Croatia - MYPLACE



Croatia - MYPLACE
31st January 2014
MYPLACE (Memory, Youth, Political Legacy And Civic Engagement)
Grant agreement no: FP7-266831
WP7: Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies)
Deliverable 7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism
Football Supporters as Subcultural Social Actors: Study of Torcida
Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Croatia
Field researcher(s)
Data analysts
Work Package
Dissemination level
WP Leaders
Deliverable Date
Document history
Version Date
Benjamin Perasović, Marko Mustapić
Benjamin Perasović, Marko Mustapić
Benjamin Perasović, Marko Mustapić
7 Interpreting Activism (Ethnographies)
7.1 Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism
PU [Public]
Hilary Pilkington, Phil Mizen
31 January 2014
First draft
Comments to authors
Second draft
Final comments to authors
Final version
Created/Modified by
Benjamin Perasović, Marko Mustapić
Hilary Pilkington
Benjamin Perasović, Marko Mustapić
Hilary Pilkington
Benjamin Perasović, Marko Mustapić
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1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 4
1.1 Why football supporters? .................................................................................................. 4
1.2 Social context ..................................................................................................................... 5
1.3 The context of modern football ......................................................................................... 6
1.4 Hajduk and Torcida ............................................................................................................ 6
2. Methods............................................................................................................................... 7
3. Key Findings ....................................................................................................................... 10
3.1 The hard core and its extensions ..................................................................................... 10
3.2 Social class, age and education ....................................................................................... 10
3.3 Organisation .................................................................................................................... 10
3.4 Expressions of Identity ..................................................................................................... 11
3.5 Street, banners, pyrotechnics, chants, choreography and away matches ...................... 13
3.6 Subcultural links ............................................................................................................... 15
3.7 Social action: boycotts, petitions, and demonstrations................................................... 16
3.8 Enemies: The police and the Croatian Football Federation ............................................. 17
3.9 Politics (Left and Right) .................................................................................................... 20
3.10 Production of memory discourse: Homeland War ........................................................ 22
3.11 Against modern football ................................................................................................ 23
3.12 Gender ........................................................................................................................... 23
3.13 Playing football .............................................................................................................. 24
3.14 The Internet ................................................................................................................... 24
4. Conclusion.......................................................................................................................... 25
5. Future Analysis .................................................................................................................. 27
6. References ......................................................................................................................... 28
Appendix 1: Table 1. Socio-demographic profile of respondents ......................................... 31
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Appendix 2: Table 2. Attendance at football matches during the fieldwork (Season
2012/2013) ............................................................................................................................ 32
Appendix 3: Visual illustrations ............................................................................................. 34
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1. Introduction
1.1 Why football supporters?
The researchers’ longstanding interest in youth subcultures and social movements led to the
thesis (as early as the mid-1980s in Croatia) that a certain section of football fans could be
described as a specific social actor with the characteristics of youth subcultures and social
movements. Ongoing observation of the phenomenon of the contemporary ultras movement (a
heterogeneous social movement, which has often been linked with the slogan ‘against modern
football’ in the past decade) confirmed this and thus suggested it was an appropriate subject
for the MYPLACE project.
The first study of football supporters in Croatia was written by Buzov, Magdalenić, Perasović
and Radin in 1989. The original title was: ‘The Social and Psychological Aspects of the Violent
Behaviour of Football Fans’ - although this work was later published under the title ‘The Fan
Tribe’ - and its focus was on violent behaviour. This is not surprising; political elites of the oneparty system of the time financed this kind of research on football supporters in the second half
of the 1980s out of fear their milieu sheltered forbidden nationalistic and other oppositional
discourses. Fanuko, Magdalenić, Radin and Žugić (1991) continued this research and completed
a portrait of the Bad Blue Boys (BBB), radical supporters of the Dinamo Zagreb football club.
Lalić (1993) joined this wave of research with his study of Torcida, radical supporters of the
Hajduk Split football club, and this seemed to mark the beginning of a new research tradition
and a new phase in Croatian sociology. However, field research ceased on the eve of the war;
Lalić’s study was the last of its kind. Nevertheless, the issue of football supporters did not
disappear completely from Croatian sociology; some authors analysed the participation of
football fans in the Homeland War (1991-5), drawing links between the social context of war
and the activities of previously established fan actors (such as Torcida or BBB) (Perasović 1995;
Vrcan and Lalić 1999). It was decided to include football supporters as social actors in this
research for four main reasons. Firstly, Croatian football is heavily marked by unresolved
contradictions in the legal status of clubs; Dinamo is an NGO1, for example, while Hajduk is a
‘privatised’ joint-stock company whose main stakeholder is the Split city administration. The
lack of transparency in the work of the football clubs that follows from this as well as the
problematic relationships between private and public subjects often imply organised criminal
activities (e.g. as uncovered by the USKOK2 police operation 'Offside'). In this situation, football
fans act as social actors who oppose illegal practices and their presence in contemporary
NGOs in Croatia do not have to VATor income tax, which gives significant financial advantage over other types of
organisations (clubs) in Croatian football
USKOK – Bureau for Combating Corruption and Organised Crime
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Croatian football.3 In fact, football supporters represent the only dedicated and persistent
social force opposing criminal activities within the Croatian Football Federation. Secondly,
football fans constitute significant social actors; the largest groups of football supporters (Split’s
Torcida and Zagreb’s BBB) have from 300 to 500 core members but are able to mobilise
thousands of young people (much more than most political parties or trade unions). This
capability has been proven on several occasions recently. Thirdly, radical football supporters
also play a significant role on the youth (sub)culture scene, presenting a youth subculture style
of their own, as well as functioning as a sort of common denominator for ‘crossover’ processes
among other styles and identities typical of youth (sub)cultures. Finally, football supporters
participate actively in the production of memory discourses, especially when it comes to the
Homeland War (1991-5) and related parts of Croatian contemporary history.
1.2 Social context
Rogić (1999, 2000, 2009) states that the fundamental characteristic of the Croatian transition in
comparison to other post-socialist countries was that its key moments took place during a war
– one that caused enormous material damage and, most significantly, heavy demographic
losses.4 Županov (1995) notes the convergence of the simultaneous strengthening of individual
utilitarianism (at the individual level), nationalism and the heroic code (at the national level)
and radical egalitarianism (at the societal level), which shaped the framework (in the form of a
‘re-traditionalisation’) and basic values of Croatian society in the first decade of transition in
the 1990s. The development and establishment of a specific type of capitalism in Croatia —
referred to as crony capitalism by Franičević (2002) — and the political and social processes
accompanying it necessarily resulted in serious socio-tectonic tremors and collateral victims
(colloquially referred to as transition losers) due to the speed with which these processes
unfolded. Most Croatian citizens are considered transition losers (i.e. those citizens stuck in the
lower part of the stratification pyramid due to social changes). However, in addition to these
transition losers, the aspirations of another group of citizens during the transition markedly
outweighed their achieved positions, and together these groups form the dissatisfied majority
in society who foster distrust in the political elite and challenge their legitimacy.These socioeconomic changes had a significant impact on Croatian sport, specifically in the monopoly of
the Zagreb club’s success in national sporting events due to the fact that Zagreb had become
Fifteen players were found guilty of match-fixing after a seven-month trial in 2011. The former vice-president of
the Croatian Football Federation and the president of the Referee Commission were arrested also and their trial
began in June 2013. The two are accused of requesting, in 2011, 95,000 Euros from Hajduk president Hrvoje Maleš
and promised that ‘their people’ (i.e. referees) would ensure ‘fair refereeing’ in upcoming Croatian championship
matches in return. The trial remains ongoing.
Casualties of the Homeland War according to Živić and Pokos (2004) are: 21,000 dead; war operations over 54%
of Croatia’s territory, 26% of Croatian territory occupied; 550,000 Croatian refugees and 500,000 refugees from
Bosnia and Herzegovina; $27 billion in material damage.
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the new, strong centre of political and economic power in contrast to the atrophied, war-torn
centres of regions in the east and south of Croatia. During the war, centralisation was especially
strong and partially explicable due to the aggression against Croatia and on-going war
operations, however centralisation did not decrease in any way even after the war. The focus
on the city of Split in this research on Torcida, highlights the peculiar position of Split and
Dalmatia as a double periphery; Croatia is on the periphery as regards European centres of
power while Split is on the periphery in relation to Zagreb, which is the Croatian centre of
1.3 The context of modern football
Modern professional football in Europe is first and foremost a big corporate business. Although
the commercialization process began in the 1960s, the real transnational character and market
success of the globalized football business appeared in the 1990s (King 2003, Sandvoss 2003,
Millward 2011). The most popular clubs in the world are corporations that brand their products
and services, aiming at increasing the number of fans everywhere around the world. The focus
of their marketing activities is not on traditional, locally embedded supporters (represented by
the contemporary ultras movement), but on new types of local, national and transnational
consumer-fans. The European football periphery consist of clubs that used to be powerful and
important, such as the Glasgow Rangers, Aberdeen, IFK Gothenburg, Sparta Prague, Slovan
Bratislava, Dinamo Tbilisi, Crvena zvezda Belgrade, Ferencvaros Budapest, MTK Budapest,
Hajduk Split, and many others. These clubs are now football dwarves amongst powerful ‘clubcorporations’. Football players' loyalty to their clubs, typical of the first half of the 20th century,
has become nothing but an obsolete, romantic ideal.
