The 12th Man – Cities on the Edge
8 May – 3 June 2009
Photographs by Tabitha Jussa. Featuring four European football teams: Werder Bremen in Germany; Lechia Gdansk in Poland; Olympique de Marseille in France and SSC Napoli in Italy in relation to the similarities shared with Liverpool.
These four places are all strong port cities, like Liverpool, with each of the city’s history shaped by their port. All are considered ‘edgy cities’ – almost separate principalities from the rest of their home country. I wanted to find out if the attitude of these cities was reflected in the attitudes of the fans and if each group of supporters would offer up a unique insight into each individual city’s culture. If you love football, you hold a key to the rest of the world and the very nature of man.
Werder Bremen was formed in 1899. The ticket prices start at 11 euros. As a result, the Ostkurve, Werder’s equivalent of The Kop and The Gwladys, is full of groups of teenage friends who stand throughout the match. Werder fans seem to attract a large cross section of society from port workers to the fur coat wearing gentry. This is all fuelled by readily available spiced wine and Becks beer, which is brewed locally. Werder has the reputation for being a well respected, non media hungry club with a healthy bank balance. This was the only game where there were obvious fan clashes which stopped the tram service up to the ground.
Lechia Gdansk football team was founded in 1945. During the Communist era, the match was the only place for citizens to vent anger and frustrations without the risk of reprisal by the leaders. In the 1980’s, 17,000 striking ship builders in the port of Gdansk started the largest non-communist trade union which was to shape the ‘Solidarity’ movement. This successfully began the downfall of communism across Eastern Europe. Hooliganism in Polish football is still prevalent and football has a bad reputation amongst the younger and now more affluent generations of Gdansk. The away supporters section of the ground was out of bounds due to crowd trouble during the previous home game.
L’Olympique de Marseille was founded in 1899. The curves are owned and run by fan groups. The club only receive ticket income from the main stands. Highly choreographed celebrations are bounced from one curve to the other between ‘MTP’, (Marseille Too Powerful) in the North end and the ‘Commando Ultras 1984’ (South Winners) in the South curve. Marseille fans embrace the multi cultural roots which shape the Marseille of today; they embrace all and go out of their way to ensure that the tradition of OM runs deep in the hearts of the generations to come. The match I attended was against Paris Saint Germain, and had the tension and rivalry similar to Derby games.
SSC Napoli was originally founded as a football and cricket club back in 1904 by an English sailor. I stood witness to an onslaught of traditional Italian traits of pure unbridled passion – gesticulations, group discussions at half time and fiery frustrations after an equaliser by the away team in the dying minutes. My visit marked the return of fans into the Curva A after a ban implemented by police because of trouble between the fans and the Carabinieri.
All of these cities were selected in relation to the similarities shared with Liverpool. The photographs sit alongside those of Everton and Liverpool fans which is part of a long term, on-going project called ‘The 12th Man’.
Merseyside has a unique history shaped by its port, politics and of course, football. Fan culture on Merseyside is complex and deep rooted and after two years of attending home games I have only begun to scratch the surface. My starting point was to individualise the mass of fans at Anfield and Goodison but as seasons pass the project continues to evolve and develop as Merseyside’s football culture begins to reveal itself.
“Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.” Albert Camus
For more information visit: www.tabithajussa.com
or contact Tabitha on 0776 600 4460
35 Whitechapel, Liverpool L1 6DA