In the Heart of Support
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.
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
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
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.