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.

TOP 5 KITS: BEER SPONSORS

Because in the words of Liam Gallagher: “All I need are football kits and alcohol.”

Words by Panenka Magazine

Because in the words of Liam Gallagher: “All I need are cigarettes football kits and alcohol.”

Football and alcohol have always seemed to go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s necking warm cans on a train to Burnley at seven in the morning on an away day, drowning your sorrows down the local after your 5-a-side team’s been whacked 10-0 (again) or that feeling of regret after launching your £4.50 pint everywhere ‘cos Kieran Trippier’s just put it top bins in a World Cup semi final, football and alcohol never seem to be far apart.

It’s hardly surprising then that back in the day, alcohol sponsors on football kits were a pretty common phenomenon (before people seemed to realise it was a bad idea). So since beer and retro football shirts is pretty much all we consume at Panenka Headquarters™, we decided to take a look at some of the best alcohol-sponsored efforts out there and put together our favourites. Crack open a cold one and enjoy!

CARLSBERG – LIVERPOOL

Probably one of the first kits that comes to mind when thinking of alcohol sponsors is Liverpool’s deal with Carlsberg, which ran from 1992-2010. During this time the Danish lager manufacturers’ logo become almost as synonymous with the red of Liverpool as Steven Gerrard himself. Him lifting the Champions League in ’05 is probably still the best lager advert of all time.

Don’t get us wrong though, Carlsberg does still taste of piss – but for those Liverpool fans it will always taste like European glory. Poetry.

CELTIC – TENNENT’S LAGER

Celtic. Tennent’s Lager. Scotland’s two heavyweights when it comes to fitbaw and beer. When they collaborated in 2010 it was always going to be good. As someone who’s drunk Tennent’s Lager at 6AM in a field somewhere in Perthshire, it brings back great (if blurry) memories. Plus this lovely black-and-grey away effort, modelled by Gio Samaras, from the 12/13 season is a pure winner.

Going to confidently call this the most Scottish football shirt ever produced — until Buckfast decide to sponsor the next Partick Thistle kit.

EINTRACHT BRAUNSCHWEIG – JÄGERMESITER

The first ever example of alcohol sponsorship in football (also the the first example of shirt sponsorship in the Bundesliga) was Jägermeister’s deal with Eintracht Braunschweig back in the 1970s. The German drinks giant paid 100,000 DM (€50,000) to display their striking logo on Eintracht’s kits – as seen in this lovely picture of two players holding some antlers.

The company also wanted the team to rename themselves Eintracht Jägermeister but sadly Braunschweig refused, which is a shame because it would have sounded cool as fuck.

NEWCASTLE UNITED – NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE

Ahh, we just couldn’t do a list of alcohol shirt sponsors and not mention those gorgeous kits Newcastle wore in the 1990s. Thanks to Adidas, the Magpies had some beautiful shirts throughout the decade – not least, this spectacular purple and pink away effort from the 1996 season.

The Newcastle Brown Ale sponsor pulls the whole shirt together perfectly, plus it looks like it could be the badge of a hipster team from the French 7th division, which is an added bonus. Ho’way man.

CD LUGO – ESTRELLA GALICIA

Last but certainly not least are Club Deportivo Lugo, a second tier Spanish side who took things one step further by designing a whole kit to look like a pint of lager. That’s right. The side’s home shirt for the 13/14 season not only featured the logo of local brewery Estrella Galicia, but was complete with bubbles and a smooth head to complete the bizarre but brilliant effect.

I would have loved to see the opposition fans reaction to a 6ft pint of lager scoring past their team – and as if there was any doubt this team weren’t sober when they designed their kits, the away effort from the same year featured a giant octopus tentacle. Way to go Lugo, you mad bastards!

Check out last weeks Top 5 – MLS 2019

DEFEATING HOMOPHOBIA IN DENMARK

Viktor Fischer, the footballer standing up to homophobia in Denmark.

Words by Danny Brown

Meet Viktor Fischer, the Danish footballer who is single-handedly standing up to homophobia in his home country.

Fans in England, like myself, may have only vaguely heard of Viktor Fischer from his brief time playing on the wing at Middlesborough. A graduate of the Ajax’s famous Jong academy, the winger signed for Boro for £5 million in 2016 but his stay in the Premier League was a short and unremarkable one. It was barely headline news when he transferred to German club Mainz at the end of the 2016/17 season, following Middlesborough’s relegation.

