It may be a ding dong battle on the pitch, but there are also a host of struggles off it. This is largely in part down to the variety of supporters who pledge their allegiance to their particular club. At the end of the day, football is all about following your side through the thick and thin. Whether winning Champions Leagues in a blaze of glory or having to deal with yet another relegation, fans are always there no matter what the situation.
In fact, supporters are the foundation of a club. After all, a club would in most likelihood cease to exist without the unwavering loyalty of the fan. Supporters will follow their chosen side to the ends of the earth in order to watch their footballing disciples.
However, there are some teams who are so crazy they are often involved in extortion as well as influential decisions. Certain teams have sections of their clubs who are simply known as Ultras. These specific fans are rife throughout Europe not to mention South American teams where there passion can sometimes spill over. From violence on the streets and inside the stadium to all out wars with rival supporters, Ultras are considered to be a fervent bunch of individuals who often have a nasty streak. This is in spite of the fact that their enthusiasm can sometimes be a little misguided. Nevertheless they are an integral part of today’s football society.
However, there are some groups of fans who will stop at no ends to create the ultimate atmosphere or simply to create a stir. For some enthusiasts, football is a chance to let off steam, whilst for others it can become a genuine sporting addiction. Here is the rundown of the top 10 craziest club supporter groups of all time.
10 Red Star Belgrade
Former winners of the European Cup back in the 1990s, Red Star Belgrade have some of the most passionate supporters around. Their fanatics are so vociferous that many teams tremble even before they go out on to the field of play. They are well known for creating intimidating atmospheres in their stadium which is thanks to the 'Delje'. Known as 'Heroes', this wing of Red Star supporters are believed to have connections with many belonging to the Serbian paramilitary. This was especially the case when the Balkan war took place some twenty years ago. This show of defiance has developed into an "Orthodox brotherhood" that sees them also be sympathetic towards both Olympiacos and Spartak Moscow for political reasons.
9 Lech Poznan
There has not been one team recently who has not had a go at doing “The Poznan”. Considered to be almost as famous as the Harlem Shake which caused a social media meltdown, Lech Poznan are another group who take things to the extreme. Based in the Polish League, they have initiated a footballing storm with their world renowned celebration. In fact the craze has caught on so much that Manchester City adopted the trend. This was after the Premier League Champions faced Poznan in a Europa League match. It is now a firm favourite with the fans and is truly a sight for sore eyes.
Formerly champions of South America back in 1995 as well as holding the title of World Club Champions, Brazilian side Gremio have some of the most fanatical fans across the planet. Yet, they are infamous for their special celebrations which would definitely cause a panic with health and safety members. Their avalanche style celebration has been applauded for spectacular reasons, none more so by their own loyal group of supporters.
If winning the World Club title on three separate occasions is not enough, Penarol have also been highly successful in their own national league. Having won the Uruguayan league title on nearly 50 separate occasions, they are one of the most significant clubs in the history of association football. Their fans are known to be truly off the chart, so much so, that they set record back in 2011. This came off the back of Penarol’s charge to the Copa Liberadores final. This is the equivalent of the UEFA Champions League and is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.
In fact, Penarol appearance in the final was their first for the best part of nearly 25 years. At the game, their fans showed their unbridled passion by revealing what is suggested was the largest banner that has ever been witnessed at a game. This beast of a sign measured more than 300 metres wide and nearly 50 metres in length.
6 Olympique de Marseille
One of the leading fan groups in France can be found in the beautiful area of Aix En Provence. Playing their games at the mightily impressive Stade Velodrome, Olympique de Marseille have some of the craziest supporters to have ever graced a ground. Nicknamed OM, the Ligue 1 side have already enjoyed watching some of the finest footballers on their hallowed turf. This includes the likes of former World Cup winner Didier Deschamps and Chelsea front man Didier Drogba. Marseille’s obsessive fans really take the game time experience to a whole new level.
The displays within the ground are incredible not to mention colourful and are even more vibrant when the Champions League comes around. Not only are some people responsible for starting a variety of chants but the fans are kitted out with megaphones. This is just a small part of what the Velodrome has to offer on match days.
When it comes to expressing love for one’s team, Greek side Olympiacos are definitely high up the soccer radar. The Greek outfit have featured several times in the Champions League and most famously upset the odds last year. This is when they beat Manchester United by two goals to nil in what was to be David Moyes's only season in charge at Old Trafford.
The Gate 7 fans from Olympiacos are extremely rumbustious people who demonstrated their love for their team. The name originates from a stadium disaster which took place at Gate 6 inside their own ground where more than 20 fans passed away. They are known to represent a large proportion of the typical working class in Athens. Some of their biggest rivals include Panathinaikos, whilst they have been made to play behind closed doors previously due to fan rioting and attacking opposition players.
“Welcome to Hell” was the phrase daubed on many signs when Manchester United came to town. This was the greeting for the English side when facing the Turkish might of Galatasaray. Playing their football in the Ali Sami Yen until 2010, they are well known for their avid fans that often set off fireworks and flares. In addition to this, many teams coming to their grounds have had to have police escorts due to some supporters wanting to show more than a round of applause.
The Galatasaray fans are without question a force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, the overwhelming cauldron of noise that greets players is undeniably an incredible factor which acts as their 12th man. One of the most famous incidents which demonstrated over exuberance for the club involved former manager Graeme Souness. The ex-Liverpool hard man planted a flag in the middle of the turf after his Galatasaray side defeated bitter rivals Fenerbahce over two legs.
3 Standard Liege
The Ultras Inferno 96 group from Belgian team Standard Liege has hit the headlines recently for their show of passion. This particular association recently took part in a league game against Anderlecht. Unfortunately for one player, it was to become a little uncomfortable as Liege unfurled an enormous banner of an ex-player whose severed head was featured on it. This giant banner caused plenty of furore in their native land as well as around Europe for its highly sensitive nature. With influences taken from Friday the 13th, it was definitely graphic in its aesthetics.
Steven Defour had to keep his feelings in check as he kicked the ball into touch on a few occasions. After deliberately kicking the ball into the opponents' section, Defour was shown a red card for his troubles. Defour had been a part of the Standard Liege 11 for five years before joining arch rivals Anderlecht from Portuguese side FC Porto in 2014. Nonetheless, some Standard Liege fans do take their love to extreme measures in order to taunt the opposition.
Another Turkish side makes it on to the list and this time it is Besiktas. Described by Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greats in the game as one the noisiest teams he had ever heard, Besiktas entertain their hosts at the Inonu Stadium. They were responsible for creating a world record noise level back in 2007. This came when they hosted Liverpool in group match in the UEFA Champions League. At the time, the sound recorded was more than a frightening 130 decibels and encapsulated the typical ambiance awaiting each side.
They have been salubrious for their right wing leanings but Lazio's 'Irriducible' are certainly the most fanatical fans lining the terraces. There is no denying the impact that these group of fans have had on the club which many find hard to get their heads around. The Lazio Ultras are a unique brand and grew in popularity as the team rose to prominence during the 1990s. They have had some high profile players appearing for them over recent times featuring Alen Boksic as well as Paul Gascoigne. The Irriducible have set up their footballing base camp in the Curva Nord section of the Olympic Stadium. Previously, they have even been known to clear stands right in the middle of a game amid protests over players’ salaries.