A key figure in a powerful ‘ultra’ group killed himself in July. Police suspected the mafia was using the ultras to get into the game.
Every major club in Italy has its own ultra group and most have dozens. The firms have spent years splintering, regrouping, renaming and reinventing themselves – all in order to take possession of the centre of the curva. This area, behind the goal, has traditionally been the place where a club’s poorest, but most devoted, fans assemble. The curva is every bit as territorial as a drug dealer’s corner, and ultras stake out their turf in similar ways: fights, stabbings, shootings and, sometimes, by making alliances and business deals. There are 382 ultra groups in Italy today, of which some are still explicitly political – 40 far-right and 20 far-left.
Written by Tobias Jones, read by Andrew McGregor and produced by Simon Barnard