
neo-fascist groups.
On the contrary, antifa supporters tend to pay attention to class, multiculturalism,
anti-racism, social inequality and power relationship issues articulating anti-sys-
temic, anti-fascist and anti-capitalist discourses with raw and aggressive texture.
They borrow slogans and symbols of anti-globalasation, social justiceand anti-capi-
talist movements, employing a rather shallow ideologization without systematic con-
ceptual elaboration. They often construct invented traditions of their teams
projecting heroic elements and resistant spirit on them. Despite the controversies
and ambivalences prevalent within these discourses, the political discussions within
266 Y. Zaimakis
progressive football life worlds and the new forms of activism in the times of crisis
(e.g. anti-racist campaigns, connections with grassroots networks of social solidarity)
could open up new horizons for more critical approaches.
Football fanspolitical stances are characterized by exibility and heterogeneity
reecting the fragmentation of political life and the transgression, to some extent, of
modernist boundaries. Political confrontation pervades horizontally all popular clubs,
often resulting in intragroup conicts concerning the hegemony of the club identity.
Since the wider context of social turmoil in the Greek society has inltrated football
worlds, politically fuelled evidence at the stadiums offered chances to fans to negoti-
ate their identities and articulate stories which often call the cultural tradition of their
teams and its alleged intrinsic values to mind. Social crisis activated existing inter-
group juxtapositions and provided some clubs with the opportunity to express their
self image of the underdog and, thus, to separate them from the others, those
regarded as the football establishment and as an expression of the wider systemic
forces of Greek society.
These are the cases of AEK and PAOK fans that have made use of the present
circumstances to afrm resistant identities and to reinforce the sense that they are
socially excluded within the existing power relation of Greek football, cultivating a
self-image of an anti-establishment and non-conformist group. Their attitudes are
characterized by controversy and opportunism. While they present themselves as the
guardians of their teams anti-capitalist spirit, at the same time part of them can
collaborate, sometimes harmonically, with the new rich owners of their team,
(Mellisanidis in AEK and Savvidis in PAOK) supporting their plans to extend their
enterprises into football world.
The situational and contextual character of fandom identities is also evident in
several other examples. In the case of Panathinaikos, the involvement of Gate 13 in
the mass protests against state authoritarianism after the assassination of Grig-
oropoulos offered an opportunity to some radical circles within clubs to re-interpret
the team identity, traditionally considered as an expression of political conservatism,
moving to more libertarian and anti-establishment positions. Similarly, Autonomous
Gate 10 in the club of Heracles in Thessaloniki, despite its historical ties with con-
servative circles of the city, appeared to be the most visible, anti-capitalist football
network participating in several action of social solidarity in the era of austerity. By
contrast, in the case of Olympiakos, a team with strong historical ties with the work-
ing class of Piraeus, strong cells of nationalist fans, often under the veil of non-polit-
ical supporters, is struggling with anti-fascist counterparts. The Olympiakos case
reects wider political changes such as the increasing inuence of the community-
based organizations of the Golden Dawn in working class areas and its successful
inltration into football communities.
The study on Greek professional football within a society in crisis shows the
uid and liquid identities of the football fandom and the complex intersection
between football activism and politics. Anti-capitalist alternative football networks
call for political action addressing wider social and political issue, bridging in some
degree the gap between fandom sentiments and new social movements discourse.
Radical fans seek to change the existing power relationship, correcting its injustices
but the majority of them are unwilling to force changes harmful to the interests of
their team. The devotion of a fan to a particular club seems to be a permanent com-
ponent in the fans identity prole and it generally dominates all other compo-
However, a few cells of politicized fans seem to deal with taboo in fandom
Soccer & Society 267
world issues, such as localism, homophobia, sexism and masculinity and offer
self-criticism on the role of organized fans in long-standing corruption of the Greek
professional football. This offers room for signicant changes in a deep corrupted
and alienated world. It is remain an open question whether Greek football activism
can move forward from interest-driven opportunistic politics to a social movement
discourse that challenge, with some degree of continuity, existing patterns of
inequalities and structures of exploitation not only within the sports eld but also in
the wider society.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
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268 Y. Zaimakis
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270 Y. Zaimakis
... Although the nationalism of ultras is a phenomenon which is vivid, it is not fully understood. Numerous studies from different countries, including Croatia (Perasović and Mustapić, 2018), Cyprus (Maniou, 2019), Greece (Zaimakis, 2018), Italy (Testa and Armstrong, 2010), Israel (Ben-Porat, 2006), Russia , Romania (Faje, 2018), Serbia (Djordjević and Pekić, 2018), Spain (Spaaij and Viñas, 2005) and Turkey (Battini, 2012) provide detailed accounts of the current character of ultras' nationalism. Yet the plenitude of research on the topic and its international diversity does not necessarily translate into a full understanding of the genesis of nationalism in football stands. ...
