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Memorial Day 2015: Boom Towns, Re-Building Towns, and Ghost Towns BONUS: Austin Aztex Home Shirt 2010

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The Boom Town

Driving into Austin at 10 pm on a Monday night you see lights, lots of lights. They could almost stun you, the driver, who was all but lulled to sleep for over 150 miles on the smooth pitch-black roadway from Houston. But the speed limit was raised from 70 to 75. So that is a plus. In between the neon signs advertising Target, HEB, Super 8 Motel, and Fiesta you head down I-35 as the lights of downtown Austin almost overpower the highway, the cranes that dot the horizon distract you and take your eyes off the road for a few seconds. The small town has become a metropolis overnight, or so it seems.

Austin, Texas, America (as 98.1 KVET says) is indeed America’s fastest growing city—it experienced 12 percent growth from 2010-2013. They say 110 people are moving to Austin every day. But that migration isn’t necessarily positive, as a 2014 Austin American Stateman article explains. Many smaller homes are being demolished to make way for high-end luxury condos, the kind of gentrification—exacerbating the wage gap—that has made people around the United States and the world disgruntled. On the surface, it all makes sense:

“For the sellers, many of whom raised their families in the homes, the demand for lots in their neighborhoods offers an opportunity to cash out at a price that can exceed the value of their property. For the buyers, it’s a chance to live in a central area, near shopping, dining and entertainment, while avoiding the headaches that can come with an older home.”

But some residents quoted in the article beg to differ. Mark Rogers, who holds a PhD in art history from UT Austin and has lived in east Austin for 30 years, says that “It’s kind of like losing memory through the loss of structures…That’s what architecture does – it connects you to your memories and your experiences, and when you have so much change that a whole neighborhood and eventually a city changes, we kind of have collective Alzheimer’s.” Resident Mary Standifer adds “there is a sense that people are gutting the neighborhood, not blending with it or becoming part of it. You want people to move here because they want to join in your neighborhood, not because they want to reinvent it.” Austin developer Ed Wendel went so far as to warn “We are hollowing the middle class out of Austin.” Just like industrial football has pushed the original fans away from the game, so too has gentrification pushed the original residents out of a formerly sleepy city in central Texas that is now home to a Formula One race.

The next morning you wake up road wary and want breakfast tacos. The same 85 cent breakfast tacos you ate so often as a student in a stiflingly hot room, under the sign that read

“The heat you feel / waiting for your meal

is a small price / so maybe think twice

The cost to keep you cool / would be passed on to you

so please refrain / to complain / about no air conditioning”

You want those tacos that filled you up for three dollars and change. But the Tamale House—the one you had discovered long before it was featured in the New York Times— no longer exists. It closed after the owner’s death, may he rest in peace. The neighborhood isn’t even the same anymore. The seedy old service station down the road has become a shiny new In-N-Out Burger, advertising jobs for 10.25 an hour and attracting clientele among Austin’s newest residents from California.

But that isn’t all that’s gone from Austin. A cursory look around will tell you that. The great Omlettry building with its mural is slated for destruction. Fran’s Hamburgers, which you once tasted out of pure curiosity, is gone only to make way for that mass-produced (yet “local”) taco chain Torchy’s. Austin Eater has a long list of other Austin dining institutions that are being cleared out in order to make way for shiny new restaurants; even one former Tex-Mex place is becoming (again) luxury apartments. You can only suppose that rents are getting harder to afford…or maybe it is just greed, a desire to “cash-out” while the getting is good.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://austin.eater.com/2015/5/18/8621885/the-omelettry-s-iconic-burnet-building-will-be-demolished-next-week

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Image Courtesy Of: http://austin.eater.com/2015/1/22/7871571/check-out-the-destruction-of-old-fran-s-hamburgers

So that is the boom-town of Austin, Texas, America. You leave more than a little disappointed. You’ve spent three years of your life here but it feels as if those that moved here last week feel more at home in the city than you do. But you comfort yourself with a visit to the old House Park and the old Austin Aztex jersey you own—the one that moved to Orlando and became MLS’ Orlando City FC. Who knows how much longer House Park will house a team, given the recent flooding…then again, cities can recover from floods.

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Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/Crysta_Lee/status/603064428251086848/photo/1

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The Re-Building Town

You walk down Tulane Avenue, the terminus (or beginning, depending on how you look at it) of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61. Looking around tells you that New Orleans is a seedy place. Young men staggering around in wife beaters on the second floor balconies of cheap motels stop to stare at you, the newcomer who is so conspicuously out of place. You look away, focusing on the cracks of the uneven sidewalks trying not to fall on your face. One intersection reminds you of an eastern European city, the lush green park in the median dominated by the statue of a hero from a bygone era—in this case it is Jefferson Davis.

