Words by Neil Boardman

Milan, a city as famous as they come. Probably going to be the second highest scorer on Pointless, when the question, ‘European cities beginning with ‘M”, is asked – with Madrid just edging it. Art. Architecture. High fashion. In terms of culture, Milan rivals any city in the world.

However it is not just the endless streets of pizzerias and designer brands, that define Milan. As we all know, this is a city that loves its football. Derby Della Madonnina, contested between two of the world’s most famous clubs – Internazionale and Associazione Calcio, is a part of the city’s culture that can’t be rivalled by any expensive Italian jacket.

Obviously, what is occurring on the pitch is hugely, important to the Milanese people. However the efforts by the Ultras off the pitch has become another crucial method of achieving bragging rights. A recent Copa90 video, helps us understand how this all came about:

Dubbed, ‘The birthplace of Ultras’ – AC Milan’s Curva Sud is home to the form of Ultras that we all know today. Despite the term ‘ultra’ coming from the Resistance during the French Revolution – the banners, fireworks and Tifos were birthed in the Southern stand of the San Siro – the home to Fossa dei Leoni, the ultras of AC Milan.

The 1960s brought a change to the landscape of Milan’s culture. The city had become a hot bed for students and these were students that wanted to make a societal difference. These individuals were a tad different to the home counties, gap year types that swarm Manchester’s Oxford Road throughout the academic year, before heading to Boomtown in August. The students of Milan chose to take their opinions to the football terrace, as oppose to their private Twitter accounts – this was the birth of the modern Ultra.

The first major ‘Tifo’ that was developed in the Curva Sud read ‘FORZA VECHIO CUORE ROSSONERO’ or ‘COME ON RED & BLACK HEART’. This was something that saw a change in European, and world, football culture as we know it today.

As the feature, that helped us research this topic, suggests faces have come and gone since the birth of the modern day Ultra; unwritten rules, opinions and political stances will have changed. However, the key principles have remained the same: whilst creating the displays for each game, they treat the group like a second family – they drink in the same clubhouse throughout the week, before the game and, probably, after the game too.

Ultras get a bad press, it’s no surprise is it, really? The amount of right wing journalists across the world that hate the thought of someone belonging to a faction, having fun and all that. But, the fact is, for many people this ‘second family’ may be a safe place, the only place they can truly express themselves and that’s something that the Curva Sud of AC Milan can be proud they created.

Despite anger and angst to the the idea of the ‘ultra’, from across the world they haven’t let it stop them. The Tifos still rise before the whistle that signifies kick off, and there’s some absolutely mental ones from groups around the footballing world. However, no one does it, still, quite like AC Milan:

Just look at that, it’s mad isn’t it? That was last year at the Copa Italia final in Rome and it shows, just, how a tradition that was born out of the art and tradition of a Northern, Italian city has carried on to become such an important part of football today.

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