1.4 Hajduk and Torcida
The Hajduk Football Club was founded in 1911 by a group of Croatian students studying in
Prague, inspired by Slavia Praha FC. Hajduk is a Turkish term for 'outlaw', and has been present
in the Balkans since the Middle Ages. Over time, the name became a synonym for freedom
fighters in the oral folk tradition. At present, Hajduk is one of the two most popular Croatian
football clubs. It has won a total of 17 national championships and 15 cups. Hajduk has outlived
5 different states (the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, fascist Italy, the
Independent State of Croatia and socialist Yugoslavia) in which it has existed under the same
name. Torcida was founded as an independent, organised group of football supporters in 1950;
its founders (Dalmatian students in Zagreb) were later arrested and prosecuted. At the end of
the 1970s, a new generation began the subculturalisation process, and Torcida was renewed. It
has since been the most influential subcultural actor in the city of Split and the region of
Dalmatia. Apart from various informal groupings and a friendship-based structure, since the
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mid-1990s Torcida has also been an NGO with a formal structure and hierarchy. The synthesis
of the informal and formal aspect of organisation and a strong emphasis on spontaneity
alongside the presence of strict rules makes Torcida, in addition to the other things mentioned
above, a social actor deserving of sociological scrutiny.
2. Methods
Before the MYPLACE project began in the summer of 2011, both researchers renewed their
involvement in supporting the Hajduk football club for private, non-academic reasons. Of
course, it is difficult to separate professional and personal curiosity when it comes to social
actions and the role football supporters play in contemporary Croatian society; this is very true
in this case. Both researchers have a long history of intensive involvement in Torcida. One
researcher was an active member of Torcida from the late 1970s to the end of the 1990s, while
the other was an active member from the beginning of the 1990s to the beginning of the 2000s.
This familiarity with most of the rituals of football supporters, and evident passion in supporting
Hajduk, meant the researchers did not experience the general ‘problems of access’
encountered by ethnographers in other fields. However, because of the generational change in
leadership within Torcida (formal as well as informal), just before the fieldwork started, some
time was needed to get closer to the younger members of the core supporters. At the time the
MYPLACE project was about to begin, friends of the researchers held key positions in the formal
and informal structure of Torcida. Just one year later, the situation had changed completely;
the researchers’ friends had moved out, some of them still engaged in a bitter quarrel with
each other. Simultaneously, the younger generation took over the leadership and management
of the ‘supporters’ club’ and was asking for changes. In order to conduct the ethnography,
therefore, the researchers had to change their usual meeting places, informal networks of
friends and many other usual practices in order to meet the younger generation of the group.
However, the researchers’ constant presence at matches and passionate participation in
Torcida’s activities (in which they would have participated regardless of the research role given
the heightened atmosphere around the club during the current time of financial crisis and the
mobilisation of its supporters) helped to establish new contacts and friendships. Friends from
previous periods of involvement assisted the researchers, introducing them to younger
members. Respondents were guaranteed anonymity and this has been adhered to even at the
risk of sacrificing the completeness of the report. In terms of the researchers’ own positionality,
since Torcida is a common denominator for people of various political, musical, or almost any
kind of tastes and attitudes, it was not necessary for them to adapt their opinions or adjust
their attitudes in order to iron out differences between themselves and ‘others’ being
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The approach to this research included participant observation and a focus on groups and
individuals constitutive of Torcida, understood as a specific social actor. This meant monitoring
all types of Torcida’s social action, from stadium rituals (banners, flags, scarves, chants,, all
types of expressions and discourses surrounding them), to rituals and practices outside the
stadium. Field research with members of Torcida officially lasted from July 2012 until June
2013, and resulted in the creation of 58 diary entries, of which 31 records relate to group visits
to official and friendly football matches played by Hajduk FC and two relate to Croatian national
team matches. Other diary entries are related to various social activities, public events, or
simply socialising. As two researchers were involved it was possible to spend almost 10 months
in the field, with at least one researcher covering events, meeting people, observing and
participating at all times. As noted above, the research coincided with a time of generational
change; quarrels, disputes and the disintegration of informal groups representing the core had
taken place just prior to the fieldwork and thus the researchers witnessed the process of regrouping thereafter. This led them to focus in the research on the newly forming networks
among old and new friends that they considered constitutive of important dimensions of
Torcida. This included people from three different territorial branches of Torcida and other
people linked with them in various ways. While it was possible to establish good relations with
various groups and individuals, some of them remained in dispute with one another and did not
communicate amongst themselves. Divisions among people were based on generation, as
distinct from age. This generational difference was rooted in views on the policy of the
supporters’ club and the perception of the role of supporters in relation to the management of
Hajduk FC. A crucial aspect in these disputes – and one that was often closely connected to age
- is the distinction made between active supporters – the ultras type who travel to all matches
- and the passive supporter, who no longer belongs to the active core. Although the
researchers, by age might have been assigned normally to the ‘passive’ category, they were
treated as equals with, often much younger, active supporters because of the active role they
took up as well as because of their public engagement as sociologists/supporters.
Apart from meeting people and participating in rituals, all media regarding the issue of Torcida
and similar ultras groups were monitored including related web-sites. In total more than 350
news articles linked with the issue of football supporters, mainly reactions to and comments on
events in which the researchers had also participated, were collected. The official Torcida
Facebook profile was monitored daily, while other virtual meeting points for supporters were
monitored periodically. After the brutal reaction of the police against supporters in Sveti Ivan
Zelina (where Hajduk played against a local team in the Croatian Cup in November 2012), the
researchers wrote an article for an influential daily paper (Večernji list) describing the events
and were later called as witnesses by the defence counsel for supporters prosecuted in relation
to this same event (December 2012 and January 2013). During the fieldwork, the researchers
commented on the issue of football supporters and problems in Croatian football for national
television on three different occasions in 2013 and also participated in a panel discussion on
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similar issues broadcast by national radio. These activities are noted here because they
strengthened the respondents’ sense of the role of the researchers as ‘defenders of
supporters’ human rights’ and made the double role of sociologist and supporter more
acceptable and understandable in the wider circle of football fans encountered.
More than a thousand photographs were taken in the course of participation and 58 field diary
entries were written. Two non-structured interviews were conducted in October 2012 (during
the orientation phase) and 21 semi-structured interviews in late 2013 with hard-core members
of Torcida, (all of whom come from the three territorial branches defined as the constitutive
network of today’s Torcida); together this constitutes a databank of 41 hours and 14 minutes of
recorded conversations (see Table 1, Appendix 1, for a full list of key respondents and their key
socio-demographic characteristics). The duration of the shortest interview is 63 minutes; the
longest is 4 hours. The field diary is more than 105,000 words in length. For ethical reasons, it
was decided not to code the field diary; it was written intimately and many pages are related to
everyday life practices, including illegal activities. All interviews were encoded using Nvivo 9.2
The researchers decided to continue work on the ethnography after the formal end of research,
due to their interest in their capacities both as sociologists and as supporters. This allowed
insight into an almost unprecedented event in Croatian football. During the 2013/2014 football
season, the Croatian Football Federation banned the usual ‘away-match’ support of the teams,
forcing all supporters to register themselves (including all data from their identity cards) in
order to receive ‘vouchers’ for away matches.5 Football supporters rejected this plan and
decided to cooperate in the struggle against the Football Federation, proclaiming a ‘cease-fire’
among themselves and starting to buy tickets for their rivals and those normally considered
enemies. Thus the researchers also witnessed the rise of a social movement in which ritual
hostility was (at least temporarily) forgotten; Torcida purchased tickets for Bad Blue Boys in
Split and Bad Blue Boys purchased tickets for Torcida in Zagreb. Members of these groups,
usually in constant struggle, walked and drank freely in both cities, in some cases standing in
the same stadium stands, taking both special police forces and the general public completely by
surprise. Something like this has happened only once before – when, on the eve of the
Homeland War, 25 years ago, the rise of Serbian nationalism led by Slobodan Milošević in
Serbia, served as the impetus for a cease-fire between Torcida and Bad Blue Boys.
This caused Supporters Club Torcida to sue the Croatian Football Federation.
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3. Key Findings
3.1 The hard core and its extensions
From their observations, the researchers estimate the hard core of Torcida to number between
300 and 500 members. However, at particularly tense moments for the club and when
emotions are running high, this number easily expands to cover between 1,000 and 1,500
people who regularly travel to even minor away matches. At regular home matches, 2000 to
3000 people can be regularly counted on to stand and chant, and this number can grow to 5000
at important matches. At important matches or derbies, Torcida leads the chants,
choreography and the general atmosphere in the entire north stand of the stadium, which
holds up to ten thousand people. Core members themselves make similar estimates although
some suggest that the most inner core numbers from 50 to 75 people in Split and another 50 to
75 from across all other branches. This would make the number of those supporters involved in
all important communication concerning group action from 100 to 150 people.
3.2 Social class, age and education
The core of Torcida mostly consists of young people between 16 and 30 years of age; however,
it is not rare to meet people of 40 or older. They come from different social classes, but mostly
belong to families that could be characterised as ‘losers of the Croatian transition’ as defined in
the introductory part of this report. Thus they are primarily the children of the working class
and impoverished middle class, amongst whom pupils, students, and unemployed or seasonally
employed individuals dominate. Although the majority of the core belong to the working class,
it is important to note that there are also highly educated individuals in Torcida. Several current
members have PhD-level education, and there are also excellent lawyers and other intellectuals
who support the younger supporters through a variety of different methods. Social class is not a
deterministic factor in the sense of the 1970s British sociological tradition, but most of the
members of Torcida are embedded in their parents’ culture, celebrating ‘the ethics of
reciprocity’, hard work, masculinity, and above all friendship, loyalty, and group solidarity.
Almost all of respondents in this study still live with their parents and most had family
members (usually father) who had participated in the Homeland War.
3.3 Organisation
Although there is a high level of spontaneity among Torcida, an organisational framework also
exists; Torcida is an NGO with a formal structure. Moreover, Torcida has branches outside Split,
and branches from other cities both within and outside Dalmatia play an important role. Apart
from the formal hierarchy, reflected in the structure of the ‘Supporters Club, Torcida Split’,
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there are also influential individuals outside of the formal structure from different generations
of fans.
Torcida has never had a leader and I hope that it never will. It is something that
makes us special in comparison to other ultras groups. If someone wants to be an
ego-tripping leader, others will put him down. (Diokletian)
When our research began, a younger generation had taken over the leadership and
management of the Supporters Club. Branches outside of Split play a significant role;
sometimes branch member attendance at away matches is so high that it equals the number of
members of Torcida from Split. Most of the interviewed members are aware of the difficult and
often dangerous conditions for Torcida members living in hostile cities where rival ultras groups
dominate, especially in Zagreb, the home of the Bad Blue Boys.
3.4 Expressions of Identity
Hajduk, Split, Dalmatia, Croatia; the markers of identity for Torcida appear clear and
unquestionable. However, these are just one part of the complex identity of Torcida.
Hajduk is my life. In fact, I live for Hajduk. From the moment I wake up until I go to
sleep, I think about Hajduk. It has been like that from the moment I started to
follow football, which was when I was eight or nine years old. (Nancy)
At the same time, Torcida is a subcultural social actor. It is suggested here that the process of
subculturalisation can be used as a solid foundation for understanding the distinction between
a ‘sports audience’, ‘ordinary fans’, or ordinary, mainstream people and those for whom
supporting the club, travelling to matches, chanting at the stadium and participating in other
fan rituals articulates their lifestyle and identity. One cannot be a part-time member of Torcida.
As the old slogan carried on the banners says: ‘Either you are or you aren’t’ (‘Ili jesi ili nisi’). The
issue regarding identity is a mixture of (sometimes a conscious play on) two types of identity;
‘achieved identity’ and ‘ascribed identity’. In this case ‘ascribed’ (Dalmatian, Croatian) identity
has been adopted and upgraded through subculturalisation into the ‘achieved’ identity (of
ultras, the football hooligan). Sometimes, identity achieved through football supporters’ rituals
and belonging to Torcida can also be linked with identities as a punk, a skinhead, a biker, etc.
The visual, individual, image is given special attention in some cases. Fans may wear specific
brands and accessories that follow current trends in the wider European subcultural ultras
context. However, at the same time, some of them criticize this practice and call fashionconscious fans ‘phonies’. Thus, in the stands, within the same group of friends (e.g. a sub-group
of Torcida), one can encounter both people who care about brands (from Lonsdale and Fred
Perry to Mentalita Ultra, Adidas (old logo) and Thor Steinar, Carhartt etc.) and their close
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friends who do not take brands seriously and in some cases even joke about the ‘phonies’ and
‘branded hooligans’. It should be mentioned here that most of the core members accept the
‘casual’ image widely present today in the ultras world. Additionally, Torcida has its own webshop where people can buy authentic clothing with the Torcida label. One part of group identity
within Torcida used to be based (and to some extent still is) on territorial identifications with
city districts, neighbourhoods, and places of origin. However other types of affiliation on the
basis of various kinds of preferences, such as preferences in musical style, drugs, politics, or
style preferences within the ultras identity (hooligan, flare head, choreo head etc.) have
gradually begun to play a more important role in sub-groupings within Torcida.
Group identity can also be seen through self-perception by the Torcida supporter club
members’ answers when asked about the characteristics of Torcida. Compared with other
ultras groups, Torcida supporters can be distinguished through a number of actions; some of
the older members emphasised a successfully performed fireworks (pyro) show despite strict
prohibitions and control since they are aware that Torcida is internationally known for
pyrotechnics. Torcida is also known for their excellent intellectual operations (letters to UEFA
regarding the ban of the ‘white boys’ banner and the confederate flag, or the success of
Torcida’s legal team in the ‘Žilina case’ (2009) in which the higher Slovak court changed a
previous sentence against Torcida members) including web development in some periods.
However, some fans would like to prove themselves as hooligans with a clear idea of a fair fight
and without any weapons. Most of the interviewed members said that Torcida is known for
high attendance at away matches (see Table 2 in Appendix 2), a great atmosphere, and
Dalmatian (Mediterranean) passion, and that faithfulness is the most important characteristic.
Some would add a certain ‘craziness’ or ‘madness’, which goes along with the argument
concerning atmosphere.
One element of the contemporary identity of Torcida is a strong 20-year official friendship with
the ‘No Name Boys’, the supporters of Benfica, as well as an unofficial but passionate friendship
with the ‘Magic Fans’ of St. Etienne. Most people within the Torcida core feel that they belong
to a broader, international ultras movement. It is no coincidence that the banner ‘against
modern football’ displayed at Euro 2008, which appeared on the cover of a book edited by
Peter and David Kennedy (2012), was made by Torcida. During Euro 2008, this banner, together
with other stories from Torcida’s past, caused some people to see the group as a sort of avantgarde manifestation of the ultras movement. Moreover, the fact that Torcida is one of the
oldest firms in Europe (founded in 1950) is a point of pride for supporters. The year 1950
together with a capital T is the most frequently used symbol or tag (signature) marking any
discourse linked with Torcida.
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3.5 Street, banners, pyrotechnics, chants, choreography and
away matches
There are several elements of the complex and dynamic life within the ultras subculture that
are particularly important. Although previous ethnographic research has led some authors to
separate these elements and argue that they mark a differentiation between, for example,
hooligans and carnival fans, it is suggested here that these elements are, in fact, interconnected and, together, constitute the integral whole of the ultras subculture. Of course,
some supporters are more oriented towards one or another side of the spectrum of activities;
while some try to avoid a fight whenever/wherever possible, others try to start a fight
whenever/wherever possible. Moreover, the research with Torcida reported on here, suggests
that these individuals form part of the same body; on many occasions they travel together, mix
together and, always, stand together in the same stadium stand. Within the core group, there is
a certain consensus on what constitutes a fair fight and what constitutes acceptable violence is
illustrated in the following two interview excerpts from respondents of two different
I once used a bat in a fight, and ever since then I've been traumatised by that. I
think that it affected me in a way, and if someone gave me a bat in a fight today, my
hand would simply be shaking. I said I would rather be beaten than ever hit
someone with a bat. I think I didn't even make good enough use of it in that fight, it
was simply a source of intimidation in my hand, but it lessened that feeling of
honour. Actually, in my opinion, the fight of football fans is in taking honour from
rival fans first and foremost, then comes physical injury, and then everything else.
That means going to a rival town, appearing with my group of people who are ready
to stand for their honour and to take yours, you are… you have the guts, you came
to the man in the street, you came to him… Football fans function as a tribe, two
different colours, two different emblems on a shield, when they meet, they
measure their strength, the tribe throws a spear, fires off arrows, because it is a
tribe, and we are, I don't know, urban guys who came to a rival city to take your
honour or flag from you, to hurt you with a fist, a foot, tomorrow your injury will
heal but the one in your heart will remain, and you will wait for a chance for
revenge. So, first taking honour and physical injury, then everything else. Physical
injury is necessary, because in a physical fight you are able to take something from
another man, you can make him run away, so you can feel content that he ran
away. Or you will feel even better if he stayed, confronted you, and everything
ended at that, you know, an old school street fight, fists, feet, and that's it. (Vikar)
I never advocate violence without a reason. But, hooliganism is a normal part of a
supporter's life. For example, if you see rival fans at the petrol station and you fight
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with them, it’s normal…. It means we can all agree that spontaneous fights are
somehow normal, English style, a few beers, you meet your rivals, fists and feet and
that’s it… but regarding the use of knives, it’s disgusting, it’s the lowest of the low, it
has nothing to do with the ultras world. (Crni)
Banners are very important as they present a key identity sign, just as any name on an identity
card. Banners should be defended at any price, and rival banners should be taken, if possible, as
one of the ultimate signs of victory in the battle for the ultras type of honour.