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Underneath the I-10 underpass is an above ground cemetery, one that survived the horrors of Katrina when the flood waters came through. Across the street is an abandoned University of New Orleans building, graffiti covering those areas a person can reach. Soon the seediness gives way to debauchery. Blonde girls taking part in bachelorette parties sport t-shirts reading “that’s what she said” while drinking grenades, young men on the prowl wearing identical button downs are drinking Bud Lights, while older couples take in the scene while sipping cocktails. It seems as if everyone from 20 to 60 is strolling down Bourbon Street in an alcohol-fueled haze. Its on the parallel side streets of the iconic French quarter where you really get a feel for this unique American city that feels more like Europe, the French architecture and overhanging balconies provide you with endless stimulation as long as you don’t step in the puddles of vomit when distracted. Its only ten o’clock but the night is just getting started.

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It is nice to get out of the touristic quarters and spend some time in other areas of the city. You visit the Southern Art Museum and take in some “culture” all the while ignoring the two girls who stumble up the stairs with drinks in hand. Classy is all that you can think. After that you head to the Louisiana Superdome, the massive American football stadium that housed survivors during Katrina. The roads that were flooded then have since been rebuilt, leaving no traces of the destruction. Walking along the historic tram line (which also reminds you of eastern Europe) on Saint Charles Avenue you head towards Tulane University, the wide green boulevard tells you that this is a more affluent side of the city. Its seediness remains where empty Budweiser bottles lie in the gutter but its nothing you can’t get over. The kind owners of the Blind Pelican even offer you a signed shirt, there you learn that New Orleans is back among the fifty largest U.S. cities for the first time since hurricane Katrina. So it is possible for cities to come back from the worst of disasters. It doesn’t surprise you; the city has a unique charm to it despite everything.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/hurricane-katrina-superdome/

 

The Ghost Town

Just off I-40 near Hickory North Carolina exists a peculiar site on the side of a two lane back road—a small village that has become a ghost town. Henry River Mill Village was once a small textile village before the mill closed, now it is up for sale for over 1 million dollars. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, you think, and indeed everything is cyclical. The boom comes, the bust comes, and then the rebuilding comes. If Austin is at the height of its cycle and New Orleans is trying to come around, then the crumbling houses of Henry River Mill Village are at the bottom of their cycle, burst by the industrial revolution, but they might cost someone a pretty penny someday. You can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of a ghost town being resuscitated by Hollywood but then again, this is America. Everything can happen. Your mind spins as you walk along between the shattered houses, but you can’t feel the shattered dreams in this atmosphere. It is the golden hour just before sunset on a late Spring day and the chirping of birds is all you hear, dotted by the occasional sounds of a passing car. You want to lie down on the grass and take it all in. But you don’t. You need to keep moving. You head back to your car parked in front of the abandoned company store that advertises pastries from another time.

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All These Roads That Lead to Nowhere in Particular

You’ve been driving for 12 days and over 4000 miles. You only have about 500 left and you want to go for a walk. You need to stretch those legs. Ahead of you, on pavement dotted by sprouts of grass, you read “This way to Hell”. You snicker, even if you are sure that someone, somewhere, thinks Hell is in Pennsylvania. “Death Ahead. Turn Back”. “Yeah, ok,” you think, looking at a lone cross sticking in the grass as if for guidance. The birds are chirping, the sun beats down, and there is no one in sight. There are no cars to hear. On either side of you trees reach to the heavens along the highway to Hell. Besides the birds, all you can hear is your Nikes beating against the crumbling pavement. You walk the (dotted) line like Johnny Cash. Its like a death march, one and half miles in a straight line under the sun. You shouldn’t have worn a dark blue shirt. But you did. Then you see what you wanted to see. No, it is not the “Hail Satan” poking through the bushes. It is the wide black expanse cut into the mountainside, Rays Hill Tunnel, where scenes from the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s great novel The Road was filmed.

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Some portions, like the tunnel operator’s room, feel like they are straight out of a horror film. Other portions, like the walls, are dotted with graffiti. Some are eulogies to lost love, most are so vulgur they make you almost ashamed to be reading them. But you do, as you feel the cool moist air of the tunnel fall all around you. But you can’t relax here. The feeling is too odd, too uncomfortable, too chilling. That feeling might be called reality: The reality that nothing is permanent, not nature (this was, after all, an unspoiled mountain side before the Pennsylvania turnpike) and not any man made structure (nature is slowly reclaiming what was taken from it, busting through the concrete). So while we build cities by destroying what we built as in Austin or build cities in the wake of nature’s wrath as in New Orleans it is important to recognize that none of it is permanent. We are all temporary in the histories of our cities, of our countries, and of our world.

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Before the Graffiti:

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Images Courtesy of: http://www.briantroutman.com/highways/abandonedpaturnpike/

 

So, on Memorial Day Weekend, I urge readers in the United States to celebrate the beginning of summer and remember the fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the United States of America so that we may live in this country, an ever-changing country full of all kinds of cities and towns. To readers outside of the U.S., I urge you to celebrate the beginning of summer and get out and explore lesser-known parts of your countries–you never know what might be out there.

Happy Memorial Day and Have a Great Summer!

 

NOTE: All Images Property of the Author (thisisfootballislife.wordpress.com) Unless Otherwise Stated.