... This is mainly the case of countries involved in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where this borderline experience was conducive to the strong internalisation of ethnic identity (Djordjević and Pekić, 2018). Fourthly, some studies stress the role of the skinhead subculture, which had permeated football stands and postulated a revival of historical nationalisms Spaaij and Viñas, 2005;Zaimakis, 2018). The skinhead subculture influenced the ultras also in terms of nationalist symbols like the swastika, the Celtic cross or the skull, which are still to be seen in the stands in some countries (like Russia). ...
... Sixthly, nationalism can result from topdown implementation. This is the case of countries like Greece (Zaimakis, 2018), Romania (Faje, 2018) or Turkey (Battini, 2012), where football was used by the political authorities as a means to disseminate state-produced national ideology. ...
This article presents the results of a study on the historical development of nationalist discourse in Polish football stands. Its main objectives are: (a) to reveal the processes shaping the ultras' nationalist discourse; and (b) to explain how it has been institutionalised and reproduced. Drawing on the post-foundational discourse analysis, the study conceptualises nationalist discourse as a set of structurally arranged practices of articulation which create a meaning of nation. In order to reconstruct the development of ultras' nationalist discourse the study uses content analysis of nation-related ultras' displays from 2002 to 2018 recaptured from the TMK (To My Kibice, We, the fans) fanzine created by supporters and dedicated to football fan culture in Poland. The analysis identifies a sequence of four different forms of ultras' nationalist discourse in the period under consideration and shows that they have been shaped by a contingency logic; that is, by rules stemming from the existing practices of articulation, rather than by the logic of ideological cohesion.
... The nationalism of this period stigmatized all leftist ideologies as connected with communism (see Djordjević and Pekić 2018;Gloriozova 2018). In some countries, the emergence of nationalism in ultras' culture is also related to the advent of the skinhead subculture (Spaaij and Viñas 2005;Zaimakis 2018;Gloriozova 2018). "By osmosis rather than as a result of ideological formation' (Spaaij and Viñas 2005, 86), ultras began to identify with ideologies calling for the revival of historical nationalisms. ...
... In Russia, football supporters adopted some nationalist symbols of this subculture, such as swastikas, Celtic crosses, and skulls (Gloriozova 2018). In other countries-Grecce (Zaimakis 2018), Romania (Faje 2018), and Turkey (Battini 2012)-the presence of nationalism on the terraces, to some extent, resulted from the intentional, political implementation of national ideologies in the field of football. ...
... The nationalism of ultras can also differ in character. On the one hand, at the stadiums in such countries as Cyprus (e.g., APOEL FC; see Maniou 2019), Greece (Zaimakis 2018), and Italy (e.g., S.S. Lazio and AS Roma; see Testa and Armstrong 2010) ethnic nationalism can be seen in choreographies and banners containing neofascist and xenophobic slogans. AS Roma and S.S. Lazio ultras groups even describe themselves as neofascist. ...
Drawing on a post-structuralist, post-Marxist discursive approach to nation, this paper aims to (1) explore the constitutive elements of the national ideology of Polish ultras, (2) study what means of expression are used in their choreographies in order to disseminate their vision of the nation, and (3) map the events that stimulate the production of choreographies related to national issues. The study is based on the content analysis of ultras' displays using data from a print fanzine devoted to football fandom culture in Poland. The results indicate that the national ideology of Polish ultras can be viewed as a resistance ideology. They also reveal that the national ideology of ultras is only presented in particular contexts and is not a dominant issue in their performances. The study introduces the concept of occasional nationalism, which can be a useful analytical tool to map and quantify the presence of nation in practices of articulation of a particular community.
... Το κίνημα των αυτοοργανωμένων αθλητικών σωματείων, που διαμορφώθηκε στα χρόνια της κρίσης στην Ελλάδα και αμφισβητεί τη λογική του εμπορευματοποιημένου αθλητισμού στο πλαίσιο των κύκλων διαμαρτυρίας ενάντια στις πολιτικές των μνημονίων, αποτελεί χαρακτηριστικό παράδειγμα αυτών των τάσεων. 24 Οι παρατηρήσεις του Ζίμελ για την κοινωνικότητα, την ευχαρίστηση και την περιπέτεια έχουν αξιοποιηθεί στις αθλητικές σπουδές από γνωστούς μελετητές. Η ιστορικός Κρίστιαν Έιζενμπεργκ χρησιμοποίησε ιδέες από την κοι-νωνιολογία του ανταγωνισμού του Ζίμελ, για να μελετήσει τη σημασία που είχαν οι αρχές του ανταγωνισμού στην κοινωνιογέννηση των σπορ σε Αγγλία και Γερμανία, όπως και στη διαμόρφωση ενός νέου πεδίου κοινωνικοποίησης και κοινωνικής μάθησης των πολιτών. ...
