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In the Heart of Support

WizardMan

May 22, 2005. What is this date famous for? Well, at least for the fact that it was another day of derby Spartak – CSKA. But is this a reason to remember that date? It certainly is; but what’s really interesting is that you remember it for much more than the spectacular sight of a record attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium (circa 65,000) and not the tough score (1-3), but a small red-white picture from modules at Section B5 with letters "ОУКБ” – so dear to every Spartak fan.

To analyse properly the significance of this event one should go a little back in history and take a look at what was going on in the Russian football and the ultras culture. Well, if there is any good reason to do it, because we all went through, to a certain extent, those "dark times” of the 1990-s… Extreme violence of the law forces, low living standard, hatred to the opponents keenly felt in the air – so indelible and recognizable they are. In the Soviet times you could be sent off the stands for wearing a scarf or some badge. In the 1990-s you were just simply ousted. Well, not actually ousted but knocked out. With rubber and steel. Those who had enough courage to attend matches "against all odds” and to be lucky not to get the works with cops, could otherwise cross with the rival hooligans who seemed to have outnumbered ordinary supporters. Football was firmly associated with such notions as fright, hatred, extremities…

Was this great sports created for this? Was it expected from every single person who once and for all gave a part of his soul to his/her favourite symbol, be it diamond or star or arrow…? Why are stadiums filled to capacity, what are the matches broadcast for, why are international tournaments organized? For joy. For emotions that it gives us. For every football match with your favourite team is a feast, a holiday. The holiday we were deprived of.

Well, remembering the past or even the bad past moments is quite fruitless, anyway. Let’s just draw the line here with a famous quotation from the latest issue of "UN”: "Fanaticism is dead. Long live hooliganism?”. That was the case at the turn of the millennium.

Gradually, living like this and backing your team in such a way became quite impossible. We rise when our honour and pride are hurt. So, in the course of time heavy fights with police and our rivals brought some results for a mixed support movement. We gained our rights and freedom on the grounds and reached good organization in different support subgroups. And what else can you think of when you have sincerity and love to your team, when you are all united by the same goals and objectives and when you finally have gained some freedom in the section? For the adequate people the answer is definitely just one: you wish to prove your love by actions, to make a great occasion.

So just these reasons led the Red-Whites to the creation of an activity group which would make matches with our favourite "The Great and Strong” team "great” and "strong” indeed.

Thus, on May 22, 2005 the avant-garde part of the Red-White support culture made its first organized step onto the ultras stage of Russia. The name Fratria itself appeared that very year, later ahead. That is on October 28, 2005 the leaders of the red-white fan movement invented and affirmed the name of a new organization. This is how "Fratria” was born!

The ideologists of this organization will certainly speak of its history much better. We, in our turn, will try to give a brief overview of what Fratria have done for a single Red-White supporter and the whole Russian ultras culture in general. For this purpose we will cover two aspects: team support and organisation of supporters.

Support. Performance.

The modest display "ОУКБ” (Suck It From The Red-White) from the words of one the Fratria leaders "literally blew up the Red-White movement and it said: We want it! We want to make performances not worse than in Europe” (c). We just had to wonder how the inexperienced Fratria together with all the Spartak fans could raise the level of displays at the stadiums with every single match. The banner of an extreme character at a derby Spartak – CSKA, the display of a perfect-form "heart” + flags + the streamer at a match with Zenit, pyrotechnics in Yaroslavl – all this was totally new and in the course of the championship no one could even think of its possibility. Having no experience, without any special programmes it was hardly ever possible to handle the supporters stands first at the Lokomotiv Stadium, then at the Luzhniki and manage a proper picture. But we did it! And to cap it all – an organized display and chanting with 20,000 supporters! For the first time in the Spartak movement and Russia.

It should be noted that such a tremendous result would have been impossible without the participation of every supporter in the section. Along with this, the team was doing better and better showing good play. So, all these positive emotions, the pride for the work done and desire to outclass the opponents couldn’t leave anyone indifferent. Sooner the "Meat” card picture displays became the signature of the Red-White Ultras. And the desire turned into skill. Where there's a will, there's a way.

The next tournament in 2006 brought in new challenges. And it was a pleasure to accept them because it was the first break for Spartak into Euro tournaments after years of disaster! Of course, all the preparations for the Champions League matches were as important as for the Russian Championship, still the special dish was to be cooked in autumn. And the first match in the League group was marked by the best performance of the Fratria and the entire Section B at the Luzhniki. A dark monk with the fiery words "God Save Spartak!” threw the Red-Whites into ecstasies and stirred up blind envy in their opponents.

Still there was its own "fly in the ointment”. The black cards used as the background for the display were used for fun in the stands, with the lighters. The burnt paper outraged the police and firefighters. As a result the cards were banned. It was a tough blow as later the cards of a larger size were planned to be used. They would have made pictures of a better quality and precision. Balloons could make a substitution for the cards. The blow could be really tough but things turned out quite according to the proverb "There's a silver lining to the cloud.”