A minimum of ten people should stand behind the banner… when you go to an
away match, that banner is everything for those people, they should be ready for
anything, you know, you should literally give your own life to protect the banner,
when it comes to the possibility that someone takes your banner there is no excuse,
like someone was stronger or weaker or any kind of bullshit, you should defend it at
any cost. (LeBig)
In the past ten years, Torcida has issued several statements and made decisions regarding
banners in order to avoid some banners ‘falling’ into rival hands. For example, it is not allowed
for two or three friends to make a banner and carry it to away matches; there is a strict rule
that a minimum of ten people should stand behind a banner. Also, banners should satisfy the
aesthetic standards set by the core group, otherwise they will never appear at the stadium. The
core group decides on banners at both home and away matches. Pyrotechnics has been typical
of Torcida since its beginnings in the 1950s. As one respondent put it, ‘The duty of each true
supporter is to bring a flare inside the stadium and light it’ (Cuore). Today, it is a symbol of the
ultras movement and its struggle against the authorities of modern football. (See Plates
Pyrotechnics is considered by the authorities to be the biggest problem in modern
football today. For us, it is a symbol of resistance against a repressive system, the
whole system, from the police and the state to football institutions like UEFA, FIFA,
etc. (Paul Gascoigne)
Chants and songs are crucial in supporting the club. Torcida always chants through the
whole match, during all 90 minutes of the game, using drums and sometimes
loudspeakers (at big matches) to ensure each chant begins simultaneously. The
perception of songs differs among fans. ‘I miss some of the old songs and the old way of
singing. People speed up their singing nowadays, like we’re in a hurry or something’
All illustrations are included in Appendix 3 below.
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I hear people complain about the old rhythm of the songs. They’re nostalgic for old
times, but those were different times. If you were buying a car today, you wouldn’t
buy a twenty year old car, would you? (Paul Gascoigne)
Choreography is an important part of the atmosphere at the stadium, and it is always a special
introduction to the match played on the pitch as well as the match on the terraces. (See Plate
2) Away matches are also crucial for the ultras subculture as they show the strength of the
group, the support for the club, and bring the unforgettable smell of adventure. This research
suggests that during the 2012/2013 season, Torcida had significantly higher attendance at away
matches than any other ultras group in Croatia. (See Plate 21 and Table 2)
Last October in Split, Hajduk played a friendly match with Beşiktaş, and no one
came from Turkey. Something like that would never happen if Hajduk played in
Istanbul. Our high attendance at away matches is one of the main characteristics of
Torcida, regardless of how far from Split the match is played. (THC)
I am young and I used to hitchhike to away matches. I don’t care when I get home
because I don’t work. When you hitchhike with someone, it doesn’t matter if you
are friends from before or if he is rich or poor, smart or stupid, we are all as one, we
help each other and we share everything we have, money and everything else.
When we went to Rome in 2003, we were 5,000 strong. The next match was in Split
and not one Roma supporter had the guts to come to Split. They burned our cars
and vans close to the stadium in Rome, during the match, while we were on the
terraces, and after that, they didn’t come to Split!? What kind of supporters are
they? (Mr. Augusto)
3.6 Subcultural links
In sociological definitions, as well as in statements made by respondents, a certain subcultural
style (tribe, affective alliance, expressive community, etc.) always presents a certain way of life.
Members of Torcida use the slang word ‘djir’ (from Italian word ‘giro’, in this case meaning
circle) to describe their own style and other subcultural styles and identities. It is a fact that,
since the late 1970s and especially since the mid-1980s, football supporters in Croatia have
developed their own subcultural style. During the process of subculturalisation, they adopted
some forms of expression from various youth subculture scenes based on music. Today,
subcultural actors like Torcida present a subcultural style of their own (ultras subculture) while
simultaneously being open to other rituals, tribes, or scenes, such as punk, metal, techno,
skateboarding, hip-hop, etc. Most of the respondents are informed about other styles (other
djir) sometimes participating in rituals on punk, metal, hip-hop, techno, or other scenes, but the
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majority of the core members do not participate full-time in activities of other scenes or do not
identify themselves completely with another djir apart from their own, full-time belonging to
Torcida as ultras subculture. ‘It’s like a whole additional life, and not an easy one. I realised that
after some years and I got used to that fact. You live another life as an ultra’ (Paul Gascoigne).
However, some of our respondents participate actively in the punk scene, adopting some
elements into their own style of football supporters as a distinct djir (ultras subculture).
For example, considering only this punk scene, I myself listen to punk music, so
that's maybe the closest to me. Not so much by going out or by going to concerts,
but I simply support that ideology, I like that music and that’s it. I would say that ska
punk is the closest to me. (Crni)
Yeah, so I like that older techno, especially techno. Not psychedelic, that’s too
strong, but techno trance, Cox, WestBam, Paul van Dyk and that’s it. I know that
previous generations liked rave parties in the nineties, but nowadays, younger
generations like eighties music, especially Azra. (THC)
At the beginning of the subculturalisation process in the 1970s, cannabis use was one of the
examples of this process and a sign of differences between new subcultural actors on the
terraces and previous generations of football supporters who used to beat up hippies and other
followers of rock-culture. At the end of the 1980s, a significant part of the core group within
Torcida became addicted to heroin. Today, heroin is almost completely absent from the
terraces, however a whole spectrum of other drugs is present. Nevertheless, alcohol (mostly
beer) dominates when it comes to substance use, and no other drug is comparable to alcohol
among Torcida. After alcohol, the only substance used on anything like the same scale is
cannabis. There is a certain stubbornness and fearlessness among members concerning
cannabis; it has become so important for most of them and such an integral part of their
everyday lives that they are naturally ready to roll a joint under all imaginable circumstances,
even a few metres from special police forces in the middle of a conflict.
3.7 Social action: boycotts, petitions, and demonstrations
During the past few years, Torcida has organised numerous actions and mobilised a great
number of people for different purposes, including the boycott of the biggest Croatian derby
(Hajduk vs Dinamo, in autumn 2009) in order to protest against club management and the
mayor of the city of Split. On this occasion, the north stand remained completely empty and
10,000 people watched the game at the old Hajduk ground (which, today, is a rugby field) via a
video wall. Torcida also mounted an eventually successful struggle to get the club’s
management to accept the so-called ‘Kodeks’; an official set of principles and rules regulating
conditions, education level required, and other requirements for the management of Hajduk
FC. During this campaign, Torcida organised various actions, sometimes reminding the public of
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radical social movements of the 1960s, for example by bringing sheep into the stadium to
suggest their candidacy for the supervisory board of the Hajduk FC. Torcida also organised
protests in front of the city of Split administration office in October 2012 (see Plate 5)
demanding the city authorities provided a guarantee for loans necessary for paying off Hajduk’s
debts – this protest actually saved Hajduk from bankruptcy – as well as a silent and
spontaneous boycott of a friendly match of the Croatian national team in Split (August 2012), a
boycott of Hajduk beer (summer 2013) and many other efforts. While some of these efforts
were battles against local or national political-economic elites and could not be won so easily,
the boycott of Hajduk beer was successful, at least temporarily. A beer company from
Koprivnica, owned by Carlsberg, produced beer with the name Hajduk and made an agreement
that one kuna (around 0.15€) from the sale of each litre of beer would go to the Hajduk football
club. Hajduk supporters, not only Torcida, enjoy beer, so by drinking the beer they were also
financially supporting the club. When it came to light that the company was not paying and was
not willing to extend its contract, Torcida proclaimed a boycott of the beer, and soon the
company paid its contractual obligations. Although all respondents in this research are full time
active supporters, authentic actors of the ultras subculture, they are aware that the most
important battles are those related to the status of Hajduk FC. All members of Torcida are
opposed to the idea of the sale of Hajduk to any individual as a solution to the club’s financial
3.8 Enemies: The police and the Croatian Football Federation
Apart from the usual ritual hostility towards other ultras groups (especially BBB and Armada,
supporters of Rijeka FC) Torcida is in constant struggle against the police and the establishment
of the Croatian Football Federation. Most members of Torcida perceive police forces as hostile
to fans, and describe how the police use the power of their weapons and the protection of their
uniforms to assault, humiliate, arrest, and exclude fans from following football.
