CANADIAN PREMIER LEAGUE – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Everything you need to know about Canadian football.

Words by Charlie Fox

The Americas is no stranger to football, from the tifos and heated rivalries of Brazil and Argentina all the way to the USA, where MLS has erupted into the mainstream thanks to stars like Rooney and Zlatan. But now there’s a new kid on the block.

You might not have realised it, but April saw kick off in of one of world football’s newest leagues. The Canadian Premier League was announced two years ago but until recently has flown mildly under the radar. That’s right, the country famed for it’s syrup, moose and ice hockey has finally embraced the beautiful game – and there’s big things on the way. The league has promised to showcase the ‘best home-grown Canadian talent’, under the slogan ‘We are many, we are one.’ It’s exciting stuff, so here’s everything you need to know about Canadian football:

Comprised of seven teams spanning across the whole of the ice-clad nation, the league is split into a regular season and a fall season – giving fans more games to enjoy and more opportunities for the league to make a good impression on the world stage. The league’s quest for home-grown talent is helped by it’s draft system, similar to that of American Football and a wage cap also helps maintains the equal nature of the league – ensuring no-one can just pump money into a team and buy all the best players, as has been seen in some other leagues, *cough* Manchester City *cough*.

All sounds pretty good, right? But who are the teams participating in the ‘new era for Canadian football?’ Here’s a complete run-down so you know what to expect:

Cavalry FC

Cavalry FC are based in Alberta, lying to the south west of Canada, a place famed for its landscape and vast forests. Founded in 2018, the team were one of the founding members of the CPL. They play their games at the Spruce Meadow, a stadium with a capacity of 6,000 and a modular layout, which makes it perfect for later expansion. The team will sport a red strip with a white stripe for their home games, whilst their away kit is a classy green number paired with contrasting white shorts.

Coach: Tommy Wheeldon Jr

Key Player: Dominque Malonga (Congo)

Malonga is an experienced forward, previously plying his trade in France, Italy, Spain and Scotland, with his most successful stint being at Hibernian, where he scored 17 goals in 43 games. On top of this he has secured seven starts for his homeland. A player with this much experience will be a threat for any team in the league.

FC Edmonton

Just down the road from Cavalry FC are FC Edmonton, who too are in Alberta. The club was founded in 2010 as a NASL franchise, however, were granted CPL admittance in June 2018. With the nickname the Eddies they will play their home games at Clarke Stadium. The stadium has a capacity of just over 5,000 which is 1,000 less than their rivals. Their home games will be spent donning a Millwall-esque dark blue jersey with white trim, whilst the away kit has more of a Huddersfield feel too it, with blue stripes on a white canvas.

Coach: Jeff Paulus

Key Player: Tomi Ameobi (England)

There is another Ameobi brother! Just like the two we are more familiar with, Tomi is too a forward. With experience across the English football League ranging from Leeds to Forest green, taking stops at Doncaster Rovers and Grimsby Town on the way, Ameobi has been at Edmonton since the start of the 2014 campaign, taking a year out to try his hand with FC Cincinnati, who are set to be the newest MLS enterprise.

Forge FC

The first team on the list that isn’t based in Alberta. Forge FC are based in Hamilton, Ontario, a stone throws away from the Niagara Falls. The team with a logo that looks like it belongs to an E Sports team were founded back in 2017. The Tim Hortons Field will be the backdrop to the home games this year, sporting a 10,000-seater stadium which can be expanded to just over 23,000. The kits are pretty much reverses of each other, the fans at home games will see them in a full Orange kit with grey trim, whereas the traveling fans at away games will see a grey kit with orange trim.

Coach: Bobby Smyrniotis

Key Player : Kyle Bekker (Canada)

The first home grown Canadian on the list Bekker is a tricky midfielder who has exclusive footballing experience in North America. Being drafted to MLS outfit Toronto FC back in 2013 was the start of a tour of America, playing at other MLS teams such as FC Dallas and Montreal Impact. Managing to also rack up 18 caps for the Canadian nation team gives the player a strong pedigree.