Now back in his home country playing for FC København following another unsuccessful stint in Germany, Fischer has finally started to recapture the bright form that made Boro sign him from Ajax. With 14 goals in his first 31 games in the Danish capital, the 24-year-old has re-earned his place in the national side and looks to be going from strength-to-strength on the pitch. It’s off the pitch however, where the drama surrounding Fischer has occured.

Earlier this month, during København’s away win against Odense Boldklub, Fischer had anti-gay slurs shouted at him by sections of the home fans as their team was defeated 1-0 by Fischer’s side. Following the match, the winger didn’t remain quiet and was brave enough to call out the OB fans. Speaking after the game, he argued that homophobic chanting should be looked upon the same way racist chanting is. And he’s exactly right.

“Homophobia must not be accepted and should be looked upon the same way as racism. I hope that if the league don’t do anything about it, OB will. Some would say one should look the other way, but I chose not to. Now I hope this will enlighten people about the chants.”

Following his statements, Fischer was, rightly, met with a huge amount of support from fans, fellow players, politicians, and LGBT+ groups. Huddersfield Town’s Mathias Jørgensen gave his support to Fischer, claiming he had heard a whole stand at OB’s Odense Stadium singing homophobic chants towards him. OB of course, apologised for the chants and denounced any discrimination from their own fans.

But to show just how bad the problem is, Fischer was the victim of homophobic abuse again, just a day later. In a match he wasn’t even involved in, fans of København’s rivals, Brøndby IF, began singing anti-gay chants directed towards Fischer. In footage from the match, a large section of the fans can clearly be heard singing “Fischer, he is gay. Allez Allez.”

Brøndby of course denounced the homophobic chants after the match, but Fischer wasn’t willing to stop there. He did an interview with Danish TV network TV 2 Sport and again condemned the fans for the homophobic abuse, particularly and the use of “homosexual” as an insult:

“I experienced specific songs against me by name, saying I was homosexual. That’s not the problem at all. I don’t have anything against been called one thing or the other. In this case, the problem for me is the the word “homo” is used as an abusive curse. It’s a really bad culture for young people and everybody in general who come to a football stadium to watch football.

There is a culture in elite sports, that players should get used to these things and get on with it and be a strong athlete, but that’s not what this is a about. It’s about improving the culture at stadiums, it’s that homosexual should not now, not ever, be an abusive word, especially not in 2019, in Denmark.”

Fischer of course, isn’t gay but he’s spot-on when he says that is irrelevant and not what this is all about. Homosexuality is too often used as an insult in football, not just in Denmark but in countries all around Europe and it’s using such words in an abusive way that is completely unacceptable.

Spurred into action by Fischer’s comments, the Danish FA fined both Brøndby and OB 25,000 DKK (€3,000) – the first time any clubs in Denmark have been fined for homophobic chanting, with a warning that if any similar chanting is repeated, it would be met with another hefty fine.

Karma has a beautiful way of coming back to bite biggots in football, just look at the cases of Raheem Sterling and Moise Kean in recent months if you need examples, so of course that’s exactly what happened in the Derby between Copenhagen and Brøndby last weekend. Fischer scored the winning goal, giving Køpenhavn a 2-1 win over their rials and putting them on course to win the Superliga title.

FISCHER CELEBRATES SCORING THE WINNING GOAL IN KÖPENHAVN’S 2-1 WIN AGAINST RIVALS BRÖNDBY EARLIER THIS MONTH

Classy as ever, after the game Fischer claimed he heard no homophobic chants during the game and praised the Brøndby fans. However, in one incident during the match it was reported a Køpenhavn fan received abuse from a fellow FCK supporter after they took a rainbow flag to the game as a show support for Fischer.

After this game Fischer also addressed the impact of his original comments following the abuse at Brøndby: “I’ve seen and heard what’s happened on TV and radio, and that it has spread wider than just football and that’s great. I think that’s necessary among other things, so all I can do is be happy about it. I haven’t started a campaign, and it’s not me who’s the hero in this.”

