Friday, 7 December 2007

Commando Ultrà Curva Sud

Encouraged by Ursus Arctos, I thought I'd post up an expanded version of what I wrote about the Commando Ultrà Curva Sud (the CUCS).

The CUCS were one of the glories of the ultras scene in the period of its greatest influence. From 1977-87 their noisy and colourful support home and away was legendary, and the idea of the Sud as "la curva più bella d'Italia" (the best/most beautiful curva in Italy) dates from that time.

Until 1973 there was no division between Curva Nord and Curva Sud: that is, the idea that the Nord was for Lazio and the Sud for Roma didn't exist. Rather, both sets of fans would be mixed around the stadium. During the derby that year a group of Romanisti decided to expel the Laziali who were in the middle of an area they were claiming as their own territory: the Curva Sud became giallorosso, and the Nord biancoceleste. Like all creation narratives, this may be open to different interpretations, and I'd be interested to know what the Other position is. They probably think a beardy man in the sky created the Nord on the 7th day or something.

Anyway, with a territory now established, ultras groups began to congregate there. The Boys, founded in 1972 in the Curva Nord, moved to the Sud; the Fedayn were also founded that same years (these are the only two groups from that period still extant). Other important groups were the Guerriglieri della Curva Sud, the Fossa dei Lupi, the Pantere; smaller groups operated around and alongside these. As other clubs' ultras - principally those of Torino - became more organised, and more impressive, the giallorosso ultras began to cooperate. On 9 January 1977 the Commando Ultrà Curva Sud was born: as the name suggests, a centralised "command" to unite the various groups under one banner.

This clip shows some scenes of the general madness of the Sud in the heyday of the CUCS. [The song, incidentally, is the source of the phrase "Questo è l'ora di mostra' quanto valemo" which the protesting ultras used at the Circo Massimo last week. The song is "Forza Roma, Forza Lupi" by Roman actor and singer-songwriter Lando Fiorini, written for the second scudetto (82/83).]

Uncovered - the Olimpico wasn't covered until the Italia '90 refurbishment - and heaving, it makes todays' Sud look positively sedate in comparison. Indeed, a mate of mine who has been a regular in the Sud for some 20 years said to me last week: the Sud today is how the Tribuna Tevere used to be - that's the side stand.

The murder of Lazio fan Vincenzo Paparelli at the derby of 28 October 1979 - he was hit in the face by a rocket fired from the Curva Sud - caused problems for the group in terms of police attention, and a degree of internal angst, but they managed to overcome these issues. The kid who had fired the rocket was not part of their group - nor, in fact, did he realise that what he had bought was a naval distress rocket not a normal coloured flare. [Paparelli's death deserves a whole other post to itself, however].

The beginning of the end for the CUCS came with the purchase of Lionello Manfredonia, lifelong Laziale and former Lazio hero. Not only had he been seriously involved in the betting / match-fixing scandal of 1980 which caused the biancocelesti to be relegated to Serie B, but he had publicly and repeatedly criticised Roma fans and the Curva Sud.

The CUCS & all the curva protested against his purchase but then-president Dino Viola ignored them - sample banner - "Viola don't vomit Manfredonia onto us - and bought him anyway. At this point the CUCS split into 2 over a fundamental disagreement on what to do next. The Vecchio CUCS felt that now he was a roma player they should do their best to get on with things, the Gruppo Anti-Manfredonia (CUCS-GAM) maintained their protest.

now THAT is what a flag should look like

From that point onwards other splinter groups began to leave, often for political reasons: the CUCS was historically a left-wing group, and now the Sud was moving to the right, many people no longer felt part of the Commando. Though the two wings reunited "for the good of the team" in 93/94, it was never the same, and the CUCS's influence and importance continued to decline. Simultaneously ever greater restrictions - on ticketing, on pyrotecnics, on transfers - were having a "calming" effect on tifo across Italy.

