More Than A Game caught up with Andrea Sanini, a senior member of Melbourne Victory’s fan group ‘North Terrace’ to speak about the Ultras movement in an Australian context.
Here’s what he had to say…
MTG: Australia has never been considered a place that has an ‘ultra movement’. Is the North Terrace trying to change that and begin Ultra-style support?
AS: I’m not so sure that we’ve never had a complete ultra movement like they have had in Europe, I think it would be wrong to say that we don’t have ultras in Australia, especially the fan groups who supported clubs like Melbourne Croatia and South Melbourne Hellas in the NSL (National Soccer League). I’m old enough to remember guys in those groups who reminded me completely of the ultras over in Europe.
Yes, we want to help establish a continental-style of football support. The use of big flags, banners and chants is something we want to achieve here, but it’s very difficult due to Australia’s ‘sit down shut up’ attitude of other sports. The soccer-type of support is very different to AFL and cricket and every time there is a minor incident like one flare being let off, the media makes it look ten-times worse than what it was. We don’t encourage the use of flares, but really it’s not the end of the world.
MTG: Does the North Terrace have a certain political stance?
AS: No, we are completely apolitical as a whole. However of course this being Australia you have a melting pot of cultures within the group and there are different political ideals that come from that, but at the end of the day they keep it to themselves. We had a problem a few years back when members of Melbourne’s skinhead community were trying to become part of the group, but there is no way we could have allowed that. Politics has no place for us, we are there because we love our city of Melbourne and we love our football club.
MTG: One thing you do share in common with European ultras is that you have had problems with the police. Is that a fair statement?
AS: Yes and no. We have had problems with the police in the past, but we believe it has been because of a result of overzealous policing that has put our members in danger because they don’t understand what we are trying to achieve. In Australia, people jumping up and down and singing is seen as causing a problem, when in all honesty we are just trying to create a better atmosphere and as far as I know jumping up and down wasn’t illegal. Our relations with the police have definitely improved in the past two years as we have sat down with them in meeting and told them what we are trying to do. I can’t even remember a major problem occurring since because they understand that we are not troublemakers and they keep a low profile, as I think before when they were inside the terrace it developed a bad atmosphere between them and us.
MTG: Apart from the North Terrace, are there any other groups in Australia that have anything close to an ultras-style of support?
AS: There is, but I’m going to be biased and say we are the closest! (laughs).
Our closest rivals in our league are probably Sydney FC (The Cove) and the new mob, Western Sydney Wanderers (Red Black Bloc). However there is no doubt the MCF (Melbourne Croatia Fans) of Melbourne Knights who play in the Victorian Premier League are the best in the country. They don’t have the numbers like we do, but quality wise they are just as good. A lot of them have spent time with Croatian ultras groups overseas so they know the score.
MTG: Thanks for your time and good luck!
AS: Not a problem at all.