The Case for the UEFA Europa League: Final 2015 Warsaw

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Why watch the Europa League final you might ask. It is, after all, Europe’s secondary club competition. For me, Wednesday’s Europa League final in Warsaw between Sevilla and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk means a lot more. It means watching a competition between teams that are not from Europe’s metropolises and part of European football’s financial elite. Certainly Dnipropetrovsk and Seville are not cities that conjure thoughts of Michelin restaurants and haute couture. Therein lies the beauty of the competition. I have compiled a list of participants in the quarter-final stages of both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League from the last five seasons in order to show the relative stadium sizes and city sizes of all teams involved in the latter stages of both competitions.

City Sizes StadiumSizes

The results show that, on average, teams participating in the UEFA Europa League hail from much smaller cities and as such play in smaller stadiums. The Europa League has also been much kinder on teams from countries outside of Western Europe—indeed this year’s final pits an eastern European side against a western European side. Three times in the last five years there have been multiple teams from outside of western Europe represented in the last eight of the UEFA Europa League; the last time multiple teams where represented in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League was the 1998-99 edition of the tournament. Additionally the Europa League has tended to see more countries represented—not since the 1998-99 season has the Europa League/UEFA Cup had less than five different countries represented in the last eight. The UEFA Champions League, on the other hand, has seen just four countries represented in the last eight for two out of the last seven seasons.

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For me, football is about the fans and parity—any side should be able to win on any given day, free from the constraints placed on the modern game due to finances. This is not to say that participants in the UEFA Europa League are not involved in the financial side of the game—it is an aspect of today’s world football that is unavoidable, and Dnipro are certainly a team with a healthy budget (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/26/sport/europa-league-dnipro-ukraine-sevilla/). Just, in my mind, participants in the UEFA Europa League are closer to true grassroots football and not so-overly reliant on the financial side of the game as participants in the UEFA Champion’s League are. I have provided statistics below in addition to graphs in order to present my findings. I know that many might prefer the glamour of the UEFA Champion’s League and that is fine—I just would like to point out that, sometimes, all that glitters is not gold and that the closer we are to true grassroots football in the face of advancing industrial football the closer we are to enjoying a purer form of the game. That is why I will be rooting for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in this year’s final—enjoy the football!

 

KEY: Team-City/Country/City Population-Stadium/Capacity-Seats Per Person-Most Expensive Season Ticket/Cheapest Season Ticket

“Western Europe” refers to: The “Power” leagues in Austria, Benelux, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland.

“Eastern Europe” refers to: Eastern Europe including former Eastern Bloc nations and Greece and Cyprus, Non-EU Countries (Turkey, Israel), and Scandinavia. Essentially teams either geographically located in the eastern half of the continent and non “power” leagues such as those in Scandinavia.

2014-2015 CL Quarters:

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents

Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

AS Monaco FC-Monaco/Monaco (France)/36,371-Stade Louis II 18,523-1 seat for every 2.1 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,756,843.5 (Size of Winner’s City: ?, Cities Under 500,000: 1, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 1, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 62,731.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: ?, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2014-2015 Europa League Quarters:

Club Brugge KV-Bruges/Belgium/117,170-Jan Breydel Stadium 29,472-1 seat for every 4.0 residents

FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk-Dnipropetrovsk/Ukraine/993,091-Dnipro Arena 31,003-1 seat for every 32.0 residents

FC Dynamo Kiev-Kiev/Ukraine/2,847,200-NSC Olimpiyskiy 70,050-1 seat for every 40.6 residents

ACF Fiorentina-Florence/Italy/379,180-Stadio Artemio Franchi 47,290-1 seat for every 8.0 residents

SSC Napoli-Naples/Italy/990,000-San Paolo Stadium 60,240-1 seat for every 16.4 residents

Sevilla FC-Seville/Spain/703,021-Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 45,500-1 seat for every 15.5 residents

VFL Wolfsburg-Wolfsburg/Germany/122,457-Volkswagen Arena 30,000-1 seat for every 4.1 residents

**FC Zenit-St. Petersburg/Russia/4,879,566-Petrovsky Stadium 21,405-1 seat for every 228.0 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,378,960.6 (Size of Winner’s City: ?, Cities Under 500,000: 3, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 3, Cities Over 1M: 2)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 878,874.1

Average Stadium Size: 41,870 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: ?, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 5, Stadiums over 50K: 2)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 44,793.6

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 3

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 26

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (50%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 24 (50%)

 

2013-2014 CL Quarters

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

Borussia Dortmund-Dortmund/Germany/575,944-Signal Iduna Park 81,624-1 seat for every 7.1 residents

Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Manchester United FC-Manchester/England/502,900-Old Trafford 75,635-1 seat for every 6.6 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

(W) Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,812,353 (Size of Winner’s City: 3,165,235, Cities Under 500,000: 0, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 73,842.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 81,044, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 7)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 4

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (75%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 8 (25%)

 

2013-2014 Europa League Quarters

AZ Alkmaar-Alkmaar and Zaanstreak/Netherlands/95,076-AFAS Stadion 17,023-1 seat for ever 5.6 residents