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Drawing upon a wide range of Simmel’s texts and the work of later scholars on his cultural sociology, the article seeks to reveal the significance of the exploration of Simmel‘s sociology of the sense in sport studies. The study examines Zimmel’s theory of the tragedy of the metropolitan culture and the impact of the money economy on the human senses and the cultures of everyday life. Then it carry out a theoretical reflection on selective conceptual schemes in Zimmel’s work that can be used in the sociology of sports: sociability and adventure as practices of escape from the alienated social life in the metropolis and the figure of the stranger within it. The final parts of the article offer discussion on the application of a Simmelian model of cultural analysis on sociability and competition of sport worlds and reflective remarks on the challenges and limits of the Zimmel’s approach on the aesthetics of social reality in the study of the (post)modern sport societies.
Participation in online spaces has afforded new fan cultures (Baym, Burnett 2009; Jenkins 2018) and enabled new communities of networked individuals (Rainie, Wellman 2012; Burgess, Jones 2020). Online participation also generates participatory cultures, which allow audiences unprecedented opportunity to connect with each other and with the media they share. However, it has also generated some decidedly anti-social and anti-democratic movements, such as QAnon (Amarasingam, Argentino 2020). In this commentary, we argue that QAnon can be thought of as a participatory fan culture gone awry. Using QAnon’s entry into mainstream culture in 2020 as a case study, we explore the darker implications of online participatory culture, including misinformation, conspiratorial- thinking, and an undermining of shared realities. Lastly, we propose that these issues are made more explicit and difficult to attend to in a media sphere characterized by dominant neo-liberal corporate control of participatory media, and digital dualism.
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Greek football is on the periphery of European football and it frequently faces scandals and corruption issues. Also, there appears to be a correlation between the wider social and political context and football. Additionally, FIFA and UEFA arguably have contributed to the fate of Greek football. For example, in the past when the Greek government tried to intervene in football, FIFA prevented them several times with the threat of a ban. During the previous years, FIFA and UEFA decided to cooperate with the Greek government and play a more active role in Greek football. However, little has changed in the governance of Greek football. This study has examined the context, critical incidents and the role of actors in Greek football. By using the Institutional Theory approach, our analysis indicates that the institutional context is highly problematic, as the big clubs dominate the institutional mechanisms of football. Corruption appears to be deeply embedded in the structures and operations of football, while the Hellenic Football Federation is controlled by the big clubs. In parallel, there is no plan for the overall development of football, from the grassroots to the elite level. The study concludes with a recommendation for the reformation of Greek football.
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When local bureaucrats in China disagree with their superiors, official channels for achieving a policy revision are limited and generally ineffective. However, if the stakes involved are high, they may turn to the power of the masses and draw on public pressure to enhance their negotiating position. In such informal inter-bureaucratic bargaining, local officials might intentionally facilitate popular protest and lead to a situation we call ‘mobilized instability.’ More commonly, they borrow power from ‘consent instability,’ that is, they discreetly leak insider information and instruct their police forces to be exceptionally tolerant. In this article, we use the redistricting case in Changxing county, Zhejiang province as well as other incidents to show how local officials can strategically exploit public pressure, in the mode of ‘consent instability,’ to extract policy concessions. We introduce the concept of ‘mobilized instability’ through an examination of jurisdictional restructuring conflict in Daye county, Hubei province. This analysis suggests that reckless intermediaries might over-mobilize and radicalize the masses, thereby undermining intentions and leading to serious consequences for the public officials. The article concludes that the power of the masses may serve as a credible bargaining chip during informal elite bargaining, but it can also be risky for those who handle it poorly.
This article explores the genealogy of the relationship between the discourses promoted in the heavy metal music press and neo-Nazi publications in Greece since the 1980s. It aims to show that the proliferation of neo-Nazi ideologies and practices in Greece after 2008 was not simply a result of the ‐ on-going ‐ financial crisis; rather, its seeds had been planted during the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s. We shall illustrate how this connection resulted from a conscious decision taken by key neo-Nazi groups and explore how the cultivation of such relationships gradually led to the further dissemination of neo-Nazi discourse within the mainstream heavy metal music press.
