Revenge and prestige as motivation. About 300 Antwerp hooligans clashed heavily with those from Porto on Monday. At the same time, AC Milan fans were ‘hunting’ PSG supporters. No surprise, because things often go wrong during European travel. Why does this happen and how can it be prevented?
LOOK. Hooligans and Porto clash in the center of Porto
Back to Wednesday October 25 at the Bosuil. After the painful 1-4 defeat, about twenty masked members of Antwerp’s hard core tried to fight their way to Porto’s away section. They came close, right into the main stand a few dozen meters from the visiting fans. They provoked, challenged. But then a water cannon stopped them. After that incident it was written in the stars what would happen for the return match. Because the hard core of the Portuguese vice champion – not wimps – wanted revenge. The bomb has been on alert ever since.
And exploded on Monday evening, around 10:10 PM. A fierce confrontation between hooligans from both clubs took place in the streets of Porto. Images of chaos quickly circulated on social media. Chairs, tables and even flares were thrown. The Portuguese police intervened massively and violently. Two hundred Antwerp fans were identified. It is not clear how many were arrested. Police also seized several items, including red and white balaclavas, mouthpieces and combat gloves.
“After the first leg, both hard cores had the feeling: things will really get out of hand in Porto,” says Ramón Spaaij, a sports sociologist specialized in hooliganism. “The Porto supporters were out for revenge. They were mobilized to take revenge.”
That has proven to be the case. The brawl between the hard cores of Antwerp and Porto is just one of the many disturbances on the European stage. Nowadays one incident follows another. Also on Monday evening, AC Milan hooligans, members of the infamous ‘Curva Sud’, literally hunted Paris Saint-Germain supporters in Milan. One Frenchman was stabbed. Earlier this season, a pre-arranged fight took place between hooligans from Club Brugge and Lugano. Also remember how riots broke out in Genk when Fiorentina came to visit. Hooliganism seems to be experiencing a revival. Especially during European weeks.
LOOK. AC Milan hooligans attack PSG supporters
“European travels are very inviting for hooligans,” says Spaaij. “Abroad they have more anonymity, the feeling of free play. Combine that with the adrenaline and the thrill of such a clash and you get a kind of magnet for hooligans. It attracts them. We call that ‘moral vacation’. These are moments when you can step outside certain behavioral boundaries. Hooligans want to show who is the boss, that as a group they are more important than the opponent. Look, Antwerp is firmly at the bottom of their Champions League group. But there is also an imaginary ranking of hard cores. Who is the strongest in that area? The club is playing at the highest European level for the first time in a long time. And then the hard cores also want to prove themselves. The reputation of their group is important. They want to radiate power and would like nothing more than for videos of the riots to circulate on social media and be magnified.”
The security forces often intervene abruptly. In countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Portugal, the police are known to respond harshly. “With rubber bullets, tear gas or water cannon. And then the riots escalate on all sides,” says Spaaij.
“In my opinion, the authorities should focus more on sharing intelligence and information about the members of those ultra groups. Who is traveling? How can we keep those groups separated from the opponent? In England they take away passports from known hooligans – something that is not possible everywhere. Much depends on cooperation between the various authorities. In theory, everything is coordinated at European level. In practice, there are still gaps in this effect. For example, after the corona lockdown, many clubs have attracted young supporters who want to profile themselves. Ultras who are not yet known to the police and over whom they therefore have little control.”