Saturday evening, after the Serie A match between Rome and Empoli played at the Stadio Olimpico, a group of fans from the Curva Sud, that of the Roma ultras, was attacked by about fifty people dressed in black and armed with sticks. According to press reconstructions and testimonies, the attackers were Serbs, belonging to the ultras fans of Crvena Zvezda, the Red Star of Belgrade. The group is called “Delije”, Heroes, and is one of the most violent ultras supporters in Europe, allied with the organized supporters of Napoli. The reason for the attack, evidently, is linked precisely to the twinning between the two ultras groups.
Basically, it seems established that the Serbian ultras attacked the Romanists “by proxy”, as a continuation of the clashes that took place last January 8 in the Badia al Pino service area, on the A1 motorway, when the Neapolitan ultras and Romanists. Twinnings such as the one between the ultras of Napoli and the Red Star are very common among organized European fans, and it is not uncommon for clashes to involve groups from different countries precisely by virtue of these alliances: however, they usually occur in conjunction with away matches or direct clashes between teams, and not in such a planned way.
What happened on Saturday is the umpteenth episode in the long series of clashes between the Napoli and Roma ultras. The best known and most violent dates back to May 3, 2014, before the Italian Cup final between Naples and Fiorentina, when the Neapolitan fan Ciro Esposito was hit by a bullet fired by a Roma fan, Daniele De Santis, during clashes between the groups of the two fans. He died 53 days later. De Santis was definitively sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The Serbian ultras were in Italy to watch the Euroleague basketball match between Olimpia Milano and Red Star, which was held in Milan on Thursday. The next day they would move to Rome precisely to prepare for the attack. The attack took place near Piazza Mancini, not far from the Stadio Olimpico. Roma supporters, belonging to the Fedayn group, were less numerous.
In the clashes, Serbian fans stole bags with some banners, considered, in the ultras world, a sort of “spoils of war”. It would be two banners of great symbolic value: one is the historic one of the Fedayeen, the other that of the Roberto Rulli Brigade. Roberto Rulli founded the Fedayn in 1972, a group at the time made up of young leftists mostly from the Quadraro-Cinecittà district, located on wall 17 of the Curva Sud. Rulli died in 1990. The theft of the banner that bears his name, logically ultras, is considered a very serious fact and, for those who have suffered it, the sign of a humiliating defeat.
An account of Czech ultras later told the aggression their Twitter:
30-40 Delije (Red Star) attacked 50-60 Romanists. Two or three times the Romanists ran and were recaptured and surrounded, we reached the Fedayeen and took many banners. End of story, Rome
The twinning between the Serbian ultras and the Neapolitan ultras of Curva B is historic: on 19 November 2018, when the Champions League match between Naples and Stella Rossa was played at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium (then San Paolo), the heads of the visiting fans they watched the game right in the curve of the Neapolitan ultras. It is the sign, among the ultras, of a strong and recognized friendship. Both supporters are also allied with the organized fans of Olympiakos Piraeus, Gate 7, so much so that in the corner at Marakana, the Belgrade stadium where Red Star plays, the flags of the Greek team are always displayed.
Roma supporters are instead twinned with those of Panathinaikos, another Greek team, rivals par excellence of Olympiakos. But above all the ultras of Roma are twinned with the Croatians of Dinamo Zagreb, historical enemies, obviously not only for football reasons but also linked to the ethnic tensions between the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, of the Serbs of the Red Star.
Red Star fans are known as some of the most violent in Europe. The Serbian ultras who on 12 October 2010 blocked the match between Italy and Serbia at the Ferraris stadium in Genoa were mainly from the organized supporters of the Red Star. Leading them was Ivan Bogdanov, known as Coi, then twenty-nine years old, who was later arrested.
Despite the team’s name and colors recalling the Yugoslav communist tradition, many of the Red Star supporters are exponents of extreme right-wing political formations. But on the other hand, almost all Serbian fans are openly fascist and ultranationalist: in the early 1990s many Red Star ultras were part of the Serbian nationalist militias engaged in the Yugoslav wars.
Before the outbreak of the Serbo-Croatian war, which began on March 31, 1991, there was a football prelude that took place on May 13, 1990 on the occasion of the match between Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star at the Maksimir stadium: in that case the clashes between the two fans involved even the players on the field and lasted for hours.
The most famous of the Red Star fans was Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan (it seems that the nickname derives from the name of a tiger protagonist of a comic he was passionate about as a child), commander of a paramilitary formation known as “the Tigers”. As military commander he was responsible for numerous massacres in Croatia and Bosnia, and his group also participated in the Srebrenica massacre. After the war Raznatovic was indicted by the international tribunal in The Hague. He was killed on January 15, 2000 in an ambush in the lobby of a Belgrade hotel.
The current Red Star ultras are of a new generation, who nevertheless grew up in the myth of Arkan and Serbian nationalism. What happened on Saturday in Rome is a precedent that has provoked discussions and positions among the ultras fans. The first to take a stand were the groups from the northern curve of Inter, enemies of both the Romanists and the Neapolitans.
Inter fans have written a communicated according to which, in essence, the ambush represents a violation of an alleged “code of honour” between ultras: «Sand it is true that there are no written rules in our world, in our opinion the dynamics of rivalry must be consumed face to face and not with unworthy acts even if coordinated between several people”. “It seems only right to us to condemn this drift of senseless ultras behavior which can dangerously shift the balance of the dynamics linked to rivalry” says the press release of the Inter ultras, who hope “that this precedent does not stimulate emulations which, we repeat, with the ultras world we grew up in has nothing to do with it.”
– Read also: The long history of friendships and hostilities between ultras groups
With no regards to history facts you point out this
“But on the other hand, almost all Serbian fans are openly fascist and ultranationalist: in the early 1990s many Red Star ultras were part of the Serbian nationalist militias engaged in the Yugoslav wars.”
Serbs were fought against the aggression of occupying powers. During World War I, Serbia fought against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and during World War II, the Serbian people were active in the resistance against the Nazi and Fascist occupation.
Delije are indeed nationalists, in a sense of love towards their homeland and their people, they are patriots. Some of them are right wing oriented, but Delije are not fascists, we fought against them, don’t you forget that.