HFX Wanderers FC

With arguably the most detailed badge in the league, HFX Wanderers, commonly known as Halifax Wanderers are in the Canadian district of Nova Scotia. The second smallest of all Canadian provinces and the furthest east of all is home to the Wanderers Ground, which is a 6200-seater stadium based in Halifax. In contrast to the badges the kits are a more simple affair. Basic navy blue is all over the home kit whereas the away strip is a light blue.

Coach: Stephen Hart

Key Player: Luis Alberto Perea (Columbia)

At the age of 32 Luis Perea is reaching the swansong of his career, having represented close to 20 teams. 8 Countries have seen him score goals, the fans that would have the fondest memories of him would be Universidad San Martin in Peru, having scored 36 goals in 92 appearances. The Copa del Inca top scorer of 2014 and Salvadoran Primera top scorer of 2018 will be looking to get back to prolific ways.

Pacific FC

British Columbia was home to the ski resort that hosted the 2010 winter Olympics, as well as having links to Vancouver and a bustling film industry, it seems like the perfect place to home a football team. Pacific FC is situated in Langford and has been there for just shy of a year. Home is called Westhills stadium and can house 5,100 people. The Home kit resembles that of Orlando City, purple top to bottom. The away kit takes the other colour of the badge being a mint colour.

Coach: Michael Silberbauer

Key Player : Marcel De Jong (Canada)

With 56 Canada caps to his name Marcel De Jong is arguably one of the most capped players in the league. Born to Dutch parents he was part of the PSV academy and was part of teams across Europe, before moving back to North America in 2015 when he joined Sporting Kansas City. At the age of 32 he has all the experience he needs to be a vital part of this team.

Valour FC

With my pick for the best looking badge in the CPL Winnipeg based Valor FC are one of the older teams in the League. May 6th 2017 is the date of birth for the side, in comparison to other teams who have only been around less than a year, this team looks archaic in comparison. Sat in a plush 33,000 seater stadium .The kits have the potential to match the logo, a black and red strip for the home kit, with a reverse of proceedings for the away kit.

Coach: Rob Gale

Key Player: Adam Mitter (England)

A journeyman for his age, the 26-year-old Mitter has played at senior level for 14 different teams, ranging everywhere from Scotland all the way to the Philippines. He plays as a Centre back or right back and has proved his worth at many clubs, playing at least 10 games a campaign since 2014. He could prove to be one of the strongest defenders in the league by sheer experience alone.

York 9 FC

With former Canadian international Jimmy Brennan at the helm, York 9 FC are one of the teams who have played a game in the new CPL. The team are based in Toronto, a place with a strong footballing connection to the United States. Appearing in May 2018 the team is barely a year old. Home games
will be played at the York Lions Stadium, making use of its 8,000-seater capacity. The Home kit is a clashing of white and green and the story is continued with the away kit, being a green and black affair.

Coach: Jimmy Brennan

Key Player: Manny Aparicio (Canada)

Argentine born Aparicio plays as an attacking midfielder and at 23 he has plenty of room for development. One upon a time he was part of the Toronto Academy, since his departure in 2015 he has played for teams in Spain before heading back to Canada with York 9 FC. Standing at 5’8 he has a similar stature to a lot of attacking midfielders in the league, however something that sets him apart would be the Canada cap to Aparicio’s name.

Whatever you make of it, it seems there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future of Canadian football. Next time you’re bored and the Premier League, why not tune into the CPL? Who knows, you might find your next favourite team.

You can find out out more about the CPL here.

PANENKA MEETS: SHANTA RONALDO

We met Shanta Ronaldo. It was interesting to say the least.

Words by Danny Brown

You may have heard of Shanta Ronaldo. The young Danish footballer became a social media celebrity a few years ago thanks to his remarkable likeness to global superstar Christiano Ronaldo. But what became of Ronaldo’s biggest fan? We decided to find out.

