Hooliganism and ideologies in Balkans
Hooligans at Balkans are different from anywhere else. The notorious paramilitary group of 'Arkan's Tigers', was composed by a large percentage by fans of Crvena Zvezda (Red Star). They have experienced wars, have participated in hostilities and atrocities, and although the old "heads" have been withdrawn, or ordered killed, the new generation does not forget and not staying only in the stadiums. The new generation entangles ideologies, nationalist movements and is an important part of society.
The following information is published in the English newspaper Guardian. The research belongs to Aleksandar Manasiev and was part of his research network «Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence», which encourages the cooperation of journalists from the Balkan peninsula for issues of general interest.
Blerim is 17 years old and belongs to 'Sverceri' (This means smugglers). Sverceri are organized by the Albanian minority in Skopje, who support FK Skopje.
"This is a real war. In stadiums, we fight with words. In streets with fists. We defend our national identity on the streets."
Nikola is also 17 years old. He belongs to 'Komiti', organized fans from Skopje, but they are from FYROM and supporting Vardar Skopje.
"When they will stop disgracing us? Nobody destroys an orthodox church in our country." Nikola says for the Albanians. The decision to build an orthodox church in a place regarded as the center of the Albanian minority, caused tension and conflict, of which 54 people were arrested. All of them were organized supporters. All found not guilty...
In FYROM, where the political agenda is largely dictated by the nationalistic discourse, the hooligans feel an obligation to the nation. They want to wipe others, both across the stadiums, and from the political and social life. The Albanian minority makes up about 1/4 of the citizens and from 2001, when on the verge of civil war acquired position in the coalition government of the country, nationalism became even more intense. Some are blaming each other. From one side are the "bad" Albanians who got more than they should from the peace treaty and from the other side, the "bad" natives, violating the agreement.
Political parties have links with clubs and supporters groups, which officially denied. They may not have found evidence, but in some interviews the hooligans show what happens.
"The doors of the local government, companies and political parties are always open to us." says a 22-year old head of 'Ballisti' of FK Shkendija from Tetovo. He has faced several charges, including assault on a police officer, but he makes clear that he has never stayed more than 10 days in jail.
The judge Nanev Lazar, who has dealt with many similar cases, emphasizes that it is difficult to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between politicians and ultras. However, their efforts to "custody" from political parties is clear.
"Some of them want to be recognized as members of political parties in order to achieve some privileges. It is one of the most dangerous things in our society."
"They see them as the basis for voters and 'activists' during the elections." said Ivan Anastasovski, academic and former member of the Football Federation of the country. The activism reciprocated with public positions and other favors.
"The leaders of fans find good positions in public institutions, customs, in political parties and the government." says Mitre Trajkovski, former police commander in charge of security matters of the Federation.
Johan Tarculovski, convicted for war crimes in Hague at 2001, is supported with apotheosis in the stands of Vardar.
'Ballisti', on the other hand, recently traveled to Kosovo to pay homage to Adem Yasari, who for many Serbs considered as terrorist.
Some others from 'Komiti', according to observers, were behind the formation of a youth political party named VMRO-DPMNE, which currently plays an active role in the coalition government and took the decision to build the orthodox church mentioned above.
Today, the ultras proclaim that no longer do any favors at political parties. But unattributed statements from their side indicate that favors continuing.
"To supporting a football club can help you find a job. But problems with the police are on the other side of the coin." says a fan of the Albanian minority.
"In our classes we have followers of political parties, but we are not extending them." says a fan from Skopje.
Old habits are die hard we should say...