Random Fanzine Review: Saturday’s Heroes
I was quite excited about the arrival of this fanzine, enjoying as I do the occasional purchase of German-language based Ultra publications “Erlebnis Fussball” and “Blickfang Ultra”. I was perhaps a little hasty in overlooking the summary of the magazine’s aims, such was my interest in finally seeing a magazine about ultras and more continental style fan culture in English.
Call me a sensitive soul, but I should’ve baulked at the “regardless of political beliefs” bit on their “about us” section:
“You are welcome to send us photos, reports, stories of your groups, regardless of nationality, religion, political beliefs, etc. Let it be a truly global fans magazine, the one we have never seen before!”
I don’t expect everyone to wave a red flag, but if fans accept or encourage racism, Im not that interested in what they are up to or have achieved.
Anyway I ordered the thing, and reached the inside cover before realising this wouldn’t be a magazine for me. An advert featuring the nazi-clothing label “Erik & Sons”. Further references throughout the magazine irritated me. Openly right-wing groups, insinuations that the bombing of Dresden was unnecessary (a common ploy amongst nazis in Germany to try and play the victim card), a disgusting description of Romania along the lines of the place being full of gypsies, whores and the poor, and other little jokes suggesting rightwing sympathies. How odd, that the “ultra” label should be clung to, perhaps due to its current connotations of cool, yet none of the rebelliousness comes over. Instead the ethnocentric, war rhetoric of thousands of years of human history is followed blindly and without question. Despite the obvious desire to be seen as outsiders or rebels, there is just report after report of falling into line and following roughly what is expected of football fans.
My main objection though is not the politics of many of the groups. True to their word, the editors make a clear effort to cover as many geographic regions as possible and do cover at least one scene with a different political view (a report on fan culture in the Basque region). The problem is that the reports all seem to focus on three features 1) fighting and flag-stealing 2) displays & flares 3) vandalism. All of these topics can of course excite, and at times I enjoy reading about them, however key ingredients of what I find make ultra (the main focus) or fan culture in general so exciting are totally missing. Where are the examples of solidarity between fans or groups, and the humour and creativity? Where are the reasons why, we might often be hated by mainstream society, but will always somehow out do them? Stories like Napoli fans, at the time of Diego Maradona playing there, apparently spraying on the wall of a nearby graveyard “you don’t know what you are missing”. The “our fax machine was broken” banner. Fans going swimming on match days. Coconuts used to irritate police horses. The paper plate faces at Karlsruhe. Aspects similar to these rarely come across in the fanzine, despite some examples being briefly shown (the Legia Carlsberg pisstake being one of them). Even the walkout at the Polish Cup Final, arguably the most impressive bit of fan solidarity seen last year, is underplayed. Instead we are subjected, repeatedly, to the least interesting elements of fan culture, so often seen in ultra groups who are running out of ideas or never had any in the first place. Pointless violence, flares with no context and machismo, with little self-reflection or insight. Only the brief report by Hapoel and the Bate Borizow article go against this grain. It’s not that it’s necessarily all wrong, it’s just that its old and a bit dull.
The majority of contributors are writing in English despite it not being their mother tongue, which obviously makes writing insightful articles more challenging, but I fear the editorship may be to blame for the areas of focus. With experience and contributions from other groups the fanzine may improve, but ultras interest me for reasons rarely featured in this first showing, and so I will stick to other publications.
Link to the fanzine’s website: