Posts tagged Derbies

Oldfirm

The Old Firm Derby: Does Scotland really need it?

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Celtic and Rangers were once inseparable at the summit of Scottish football – bound together by history and passion, forming one of the world’s most brutal, intense and fiery football matches football fans have ever seen.

Rangers Football Club dropped down to Division Three in 2012. (Creative Commons)

Rangers Football Club dropped down to Division Three in 2012. (Creative Commons)

The Old Firm derby is played on the world stage – dragging in politics, religious bigotry and vocal support for paramilitary groups.

After financial troubles in 2012, Rangers’ fate was sealed when 25 out of the 30 SFL clubs voted in favour of placing the newco team in the bottom tier of Scottish football.

Three years later and Scottish football has clearly suffered. Attendances have dropped, Celtic have ran away with the league whilst Rangers have shown others how not to run a football club. Their fans are in revolt against their owners, organising boycotts and breaking into their famous Ibrox to stage protests.

The argument remains as to whether Scottish football needs Rangers back in the SPL. However, Celtic fans will argue that the Old Firm derby no longer exists, whilst Rangers fans think otherwise.

In an exclusive interview with a Celtic supporter, who wished to go by his online handle, MinceCFC said: “Rangers Football Club died, there can be no relevant argument against that fact. The club was liquidated – nothing survives liquidation.

“There is no “old firm,” that name has been considered as dead to the Celtic support (and club officials) for a good few years now. In fact, it would be safe to say that many Celtic fans now find the term “old firm” to be quite offensive.”

After three years, Celtic faced Rangers in the Scottish League Cup Semi-Final on 1 February 2015, one which turned out to be a heated affair.

Rangers fan, John McIntosh told RivalTalk: “I definitely feel the hatred is at one of its worst points ever. I think you saw from the League Cup game that it was a sell out and the passion shown by supporters’ shows the Old Firm rivalry will never go away, there was just a break.”

When negative stories about Rangers are published in the media under “Old Firm” headlines, the reputation of Celtic football club is unjustifiably smeared by an unwanted and unwelcome association.

Celtic fan, Henry Clarson said: “The more distance Celtic can place between itself and the notoriety which another Glasgow club routinely attracts, the better.”

The Old Firm derby is characterised by the historic catholic-protestant divide across Glasgow which has shaped the nature of this rivalry, and the behaviour that comes with it.

Celtic vs Rangers has always had trouble with sectarianism and violence. A catholic from Northern Ireland, Neil Lennon was forced to quit playing for the national team following death threats issued before a game. In 2003, Lennon was attacked by two students on a night out whilst a year later, he was victim of a road-rage incident and more recently, in 2008, the 43-year old was beaten unconscious.

In February 2015, a 10-year old boy was hit in the face by a bottle that was thrown at a minibus as he travelled to the Old Firm. BBC reported that a group of Celtic fans had surrounded the bus and hurled abuse and bottles at the occupants.

“I have more problems with violence related to the Old Firm derby which is generally after the game,” said John. “I feel that some journalists should be highlighting such violent events far more than castigating supporters for some bad singing to fit in with their agenda.”

Henry stopped going to Old Firm matches before Rangers went into liquidation: “The atmosphere was simply barbaric and I saw no point in subjection myself to such a poisonous experience.”

As to whether Scottish football needs the derby, MinceCFC added: “The SPL absolutely does not need the Celtic vs Sevco derby. What might look like an impressive atmosphere to an outsider is actually a festival of total hatred, thinly protected from an all out war by a line of policemen.

“What you don’t see in Glasgow and many other areas of Scotland are virtual war zones for the weekend of any fixture between the two clubs. How many deaths can be directly attributed to the fixture? A lot more than you realise, not to mention the many serious assaults, vandalism and general badness.”

Rangers fan, Jamie Currie said: “If the club and police ask you to stop singing certain songs inside a football ground, then you have to put the club first. However, I’m not really sure the police know which songs are sectarian and which are not.”

The Old Firm has always been an eagerly anticipated clash. (Creative Commons)

The Old Firm has always been an eagerly anticipated clash. (Creative Commons)

The Old Firm may not boast superstar names like the El Clasico and a Manchester Derby, but it offers just as much hatred and is as fiery as the North London Derby and Manchester Derby.

“Scottish football does need the Old Firm in the same way that English football needs Manchester vs Liverpool or La Liga needs Barcelona and Real Madrid,” Jamie added.

“The hatred has always been there, but in terms of the ‘new club’ debate, it does add to the hatred in some respects.”

Clear that the hatred is still there and always will be. John added: “Celtic fans will always argue that Rangers are no more, contrary to Lords of law, UEFA, FIFA, SFA, SPFL, ASA, ECA and the BBC Trust.

Henry argued that: “In order to sell itself and create interest, the SPFL needs the presence of a financially doped club running on an unsustainable budget until it destroys itself then it should shut up shop.”

They’ll always be a debate in Scottish football as to whether Rangers did die. Rangers fans will insist that they operate no different, their tradition and history are still there, and they are the same team.

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Daniel Lovering: “Pride. Passion. Pyro.”

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Peluza Sud

Daniel Lovering and the Peluza Nord Ultras (Picture courtesy of Daniel Lovering)

An Englishman from Herefordshire, a Bristol Rovers season ticket holder and an avid Steaua Bucharest fan, meet Daniel Lovering – who completed a 3000 mile round-trip to watch his team play.

Following his father’s move to Romania in 2008, Dan’s first Steaua game was later that year, against local rivals – Rapid Bucharest.

“The first thing I noticed was the amount of police and how heavily armoured they were – they looked like something from Starship Troopers.”

The match was played at Stadionul Giulești-Valentin Stănescu, a classic Eastern European style stadium – a bowl shape with a roof only covering one section of the stadium.

Leading up to the game, police let the Steaua fans in one by one, literally: “A Steaua fan would enter the arena, get abused and then give some abuse back before being ushered to basically a cage near the corner flag. It was like theatre or the build up to an event in WWE wrestling,” said Dan.

The game ended 0-0, but it wasn’t your typical bore draw: “The atmosphere was electric. Flares all over the place, flags flying and Ultras jumping and singing about how much they hated Steaua.

“It felt like a proper derby. Rivalry, Hatred. The stadium was full of people who cared for their team and despised their local rivals. Fireworks were thrown, Rapid fans were kicking at the barriers trying to get at the Steaua players taking corners.

“The stadium looked like it was on fire due to all the flares. It was just mental, and an experience I’ll never forget,” recalled Dan. “It honestly felt good to get out of there alive, which I guess is a bit of a buzz.”

Steaua, being the most successful Romanian team – played Liverpool at Anfield in the Europa League the following season. A game which Dan attended: “The Steaua fans out sang the Kop all night, with incredible passion [despite losing 4-1]. I was then a Steaua fan.”

Ahead of the 2009 Europa League tie against Liverpool (Picture courtesy of Dan Lovering)

Ahead of the 2009 Europa League tie against Liverpool (Picture courtesy of Dan Lovering)

Having now seen Steaua play on six occasions, this was the first time Dan has attended the Eternal Derby – which Steaua ran out 3-0 winners.

“Unbelievable, start to finish,” Dan reminisced. “Dinamo’s Ultras were behind the goal to my left, the Steaua Peluza Nord behind the goal to my right. Next to the Dinamo Ultras by the corner flag, were Steaua’s Peluza Sud.”

Dinamo’s Ultras and the Peluza Sud were dressed in all black: “There were about 20 seats and a row of police officers kitted out with heavy armour. Some with pepper spray guns attached to cannisters on their backs, it all looked very sinister.”

The Dinamo end unveiled a choreography of Charlie Chaplin whilst the Peluza Nord got a load of balloons out. “It would have looked really impressive in England, but I was a little disappointed because the Dinamo fans were making all the noise.

“Once the balloons were lifted, Peluza Nord upped their game. Flares and flags started flying and smoke bombs started going off. It was a spectacular sight.

“I’ve met people who genuinely think that the English fans are most passionate. In my experience, they are nowhere near it.”

The game finished 3-0 as Steaua sealed the victory with two late goals. The tie seemed to pass without any major incidents other than Steaua keeper, Giedrius Arlauskis, getting hit by a missile thrown by the Dinamo supporters.

“The police presence was enough to deter any major trouble. I had a fantastic evening, the most amazing experience I’ve had watching football.

“I’d recommend it to anyone, football fan or not.”

You can follow Dan on Twitter @LedburyGas

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Steaua Bucharest vs Dinamo Bucharest: Flares and football fandom

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Peluza South ultras

Peluza South ultras showing their support for Steaua Bucharest with the use of pyrotechnics. (Creative Commons)

The Eternal Derby (Derbiul României) is one of the most fierce rivalries in Europe – it’s Steaua Bucharest vs Dinamo Bucharest and, it’s the two biggest teams in Romania.

Different from the El Clasico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) and AC Milan vs Inter Milan – the Eternal Derby: “Is of the biggest rivalries in the world. High level intensity, passion, emotion, colour and extreme hatred for a full 90 minutes,” said Alecsandru S, a Romanian football fan.

A Steaua Bucharest fan, who wished to remain anonymous said: “As soon as the schedule is published, every fan regardless of team looks to see when Steaua play Dinamo. I think it’s very underrated abroad.”