**FC Basel-Basel/Switzerland/173,808-St. Jakob-Park 38,512-1 seat for every 4.5 residents

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

**Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

Olympique Lyonnais-Lyon/France/491,268-Stadede Gerland 41,044-1 seat for every 12.0 residents

**FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

(W) Sevilla FC-Seville/Spain/703,021-Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán 45,500-1 seat for every 15.5 residents

Valencia CF-Valencia/Spain/809,267-Mestalla 55,000-1 seat for every 14.8 residents

 

Average City Size: 915,532.9 (Size of Winner’s City: 703,021, Cities Under 500,000: 3, Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 3, Cities Over 1M: 2)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 524,658

Average Stadium Size: 44,301.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 45,500, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 4, Stadiums over 50K: 3)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 39,641.8

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 8

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 0

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 27

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 24 (50%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 24 (50%)

 

2012-2013 CL Quarters

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

(W) FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

Borussia Dortmund-Dortmund/Germany/575,944-Signal Iduna Park 81,624-1 seat for every 7.1 residents

Galatasaray SK-Istanbul/Turkey/14,377,018-Turk Telekom Arena 52,652-1 seat for every 273.1 residents

Juventus-Turin/Italy/911,823-Juventus Stadium 41,254-1 seat for every 22 residents

Malaga CF-Malaga/Spain/568,507-La Rosaleda 30,044-1 seat for every 18.9 residents

Paris Saint Germain-Paris/France/2,273,305-Stade de France (St. Denis) 81,338-1 seat for every 27.9 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 3,112,576.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,407,836, Cities Under 500,000: 0 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000:3 , Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 67,788.8 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 75,000, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 2, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 17

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2012-2013 Europa League Quarters

FC Basel-Basel/Switzerland/173,808-St. Jakob-Park 38,512-1 seat for every 4.5 residents

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

(W) **Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Fenerbahce SK-Istanbul/Turkey/14,377,018-Sukru Saracoglu Stadium 50,509-1 seat for every 284.6 residents

S.S. Lazio-Rome/Italy/2,900,000-Stadio Olimpico 72,481-1 seat for every 40.0 residents

Newcastle United FC-Newcastle upon Tyne/England/279,100-St.James’ Park 52,405-1 seat for every 5.3 residents

FC Rubin Kazan-Kazan/Russia/1,176,187-Central Stadium 25,400-1 seat for every 46.3 residents (Home games during the 2012-13 Europa League were played in Moscow).

Tottenham Hotspur FC-London/England/9,787,426-White Hart Lane 36,284-1 seat for every 269.7 residents

 

Average City Size: 5,143,370 (Size of Winner’s City: 9,787,426, Cities Under 500,000: 2 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 0, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 4,782,256.5

Average Stadium Size: 47,884.4 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 41,837, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 4, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 45,931.8

Total Countries Represented: 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 2

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 25

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 28 (58%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 20 (42%)

 

2011-12 CL Quarters

APOEL FC-Nicosia/Cyprus/239,277 (This figure is for the South’s Metro and City ONLY)-GSP Stadium 22,859-1 seat for every 10.5 residents

FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

FC Bayern Munchen-Munich/Germany/1,407,836-Allianz Arena 75,000-1 seat for every 18.8 residents-

SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

(W) Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Olympique Marseille-Marseille/France/850,636-Stade Velodrome 67,394-1 seat for every 12.6 residents

AC Milan-Milan/Italy/1,353,882-San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza 80,018-1 seat for every 16.9 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,636,404.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 9,787,426, Cities Under 500,000: 1 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 1, Cities Over 1M: 6)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 66,644.1 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 41,837, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 1, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2011-12 Europa League Quarters

(W) Athletic Bilbao-Bilbao/Spain/349,356-San Mames (1913) 40,000-1 seat for every 8.7 residents

Atletico De Madrid-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Vicente Calderón 54,907-1 seat for every 57.7 residents

AZ Alkmaar-Alkmaar and Zaanstreak/Netherlands/95,076-AFAS Stadion 17,023-1 seat for ever 5.6 residents

Hannover 96-Hannover/Germany/518,386-AWD Arena (Niedersachsenstadion) 49,000-1 seat for every 10.6 residents

Metalist Kharkiv-Kharkiv/Ukraine/1,430,885-OSC Metalist 40,003-1 seat for every 35.8 residents

FC Schalke 04-Gelsenkirchen/Germany/257,850-Veltins Arena 61,973-1 seat for every 3.8 residents

Sporting CP-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estádio José Alvalade 50,095-1 seat for every 10.9 residents

**Valencia CF-Valencia/Spain/809,267-Mestalla 55,000-1 seat for every 14.8 residents

 

Average City Size: 1,161,506.9 (Size of Winner’s City: 349,356, Cities Under 500,000: 3 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 3)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 1,211,836.9

Average Stadium Size: 46,000 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 40,000, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 3, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 44,714

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 24

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 27 (56%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 21 (44%)

 

