I return to Andria exactly five years and two months after my last visit. At the time I had come for a Serie D Italian Cup match at the end of the summer and the crowd wasn’t exactly that of the big occasions. Today, however, we are playing for the regular season of the fourth national series, after two seasons which saw Fidelis play anonymous championships in Serie C, which ended with the relegation of the blue and white club.
Although this match is played on Saturday at 3.00 pm, the stadium of the Olive Trees It is well crowded for the occasion. The steps, however, are empty, as they are unusable, a usual Italian case, while the grandstand and the curve offer a pleasant sight. There will be around 3,000 spectators, gathered in this particular structure which from its monumental entrance welcomes the visitor with a giant M and two eagles on the ends of the wall surrounding the grandstand, elements which unequivocally hint at the fascist design of the facility. The structure was in fact built as a racecourse in 1931 and only after World War II transformed into a football stadium, precisely in 1949.
When I set foot on the green blanket the atmosphere is truly special. The home curve is preparing a show for the twenty-fifth year of the The Faithful Brigade; you can already imagine it from the very long paper banner displayed on the window, where the pieces of the different Andria support groups usually place themselves. Founded on October 18, 1998, by eight young people who were previously members of the New Blue Generation dissolved a few weeks ago, the The Faithful Brigade stands as the successor of the group born in the stands in 1985 and which had been the point of reference for the blue and white fans for thirteen years. It disbanded in September 1998 after a turbulent Andria-Brescia match on 13 September 1998 which saw the entire NBG board end up under investigation for the very harsh protest against the president. With the criminal charges against these leading elements, it was decided that there were no longer any grounds for continuing.
Despite the end of the leading group, today, 25 years later, on the home banner of Brigade there is still a piece of history, given that the lion’s head is an original piece of the NBG to indicate the line of continuity.
The Curva Nord of Andria has a very classic organized support structure (without this having to be interpreted negatively), with a leading group, the The Faithful Brigade precisely, which refers to an entire fan base and at its side various groups that give more than valid support, from Drunks active from 1988 to Ultras 98, without forgetting the original NNA (Nel Nome di Andria). As everywhere it is not always easy to keep everyone on the same page but in the Apulian city the balance works.
Ten minutes before kick-off the Angri boys also arrive in the away sector. Together they make a good debut in the stands and despite some boos from the stands, respect exists between the opposing factions. I didn’t expect such a large number of Grigiorossi fans but this is confirmation of the state of health of the Italian ultras movement. There are 250 because the tickets were limited to that number and the trip was authorized only on Thursday by the GOS, i.e. two days before the race. It goes without saying that in Italy respect for fans does not exist. However and despite all the enthusiasm there is and several flags in the sky demonstrate it.
The sun shines in the blue sky on this beautiful autumn day as the teams enter the field. The north curve is divided into three sections: with blue flags on the right side, white flags on the left side and nothing in the center, at least at first. Secondly, in this colorless segment a curve cover bearing the dates of the anniversary falls from above Brigade, 1998-2023. The scenography is simple but successful, underlined by a banner about forty meters long: “For years we have been fighting and suffering for one great love”. Sometimes the ultras rhetoric may seem a bit monotonous but those who know this movement know that this banal phrase is not banal at all, because the footballing satisfactions have been very few here in Andria, but the love for Fidelis, for the city and for the group it has never failed. Then the cheering begins and the North shows itself in form, with a good first half. An Italian-style cheer, very passionate and very colourful. In 2023, where for some there is a monochrome color choice, the ultras material with the name and colors of the group dominates here. No more Sunday casuals, here everything exudes cheer and passion. The only discordant but happy note is in the red of the friends of Erotic group Barletta, who have come to bring their presence with a banner and standard in tow for this very important anniversary.
In front, the people of Campania are gathered under the single acronym “Angresi”. I had never seen them at work except indirectly on the pages of Super typhus with the original name of Doria nucleus which he also joined Opposite Faction. I have a particularly strong memory of it also for the very particular colours, unique in Italy together with the Cremonese. The Angresi also had a good first half, always on the move. There is almost total unity, except the Crazy Group, a small group on the sidelines in the industry. The banner has been around since February 2023 Get fat was chosen to represent everyone, a decision made by the three ultras groups which however still exist and carry out their activities: Old style, Ultras Generation e Rione Alfano 167 of which, in fact, you can see the individual flags.
The second half sees a decline in the support of the Curva Nord which continues with its support but the intensity decreases also due to a rather boring match on the pitch. At the front, in the same way there is a certain drop in intensity, but up to the ninetieth mark the support remains and this is what counts.
The match ends with a dull draw which is not in the interests of the Apulian team intending to return to Serie C. For the guests, however, the joy of the players who go to celebrate under the grey-red sector is visible: salvation is the footballing horizon of the US Angri and a point at home to a team built to go up is as unexpected as it is precious.
The stadium lights go out as the last spectators leave, but the evening is not over because the Brigade they meet up for a dinner to celebrate their birthday, an event that demonstrates how the group is a real second family. People of different generations side by side, girls, young people, veterans all united for twenty-five years under the symbol of the lion. And this is certainly the most beautiful victory of the Andria ultras movement, far from fashions or space-age settings created only to get people talking on social pages with ridiculous names.
Andy Warhol, who was a visionary, said in 1968 that: “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”. Given the horror of social media, we have unfortunately come to realize this prophecy. But who can say he’s been famous for a quarter of a century? Not many and obviously not those who live only on social media but certainly people who believe in different values based on friendship, solidarity, aggregation and passion. All this behind a banner.
Text by Sébastien Louis
Photos by Sébastien Louis and Davide Gallo
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