At some point in most young football fans lives, they’ve pretended to be Christiano Ronaldo, even for a few seconds. Find me someone who hasn’t struck that signature wide-legged pose down the park before smashing an imaginary free kick straight into the top bins. Well, Shanta Ronaldo has taken that fantasy and gone a step further.

At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking Shanta Ronaldo is the real deal. The 20-year-old (real name Shanta Kordbatchje) has adopted everything from his idols surname, hairstyle and even his iconic #7 shirt number. The effect is interesting to say the least.

Nicknamed the ‘Iranian Ronaldo’, the young footballer has a social media following just shy of 40,000 people and takes inspiration from his role model in pretty much everything he does, down to the way he acts and even the clothes he wears. But when did this unique obsession first begin?

“Being a Real Madrid fan, I discovered Christiano back in 2009 and I instantly saw that he was special. People today admire players for having great technique etc. but the reason why Christiano is my idol is his mentality. He can play in a game for 89 minutes and do nothing but then, all of a sudden, he’ll score.

That’s what I admire about him. His mentality is something I’ve learned a lot from. The way he acts and works hard is important – with the right mentality you can always take steps forward. His goals and stats speak for themselves. He’s an example for everyone.”

Following in the footsteps of Ronaldo, Shanta has begun carving out a footballing career for himself and currently plays for Odense Boldklub, a club in Denmark’s Superliga. Admittedly, not quite at the level of his role model just yet – but Shanta’s got big plans and even hopes to one day play against his Ronaldo himself for Iran at the 2022 World Cup.

I started playing football here at Odense Boldklub when I was six years old. Football has always played a huge role in my life ever since I was I kid. My parents always supported me from the start and they still do right now – my dad actually played at high level back in Iran. I was born here Denmark, and that’s where my footballing career started.

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Keep your head up and believe⚽️ #nevergiveup

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I’m 20 years old and my goal is currently to develop as a player and one day play outside of Denmark. A few months ago, I had trials with LA Galaxy and in a short time I’m going to Spain to train with a team in the Segunda Division there. My dream is to represent the Iranian National Team for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. There are good things on the way. I’m confident.”

Shanta could hardly call himself Ronaldo’s biggest fan without having met the man himself, and he’s done that (just a few times). When Ronaldo was at Madrid, Shanta became known for waiting hours outside the club’s training ground in Spain to meet his hero and has met CR7 on at least a dozen occasions. But how does he feel about Ronaldo’s move to Italy to play for Juventus last summer?

“Yes, I’ve met him many times. He’s a great person. We spoke a lot and he wished me good luck for everything. He knows they call me the Iranian Cristiano Ronaldo! Sometimes in life, the unexpected things happen but in a positive way. I think it was the correct time for him to leave. As he always does, he scores goal after goal and he does the speaking on the pitch.”

While Shanta’s unmistakable similarity to Ronaldo has gained him a lot of popularity, it’s also caused him to get a bit of stick over the years. One newspaper claimed that Shanta had legally changed his surname to Ronaldo plus spent thousands of pounds on plastic surgery to look like his idol, but Shanta says these stories are rubbish and his looks are simply a coincidence.

“Haha! Please do not believe those fake stories. Are they still alive? Haha. Of course. The reason why I called my social media accounts ShantaRonaldo is because of the fame I got from that name. Looking like Cristiano? I think it’s more in a natural way. I just focus on my game and life. Then people can say whatever they want. I don’t want to look like Christiano. What what I want is to reach my goals and to get inspired by the best.”

Haters? They make him, and me, stronger. It’s part of my life now, I just have to keep going.”

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Actions lasts longer than words😉🤫😜

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So what is on the horizon for Shanta Ronaldo? While the 20-year-old has big dreams on the football pitch, he also sees a future for himself off it and has begun coaching young kids in Demark with the hope of launching a career in coaching to run alongside his playing career. His favourite coach is Jose Mourinho (which must be something to do with Portuguese people).

