By Greg Mockos

This is part two of a five part series about different styles of supporter culture from around the world.  If you missed part one on the English style of support, you can get caught up here.

The Continental European Style

The continental European style emerged slightly after the English style and added several components to supporter groups. Initially the continental European style was very similar to the English style, but traveling support had yet to catch on mainly due to the difficulty of travel in most European countries due to under developed rail systems. This changed drastically in the 50s and 60s as the infrastructure in European countries was vastly improved after the war. These improvements allowed for easier travel and shorter travel times resulting in growing away supporter travel.

The single largest contribution that the continental European style brought to supporter groups was the need for a more structure organization as the introduction of capo led-chants and tifo require coordination and management. These two components led to groups that had highly developed structure with defined roles for individuals. This process began in the 60s. The emergence of tifo in the continental European style occurred in the late 60s and early 70s as politics made their way into football. It is no secret that groups in most European countries had political ties- either to the left or the right. This is the direct consequence of the thesis stated at the beginning of this article, meaning that supporter groups in the 70s largely aligned themselves politically as a result of the predominant political trends in their respective countries, regions, or cities. Tifo emerged as way to communicate between rival groups and political factions within groups. At this point in time it is when you see the first rail banners and text banners emerge in the European terraces, better known as curves (from the Italian word “curva” which means round end of stadium where the supporter groups congregates in the cheap seats). Tifo was a communication tool initially between supporter groups and then evolved into somewhat of an art form with the goal of either demoralizing the rival supporters/team or inspiring the home team.

In the same tune as tifo, continental European groups, also began to communicate with their chants and songs. In order to send clear messages to either players or rival supporters a need for a more structured chant mechanism was born. Hence, the use of capos (derived from the Italian term “boss” and in supporter culture refers to those individuals leading and starting chants in a coordinated manner). Continental European groups began to also use instruments such as drums to help coordinate massive swatch of supporters numbering in the thousands to ensure an on tempo chant or song. Without the capo and drum tool, it would have been impossible to have a huge curve with thousands of supporters sing in tune and effectively communicating either their love or their displeasure for their team. Furthermore, continuous support and chanting is a predominant element within continental European groups whose chants reflect the ebbs and flows of play on the field, but also divert from the field to ensure a message is sent via a song or chant. For most continental European groups chanting a full 90 is a demonstration of love and dedication and almost unanimously a requirement if you plan to stand in a curve.

The need to organize tifo and capos led to a more rigid organization on the part of the continental European supporter groups. When the groups became organized as recognizable entities, imagery and logos emerged in the 70s for the majority of groups as to define them separately from other fans in the stadium.  When the self-identity was born certain groups took this to another level by establishing a membership structure. The requirement for membership allowed for the groups to raise funds to produce impressive tifo, to purchase club houses and to fund away travel. Each of these components required individuals to do a specific job within a hierarchical organization.

The continental European style builds on the foundation left by the English style of support while adding a structured environment in which tifo and chants become the dominant expression of support. Continental European supporters are known to have the most visually and audibly impressive sections in world supporter culture. This is a reflection of the organization that occurs behind the scenes. In the continental European style you show up to the curve home or away with the expectation to  chant for a full 90 minutes, wave flags, and follow the capos lead for chants. Organically started chants are somewhat frowned upon although this varies from group to group. Additionally, you are expected to help the supporter group grow and organize regardless of whether it is game day by assisting in tifo making, recruitment, equipment maintenance, and day to day operational activities.