While Fischer’s incredible actions have clearly had a massive impact in bringing attention to homophobia in Danish football, further incidents continue to occur, showing that there’s still a long way to go. Friday’s match between Køpenhavn and Midtylland was again marred by homophobic chanting, this time outside the ground after the game.

More education is clearly needed to stop discrimination in football and brave professionals like Fischer, Sterling and Kean speaking about their own experiences is just the first step needed towards dealing with the minority of people who ruin football for others. It goes to show that not all heroes wear capes, and that’s certainly what Fischer is.

I was inspired to write this article after seeing a thread on twitter from @navidjaan,so make sure you go and give him a follow.

FOOTBALL UNPLUGGED – CREATING A FOOTBALL GAME

Imagine you wanted to recreate football in a board game. I mean the actual game of football, not a Monopoly-esque move-and-collect thing.

Words by Colin Webster

Imagine you wanted to recreate football in a board game. I mean the actual game of football, not a Monopoly-esque move-and-collect kind of thing.

What would your rule be for a player who had just competed for a header How many players get to move when a corner kick has been awarded? Can a player shoot at any time or is a defender allowed to get a tackle in first How do throw ins work? Well, I made a football strategy game and it was bloody hard work. And I have answers to all of those questions… apart from the one about throw ins.

First, a little about me. I grew up in the 1980s in Inverness but now live in Edinburgh. I’m a fan of Inverness Caley Thistle, a Scottish Championship side (and one-time Scottish Cup winners). I’m a dad, I have a girlfriend (check me), a cat called Timmy and I love football probably a little too much.

I reckon I’ve played every football management game that’s been made. Highlights were Football Manager (the original), Tracksuit Manager and Player Manager. Then came ChampMan and it seemed like something had changed; football management games had moved into a new era of immersion, and we bought it in our millions. Of course, Football Manager (the new version) followed on, and now we all play that.

But the problem with these games – all of them – is that they are unsociable ventures. Sure, you’ve got mates who will (to some extent) tolerate your story of how your 3rd division team rose up to conquer the Champions League, but, honestly, they think their team is better than yours. There hasn’t been a good way to settle the question of which of your mates is the king of football tactics. Until now.

It was in 2014 when I started to work on my football strategy board game, spending forever designing the thing and writing up the rules. All those questions I posed earlier – and more – were swirling around my head when I probably should have been thinking about more important things. I printed off pitches, made little player pieces and even devised a rudimentary app to accompany the game. But then something happened that killed the game dead: I played it against a mate. It was obvious within 5 minutes that the game was shit, and we both knew it. My enthusiasm plummeted and I almost forgot about it for four years.

Fast forward to last August. I’m chatting with my workmate Marco about football things and I bring up my failed experiment. Marco’s an inquisitive chap so he wants to know more. He recommended we strip the game back to its basics and then built it up step-by-step. So, one night, that’s what we got started on. Using four sheets of paper to represent the pitch and some rudimentary counters for players, we played a simple version of the game. And we loved it. The dream was back on! I immediately got excited about the project and started to think about how to balance fun with realism.


Football is a dynamic sport. It’s true to say that no two real games of football are the same, but neither are any two moments. There are so many variables at play, making football a terrific illustration of emergent behavior at work. As you can expect, it turns out this can be tricky to recreate with a piece of board and 22 little wooden pieces!

To try to meet that dynamism, there were two elements I wasn’t willing to shift on. Firstly, I was keen that the pitch would be large, so that managers could use the space to execute their favoured tactical strategies. I didn’t want a frantic tackled-at-any-second affair, I wanted the game mechanics to reward thoughtful strategists. Secondly, I wanted all of the players to be unique, just like in real life. Players having their own set of attributes would force managers into strategic decisions. You’re not going to put a slow tackler on the wing, after all.

The basics were in place. What followed next was copious play-testing. Alongside a set of (very patient) friends, we worked out how long balls would work, how many people could challenge for a header, where and when you could shoot…everything. But we just couldn’t fathom throw ins. So we ditched them. The game needed a name, so, after discarding some awful ideas (‘Tiki Taka’ was obviously in the mix), I came up with ‘Counter Attack’. I was well chuffed with that, especially given the players in the game are represented as counters.

I finally got to the stage where I thought that people I didn’t know might want to play the thing. So I set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and invited folks to have a look. I figured that if there was enough interest in the project that I’d take it to a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter to test the appetite for it. I researched board game manufacturers and found one that fits the bill. And now, guess what? Counter Attack launched on Kickstarter on April 10th! Let’s see who’s keen on this thing.