And two plainclothes policemen came to my door, and they wouldn’t tell her what
it was all about. It pissed me off, mostly because of my mother. They took the other
folks out of the room. They didn’t have a warrant, they came just like that, out of
the blue. They said that they had some kind of information, some report that I’m
the main guy in Torcida for pyrotechnics. At the level of Torcida, I have absolutely
nothing to do with that. They asked me whether they could check my flat. They
didn’t have a warrant at all. They were questioning me. I told him in a calm tone
that he was not allowed to yell at me in my apartment, that it was out of my good
will alone that I was even talking to them. (Diokletian)
And considering the League, the football federation I mean, everyone knows what's
happening there, that literally one man adjusted the entire system to suit himself,
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and no one can do anything at all to him. I think that's simply not only Zdravko
Mamić's fault, but the fault of the entire system. 7 And basically, that’s it. (Adobe)
Although the researchers witnessed some cases in which fans provoked the police or began
throwing bottles at them, in numerous cases they also witnessed unnecessary and unjustifiable
behaviour by the police, who at times denied fans their basic human rights without any reason.
We were coming back home in a van from an away match in Slavonia and we
needed petrol, the tank was empty. The police didn’t let us stop at the first station,
nor at the second one…. At the third station we really had to stop because the car
would have stopped anyway, we were completely out of fuel, and we saw a
policeman with a car blocking the entrance, telling us we couldn’t stop there. We
told him 'come here, look, we’re out of fuel, we need petrol', but he kept repeating
that we were not allowed to stop. We got out of the van to tell him that our car
couldn’t continue without fuel and he pulled out his gun, aiming at us!! It took us
half an hour to calm him down, it was a crazy situation. (Paul Gascoigne)
We were in the bus, the police had blocked the road, they were waiting to collect
more fans in order to escort them to the stadium. I needed to piss, I asked to go just
a few metres from the bus to piss, but the policeman wouldn’t listen to me at all. I
waited and waited, but after some time I couldn’t hold it any more. I started to beg
him, please let me go just outside the bus, I won’t go anywhere, I just have to piss,
and the policeman said ‘piss in your trousers’. I was furious. At the last moment I
found a plastic water bottle in the bus and pissed in the bottle… (Manga)
After the Croatian Football Cup match on 27 November 2012, massive clashes between the
police and supporters occurred around the stadium, but on this occasion they were caused by
the police.8(See Plates 9-11) The notorious intolerance and latent conflict between Torcida and
the police culminated in the spring of 2013, partly as a consequence of a tragic event in
Županja. After several days of police investigation, in which an adult graduate and member of
Zdravko Mamić is a football official. He was director of Dinamo from 1992 to 1994. From 1995 to 1999 he was
director of football clubs Osijek, Segesta and Croatia Sesvete. He became member of Executive Board of Dinamo in
2000; from 2003 on, he has been the executive chairman of Dinamo. During his rule Dinamo won 10
Championships and 8 Cups. He is also a successful manager who concluded transfers of players (for example
Eduardo da Silva or Luka Modrić) to rich clubs. He is the most powerful person in Croatian football with various
personal links with judges, lawyers, politicians. In media discourse and among the broader public he is viewed as
an absolute ruler of Croatian football. His public image includes vulgar discourse, usually swearing, and threatening
and using hate speech. He was charged many times, but never convicted of anything that attracted more than a
financial fine.
As witnesses to the whole event, the researchers were summoned to appear in court in defence of the accused fans.
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Torcida from Županja was under suspicion of a crime, the young man died.9 Soon after the
event, the latent conflict with police culminated in mass riots and fights in Split (4 May 2013),
after the ‘city derby’ match between Hajduk and Split. Because of exorbitant ticket prices for
visiting fans, Torcida boycotted the match and gathered near the stadium. The police were
present and fights began. On this occasion, the riots caused great damage and numerous fans
and police officers were injured. Seven arrested fans were criminally charged(see Plates 17-20).
In addition to clashes with the police, the struggle against the Croatian Football Federation [FF]
is also a very important issue, especially since it is becoming increasingly of interest to the
general public and the media as evidence of criminal activity by senior officials of the FF and the
referee’s organisation comes to light. Resistance to the FF establishment often means
resistance to Zdravko Mamić, the executive chairman of the Dinamo Zagreb football club, and
the absolute ruler, ‘the boss’, of Croatian football.
Dinamo dominates the football field because of the other stuff. We have seen
countless times how big Mamić’s influence is, and the type of connections he
possesses in the power structures. I'm referring here to the justice system above all.
Mamić built one kind of system around himself, and he’s probably one of the most
powerful people in the state at present. (Bernard)
People at the top of the FF are perceived to be responsible for the general state of Croatian
football and the bad relations within it; the national team and the first division are viewed as
the private toys of the boss, whose main goal is to make money. Although Dinamo won eight
championships in a row, BBB also oppose ‘the boss’, ‘the mafia in the FF’ and the nontransparent business of their own club through protest and through the organisation of various
actions. Other groups of radical supporters in Croatia (Armada, Kohorta, etc.) have also joined
the struggle, but apart from the periodic promises of the Croatian government to ‘drain the
football swamp’, nothing has happened. In response, in February 2013, during the derby with
Dinamo,Torcida designed a large choreography on the north stand declaring that ‘the football
swamp will be drained by the force of the supporters’ movement’.
The family of the deceased claimed that the boy died because a month before he was beaten by the police. As announced in
Večernji list (a popular national newspaper), after the death of the young man his family found a medical report issued on 20
March 2013 stating that Marko Azapović told the doctors that he had been beaten by the police. The autopsy determined that
the boy died of a blood clot in his heart, and his family believed that this clot could have been caused by the beating. The young
man died on 21 April 2013. Numerous fan groups from all over the world showed solidarity with the subsequent actions and
protests by angry Torcida fans. Stadiums in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo,
Bulgaria, and even Australia were full of large banners and messages from numerous fan groups paying tribute to ‘the victim of
police brutality’ in Croatia.
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3.9 Politics (Left and Right)
Many members of the Torcida core classify themselves as being on the right wing of the
traditional political spectrum. However, most of the respondents in this study did not, insisting
instead on distancing themselves from any political preference and arguing in favour of
excluding political views from the stadium. The few respondents who declared their alignment
with the right wing emphasised that it was their private opinion without any link to the group
policy of Torcida. Only the Homeland War and, of course, a love of Hajduk FC are the subject of
a solid and unquestionable consensus among all Torcida members. In Croatia, the general
public would be inclined to imagine football fans as ‘extreme right wing’. This is partially
attributable to widespread stereotypes but also because of fans’ slogans and songs, which are
characterized by hatred of national minorities or expressions of intolerance towards people of
homosexual orientation, or because of well-publicised cases in which some fans made ‘monkey
sounds’ to refer to the black Dinamo player Sammir. The same argument is frequently linked
with the fact that football supporters, on some occasions, chant the slogan ‘za dom spremni!’
[‘for the home(land) – we are ready!’]. During the fieldwork, this indeed happened at a few
matches. Although the majority of the public sphere in Croatia (journalists, politicians etc.)
primarily links this slogan with 1941 and the fascist regime, respondents in this study rejected
such accusations, claiming that they primarily link the slogan to 1991 and the Homeland War.
I think the main reason why people sing ‘let’s go Ustashas’ is out of mere protest
and resistance to the establishment, a kind of defiance against the government and
the crisis in society. Regarding the slogan ‘for the home(land) - we are ready!’, I do
not think it is an Ustasha slogan – it is about the homeland, about the defence of
Croatia, memories of the Homeland War, and not at all about the Second World
War, Ustashas or anything else. (OSP)
My opinion is that ‘for the home(land) – we are ready!’ is an expression of
patriotism, but I would never sing ‘lets go Ustashas’ because I think it’s an explicit
political alignment and is against the policy of Torcida. It’s also stupid regarding
history and the fact that the Ustashas sold Dalmatia to fascist Italy in 1941.
Sociological research, and the understanding of the phenomenon of ultras subculture gained
from this case study, suggest that the media’s conclusion is too simple, and that the label of
‘extreme right wing’ is too superficial when considering the complex world of interactions
within Torcida and its external expression. A more comprehensive understanding of the
phenomenon requires much deeper engagement with the processes and dynamics of fan
expressions including why fans chant in certain situations and why they do not in other
situations, how many fans chant a certain slogan in a certain situation and to what extent a
certain fan expression was determined by events on the field, media discourses, police
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operations, etc. An illustrative example is the chanting witnessed by the researchers at Dinamo
stadium in Zagreb at a match attended by 3,000 Torcida supporters. During the first part of the
match, when Sammir had possession of the ball, 10 or 15 of fans attempted to chant ‘hu-hu’
[monkey sounds), but the majority of Torcida fans did not support such actions. In the second
part of the game, when the referee awarded a penalty kick for Dinamo, which was regarded as
unjust, almost everyone among the Torcida supporters made ‘hu-hu’ sounds as Sammir
prepared to take the penalty kick. Another example of the need to set actions in their micro
context is provided by Rus, talking about the use of the Confederate flag:
The southern (Confederate) flag among Torcida does not mean racism or
nationalism in our context – it symbolizes the resistance of the south against the
north, which in our case is the resistance of Split against Zagreb, and the people in
UEFA do not understand that. (Rus)
The traditional division between left and right in an analysis of Torcida neither contributes to an
understanding of the ultras subculture, nor does it represent an appropriate framework for
discussion, especially if it remains at the level of superficial labelling. As Nancy makes clear,
many respondents are indifferent to politics: ‘All political parties are the same to me and all
politicians are the same as well. I can’t feel anything real about them and I don’t want to think
about them’ (Nancy). In interviews and other discussions with members of the Torcida core, a
greater diversity of attitudes was presented than could be derived from simple concepts of
traditional political divisions. In talking about (neo)liberal capitalism, corporations, football
institutions, and the Croatian political elite, many fans expressed views that would usually be
marked as leftist, and the same people manifested views on national, religious, or gender issues
that could be characterized as right wing.