I have always wanted to develop my coaching career too as I have always and still admire tactics, coaching stuff and the mental part of the football game. My favourite coach is José Mourinho and I try to learn from him a lot, for me he is the best! The reason is simple, he knows what he is doing and have the right mentality.

For me it’s a pleasure to coach kids and to learn from my experiences. And of course, it is really a pleasure when the kids admire they have a football player as a coach. My goal is to become a better coach everyday. Let’s see what happens in the future!”

Whatever people say about Shanta, from speaking him it’s clear he’s a lovely bloke with big ambitions and we’ve got absolutely no doubt he’ll go far doing what he loves – Ronaldo or not. Keep doing you Shanta.

In the meantime, we seriously suggest you go and follow Shanta on Instagram and Twitter at @ShantaRonaldo.

ONCE IN, NEVER OUT – BOLTON WANDERERS

Words By Neil Boardman

About five minutes in a car. Forty minutes (ish) on foot. And too long by train. That’s how far I grew up from the home of Bolton Wanderers – the, as it’s currently known, University of Bolton stadium.

Considering the ground is, by road, about 3 miles away from mine, you’d think the train wouldn’t actually take that long but you’re looking at, including the wait in town, about an hour. The reason behind going on about all this is because the older generation of people round these parts, will try and claim that the day Bolton moved away from their spiritual home of Burnden Park to the Reebok (that’s what it’s called, don’t debate it), was the day the club lost its soul.

Burnden Park was located in the centre of town. An appropriate place for such a ground to be located as it wasn’t only defined as the centre of a town geographically, but also spiritually. Bolton Wanderers Football Club is the heart of a town. The heart of a town that isn’t the home of riches or strong government investment. Bolton is a town that has had it’s strong heart broken time and time again; it’s not the nicest place nor is it my favourite place in the world but it is the home of good people, friends, family.

For years, living in Bolton, there wasn’t much to look forward to, nothing much at all for the average, working class family. Apart from Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Although I don’t have any memories of Burnden Park, I have been told stories of the days, there, by countless fans. The town being a sea of white shirts from early morning to late at night, with ninety minutes being taken out of the day to witness a John McGinlay masterclass.

This was the soul of one of the Football League’s founders. The 4 times FA cup winners. However, despite what some might say, this soul did not rest in peace at Burnden Park. In fact, the Bolton Wanderers that this town loves carried on for so many years. This was a club that held its own against the European big boys, pulling top notch results off against Bayern Munich, Athletico Madrid and Red Star Belgrade. The club was the home of some footballing icons. Anelka. Djorakeff. Campo. Hierro. And, of course, the man so good they named him twice – Jay-Jay Okocha.

The days at the Reebok, with Big Sam and Little Sam is the Bolton Wanderers that I and many others will remember. This wasn’t a team without a soul, this was a team that young kids in the town believed were the best in the world. And isn’t that what football is all about? A bit of optimism? A bit of belief?

It pains me to say, but the Bolton Wanderers that so many of us grew up with no longer exists. This is a club where the supporters think relegation is the best option, some are convinced the club should pack up and start again – this is a club that has had its soul ripped to shreds. It wasn’t the move from Burnden Park, Sam Allardyce leaving or, even, relegation from the Premier League – it was money.

As great as some elements of the modern game are, and as much as I hate to moan, Bolton Wanderers are a victim of modern football. Debts and unpaid wages are two elements of business that circle the ‘UNIBOL’ (awful that, init) everyday, the statue of Sir Nat Lofthouse being the club’s guard from the vultures of the footballing world. Corrupt guidance from the crooks that call themselves the Anderson’s have ripped the beating heart straight from the chest of this town.

It’s mad, isn’t it? How the dark arts-esque actions of football’s money men can change the lives of the people that make the sport – the fans. Within ten years the devils of the football world can turn Nicolas Anelka into Chinedu Obasi. It is time for the footballing gods to sort this mess out and restore the heart and soul of one of football’s most historic clubs.

ONCE IN, NEVER OUT. ANDERSON OUT.