Having tried the balloons at a match against Zenit, later on Fratria organized its first greatest performance. At the League’s match Spartak-Inter over 200,000 balloons were used! 3 patterns of pictures for every section! Hell of a blow from burst balloons! It was fantastic! Doomed to perform on a large scale due to the size of the Luzhniki arena, the Red-Whites surpassed all expectations. And the ensuing 20,000 red and white shirts at Spartak-Sporting were not treated as quite unreal. However, the large cards saw the time they were waiting for. They were used at a derby with our sworn enemies. The experiment was 100 per cent successful. Taking into account the superb pyrotechnical show in Yaroslavl and the highest level of an away performance in Russia Fratria’s performances made Spartak ultras the best sample of football support.

Still there’s one more thing to be bettered for the Red-White movement – the "banner wars”. The leaders in this matter in years 2005 and 2006 were certainly CSKA and Zenit. And it wasn’t left unnoticed. The work done at the end of 2006 and the early months of 2007 was a good progress but, as I think, much more work is still expected from Fratria and the rest active Spartak support groups.

Now a few words about the support. Initially, the show work in sections took a lot more time and energy than the vocal support, especially at preparing and performing actions. Singing couldn’t be called that bad at early stages of Spartak ultras culture development. Section B tended to be highly vocal at matches. The problem was with texts. Some chants and songs so popular since the Soviet times now became more and more out-of-date, less popular or not successful with the support groups. Moreover, after the Serbian players left the club 2 or more songs and chants had to be discarded altogether. Anyway some immediate measures were taken quite in time.

During an off-season period Fratria organized a singing competition and had active contacts with the European ultras movements. And by the start of the 2007 championship it presented 3 new songs with the according chanting, jumping and clapping. One of them – "Spartak Moscow! My love!” became the best hit song for all Fratria years. Besides, in 2007 the active part of the Red-White movement went all the way to better its singing at stadiums, sometimes even to the prejudice of display performance. This policy seems to be quite wise and right for you can even do well without the display performance if some 20,000 people can sing loudly and harmoniously.

Organization of support

Having said much about the team support on the grounds, now let us turn to another aspect of Fratria activities, quite unrealistic until Fratria was created. There was a problem of making all the Spartak supporters a unity, one sound body, and performing actions to have a bigger attendance at home and away matches. The fan environment is rather heterogeneous in its nature. This is true. The stadium sections gather groups of supporters with different political ideology, principles and attitudes towards football, performances at stadiums and any actions whatever. They all give a part of themselves to the football ground. They all live with a knowledge that a part of their hearts will always remain red-white. Sometimes all their efforts and even lives do not find an adequate response from those for whom all this is done. Sometimes they meet with resistance and even insult from the team management. There are 2 ways out of such situations: keep silent, eat dirt and keep on attending matches blindly waving your flags or express your attitude and try to drive it home to the addressee. Keeping in mind the fact that football lives for its supporters, Fratria eagerly chose the second way.

It all started with a simple banner "We were left behind in Nakhodka”. Then, 500 people left the Lokomotiv Stadium in support of Dmitry Alenitchev, the team’s captain. It was followed by actions against the manager Starkov and he was eventually sacked. These actions gradually made the supporters understand that they can and should show their reaction to what happens in the club. They can even influence the situation. So there was only one little thing left. Organization.

Unfortunately, the cause to show the attitude of the masses was found quite soon, right at the start of the 2007 season. The poor play and a loss of a few important matches, the conflict with the PR Officer and his strange reaction made Fratria organize a protest action at a derby with Dinamo. There is no reason to describe it all in much detail just because we all know it. And it was a SUCCESS! Not every day can we see the media retell the action organized by the football supporters more than the match or the score. But still this is not so important. What is really crucial is that no matter how controversial the action was, the supporters kept silent for 30 minutes at such an important derby match. They "put the lid on their own desires” but did not break the solidarity which was felt in the air. And we felt we could be strong when we were together.

It may be no mere chance Spartak started playing confidentially, led the championship and since then is still on top. It may be no mere chance we did not cry "Shame” but sang songs and supported the team at the end of a lost Russian Cup match. Why? We saw the team fight, the players did their best; we felt our own efforts were not wasted. They say time will show if you were right in your decision. I think it is quite the time now to judge Fratria as a power uniting fans.

Finally, some words about the Fratria organization itself. We started our activities with several persons holding the same view who were raising some money from all possible sources for the stadium performances. We made our own website and forum, plain and simple. Now, Fratria is the most successful and independent football supporters organization in Russia. The financial independence from the club management and dues is a result of the competent ticket and marketing policy aimed at selling our own sports materials. We keep ordinary supporters interested in our activities through skilled performances, competitions and organized away travels.

Fratria’s website is developing quite successfully with its contents. It holds a record statistics of its visitors. We have our own office that quickly helps supporters solve their problems. All these factors - some faults and mistakes are inevitable though – made Fratria the power that can radically change your mind about football and supporters home and abroad.

Everything is possible when we are as one. No fine words. Just a proof of fact.

One for all and all for one.

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