Budka, P., Jacono, D. 2013. Football fan communities and identity construction: Past and present of “Ultras Rapid” as sociocultural phenomenon. Paper at “Kick It! The Anthropology of European Football” Conference, 25-26 October 2013.
Eduardo Archetti (1992: 232) argues that “football is neither a ritual of open rebellion nor the much mentioned opium of the masses. It is a rich, complex, open scenario that has to be taken seriously”. Archetti’s argument is in line with the most recent research in fan and football fan culture (e.g. Giulianotti & Armstrong 1997, Gray, Sandvoss & Harrington 2007). Because to study fans and fandom means ultimately to study how culture and society works.
In this paper we are going to discuss, within the framework of an anthropology of football, selected aspects of a special category of football fans: the ultras. By analysing the history and some of the sociocultural practices of the largest Austrian ultra group – “Ultras Rapid Block West 1988” – the paper aims to show how individual and collective fan identities are created in everyday life of football fan culture.
“Ultras no fans!” is a slogan that is being found among ultra groups across Europe. Despite this clear “emic” statement of differentiation between “normal” football fans and “ultras”, ultras are, at least from a research perspective, basically fans. So we begin our examinations in the phenomenon of “Ultras Rapid” by briefly discussing anthropological and ethnographic research in football and football fans. We then set forth to present selected characteristics of SK Rapid Wien’s largest ultra group that is also the oldest still active ultra movement in the German-speaking countries.
The authors themselves are fans of SK Rapid Wien and have been following the club and its fan culture for several decades (e.g. Jacono 2014). Building on ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observation, historical and archival studies, this paper intends to contribute to the anthropological and ethnographic understanding of the sociocultural phenomenon of football fan culture.