Spotlight falls on La Liga's ultra problem

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Football News

The rise of the football "ultra" has been brought in to sharp focus over the last couple of weeks in La Liga.

News this week of two PSG fans being stabbed outside Barcelona's Camp Nou ground, allegedly by balaclava-wearing hooligans, follows hot on the heels of the death of "Jimmy," a known ultra supporter from Deportivo La Coruna.

The nature and manner of his death has shocked even the more hardened ultra supporter. Beaten with an iron bar and then thrown in the river by the Vicente Calderon stadium and left to die. Shocking beyond belief.

What is an "ultra"?

The term "ultra" can be misinterpreted in so many ways and it's perhaps with this in mind that La Liga are treading carefully at this juncture.

Nominally it can mean fanatical supporter. A faction who go out of their way to make the atmosphere as hostile and intimidating as possible for opposition sides. Flares and tifos are commonplace.

At the opposite end of the scale are the far-right leaning fascists, who align themselves to football clubs but in truth have no interest in what's happening out on the pitch.

League clamping down

Javier Tebas, the President of La Liga, has promised to clamp down hard on anyone suspected of hooligan type behaviours within a stadium, but he is spectacularly missing the point.

Very rarely now, if ever, do we see fighting between opposing sets of fans within a ground.

Meets are organised by social media and take place on the outskirts of city centres, well away from the presence of local police etc. The fight between Atletico Madrid and Deportivo ultras was therefore unusual in this respect, coming as it did within touching distance of the stadium.

Tebas' directives, whilst admirable, are very much akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

A further layer in the debate is the clamping down of derogatory language aimed at opposing players or teams.

Madrid told to ban supporters

Much to the chagrin of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Los Blancos have had to ban 17 supporters from the Santiago Bernabeu for offensive chanting at Lionel Messi and Barcelona.

The Catalans will also receive censure for similar gestures aimed at their local rivals Espanyol.

Tebas has noted that even if the official doesn't include such chanting in his match report, clubs will be expected to act.

Quite how he and his cronies intend to police the same, given that a vast majority of a stadium might join in on occasion, will be interesting to see.

And he has yet to define what is or isn't offensive per se.

One thing is certain. The governing body needs to do something because one death is one too many.

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