THE PLAYERS THAT MADE US FALL IN LOVE WITH FOOTBALL – *CONTRIBUTORS NEEDED*

Alright? How’s everyone doing?

Just a quick one, is this, but we would like to tell you all about a new little series we are starting.

The series is going to be all about the players that made us fall in love with football. Whether it’s a former Ballon D’or winner or a lower league journeyman, we all have a player that springs to mind when we are asked, why do you love this game so much?

We are hoping to make this into a really interesting little series, so we were thinking – why not get as many people as possible involved? So that’s what we are doing! We want to hear from you on the player(s) that made you fall in love with the beautiful game – so if you would like to be a part of this new series, please send your words (we are looking for 500ish – but that’s, certainly, not a set rule) to this email: editor@paneknamag.com or if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to contact us via email or social media!

Cheers.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK IS THE MAN

Congratulations to Virgil Van Dijk on being crowned PFA Player of the Season. It’s not actually been announced yet, we’re just that confident.

Words by Danny Brown

Congratulations to Virgil Van Dijk on being crowned PFA Player of the Season. It’s not actually been announced yet, I’m just that confident.

Because the truth is, no-one else has been within a sniff of winning the award since around Christmas time. That’s how good Van Dijk has been. Sure, the skill of Sterling, trickery of Hazard and goalscoring of Aguero have all been breath-taking at times this year – but not one player has made anywhere near the impact that big Virgil has had at Anfield this season.

Signed for a whopping £80 million (a record fee for a defender) from Southampton back in January 2018, it’s fair to say big things were always expected from VVD. The towering centre-half had impressed with his solid defending, aerial prowess and calmness on the ball during his time with Celtic and the Saints, and it was hoped he’d be the antidote to the defensive fragilities that had plagued the Reds’ in previous seasons.

Within just a few games of him joining, it was clear Liverpool had got the right man. Van Dijk made his debut on 5 January in the Merseyside Derby, becoming the first player since Bill White to score a derby goal on his debut, scoring a towering header to give Liverpool a 2-1 win. And if there’s a quicker way to become a fan favourite, we’re yet to see it.

For the rest of his debut half-season, Van Dijk went about restoring solidity and calmness to the previously chaotic Liverpool backline. Forging a strong partnership Dejan Lovren at centre back, VVD provided the strong foundation at the back for Salah and Mane to fire Liverpool into the Champions League final, being named in the tournament’s Team of the Year despite only joining at the knockout stages.

It’s this season however that the Dutchman has really proved himself as one of the best in the business. With new-signing Allison playing behind him rather than the disaster-prone Loris Karius, Liverpool have looked rock solid at the back this year and this has laid the foundation for their incredible title charge.

The stats speak for themselves, Liverpool have conceded just 20 goals all season, keeping 19 clean sheets in the process and it looks like they’ll finish the season with just a single loss next to their name. Van Dijk has obviously been at the heart of this and unsurprisingly leads the defensive charts at Anfield for clearances made, aerial battles won and interceptions made.

Other than his obvious defensive credentials, Van Dijk’s calmness under pressure and ability to make impact on the attacking side of the game has made the difference in some of the key moments for Liverpool this season. With 2,663 passes to his name, Van Dijk is the second most successful passer in the league (beaten only by Chelsea’s Jorginho), and has also has 5 goals and 4 assists to his name in all competitions.

It was Van Dijk’s volley that forced an error from Jordan Pickford in Liverpool’s win at Goodison park, allowing Divock Origi to score the vital 96th minute winner. In the 3-1 away win at Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Van Dijk set up Mane’s opening goal with a beautiful 70-yard-assist and then scored from a corner to inspire the Reds to victory.

Another massive moment came in Liverpool’s 2-1 win against Spurs earlier this month – yet another last gasp victory for the Reds that wouldn’t have been possible without a vital contribution from the big man. At 1-1 Spurs went racing through with Sissoko and Son. Isolated at the back, VVD had the awareness to cut off the obvious pass to Son, at the same time forcing Sissoko onto his weaker foot, rewarded when the midfielder skied his effort harmlessly over the bar.

