A guide to the Ultra groups in Serie A: Fiorentina
Key Ultra Groups: Ultras Viola & CAV - Colletivo Autonomo Viola
Other Ultra/Fan Groups: Legione Viola (Purple Legion), Guelfi (Guelphs), Granducato (Grand Duchy), L’Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi – signifying fields or a province called Campi in Florence), Vieussex, Settebello (Beautiful seven), Fiorenza 93, Firenze Ultras, Gruppo Storico Ultras V.’73, Aficionados, Urban Crew, Alterati (Altered state – drug related), Fedelissimi (Stalwart faith), Bomber Group, Pazzi di lei (Crazy for Fiorentina), Sindrome Viola (Purple Syndrome), Vecchio Stampo (Old Fashioned), Stati Liberi del Tifo (Supporters Free State), Viola Korps, Gruppo Signa (Signa Group) and MANY others!!!
In 1289, a schism between the Pro-Papal Guelph forces of Florence and the imperial Ghibelline forces of Arezzo culminated in a brutal conflict at the Battle of Campaldino. This battlewas part of the long struggle between the popes and Holy Roman Emperors for power in Italy. It also reflected the fervent civic rivalries of the era, rivalries which remain to this day. On the blood strewn plains of Campaldino the Florentines and their allies triumphed. It was a victory that secured the Guelphs in Florence. The Tuscan Republic would go onto to become the birthplace of the Renaissance, a civic colossus on the Italian peninsula. Florence remains a city of unquestionable prestige and though the days of civic war are over, the city’s team – Fiorentina provide an outlet for campanilismo – or local patriotism. Expressions of Guelphism are often seen at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and under the aegis of the Ultras the city’s medieval splendour lives on. The rich heritage of Florence has seen the metropolis and its football club viewed by the supporters as one entity, a victory for La Viola being a victory for Florence. The team is the city’s symbolic army and it is these cultural nuances that set Fiorentina supporters apart in the world of the Italian ultras.
Fiorentina are said to have the 6th largest following in Italy and this is exemplified in their numerous Ultra groups (I lost count around 100). This perhaps reveals a trait particular to Florence, the need for individuality and ingenuity are entwined with the city’s glorious past. The first origins of Viola fan groups can be traced back to 1965 with the formation of Vieussex (the name of a historic library in Florence) and Settebello (Beautiful 7). These two groups are present on the Curva today, with Vieussex residing in the Curva Ferrovia and Settebello in the Curva Fiesole, the heartbeat of the Artemio Franchi.
One of the more renowned groups to have resided in the Curva Fiesole is the Ultras Viola (Purple Ultras). Formed in 1973, a vicious fight with the Genovese led some supporters to create a group of “super supporters” who could compete with any adversary. Founded and led by a man called Stefano Biagini aka ‘Pump’ this period is described by a Viola Ultra as the ‘glorious 70’s’ characterised by violent clashes, stolen banners, stadiums without police beatings, dangerous away days and above all the years of ‘Calcio vero’ (uncorrupted football). Despite the group’s prominence the Ultras Viola disbanded just 10 years after their inception following violent exchanges with Romanisti which saw their twinning with the Romans come to an abrupt end. Stolen banners (which both fans blamed on each other) sparked a irreconcilable quarrel and this combined with a rise in eminence of Colletivo Autonomo Viola or CAV (Autonomous Purple Collective) led to a changing of the guard. Created in 1978, CAV took a central position on the Curva and despite their dissolution in 2011 the group’s vestiges have ensured that the Fiesole remains one of the most vivacious Curvas on the peninsula.
It is also worth highlighting Alcool Campi (Alcohol Campi) a clan who lived a brief but fiery existence. Tempestuous in nature this group were said to be the culprits in an infamous incident already alluded to in this series where Fiorentina Ultras launched petrol bombs onto a train full of Bologna fans. A 14 year old tragically died and Alcool Campi quickly ceased to exist.
“Neither left nor right” has always been the motto of Fiorentina’s Ultras who have predominately refused political affiliation. This however does not have any bearing on their twinning’s and rivalries, epitomised in their longstanding friendship with Hellas Verona fans (traditionally right-wing) after ex-Fiorentina players joined the Gialloblu and helped them to their one and only Scudetto in 1985.
It is impossible to talk about Fiorentina without mentioning their virulent hatred for Juventus. When the Bianconeri come to the Artemio Franchi a furore rages across the city. The origins of this rivalry date back to the 1981/82 Serie A season in which the Viola had the Scudetto snatched from their grasp by Juventus on account of some dubious refereeing. This rivalry was accentuated when Fiorentina’s cult hero Roberto Baggio was sold to Juventus in 1990, triggering riots across the city.
In parts of the Tuscan capital you can buy stickers which read; zona anti-gobbizzata – hunchback-free zone. Hunchbacks are seen as lucky in Italy thus the nickname was patented for Juventus, a team seen as notoriously lucky. In what must be a sight to behold, albeit a strange one, Fiorentina fans have also been known to perform a ritual on players signed from Juventus in which they are ‘de-hunchbacked’. However this rivalry can take on a more sinister nature, with some Viola fans taunting their rivals about the Heysel tragedy which claimed the lives of 39 Juventini. Fiorentina fans have been known to wear Liverpool merchandise when facing their Turin adversaries, and following the tragedy in 1985 a banner was revealed by Fiorentina Ultras reading “39 less hunchbacks”. Juventus fans claim this is the reason for CAV’s attempt to befriend Liverpool fans back in 2009 after the two met in the Champions League.
Despite this the Fiorentina Ultras are renowned for their loyalty, sarcasm and irony. They are no strangers to decrying the club’s hierarchy or the team itself if they feel things aren’t being done to their lofty Florentine standards. Former owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose disastrous tenure at the club culminated in bankruptcy and demotion to Serie C2 in 2002 can certainly vouch for this. Viola fans had to endure the humiliation of losing the club name for a year, which became Florentia Viola, and 30,000 of them descended on the city centre to make their feelings known to Cecchi Gori.
The hub of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is synonymous with famous names including Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli and the Medici. The Fiorentina Ultras take untrammelled pride in the city’s cultural history and the Artemio Franchi has become something of a holy ground for the Viola fanatics. Awash with purple and white the stadium can produce electrifying atmospheres and decorative choreographies that even the greatest Florentine artists would be proud to call their own.
By Lucca Hodges-Ramon