From Ukraine to Croatia exist anti-fascist, left-wing football clubs that actively resist oppressive ideologies and take up the cause of social justice. Ciaran and John look at 5 such clubs’ fans.
In the build-up to the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, tremendous concern was voiced about the racist football hooliganism and potential for violence in and around the host venues. The image depicted in the media was of an Eastern European football landscape completely imbued in nationalistic, racist hatred. With notable examples, such as the Ultra fans of Zenit St. Petersburg issuing a manifesto demanding no non-white or gay players be signed, and the role football clubs played during the Yugoslavian Wars, it was not completely unfair to have these concerns. Race and football in Eastern Europe has always been a messy affair.
Nonetheless, there existed a counter weight to all these fascists clubs whose followers never seem to wear shirts. Truth be told, Eastern Europe is far more cosmopolitan than it gets credit for. Generations that grew up in the post-socialist era, in particular, are open to new ideas and different cultures. Fortunately, and although in the minority, not all football clubs in Eastern Europe embrace fascism and tribalism. From Ukraine to Croatia exist clubs, small but growing, that actively resist oppressive ideologies and take up the cause of social justice on a local and national level.
We have created a list of anti-fascist clubs for those looking to get behind a football club without all that racist bile. We should note that for those interested in reading more about the intersection of politics and football in Eastern Europe then we suggest that you check out the fantastic Futbolgrad.
Although this site is absolutely supportive of Ukrainian sovereignty, nationalism in Ukraine has frequently stepped away from the civic nationalism-inspired by Maidan into highly racist ethnic nationalism. These clubs with right-wing, fascist supporters have long dominated the conversation in Ukrainian football. Arsenal Kiev represent a counter balance, however. Despite their dodgy Israeli-Ukrainian weapons dealing owner, the supporters are pooled together from all the different factions in the city that reject racism and embrace social justice. Their supporters anti-fascist stance has brought about a total disdain from the right-wing clubs that refuse to uphold honor codes of not using weapons during clashes. In a football supporting climate dominated by racists and xenophobes, Arsenal Kiev represent a brave pivot towards social justice and tolerance.
NK Zagreb/Zagreb 041
One of Croatia’s oldest clubs, NK Zagreb also had a reputation for being its most progressive. This wasn’t always the case, as in the ‘90s the White Angels fan group were every bit as regrettable as the rest of the hooligans in Croatia. The ‘00s saw a move towards progressive politics and a strong antifa and antira spine ran through the club, but corrupt ownership has seen NK Zagreb begin the long slide down the divisions, losing its identity along the way. The White Angels have subsequently set up a new club called Zagreb 041, and are strongly committed to fighting racism, homophobia, fascism and all other forms of primitivism.
The green and whites came into being in 1905 (obviously), and their mascot isn’t a kangaroo without reason. In 1927 Australia chose the club to represent all of Bohemia, giving them two live kangaroos as a gift in the process. Recent history hasn’t been kind to Bohemka, but the eternally positive fans have stuck with the club through thick and thin and everything in between. Vehemently anti-fascist and immensely welcoming, the fan’s part of the stadium isn’t called the Kotva (anchor) for nothing. It doesn’t matter what division the club are in, they will continue to turn up and support the good fight (on the field and in society) regardless.
In many ways, Beşiktaş has long been the third wheel of the major three Istanbul clubs but have always attracted one of the strongest fan bases in one of Istanbul’s most cosmopolitan sides. While other clubs have far more ideologically promiscuous, Beşiktaş has long asserted itself on the left with their main supporters group Çarşı operating under the slogan of “Çarşı is against everything!” with an anarchist symbol being used in logo. This group was defunct between 2008 till the remobilizing to join the Gazi Park protest. They held signs saying “We Are All Samuel Eto’o” when the Cameroonian striker was being racially abused, even by his own club’s fans. They are truly the heart of radical football in Istanbul.
Wearing the tradition Belarusian flag’s colour, Partizan is Belarus’s first fan organized club. When their Lithuanian investment lost interest, the team’s supporters refused to allow the club to die and fundraised to keep the club alive. Many parallels have been drawn between Partizan Mink and the famous St. Pauli embracement of anti-fascist and anti-racism. Many noteworthy fans include individuals imprisoned by the dictatorial government of Alexander Lukashenko, such as anarchist Ihar Alinevich. Hated by the Belarusian political establishment and continuing financial struggles, Partizan have managed to become one of the most supported teams in Belarus and a breath of fresh air.
Compiled by Ciaran Miqeladze and John Bills