I think the time has come for people to realize that, if we don’t fight for something,
nobody else will help us, and everybody should understand that the situation can
only get worse, I don’t see when it might get better… not because I’m a pessimist
but because it’s real, when you see people with a job and with a salary just
surviving, not living, let alone the unemployed who have to invent strategies to
come up with some money…. in fact everything has been turned upside down. (Paul
I think supporters are the initiators of many things, they were the first ones on the
battlefield in 1991, supporters are the most active part of society, on the other side
the system wants people to be like robots, to follow orders, pay taxes, fill the
national budget, they (the system) would like to increase the gap between the rich
and the poor, that’s why they are bashing the supporters, not only in our country
but everywhere in the world. (Cuore)
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Apart from the evident patriotism and nationalism within Torcida, many other activities of the
group and differences within it do not support the ‘extreme right wing’ stereotype. This case
study confirms the hypothesis of other authors about football fans as a good example of a
‘glocalizing’ process that opposes globalization (Giulianotti and Robertson 2004). In this
instance, however, it is not a simple formula of ‘nationalism vs globalization’; instead it is a
complex and multidimensional glocalizing process. In the case of Torcida, the position of Split
and Dalmatia as a ‘double periphery’, as noted in the introductory chapters of the report,
should not be forgotten.
3.10 Production of memory discourse: Homeland War
Torcida, like other football supporters, use the public space of the stadium to express several
kinds of messages, sometimes using one-off banners (see Plate 1). In most cases, apart from
banners commemorating deceased friends or expressing attitudes against the police and the
law, Torcida demonstrates a special focus on events from recent Croatian history, especially the
Homeland War (1991-5) (see Plates 7, 8, 12). In fact, Torcida is an active social actor in the
production of memory discourse, not only by marking anniversaries of the fall of Vukovar and
of the war operation Storm,10 but also by mobilizing people in the city of Split to light candles
along Vukovar Street, painting large murals, and organising humanitarian aid and collecting
money for impoverished families in Vukovar. Recently, efforts have also included protests
against the introduction of the Cyrillic script in the town of Vukovar. The Homeland War is
central because it symbolizes the birth of Croatia as an independent state. Torcida (and some
other groups of ultras) began the mass marking of the anniversaries of the Homeland War, and
other social actors followed. This happened independently of official Croatian policies, political
parties in power, or the attention of the media. With the knowledge gained from data from
some other sociological research within the MYPLACE project, and considering a survey and
interviews of young people from two zones of Zagreb in particular who showed a great
confusion and lack of knowledge regarding recent Croatian history, it is suggested here that
Torcida plays a significant role in the construction of social memory. Although the activities of
Torcida cannot be reduced to one notion, because of the focus on the Homeland War and
because of a significant part of their attitudes, they might be considered to belong under the
general umbrella of ‘new patriotic movements’.
I see many other wars, for example the Americans in the Middle East, it’s absurd to
me, they are defending American interests in the fucking Middle East. Are they
fucking mad? Where is the USA? Isn't it in another part of the planet? These things
Vukovar fell on 18 November 1991. After a long siege, the city was completely destroyed, and those who remained were
killed, sent to camps or exiled. The operation Storm occurred in August of 1995 and liberated occupied territory in Croatia, but
also resulted in the mass exodus of the Serbian minority from the region.
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are wars for individual interests and governments, but our Homeland War was
different, not because it was ours, but because it was clear, it was simply about
people defending their homes and that's it. (Cuore)
3.11 Against modern football
All respondents in this study are familiar with the slogan ‘against modern football’, and most of
them think that it is synonymous with their own feelings and the best description of the
contemporary ultras movement; in fact, it is a description of their own way of life. Torcida used
to express attitudes against modern football in the stadium, not only through this slogan, but
also through the explicit rejection of the football authorities. For example, they wrote ‘fuck
UEFA’ in navy semaphore flag signals. UEFA is the object of many different expressions of
criticism, from t-shirts (‘UEFA - we care about money’) to banners (‘United European Fortune
Association’). The Croatian Football Federation is criticised as being part of the same group as
UEFA. Members of Torcida have painted large murals on walls presenting the heads of the
Croatian FF as marionettes of UEFA bosses, writing Platini’s name as ‘Plati mi’ (meaning ‘pay
me’ in Croatian).
Personally, I think it’s disgusting, that’s why I don’t follow football on TV, big events,
Champions League or World Cup, I can’t stand it anymore. It’s total bullshit, when I
see so many flashlights in the front rows, like when Barcelona is playing, it’s
horrible. Or even worse, one of the future World Cups will be played in winter in
Qatar. What does that have to do with football at all? (Nessuno)
3.12 Gender
Unlike twenty years ago, when Lalić (1993) conducted his research on Torcida, there are many
more women in the core of Torcida today. However, the expression of masculinity is still
strongly emphasized and women must submit to it if they wish to be accepted in the group; this
echoes Pearson’s (2012) findings based on his ethnography of English football fans. Talking to
the women of Torcida, similar types of (non)reaction to sexism were encountered as those
identified in Jones (2006); this included examples of women sometimes justifying sexist chants
as ‘funny’ or typical of football rituals while, in other cases, they would simply distance
themselves from certain chants. The world of football is masculine, but wider society is also
patriarchal, which means that women have to either accommodate or develop different tactics
in order to survive.
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Why would I react to the word ‘pussy’ in the context of the stadium when it’s not
targeted at me directly? I should save my energy for a fight over such words at work
or in a cafe bar if someone dares to address me like that. (Unique)
Women are beautiful creatures and it’s normal for me to enjoy their company, I
adore women. But, if you want the truth, within the supporters' movement, within
the 'ultras djir'… I wouldn’t say that they don’t have a place, but there are only a
few of them who really belong inside. (Paul Gascoigne)
3.13 Playing football
Contrary to media stereotypes claiming that radical football supporters — ‘the ultras’ — are not
familiar with the game itself, the research reported here shows that most members of the core
group actively play football in several recreational leagues in Split. Some of them attend
football training on a regular basis, or play at least once per week. Torcida organises a football
tournament, ‘The Torcida Cup’, and attendance is higher than at average matches in the First
Croatian Football Division. All sub-groups of Torcida register their teams for the Cup, and most
of them play and prepare for the Cup with the same players throughout the whole year, where
support and a carnival atmosphere sometimes equal that at big Hajduk matches. To the
spectator, it looks like a real celebration of the game itself, a ‘back-to-the- roots’ movement in
the enjoyment of football, without any mediation.
Football is really important to me. I don’t understand people who don’t play
football and who follow Hajduk, some of them even belong to the core…. We play
at least once a week, but preferably more often.’(Cuore)
3.14 The Internet
Although Torcida had two web sites prior to the generational change in the Supporters’ Club
leadership, nowadays the main channel of communication is through the Torcida Facebook
profile, which has 109,000 ‘likes’. In recent times, Torcida has issued its statements and all
other announcements through Facebook, publishing photos, stories, and many other pieces of
information. Internet tools are used also to cultivate the group’s image in an international
context. Documentary records of matches, and occasionally of other events, are regularly
posted on the YouTube network. Reports of supporter activity (as with many other ultras
groups) are regularly posted on the website. Some Hajduk fans set up their own
forums for virtual meetings, which sometimes include members of other fan groups.
One of the benefits of Facebook is the speed with which information is distributed.
For example, almost everyone has a profile and most people have smartphones;
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they can receive information anytime, anywhere. I remember when we had to
gather in front of city hall to demonstrate against the city authorities — three
hundred people gathered in thirty minutes. That is why Facebook is powerful. (THC)
4. Conclusion
The research conducted for this case study allows for a number of empirical conclusions. Firstly,
it suggests that Torcida is a distinctive social actor. Drawing on shared support of Football Club
Hajduk Split, Torcida mobilises thousands of young people, providing a framework for identity
formation and creating a distinct subcultural style – ultras subculture. The research showed,
however, that Torcida is a dynamic social actor. This was evident from the fact that during this
research, the formal leadership of Torcida changed; representatives of the younger generations
were elected to all key positions in Supporters Club Torcida Split. Along with this, a certain
intergenerational transition took place in most of the branches and the street orientation
became more articulated and visible, characterised, among other things, by more severe
clashes with the police. The research demonstrated that Torcida is also an important social
actor in the production of memory discourse, mobilising people to mark the anniversaries of
key moments from the Homeland War. Because the Homeland War and Croatian patriotism
presents the largest and strongest consensus among all Torcida members, (they would argue
that this ‘is above all political divisions’), it is suggested here that Torcida can be called a ‘new
patriotic movement’. Finally, based on a number of social activities undertaken by Torcida
(sometimes coordinated with other ultras groups) against local and national economic-political
elites, especially against the Croatian Football Federation, Zdravko Mamić and UEFA, it is
argued here that Torcida is part of a broad and heterogeneous social movement against
modern football. This corresponds to the self-reflection and self-perception of the core group
of Torcida.
