the ultras, supporters like no other

The Roazhon Celtic Kop (RCK) no longer responds. The main group of supporters of Stade Rennes, which in recent years had built a small reputation with its flamboyant tifos, suspended without warning all of its activities at the end of September. Contacted on the sidelines of the Breton club’s European trip to Arnhem, the Netherlands, at the end of September, the group confirms its “Immediate sleep for an indefinite period”, even as he was preparing to celebrate his 30th birthday.

The reason may seem obscure to those who do not know how the stands of football stadiums work: the theft, by an opposing group, of the banner that was found at the foot of the RCK stand during home matches. A piece of fabric a few meters long, of course. But highly symbolic and strategic for the ultras.

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By definition, the ultras are not supporters like the others. Organized by hundreds, even thousands, around a club, often placed in the stands behind the goals, they consider themselves not as spectators, but as actors of the spectacle. Their credo? Support their team at home and away through songs and visual entertainment, especially on special occasions – the famous tifos.

When it is fixed at the bottom of the stand, the tarpaulin of an ultra group – where its name and sometimes its badge appear – marks and delimits its territory, whether in its “home” or “outside” version. “It is the most precious asset of an ultra group, details Franck Berteau in The Supporters Dictionary (Stock, 2013). The emblematic value of the tarpaulin is so strong that it, in the eyes of the supporters, must be protected. There is no worse affront to a group than being the victim of a theft and seeing your rivals brandishing it like a trophy, upside down, at the other end of the podium. “

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The grandstand match

Thus, in September 2018, at the Mosson stadium, the South derby between Montpellier and Nîmes broke off when the Montpellier ultras from the Butte Paillade saw, at the other end of the stadium, a Devil’s head in the visitors’ stand. It was a scrap of their tarp, stolen a few months earlier. Their Nîmes rivals then broke the door of their premises, armed with a disk grinder.

Since then, like its Rennes counterpart, the ultra Hérault group has also been dormant. “We go to the stadium, but officially, it’s as if we don’t exist. We no longer travel ”, exposes Cyril Morgavi, ex-president of the Butte Paillade, but always wearing a bob with the “BP” logo when you meet him at a table in a bar in the Antigone district of Montpellier.

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