What’s the story?
World football is familiar with the term ‘Ultras’ for a while now --- they are supposedly the wildest, craziest and the most passionate of football fans.
The likes of St. Etienne, Legia Warsaw, APOEL Tel Aviv, Ajax, Napoli and Olympique Marseille have world-famous (or infamous, as per your tastes) Ultras, but it is a culture that has, by and large, been restricted to Europe.
Hence, it comes as a bit of a shock then, to see the same Ultras dominating Indian football grounds. The local footballing scenario in the country isn’t really the most engaging, but over the past few years, there has been a subtle change in people’s viewpoints.
Fans of various clubs have organised themselves into various groups and have made it a point to make it to the games of their favourite teams. However, no fan group has perhaps garnered more attention or made more history than the East Bengal Ultras.
In case you didn’t know…
East Bengal are one of India’s oldest and most successful football clubs and have multiple international trophies to their name. In fact, in 1970, when they beat PAS Club of Iran in the IFA Shield Final, over 80,000 fans lit up flaming torches and held it up as a sign of their victory and dominance.
The concept of founding an Ultras section is, however, pretty new. In December 2013, the Ultras first attended a match as a unit, which was away at Bengaluru. Their ideas, chants and passion were noticed by many, and since then, there has been no looking back.
The heart of the matter
The Ultras are present in every game, and make it a point to display their support to the team by syncing pyro shows and creating unique Tifo designs. As such, they made history last August when they lifted South Asia’s first 3D Tifo at a Calcutta Football League match against Bhowanipore FC, and also again this year, when they made two pole flags for the home match against Aizawl FC at the Barasat Stadium.
Along with these, the Ultras have also been the masterminds behind creating a mammoth life-sized Jersey Tifo at the derby last year, as well as for making mosaic designs and breath-taking pyro techniques in several other games.
In fact, their work has been so impressive that it has been displayed on Ultras Tifo Forum (world’s largest ultras community) and the football website, copa90.com.
The Ultras plan to raise their 2nd 3D Tifo in the next home game against Bengaluru FC on 22nd January, which will be one of it’s kind. According to one of its members, the Tifo will be unlike anything we have seen so far.
They have been allocated the D and E Blocks of the stadium to them, just behind the goalpost. The Curva Nord ( northern part of the Barasat Stadium) will be bouncing up and down during the entire 90 minutes, so if you are a follower of the Red and Gold brigade, be sure to be there on the 22nd. The Ultras also expect the West Block Blues to be there for the game on Sunday, just like they were there at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium last season.
It’s rare to see Indian football set a benchmark, but the East Bengal Ultras have done exactly that. Most of them come from families who have been supporting the club for generations now, so the emotional connect with the crest comes not from the glory but from a rich legacy.
We hope the Ultras grow in number and continue inspiring more and more people with their vociferous support and uninhibited passion and bring a positive change in a decadent sport.Published 18 Jan 2017, 17:36 IST