When it boils down to it, Counter Attack is about having a good time around the kitchen table with a mate or three. It’s about getting away from screens (I killed off the app) and being able to indulge in some face-to-face gloating. Who doesn’t love a bit of that on a Friday night?

Check out Counter Attack for yourself on Kickstarter.

Follow Counter Attack at counterattackgame.com

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. 

TOP 5 KITS: MLS 2019

Words by Panenka Magazine

A lot of people turn their nose up at the MLS. We on the other hand, think Soccer is great (and these kits aren’t bad either).

Sure, the MLS does things differently. How can you have a football league with no promotion or relegation? How come the team who finishes top don’t win the whole thing? Why do the teams pick their players out of a hat at the start of a season? It’s barmy, you’re right – and that’s exactly why we love it. Seriously, where else could you see the likes of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka turn out alongside a bunch of pub team players every week?

And don’t even get us started on the old-school penalties in the 90s – how anyone could watch this and not love the MLS is beyond us:

But whether you rate the MLS or not, there’s no denying those pesky yanks have landed some of the best kits about (thanks to a league-exclusive deal with Adidas), and it’d be a huge shame not to have a gander at them. So with that in mind, here’s our top five kits for the 2019 MLS season. Enjoy!

ATLANTA UNITED – HOME

It’d be rude not to start with the reigning MLS champions, Atlanta United. The champs have stuck with their AC Milan-inspired red and black home shirt, dubbing it the ‘Star and Stripes’ kit. Adidas describe it as ‘equal parts grit and flash, both timeless and contemporary’, and we have to agree with them.

The newly-added star above the club crest commemorates last year’s title success and the number ’17’ featured in the Atlanta state outline is a nod to the club’s origins in 2017. The gold detailing on this one adds a nice finish to what was already a classy effort. Top marks.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS – AWAY

As the saying famously goes, ‘less is more’, and Seattle Sounders’ latest away shirt demonstrates this perfectly. The so-called ‘Nightfall’ kit is said to take it’s inspiration from the colourful Seattle sky seen above CenturyLink Field during Sounders’ 2-0 win against rivals Portland back in 2014.

It’s simple yet effective, with the pink detailing providing a striking contrast with the darker shirt. Another nice touch is the small tag at the bottom of the shirt, which features a silhouette of the CenturyLink Field’s arches against the backdrop of Mount Rainer. Beautiful.

.

LA GALAXY – AWAY

Being LA Galaxy, it was only right that their away kit was given it’s own exclusive launch event in downtown Los Angeles, featuring the likes of Mr. Ibrahimovic himself. The kit itself is extremely nice, darker away colours seem to be a theme across the league as a whole this year and it’s definitely one we approve of.

The pixelated ‘glitch’ design is a difficult one to pull off, but it probably helps that when Zlatan wears something it usually makes it look ten times cooler. Along with the ‘This Is LA’ tag, Galaxy’s home and away kits will now feature five stars above the badge, indicating their five MLS cup victories.

ORLANDO CITY – HOME

Purple football kits. Purple football kits. Purple football kits. Those are three words that aren’t strung together nearly enough. Fortunately, Orlando City’s home shirt is letting us say it this year – we absolutely love it. Their #BringTheNoise kit features a soundwave-inspired design, meant to be symbolic of the’ noise and passion’ of the Orlando fans.

As always, the kit features Orlando’s gorgeous golden lion crest and this year’s effort also includes the slogan ‘Defend the Fortress’ written across the back neckline. Currently being modelled on the pitch by Nani this season, it’s safe to say Orlando have one of the nicest efforts out there.

NEW YORK CITY – HOME

Last but not least it’s the latest home shirt from Manches- New York City. The sky blue effort oozes quality and tradition. Despite our ‘traditional’ description, probably, getting some stick – seeing as NYCFC were only founded in 2013. It is a kit that takes elements of it’s East Manchester inspiration, whilst adding a touch of that Big Apple class. Also, we are behind any Adidas kit with the three stripes below the arm – it’s a lovely touch.

Last week: TOP 5 KITS: CRAZY 90s GOALKEEPER KITS

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.