The rivalry originates following the end of World War II, when Romania and much of Eastern Europe turned communist. Many of the football clubs were dissolved and new, communist clubs were established. Steaua represented the Romanian Army whilst Dinamo, were represented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Construction of Stadionul Ghencea in Bucharest by the Romanian Army, early 70s.

Construction of Stadionul Ghencea (Picture: @BeyondTLM)

Many army personnel became Steaua supporters, whilst police officers and other civil servants, supported Dinamo. That been said, this doesn’t seem to be the case in today’s day and age, where young people tend to pick a side and stick to it.

Communism in Romania fell in 1989 however, the rivalry was already mature and, because the two teams were backed – Steaua by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Dinamo receiving money from ministries – they were both giants in Romanian football.

However, Steaua were more successful in Europe, having been crowned European champions in 1986 whilst they finished runners-up three years later. Romanian football started to grow in the 90’s and 00’s both on and off the field – mainly down to the ultra groups.

Armata Ultra’s were formed on 4 December 1995 and were the second ultra group to originate from Romania, however, they were the first in Bucharest. Adopting a far-right ideology with very strict rules – the group soon reached 4,000 members.

The Armata Ultra’s dissolved in 2001 and new, smaller groups started to appear – with different ideologies. Peluza Nord have a close and friendly relationship with the Steaua players whilst on the opposite side of the stadium, you have Peluza Sud, a much smaller group, but more fanatical.

Gheorghe Mustaţă, a Steaua ultra, is currently serving seven years and five months in prison for organised crime and attempted murder.

The Peluza Sud are more often involved in clashes outside the stadium and, they also have a link with CSKA Sofia ultras – often attending fixtures. Peluza Sud are currently protesting against the aggressive security forces presence at matches and missed Steaua’s last fixture.

Video courtesy of FanSteauaTV

In 1996, Dinamo fans founded Nuova Guardia (New Guard) and just a year later, they set fire to the south stand at the Stadionul Ghencea (Steaua’s stadium). One of Dinamo’s ultras group, Peluza Catalin Haldan (PCH) – was named after the death of their captain, Catalin Haldan.

A famous match between the two sides is that of 26 June 1988, a Romanian Cup Final that ended abruptly when one of the teams stormed off the pitch and refused to continue.

Steaua were in the middle of a 60-match unbeaten run which stretched back to 1986 and included the European Cup Final win over Barcelona. The game was tied at 1-1 with a minute left to play, Steaua striker, Gavril Balint gave his side the lead just seconds from the whistle – only for it to be ruled out for offside. Distraught at the decision, the Steaua players stormed off the pitch in the direction of the club’s highest profile supporter Valentin Ceaușescu, son of dictator Ceaușescu.

The referee abandoned the match and awarded the cup to Dinamo – only for the government to intervene the following day, ruling that the goal should have stood, making Steaua the winners.

Steaua Bucharest choreography (Creative Commons)

Steaua Bucharest choreography (Creative Commons)

In modern history – Steaua went seven years without winning the league, to the disgust of their fans. “I remember one time in 2007, Steaua had one of their worst seasons and fans started to chant at the game before the derby: ‘If Dinamo beats us we will break your heads and smash your cars,’” recalled Alecsandru.

Steaua won the Romanian league in 2013 whilst Dinamo have endured a poor run of late, having not won the league since the 2006-07 season. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact how big the Eternal Derby is – as this season the two teams are a lot closer, with just six points separating the two.

In current times – the Steaua owner, general manager and as previously mentioned, the head of the ultras, all behind bars. Currently, the football club is being managed from jail and Becali (Steaua owner) is in permanent contact with the chairman and coach of the club.

Dinamo have also suffered a bad period of late. After fearing bankruptcy, the club was saved in the last moment – thus resulting in Dinamo currently being banned from European competitions. Also, former Dinamo boss, Cristi Borcea (Becali’s Godson) is currently serving a six years and four months jail sentence for file transfers. This is when owners of clubs would declared amounts lower than the actual transfer fees – paying the remaining money in to an offshore bank account.

Unlike most derbies, the two teams face each other tomorrow evening with just one win between the two. They have played each other 156 times in all competitions with Steaua winning 55 of those, and Dinamo winning 54, whilst drawing on 47 occasions. The two teams haven’t recorded a 0-0 draw since 15 May 1999.

The home side (Steaua) have an injury crisis coming into the derby with no serious threat in the forward position. The hosts face Dinamo on the back of a loss in the Liga I – losing 1-0 to Târgu Mureş, which was marred with violence following poor refereeing decisions. Dinamo on the other hand are enjoying mixed fortunes of late – winning three out of their previous five in the Liga I. However, unlike Steaua, they face their rivals after a 3-2 win in the league against Pandurii Târgu Jiu.

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