Put most other defenders in the Premier League in that 2-on-1 situation, against a side with attackers as quick and deadly on the break as Spurs have, and nine-times-out-of-ten you’re getting a goal and Liverpool are behind at a vital point in a crucial match in the title race. But not with Virgil Van Dijk.

All this aside, the true influence of Van Dijk can be seen in Liverpool’s remarkable improvement over the last season-and-a-half. Finishing third in the league last year with a total of 75 points, the reds already have smashed that total this season and could potentially end on a staggering 97 points. That distance for a team to climb in just 12 months is simply amazing and it’s no coincidence that Van Dijk’s arrival came in that period.

Presently, there’s three games left to play in the league and depending on the result of the Manchester Derby tonight, Liverpool could be beaten to the post by a single point, courtesy of Manchester City. In any of other season, in any other league this Liverpool side would have already have wrapped up the trophy months ago, but that’s just an indication of the brilliance of Pep Guardiola’s City side that this thrilling title race could still go right down to the wire.

Of course, Liverpool are still fighting on the Champions League stage and there’s every chance they could get to the final again where they’d be desperate to right the wrongs they suffered in Kiev a year ago, and I’d fully back them to do it.

But whatever happens, Van Dijk looks to have all the credentials to become a legend at Anfield. One thing is for certain, he’ll remain a rock at the back for this Liverpool side for years to come – and it’s a side that certainly won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Well played Virgil, you’re the man.

AJAX ARE EXCITING AGAIN

De Jong, De ligt, Tadic & co. are names that many football fans have been familiar with for a number of years. However, I doubt many would have predicted that they would be the biggest names on everyone’s lips going in to the semi finals of this years Champions League.

Words by Neil Boardman

De Jong, De ligt, Tadic & co. are names that many football fans have been familiar with for a number of years. However, I doubt many would have predicted that they would be the biggest names on everyone’s lips going in to the semi finals of this years Champions League.

We have all grown up on a planet that considers Ajax to be one of the biggest teams in world football. A global icon of a football club that is world renowned for its youth academy and revolutionary style of play. However, in recent years the force that is Ajax has been less recognisable, compared to the club that once was.

Four-time European cup winners and one of only four teams to have won the continental treble, Ajax are one of the most successful teams in world football. But it seems that through the 21st century, ‘de Godenzonen’ have become a victim of their own success – losing their winning touch and having to settle for being ‘just’ Dutch champions most years.

However, it seems that the footballing gods have blessed the Amsterdam residents with a new lease of life. A combination of top quality homegrown talent from Jong Ajax and the footballing mind of Erik ten Hag has brought Ajax back into the big time – and it’s bloody wonderful to see.

With fearless performances at two of the world’s most fearful grounds – the homes of Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax played like they know they can. Cutting-edge, attacking football is what the club is so famous for and that’s what we are seeing in 2019 – a team full of youth playing the football that they want to play

In a depressing time in the world (and, often, football) sometimes all we need to cheer ourselves up in the middle of a week, is a nice pint of European lager to sip whilst watching a few blokes (probably a lot younger and cooler than us) kick around a football in a manner that makes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos cry. It’s Ajax that are helping us do that – as the title of this article suggests, it’s exciting. 

Some said that Ajax’s dream wasn’t sustainable after the night in Madrid, however, their antics in Turin have declared to the world that Ajax are back. When the football, they are producing, is this nice, it is hard not to get behind it. Admit it to yourself, it would be great to see the underdogs go all the way and win it, wouldn’t it? A story that would ensure this Ajax’s teams place in history, before, inevitably, all these really lovely players go and start playing in posh towns in Spain for half a million a week. 

All in all, this season’s Ajax team sums up what I love about football. It gets me buzzing for midweek nights and that’s what the European cup is all about. With the club reaching their first European cup semi final since 1997, they have the credentials to go all the way. Into them Ajax – you have my backing. 

CURVA SUD – BIRTHPLACE OF THE MODERN ULTRA

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.