In terms of the contribution of the research to wider theoretical debates, it is important to note
that, in the Croatian sociological context, this research comes after a 23 year gap in empirical
research on football supporters. During this lull, Croatian society has passed through the painful
process of war and transition. Football supporters also strengthened their role as social actors
during this time, especially regarding both their own formal structure (which had been
unimaginable in a one-party system) and social efforts such as protests, boycotts,
demonstrations, petitions, and other forms of resistance to the local and national politicaleconomic elites of the new consumer society. While it was relatively easy to discover new
phenomena among young supporters and their autonomous subcultural roles by comparing
local styles and identities with social actors described in British (sub)cultural studies at the
outset of research in Croatia in the late 1980s, 20 years later the social stage had become more
complex even at the periphery, let alone in the fragmented mega-cities of the contemporary,
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globalized corporate world. The mass availability of information technology and the rise of new
media and communication tools changed the context drastically in comparison to the end of
the 1980s. In sociology, after the ‘post-modern turn’ and the ‘spatial turn’, there was also a
‘the ethnographic turn’. This wave brought concrete content and ‘thick descriptions’ to the
academic and general public, providing more ground for understanding social phenomena, in
this case football fandom. Although there were some signs of ethnographic and qualitative
approaches in the 1970s and through the 1980s (Marsh et al. 1978, Williams, Dunning and
Murphy 1989), there have been many more ethnographic and other qualitative insights into the
world of football supporters in the last two decades (Giulianotti 1991, 1995, Armstrong 1998,
Brown 1993, King 2003, Millward 2006, Spaaij 2006, Stott and Pearson 2007, Testa 2009,
Pearson 2012). Considering the importance of the thesis that football supporters in Croatia at
the end of the 1980s presented a distinct subcultural style and identity, it should be mentioned
here that the contemporary sociological context regarding the notion of subculture has
changed significantly. Steve Redhead (1990, 1993), Thornton (1996), Muggleton, (2000, 2005)
and Bennett (1999, 2000) argue in favour of abandoning the key thesis of the previous (CCCS)
theoretical legacy (for most ‘postsubculturalists’, this includes the rejection of the notion of
subculture itself), proclaiming a new ‘postsubculturalist’ paradigm. However, parallel to the
‘post-subculturalist’ stream, authors like Hodkinson (2002) or Pilkington (2004, 2010) have
reclaimed the subculture notion (and part of the CCCS legacy), directing attention not towards
‘paradigm wars’ but towards ‘thick description’ and the content of research on youth
(sub)cultures. The notion of subculture has also survived in recent studies on football
supporters. For example, Pearson (2012) argues that ‘carnival fans’ are a distinct subculture
within the wider body of football fans. Giulianotti (1991, 1995) uses the term ‘carnival’ earlier
and in a slightly different way in his description of the behaviour of the Scottish ‘Tartan Army’.
It seems that the self-reflection of the Scottish fans, strongly supported by the Scottish media,
emphasises their intention to remain separate from the ‘hooligan’ image reserved for their
English neighbours, which shaped Giulianotti’s use of the term ‘carnivalesque’. The activity of
carnival fans (in this case, the Tartan Army) was regulated by the system and absolutely
excluded violence. However, carnivalesque includes the transgression of norms and could
include violence as well. There are many re-interpretations and re-affirmations of Bakhtin’s
(1984) original study in sociology/cultural studies and it is true that the notion seems especially
appropriate to parts of football fandom. However, it is always good to place its use within a
particular local context. In the case study reported here, for example, research has shown that
the borders between ‘carnival fans’ and ‘hooligans’ are less strict than in Pearson’s study, and
significantly less strict than in Giulianotti’s approach; Hughson (2002) makes a similar
argument, showing how transgression of social norms and other types of behaviour of football
fans include hooliganism within the notion of the carnivalesque. Thus, it has been argued here
that, as a social actor, Torcida is most appropriately understood as an ultras subculture. .
Regarding types of affiliation among football supporters – , the Torcida research confirms, to a
certain extent, the loose borders of the postmodern (neo)tribe suggested by Maffesoli (1996).
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Such relations can be found at a football match itself, where an unknown individual can come
and partake in ecstatic rituals. However, most of the activities of the ultras subculture are based
on strong, traditional, highly restricted inside/outside group borders. This is especially
articulated due to pressure from the outside system; the police, new laws, courts, as well as
moral panic in the media.
5. Future Analysis
The issue of violence appears to be an important one for cross-case analysis within WP7,
especially within the clusters on the radical right, new patriotic movements, and anti-capitalist
movements, as well as within other clusters. This kind of analysis should differentiate between
symbolic and physical violence and consider: respondents’ perceptions of definitions of
acceptable and unacceptable violence (bats, knives, guns, 'fists only', etc.); what influences
readiness for violence; the presence of a certain subcultural codex; the self-perception of
actors; and the triggers for violence.
A second fruitful theme for future analysis would be the study of gender and minority issues,
especially within the WP7 cluster on the radical right and new patriotic movements, as well as
within other clusters. This means not only attitudes towards women or minority groups but the
presence (or absence) and the role of women and minorities within movements and similar
social actors.
Regarding the MYPLACE project in general, the issue of the production of memory discourse
presents itself as an important issue for triangulation. The issue of memory might be studied in
each national context by bringing together data collected in interviews from WP2 (young
respondents) and WP7 and comparing it with interviews from WP5. This would allow the
discernment of similarities and differences between a more homogenous sample of
respondents (WP2 and WP7) and a more heterogeneous sample of respondents (WP5, which
constitutes a subsample of the representative WP4 survey sample). It would also be interesting
to compare and contrast analysis of the same issue (memory) across countries with and
without a totalitarian past.
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6. References
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Fanuko, N., Magdalenić, I., Radin, F. and Žugić, Z. (1991) Zagrebački nogometni navijači: grupni
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Hodkinson, P. (2002) Goth: Identity, style and subculture, Oxford: Berg.
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Jones, K. (2006) '‘Get your kit off’ isn’t sexist: Women’s responses to gender abuse in English
footbal crowds', Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological
Association, Montreal, Quebec, August 10, 2006.
Kennedy, P. and Kennedy D. (eds) (2012) Football supporters and the commercialisation of
football: Comparative responses across Europe, London: Routledge.
King, A. (2003) The European ritual: Football in the new Europe, Aldershot: Ashgate.
Lalić, D. (1993) Torcida – pogled iznutra [Torcida – An Inside View], Zagreb: AGM.
Marsh, P., Rosser, E. and Harre R. (1978) The rules of disorder, London: Routledge; Kegan Paul.
Maffesoli, M. (1996) The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society,
London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Millward, P. (2006) 'We’ve all got the bug for Euro aways', International Review for the
Sociology of Sport, 41(3): 357−75.
Milward, P. (2011) The global football league: Transnational networks, social movements and
sport in the new media age, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Muggleton, D. (2000) Inside subculture: The postmodern meaning of style, Oxford: Berg.
Muggleton, D. (2005) 'From classlessness to clubculture: A genealogy of postwar British cultural
analysis', Research on youth and youth cultures, 13(2): 205−219.
Pearson, G. (2012) An ethnography of football fans: Cans, cops and carnival. New
Ethnographies, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Perasović, B. (1995) Navijačko pleme: do nacije i natrag [Football Supporters Tribe: Towards the
Nation and back], Erasmus, 3(2): 61–67.
Pilkington, H. (2004) 'Youth strategies for global living: Space, power and communication in
everyday cultural practice', In A. Bennet and K. Kahn-Harris (eds.), After subculture: Critical
studies in contemporary youth culture, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.118−134.
Pilkington, H. (2010) 'Introduction: Rethinking skinhead lives', in H. Pilkington, E. Omel’Chenko
and A. Garifzianova (eds.), Russia’s skinheads: Exploring and rethinking subcultural lives,
London, New York: Routledge, pp.1−23.
Redhead, S. (1990) The end of the century party: Youth and pop towards 2000, Manchester:
Manchester University Press.
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Redhead, S. (1993) 'The politics of Ecstasy', in S. Redhead (ed.), Rave off: Politics and deviance in
contemporary youth culture, Aldershot: Avebury.
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history of the individual], Društvena istraživanja, 8(2-3): 397-424.