2010-11 Champions League Quarters

(W) FC Barcelona-Barcelona/Spain/1,620,943-Camp Nou 99,354-1 seat for every 16.3 residents-

Chelsea FC-London/England/9,787,426-Stamford Bridge 41,837-1 seat for every 233.9 residents

Inter Milan-Milan/Italy/1,353,882-San Siro/Giuseppe Meazza 80,018-1 seat for every 16.9 residents

Manchester United FC-Manchester/England/502,900-Old Trafford 75,635-1 seat for every 6.6 residents

Real Madrid CF-Madrid/Spain/3,165,235-Santiago Bernabeu 81,044-1 seat for every 39.1 residents

FC Schalke 04-Gelsenkirchen/Germany/257,850-Veltins Arena 61,973-1 seat for every 3.8 residents

FC Shakhtar Donetsk-Donetsk/Ukraine/975,959-Donbass Arena 52,187-1 seat for every 18.7 residents

Tottenham Hotspur FC-London/England/9,787,426-White Hart Lane 36,284-1 seat for every 269.7 residents

 

Average City Size: 3,399,221.4 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,620943, Cities Under 500,000: 1 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000: 2, Cities Over 1M: 5)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Average Stadium Size: 66,041.5 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 99,354, Stadiums under 25,000: 0, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 2, Stadiums over 50K: 6)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants: N/A

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 7

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 1

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 18

Teams (Out of 32) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 22 (69%)

Teams (Out of 32) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 10 (31%)

 

2010-11 Europa League Quarters

**SL Benfica-Lisbon/Portugal/2,666,000-Estadio da Luz 65,647-1 seat for every 40.1 residents

**Sporting Braga-Braga/Portugal/181,494-Estádio Municipal de Braga 30,286-1 seat for every 6 residents

FC Dynamo Kiev-Kiev/Ukraine/2,847,200-NSC Olimpiyskiy 70,050-1 seat for every 40.6 residents

(W) FC Porto-Oporto/Portugal/1,474,000-Estadio do Dragao 50,431-1 seat for every 29 residents

PSV Eindhoven-Eindhoven/Netherlands/221,402-Philips Stadion 36,000-1 seat for every 6.2 residents

**FC Spartak Moscow-Moscow/Russia/11,503,501-Luzhniki Stadium (Used at the time) 78,360-1 seat for every 146.8 residents

**FC Twente-Enschede/Netherlands/158,004-De Grolsch Veste 30,206-1 seat for every 5.2 residents

Villareal CF-Vila-real/Spain/51,367-El Madrigal 24,890-1 seat for every 2.1 residents

 

Average City Size: 2,387,871 (Size of Winner’s City: 1,474,000, Cities Under 500,000: 4 , Cities 500,001-1,000,000:0, Cities Over 1M: 4)

Average City Size Omitting CL Participants: 1,148,492.3

Average Stadium Size: 48,233.8 (Size of Winner’s Stadium: 50,431, Stadiums under 25,000: 1, Stadiums 25,001-50,000: 3, Stadiums over 50K: 4)

Average Stadium Size Omitting CL Participants (**): 45,342.8

Total Countries Represented: 5

Teams (Out of 8) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 6

Teams (Out of 8) From Eastern Europe, Non EU, Scandinavia: 2

Total Countries Represented in Whole Competition’s Group Stages: 25

Teams (Out of 48) From Western Europe (Austria, Benelux, British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland): 27 (56%)

Teams (Out of 48) From Eastern Europe, Non-EU, Scandinavia: 21 (44%)

 

Champions League Quarter Final Participants Average City Sizes/Stadium Sizes

2014-15: 1,756,843.5/62,731.4 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2013-14: 2,812,353/73,842.4 (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2012-13: 3,112,576.4/67,788.8 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2011-12: 2,636,404.4/66,644.1 (1 Stadium with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2010-11: 3,399,221.4/66,041.5 (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

 

Europa League Quarter Final Participants Average City Sizes/Stadium Sizes (Excluding CL entrants)

2014-15: 1,378,960.6 (878,874.1)/41,870 (44,793.6) (3 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2013-14: 915,532.9 (524,658)/ 44,301.4 (39,641.8) (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2012-13: 5,143,370 (4,782,256.5)/ 47,884.4 (45,931.8) (2 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2011-12: 1,161,506.9 (1,211,836.9)/ 46,000 (44,714) (3 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

2010-11: 2,387,871 (1,148,492.3)/ 48,233.8 (45,342.8) (4 Stadiums with 1 seat for 10 or less residents)

 

Champions League Quarter Final Participants Geographic Distributions (Total Group Stage, Western Europe/Eastern Europe)

2014-15: 5 Countries, 8/0 (18 Countries, 22/10)

2013-14: 4 Countries, 8/0 (18 Countries, 24/8)

2012-13: 5 Countries, 7/1 (17 Countries, 22/10)

2011-12: 7 Countries, 7/1 (18 Countries, 22/10)

2010-11: 5 Countries, 7/1 (18 Countries, 22/10)

 

