On 9th of September, 2016, Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine hosted Ukrainian “el-clasico”: “Shakhtar” (Donetsk) vs Dynamo (Kyiv). The 40-thousand crowd of Donetsk and Kyiv’s fans shouted not only their club’s cheers, but also few times remembered the name of FC “Metalist”, former top-Ukrainian team, which doesn’t exist anymore because of bankruptcy.
This local arena was a home stadium for “Metalist’, which didn’t receive a license for participation in Ukrainian Premier League Season 2016/2017. Few years ago this football game could have ended with massive fight against not friendly related “Dynamo” and “Metalist” as it was on September 15th, 2013.
From then everything has changed. The revolution in Kyiv, annexation of Crimea and war in Donbass made separated by club preferences ultras unite in order to protect the independence of their Motherland. Roots of nationalism in ultras’s ideology turned to be the most valuable.
Maidan showed that public really knows a little about them and got used to the stereotyped portrait. However, ultras, who sometimes were named as “hooligans” and “radicals”, turned to be the first to step in to protect Ukrainian democracy and human rights. “When we joined other Maidan activists, we were not standing there for European Union or in order to have a chance to go to Europe without Schengen visa. We were there because we wanted to make lives of other Ukrainians better and to defend our dignity, our honor,” Artem says, the member of “Dnipro” ultras. During the revolution , the most significant support was proceeded by ultras from eastern and southern regions. The example of football fans of “Shakhtar”, “Dnipro”, “Metalist”, “Chernomorets”, who defended the activists of the Maidan in their cities, was shortly followed by other groups of ultras from other parts of Ukraine.
“Our honor is loyalty”
During the Revolution personal preferences of certain groups of fans were removed from their statements. Maidan demonstrated that even radical groups can unite in order to protect their country and general values of humanity. Nationalism was always a part of ultras ideology. In February 2014, leaders of fan movements of football clubs in Ukrainian Premier League, the First and Second Leagues announced the truce because of the political situation in Ukraine. According to the official agreement: “We, fans of Ukrainian football clubs, declare the following. Ukrainian society is in a very difficult situation. In particular, some fan movements have already started having problems in their cities with the “rule of law” and local “authorities” only that representatives of these movements have publicly expressed their peace, citizenship, which they have a right for. In this regard, we believe that to continue any confrontation between them - a crime that we will play against the same and eventually only worsen the current situation in society. Given the above, we have decided to conclude a truce between the movements of fans of different clubs”.
Because of the hostile relations between traditional ultras clubs, such step for them was fundamental. Traditional phrase “Our honor is loyalty” always said by ultras of “Metalist”, became meaningful not only about Kharkiv football club, but also about general feeling of nationalism and patriotism of football fans. It was the first this kind of agreement in the history of Ukrainian football. Significant impact on this document was made because of mobility and high percentage of young people, who traveled with their FC all over Ukraine and had a chance to get acquainted with the culture and life of compatriots. Ultras whose favorite FCs played on the European arena,had a chance to see and analyze the social standards of the inhabitants of Europe and made certain conclusions for themselves, which played a major role in forming their personal ideology. However, this fact helped to some members of ultras groups more easily overcome common stereotypes in society and expand their horizons.
How everything started
For the majority of media content’s recipients football ultras were associated with aggression, crowds and violence. It is believed, that the first ultras companies appeared in Ukraine at the end of the Soviet era.
Dynamo’s fans began to support their club in a special way: used banners, attended games outside Kyiv. They are considered to be pioneers of this movement in Ukraine. Groups of ultras are usually officially registered structure, combining from 10 to several thousands of fans. The most active involved in all that is related to the support of his team - attributes, tickets, etc.
The standard for post-Soviet countries, including Ukraine, was the style and behavior of English fans. For many years the “English style” dominated during ultras performances at domestic arenas during Ukrainian Premier League games. It is characterized by the used of the support itself: songs, slogans.
In the 2000s the Italian style replaced the English one, where the emphasis is on the visual component: flags, banners, streamers, colorful show. Nowadays Ukrainian ultras have combined both styles when they support their favorite team.
Historically, in Ukrainian football various ultras groups were divided into so called “triangles”, which included football clubs that have friendly-related relationships. First group was formed with “Dynamo” (Kyiv), “Dnipro” (Dnipro) and “Karpaty” (Lviv).
Their opponents created another major union, which consisted of “Shakhtar” (Donetsk), “Metalist” (Kharkiv) and “Chornomorets” (Odesa).
Metalist vs Dnipro was considered as one of the most interesting and principal ones in modern Ukrainian football. Some experts even named it not only is not inferior to the principled Kiev-Donetsk rivalry, but also greatly surpasses it in strength and malevolence outright hostility to the opponent.
However, for a wide range of audience explored the football theme of “Metalist” vs “Dnipro”, starting with the 2005/2006 season, after Myron Markevich became the main coach of Kharkiv team. This fact marked the period, when “blue-yellow” began to rapidly turn into top team of Ukrainian Premier League, so after all they became Dnipro’s main competitors in the battle for bronze places in national championship and a chance to be a representative of Ukraine in UEFA Europe League. And suddenly it turned out that these teams can no longer be tolerate to each other.
Their matches immediately gained not only the value of the tournament, but also become a true boiling point, a place where the air is thick on the prevailing voltage and under players feet lawn ready is about to fire without matches.
Moreover, the last few seasons, this opposition often looked brighter and more emotional than usual Ukrainian “el-classico”, where the percentage of football and entertainment was largely decreased. Competition of “Dnipro” and “Metalist” although was very far from the peaceful atmosphere.
But the old times have passed, and now the public can see the new image of Ukrainian Ultras, which was formed in last 2 years. Now football fans are associated with the feeling of patriotism, big amount of volunteer work. The bravest ones joined Ukrainian Military Forces and volunteer battalions, preferring “Azov”, “Aydar”, “Dnipro-1” and “Donbass”. Now former enemies on the football field became brothers in arms. Now they protect not only the honor of their football club, but also the main value for all of them – peace of their country. On the question how, for example, “Dnipro” and “Metalist” fans deal with each other, while being in the same military unite and basically live together, they in one voice repeat: “No time for personal fights, future of our country is above everything .”