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Current literature on sport fandom is dominated by social identity theory, emphasizing dichotomous categorizations that contrast ‘fans’ versus ‘others’ based on easily measured variables (wearing a jersey, attending a match, etc.). We believe that this approach often excludes those who may consider themselves fans of a team, athlete or sport but may not fit within the proscribed and predefined norms of fan behaviour. To bridge this gap, we draw from identity theory and performative gender theory to propose Performative Sport Fandom. We believe this new theoretical approach is a more ecumenical and nuanced way to understand sport fans on their own terms by focusing on how these roles are performed. Performative Sport Fandom also lends itself to examine how roles are negotiated both internally and externally, including how they are blended and what happens when roles conflict.
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This study examines how left-wing ideology is articulated, displayed and enacted among organized groups of football fans in Spain. The left-wing political space in Spanish football fan culture is occupied by multiple autonomous but often interconnected points of organizational and activist activity characterized by ideological flexibility, heterogeneous identities and interests, and a diffuse message, and whose solidarity is based on a sense of shared struggle. Solidarity and identification among left-wing fan groups is built through the contestation of three issues: neo-fascism, racism and the increasing commercialization of football. The political beliefs and actions of left-wing fan groups in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia are further informed by peripheral nationalisms and the struggle for the revival of the historic communities. It is illustrated how left-wing fans promote and engage in collective social action at the local, national and transnational levels.
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Fan activism lies at the intersection of cultural and political participation. The study of fan activism can inform our understanding of contemporary collective action more broadly. We suggest four key areas for analysis: the relationships between cultural and political participation; the tension between participation and resistance in the context of fan activism; affect and the role of content worlds in civic and political mobilization; and evaluation of the impacts of fan activism. By drawing on work across several disciplines including media studies and social movement literature, the analysis of fan activism through these lenses offers insights for theorizing contemporary cultures and modes of collective action.
FC Sankt Pauli is often portrayed as a rebel football club that represents an ideal manifestation of fan centredness. But whilst the club’s reputation is mostly well earned, there is much to distinguish the fans from the club and conflict between the two is prominent and ongoing. This research, based on more than 10 years of ethnography amongst the fans and questionnaires and interviews with key individuals, looks behind the scenes to reveal how fans challenge their club, the authorities and much more beyond. Authentic voices of fan activists tell a story of fervent sport activism, fan power and resistance, alive and well inhabiting a vibrant subculture. Political praxis and protest are prolific amongst Sankt Pauli fans. By illuminating the radical sport activism of Sankt Pauli fans, this paper offers a vision for other football fans to emulate and for sport more generally to realize a more transformative potential.
Italian football has been heavily politicized since its arrival on the peninsular and the fans reflect this. Since the 1980s, there has been a shift to the right on the curve of Italian stadiums. Livorno stands apart as one of the few Italian clubs to maintain a resolute Communist identity. As a consequence of globalization, local identity has been reinforced and Livorno fans draw on a unique history to reinforce their identity. In a variety of different ways Livorno fans perform this identity and this frames their interactions with others. In so doing, they draw on a variety of Communist images and this helps define their actions. Through political protest, charity and matchday choreographies, Livorno fans reflect and resist specific aspects of football in a globalized world.
At a time when institutional levers are being pulled to counter the twin threats of racism and rampant commercialism, traditional grassroots radicalism amongst football supporters committed to opposing these long-standing problems in European professional football are in danger of being overlooked. Football is a cultural form, which carries with it the possibility of promoting the voices of the disenfranchised and the marginalized, and as such the potential is always there for nurturing solidarity against a dominant discourse that buttresses the existing social order. The intention of this paper is to highlight the tradition of left-wing political thinking in the culture of fans of professional football.
This article seeks to shed light on the reasons beneath the emergence of football hooliganism-related media-orchestrated moral panics. Comparative analysis of the upmarket press coverage of the issue in Italy and Greece from the 1970s onwards reveals that the transforming of football hooliganism into a security threat was to a great extent dissociated from the scale and seriousness of the phenomenon. In both case studies, the change in the way journalists perceived football hooligans was closely associated with an array of social and political factors that were unrelated to football crowd violence. Contextualization of these findings suggests that the gradual replacement of the political origins of this threat-focused perception by apparently depoliticized risk-oriented security threat assessments has played an important role in legitimating liberty-restricting counter-hooliganism policies.