Europa League Quarter Final Participants Geographic Distributions (Total Group Stage, Western Europe/Eastern Europe)

2014-15: 6 Countries, 5/3 (26 Countries, 24/24)

2013-14: 6 Countries, 8/0 (27 Countries, 24/24)

2012-13: 6 Countries, 6/2 (25 Countries, 28/20)

2011-12: 5 Countries, 7/1 (24 Countries, 27/21)

2010-11: 5 Countries, 6/2 (25 Countries, 27/21)

 

 

 

May Day and Football’s Interaction with Political Developments in Turkey: Early May 2015

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NOTE: An Updated Version of This Post Can Be Found at Balkanist.net at http://balkanist.net/may-day-footballs-interaction-political-developments-turkey/

 

Another May Day came and went in Istanbul with much of the same old—police force used to suppress demonstrations on the “Worker’s Holiday”. This year, however, there was a little bit of an international feel to it all in the wake of the Baltimore riots back in the USA. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, kicked it all off with a photoshopped picture of himself with blonde hair in response to comments made by Ankara’s AKP mayor Melih Gokcek who tweeted “Where are you stupid blonde, who accused Turkish police of using disproportionate force?” The uncouth comment was directed at U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, as Mr. Gokcek was—apparently—still seething over the fact that the U.S. had criticized Turkish police for using disproportionate force during the Gezi Protests two years ago.

Mr. Gokcek is indeed an interesting character, and football fans will know him better as the man who buried the famous football club Ankaragucu in debt after his son, Ahmet Gokcek, became chairman (with a little of his father’s help, naturally).

As for the May Day itself the football fans from Besiktas’s Çarşı group kept up their civic duty as they entered Besiktas’ square much to the delight of onlookers.

Before:

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After:

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/as-it-happened-turkey-marks-tense-may-day-as-police-enforce-lockdown-in-central-istanbul.aspx?PageID=238&NID=81804&NewsCatID=339

And the international feel didn’t end there—A Çarşı banner was unfurled in Athens during May Day celebrations as well (http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28893041.asp). I say celebrations because only in Istanbul does May 1 become a war zone…still, there was some time for football on Istanbul’s blockaded streets.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28893041.asp

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurhaber.com/sisli-de-1-mayis-sebebiyle-kapatilan-caddede-futbol-oynandi/haber-721781

A week after May Day’s violence President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scheduled an AKP rally on May 9 for a “general opening ceremony” (it is still unclear as to what was being unveiled) in the Izmir Ataturk Stadium, one of Turkey’s largest stadiums, in order to galvanize his support in a province that has never voted for him. The pictures tell the story; in some shots it seems as if there are more police than citizens and even the decision to move people from the stands onto the playing surface failed to produce the illusion of a large boisterous crowd. Before the rally, Mr. Erdogan said that AKP supporters wouldnt be able to fit in the stadium. But, of course, there is a reason: The AKP’s Izmir province president Bülent Delican said that the low turnout was the fault of Izmir’s governor and vowed that “The happiness of those who criticize us will be short lived. The AKP organizations will reckon with those who are now smiling on May 24 at Gundogdu [a main square in Izmir where the AKP is planning a major rally]. The AKP have 466 thousand members in Izmir. We can fill nine stadiums like that one”.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/274897/Erdogan_in_izmir_de_bos_tribunlere_yaptigi_mitingin_faturasi_valiye_cikti.html

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More Cops than Citizens? Perhaps.

 

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Her Trabzonspor iPhone cover isn’t fitting for someone from Izmir…Then again, the AKP is known for bussing in supporters from all over the country to attend their rallies.

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.rotahaber.com/siyaset/erdogan-in-izmir-mitingi-ilgi-gormedi-h529662.html

 

Maybe they can. But the issue at hand is not whether the AKP can fill stadiums with boisterous supporters; the issue is the rhetoric used by representatives of the AKP. The AKP member quoted above, Mr. Delican, makes no effort to mask the contempt he feels for his political opponents. Such vitriol has no place in a democratic society whose President is—ostensibly—expected to represent all members of a country, not just those that voted for him or her. Unfortunately the events of May 1, 2015 were not anomalies; they are just further indications that the AKP is looking to dig in their heels during the run up to elections in June, and that criticism—or even lack of support—will not be taken well.

Polish Football Fan Shot by Police: The Rising Tension Between Law Enforcement and Citizens Around the World

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On Saturday May 2 a tragic incident occurred at a fourth tier football match in Poland which only served to underscore the fact that, increasingly, police force is being used the world over to an alarming degree—it is not just happening in the United States. At a match between Concordia Knurów and Ruch Radzionkow a fan was shot and killed by a rubber bullet when a group of Concordia supporters entered the pitch, reportedly to attack the away section housing Ruch fans. Emergency first aid on the side of the field failed to resuscitate the victim. Additionally, rioting broke out around the hospital the victim was taken to resulting in non-life threatening injuries to fourteen policemen and many arrests. One report called it “total chaos in town” with molotov cocktails and tear gas used when ultras from the Slask region came to the small town of Knurow and joined in the rioting.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/news/3460-news-polish-supporter-shot-and-killed-by-police.html

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/news/3463-riots-in-knurow-after-police-killed-footballfan.html

Sad events like these show that rising violence in societies will be met by consequent actions by police forces. Although this seems to be an accident stemming from an inadequate number of police at the match (in the videos only a handful are seen), it is still worth analyzing in the context of an alarming growth of tensions between citizens and law enforcement all over the world. It is also worth noting that the event occurred almost one year to the day that a security guard lit a fan on fire at a match between Slask Wroclaw and Zaglebie Lubin on April 28 2014.