Rogić, I. (2000) Tehnika i samostalnost: Okvir za sliku treće hrvatske modernizacije [Technics
and Self-Determination: The Frame for the Third Croatian Modernization], Zagreb: Hrvatska
sveučilišna naklada.
Rogić, I. (2009) 'Pet tvrdnja o dvoziđu. Kratak osvrt na hrvatske prilike 20 godina nakon rušenja
Berlinskog zida' [Five Theories of Dual-Walls. A Brief Reflection on Croatian Circumstances
Twenty Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall], Bogoslovska smotra, 79(4): 703−719.
Sandvoss, C. (2003) A game of two halves: Football, television, and globalisation, New York:
Spaaij, R. (2006) Understanding football hooliganism. A comparison of six western European
football clubs, Vossiuspers: Amsterdam University Press.
Stott, C. and Pearson, G. (2007) Football hooliganism: Policing and the war on the ‘English
disease’, London: Pennant Books.
Testa, A. (2009) 'UltraS: An emerging social movement', Review of European Studies, 1(2):
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University Press.
Vrcan, S. and Lalić, D. (1999) 'From ends to trenches, and back: Football in the former
Yugoslavia', in G. Amstrong and G. Giulianotti (eds.), Football cultures and identities, London:
Macmillan, pp.176−185.
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Živić, D. and Pokos, N. (2004) 'Demografski gubitci tijekom domovinskog rata kao odrednica
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Appendix 1: Table 1. Socio-demographic profile of respondents
Pseudonym Gender Age
Mr. Augusto
Paul Gascoigne
Educational status
Employment status
Completed vocational education
Completed vocational education
MA degree university
MA degree university
Completed sesondary education
Completed ocational education
Completed secondary education
Completed secondary education
Completed secondary education
Completed secondary education
Completed vocational education
Completed vocational education
Completed secondary education
Completed secondary education
Completed secondary education
Completed secondary education
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Seasonal employment
Lives with mother
Single Lives with room mate
Lives with mother
Single Lives with girlfrend
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Single Lives with girlfrend
Married Lives with parents
Lives with parents
Lives with parents
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Residential status
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
Full active
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Appendix 2: Table 2. Attendance at football matches during the
fieldwork (Season 2012/2013)
Hajduk – Skonto FC 2:0
Euroleague, Split 19.07.2012.
Hajduk – Inter Milan AC 0:3
Euroleague, Split 02.08.2012.
Croatia – Switzerland 2:4
Friendly match, Split 15.08.2012.
Hajduk – Slaven Belupo 3:1
7. round 1. HNL, Split 23.09.2012.
Dinamo – Hajduk 3:1
10. round 1. HNL, Zagreb 29.09.2012.
Hajduk – Cibalia 4:0
11. round 1. HNL, Split 05.10.2012.
Hajduk – Istra 0:1
12.round 1. HNL, Split 21.10.2012.
Split – Hajduk 0:1
13. round 1. HNL, Split 28.10.2012.
Hajduk – RNK Split 2:1
1/8 Hrvatski kup, Split 31.10.2012
Hajduk – Zadar 3:0
14. round 1. HNL, Split 03.11.2012.
Zagreb – Hajduk 0:1
15. round 1. HNL, Zagreb 09.11.2012.
Hajduk – Lokomotiva 0:0
16. round 1. HNL, Split 17.11.2012.
Osijek – Hajduk 0:0,
17. Kolo 1. HNL, Osijek 24.11.2012.
Zelina – Hajduk 1:1
1/4 Hrvatski kup, Sveti Ivan Zelina 27.11.2012.
Hajduk – Rijeka 1:1
18. round 1. HNL, Split 02.12.2012.
Hajduk – Inter Zaprešić 1:0
25 000
5 000
34 000
9 000
6 000
9 000
4 000
10 000
3 000
3 000
22 000
6 000
3 500
1 000
6 000
3 000
6 000
3 000
5 000
8 000
3 000
5 000
4 000
6 000
3 500
3 000
1 500
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19. round 1. HNL, Split 07.12.2012.
Zrinjski – Hajduk 1:1
Friendly match, Gabela (BiH), 03.02.2013.
Hajduk – Olimpija Ljubljana 4:1
Friendly match, Split, 09.02.2013.
Slaven Belupo – Hajduk 0:2
20. round 1. HNL, Koprivnica 16.02.2013.
Hajduk – Dinamo 'rain delay'
21. round HNL, Split 24.02.2013.
Hajduk – Dinamo 1:2
21. round 1. HNL, Split 27.02.2013
Hajduk – Istra 1:2
23. round 1.HNL, Split 09.03.2013.
Zadar – Hajduk 1:1
24. round 1. HNL, Zadar 17.03.2013.
Croatia – Srbia 2:0
Qualif. match WC 2014, Zagreb 22.03.2013.
Hajduk – Zagreb 3:2
25. round 1. HNL, Split, 30.03.2013.
Hajduk – Cibalia 2:1
27. round 1. HNL, Split, 13. 04. 2013.
Hajduk – Slaven Belupo 1:1
1/2 Hrvatski kup, Split 17.04.2013.
Hajduk – Rijeka 1:2
29. round 1. HNL, Split, 28.04.2013.
Split – Hajduk 2:1
30. round 1. HNL, Split 04.05.2013.
Hajduk – Lokomotiva 0:0
31. round 1. HNL, Split 12.05.2013.
Hajduk – Osijek 1:0
32. round 1. HNL, Split 17.05.2013.
Lokomotiva – Hajduk 3:3
Final match Hrvatski kup, Zagreb 22.05.2013.
Dinamo – Hajduk 3:1
33. round 1. HNL, Zagreb 26.05.2013.
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2 500
6 000
2 500
30 000
9 000
5 000
2 500
4 500
35 000
4 000
1 500
4 000
1 800
13 000
5 000
10 000
4 000
3 000
1 000
5 000
2 000
3 500
1 700
12 000
5 000
6 000
2 000
326 000
92 850
7 255
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Appendix 3: Visual illustrations
Plate 1. Hajduk – Skonto FC 2:0. One time banner saying 'We are born to raise hell, we know
how to do it and we do it well!' , Split 19.07.2012.
Plate 2. Hajduk – Inter Milan AC 0:3 choreography 'colours are inside us', Split 02.08.2012.
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Plate 3. Dinamo – Hajduk 3:1 (police surveillance over Torcida during the derby in Zagreb),
Zagreb 29.09.2012.
Plate 4. Dinamo – Hajduk 3:1 (inside the kop), Zagreb 29.09.2012.
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Plate 5. City Hall Demonstration Split 13.10.2012.
Plate 6. Split – Hajduk 0:1 Inside the kop during the city derby, Split 28.10.2012.
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Plate 7. Hajduk – Lokomotiva 0:0 (choreography Croatian Heroes celebrating the liberation of
Croatian generals in Den Haag), Split 17.11.2012.
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Plate 8. Torcida brought its coronal to Vukovar memorial place Ovčara, before the match
Hajduk played in Osijek, 24.11.2012.
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Plate 9. Zelina – Hajduk 1:1 Kids among Torcida in Sveti Ivan Zelina 27.11.2012.
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Plate 10. Zelina – Hajduk 1:1, Clash with police, Sveti Ivan Zelina 27.11.2012.
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Plate 11. Zelina – Hajduk 1:1, Clash with police, Sveti Ivan Zelina 27.11.2012.
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Plate 12. Post on Torcida official Facebook page (Anniversary of the battle for Dubrovnik 1991),
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Plate 13. Hajduk – Dinamo 1:2 Flares in action, Split 27.02.2013
Plate 14. Hajduk – Dinamo 1:2, Inside the kop, Split 27.02.2013
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Plate 15. Hajduk – Slaven Belupo 1:1 Scarves in action, Split 17.04.2013.
Plate 16. Hajduk – Rijeka 1:2 Search before entrance, Split, 28.04.2013.
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Plate 17. Hajduk – Rijeka 1:2 'Nobody listen to us, they know only to threat us, it seems
someone had to die?!, Azapović Marko R.I.P.' Split, 28.04.2013.
Plate 18. Split – Hajduk 2:1 During the boycott of the city derby: 'Azapović Marko present by
spirit' and 'Blue (police) uniform is the symbol of scum' Split 04.05.2013.
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Plate 19. Split – Hajduk 2:1 Outside the stadium, during the boycott of the city derby, Split
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Plate 20. Split – Hajduk 2:1, Split 04.05.2013. Few minutes before the clash with the police
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Plate 21. Lokomotiva – Hajduk 3:3, Entering the away stand in Zagreb with 5000 Torcida
members already in. 22.05.2013.
Plate 22. Lokomotiva – Hajduk 3:3, Inside the kop during the Cup final in Zagreb 22.05.2013.
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31st January 2014
Plate 23. Post on Torcida Official Facebook Page after the match Lokomotiva – Hajduk 3:3, 25.05.2013.
MYPLACE: FP7-266831
Deliverable D7.1: Ethnographic Case Studies of Youth Activism
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