The Commando finally took down their banner in 1999 and were initially replaced by the AS Roma Ultras who attempted to replicate their unifying mission. But the ASRU though initially successful also struggled to unite the by now very heterogenous curva, and they too broke apart in about 2002, since which time there has been no single over-arching group.

For me, arriving in the Sud from the Premiership, it seems like an amazing cauldron of noise and colour. But for long term fans, it is a sad, pale shadow of its former glories. It's not likely we'll see those days again.


ursus arctos said...

Bravissma ancora.

Even more so than the first one.

As someone who first encountered the Sud in the mid 80s (from the Tribune Monte Mario, of all places), I can personally attest to the fact that it was a very special place. And if you think it was revelation to a Brit with experience of the Premiership, think of what it looked like to an American who had been raised on fans who only responded to cues from electronic scoreboards.

Surely some of that spirit still exists in the heart of everyone who stands in the Sud.

egan said...

Wow, those videos are quite something. What are the political affiliations of the current groups, if there are any?

punk said...

che bello!
brava a raccontare il mitico CUCS!:)

Richard said...

A fascinating post. Thanks.

Paul de Man said...

Really interesting. Is this part of your history of the ultras chapter?

nicklazio1900 said...

28 Ottobre, giornata storta
Baci e saluti a Paparelli a Prima Porta
O tu Laziale, testa di cazzo
In Curva Nord spareremo un altro razzo

Not having to hear that chant anymore was a reason in itself to make me rejoice at this group's demise.

Giuseppe said...

This short tale appeared on Il Manifesto yesterday

I think it's quite interesting.

Sniffer 72 said...

Very interesting post, it must have been great to attend those games in the 70s. Keep up the good work!


Spangly Princess said...

I can understand that, Nick. Like most groups then, and many now, active promotion of at least the rhetoric of violence was a continual if not central part of the CUCS. I wouldn't be surprised if Milan had unpleasant songs about Roberto De Falchi or Vincenzo Spagnolo. And Torino fans still occasionally get "Superga" chants - the direct equivalent of Munich chants at Man Utd.

egan: the Sud has sadly gone sharply to the right in recent years. The Boys have always been extremely right wing; Tradizione Distinzione, who disbanded this time last year, were closely linked to Forza Nuova, and I would expect that their heirs and successors Padroni di Casa are likewise. The Ultras Primavalle/San Lorenzo are pretty apolitical, at least in their public rhetoric; the Ultras Romani lean to the right. The Fedayn, which historically was one of the most left wing groups, now defines itself as non-political (though the capo still a communist... most of their original founders have died of drug or alcohol abuse since the 70s, though).

Interesting, Giuseppe, thanks for that. It corresponds with the sociological view on ultras as a subculture, even if I don't quite buy some of his rather vague analogies.

Grazie Andy and welcome!

egan said...

That's interesting. Over here, the biggest and most active group has always been Forza HJK, which isn't really surprising as until recently HJK were the only team likely to get very far in Europe. And they have the biggest population to draw on, of course.

In recent years they have been joined by Sakilaiset, who like to use celtic crosses on their banners and dress 'casual' as opposed to the blue and white mess created by Forza HJK.

Obviously this is on a much smaller scale, but I'm interested all the same.

Chelsea Boy said...

Another great post, this is. You hear the same things at Chelsea all the time - middle aged men harping on about the good old days of the Shed and stories of huge away support while complaining about how rubbish the atmosphere is at the Bridge, something I've noticed myself in just over a decade.

I spoke to Bobby Campbell, who managed Chelsea for two seasons, who said even in 1989 it wasn't uncommon to see 10,000 Chelsea fans at some away games.

Anyway, this isn't a Chelsea blog, but even us crypto-nazis can relate to the feeling that the support will never be that good again.

nicklazio1900 said...

I don't think we realize how much the sport has changed from a spectator's perspective in the last twenty years. There are probably more supporters than ever thanks to the media attention football has received, however there are fewer and fewer people who are actually going through the bother of going to matches anymore, at least in Italy. Sad in a way.