 

Polish football is no stranger to controversy. In January of 2014 there was an investigation into rising anti-Semitism at Polish football matches. Polish football writer Michal Zachodny explains that the problem “comes from the fact that most of the ultras groups and hooligans are connecting themselves to far-right movements which they take and explain as patriotic.” Thus these fans might not necesarily be anti-Semitic themselves, it is just that their clubs have had these chants as part of their history.

According to many commentators these nationalist far right movements have risen steadily Europe due to the continent’s ongoing financial crisis. But The Economist adds an important point: “Concerns over national culture, identity and a way of life matter more than material worries.” As many might know, many football teams—whether their roots are Jewish or working class or something else—were founded as representations of ethnic identities, class identities, and many others. When that identity is threatened, their fans—like so much of the general populace—will react. And as long as the potential for violent reactions remain it seems police will be prepared to react in kind.

 

From Baltimore to Belgrade (and Back)

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Baltimore and Belgrade. They couldn’t be farther apart. Perhaps the only thing that brings them together is the fact that both city’s names begin with the letter “B” and end with the letter “E”. Yet despite their differences, the two have been brought together, at least for the purposes of this post, due to . . .rioting. As many may know Baltimore was affected by two days of violent rioting following the death of Freddie Gray which gave way to calm on the night of Tuesday, April 28—no doubt due in most part to the presence of 2,000 National Guard troops and 1,000 additional police officers enforcing a 10:00pm-5:00am (22:00-05:00) curfew. It may seem harsh, but the widespread riots—shown on the map below—left authorities no choice.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/28/us/baltimore-riots/

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lynzybilling/here-are-the-most-powerful-photos-from-the-baltimore-riots#.sjbzL58DO

Sports, like many representations of “normal” life were not unaffected. Due to the curfew baseball’s Baltimore Orioles announced via Twitter that their Tuesday, April 28 game against the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards Stadium would be postponed and that Wednesday’s game would be played behind closed doors. While football fans may be used to games being closed to the public and played without fans, U.S. baseball fans are certainly not. This kind of thing is unprecedented in U.S. sports, but will most certainly happen in Belgrade next weekend. Now, lets look at Belgrade for a moment before returning to Baltimore.

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The Baltimore Orioles’ Announcement. Image Courtesy of: https://twitter.com/orioles/status/593124360963031040

 

On Saturday April 25 the “Eternal Derby” in Serbia between Belgrade rivals Partizan Belgrade and Red Star Belgrade lived up to its billing as one of the world’s most dangerous derbys—at least 50 people were injured and there were 40 arrests in the chaos. Graphic pictures and videos of the riot show supporters launching flares and hurling seats at police while many are left bloodied and stunned in the stands. One could look for a political motive in all of this; after all, many derbies in European football are characterized by deep-seated animosities between fan bases stemming from, among other things, ethnic differences, class differences, and political differences. In this case, however, there is not much of that.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3055654/Violent-scenes-derby-Red-Star-Belgrade-Partizan-Belgrade-delays-game-leaves-35-police-officers-injured.html#ixzz3YQqGcIgA

 

Red Star Belgrade were formed by members of the Serbian United Antifascist Youth League during World War Two. Although they inherited the stadium, offices, players, and colors of a team—SK Jugoslavija (disbanded after being labelled collaborators by communist leader Josip Broz Tito for playing matches in German occupied Serbia during the war)—the continuity between clubs is disputed.

Their rivals, Partizan Belgrade (whose stadium I learned upon visiting the city is just 1 kilometer away from Red Star’s, were founded as the club of the Yugoslav army and were initially managed by officers in the Yugoslav People’s Army. Indeed, the club was named in honor of the Yugoslav Partisans who fought against the communists in World War Two. The club’s initial crest even sported a five pointed red star as a symbol of communism—not too different from Red Star Belgrade’s emblem that features…a five pointed red star with a background of red, white, and blue, the national colors of Serbia.

135px-Grb_FK_Partizan_(1945_-_1947) 120px-FC_Red_Star_Belgrade_Logo_(Old).svg

Images Courtesy Of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FK_Partizan#Crest_and_colours AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Star_Belgrade#Crest_and_colors Respectively

The animosity stems mainly from the fact that both teams are the most supported in Serbia and are located in close proximity to one another in the capital city. It is bragging rights that are on the line, and one is born with an identity that is characterized by the support of one of the teams. In some ways, it is a feeling of a familial bond that connects the team to its supporters. In a Wall Street Journal article one Red Star fan was quoted describing the love he has for his team: “It’s the kind of love one feels for a country or a woman or a child.” On the flip side a fan of Partizan Belgrade was also quoted, explaining that he married a Red Star fan only on condition that they raise their children Partizan fans: “It was one of the things I insisted on when we got married. I said I could cope with anything except them being Red Star fans.” This sentiment isn’t too hard to understand. I encountered it while talking with fans at derbys in Stockholm and Thessaloniki and I have heard the almost romantic love football fans sing with while supporting their teams in Turkey. My own childhood friend in Turkey—herself a Besiktas fan—had to accept her husband’s request that their child be raised a Fenerbahce fan when she married. Even one of my childhood friends in America who recently got married remembers one of the first things he asked his now wife on their first date: “You’re not a Yankees fan, are you?” As a Boston Red Sox fan he had to clear all the deal-breakers out of the way first. Sports are something that can make seemingly rational people become irrational regardless of where they live. Sure, they are more passionate in Europe and South America but even then ugly incidents are, for the most part, confined to the stadium. The threat of possible bodily harm is kind of something you accept as collateral damage when entering the gates for a football match. But it isn’t something that consumes a city.

 

Now back to Baltimore. The reason that I bring up Belgrade is that I came across an article written by Derrick Clifton about the Baltimore riots. According to his byline he is “a Staff Writer at Mic covering identity, culture and social justice […and] master’s candidate at the Medill School of Journalism.” He says, rightly, “Usually, if a riot involves black people, it’s connected to intense episodes of where systemic racism is undoubtedly at work.” But what he goes on to explain is troubling, in my mind, and loses the point of what he wants to say:

“But when a mob of mostly white people take to the streets, vandalizing cars, storefronts and street signs in the process it usually means someone either won or lost a game. As Mic’s Zak Cheney-Rice noted in January, these rioters are usually called ‘revelers,’ ‘celebrants’ and ‘fans.’ They’re not even called ‘rioters’ in many cases. They’re not derided as ‘criminals,’ ‘thugs,’ ‘pigs’ or even ‘violent.’ Those descriptors, as events in Baltimore Monday night reveals yet again, are only reserved for black people. They’re the ones who need to be quelled by militarized police forces. They’re the ones who need to be off the streets, immediately. They’re diminishing the validity of their cause. Yet somehow, reckless behavior over a sports team, not a systemic matter of life and death, is viewed as a costly nuisance.”

Unfortunately it is the issue of “race” in the United States that reduces what should be important social discussion to its lowest common denominator, with the implication that somehow someone is being wronged due to his or her skin color and that is what is to blame. The events cited by Mr. Clifton include “riots” in the aftermath of sporting events as diverse as the San Francisco Giants 2014 baseball World Series win, the Vancouver Canucks 2011 hockey Stanley Cup Finals loss, and the 2015 Ohio State Buckeye’s college football championship in 2015. I would say that the common factor in all of these instances of violence and destruction was sports and alcohol…resulting in a “costly nuisance”, if you will. None of these instances involved plans on Twitter or the targeting of police officers: The Baltimore Police Department/Criminal Intelligence Unit announced that it “received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerilla Family, Bloods, and Crips [had] entered into a partnership to ‘take out’ law enforcement officers.” None of the aforementioned events involved the widespread looting of stores either. And certainly none of them involved pathetic attempts to link Israeli intelligence to a domestic disturbance in the United States of America. Therefore, to me, Mr. Clifton’s comparison between “white riots” and the events in Baltimore, in order to find a racist motive, is moot.

 

I think that if we are to find a parallel between the rioting in Baltimore and sports-induced rioting it is helpful to get beyond the issue of race and look at the systemic problems in world society. For that, we can slowly move from Baltimore to Belgrade. Another article from the American left ran the headline “Councilman schools Fox News reporter on how to cover Baltimore uprisings”. If we ignore for a moment the needlessly hyperbolic anti-Fox News language used in the headline and listen to councilman Nick Mosby’s words we may get closer to the truth:

“What it is is [the] young folks of this community showing decades old anger, frustration, for a system that’s failed them. I mean, this is bigger than Freddie Gray. This is about the socio-economics of poor, urban America. These young guys are frustrated, they’re upset and unfortunately, their [sic] displaying it in a very destructive manner. When folks are under-educated, unfortunately, they don’t have the same intellectual voice to explain it the way other people are doing it and that’s what we see through the violence today.”

It is true, the roots of the problems in Baltimore stem from poverty and a lack of opportunity for many. What is important to note, however, is that this lack of opportunity is not only confined to minorities. There are plenty of white Americans facing the same unemployment problems and the same struggles with poverty and rising costs of living. To lower everything to the simple level of racial inequality cheapens the debate and only provides excuses and an easy way out. It is similar to that old (and hugely incorrect) mantra with which the West viewed (again) Belgrade during the Bosnia crisis: “The Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims have been fighting since the beginning of time. They could never live together, so what can we do?”—“White American cops are racist so this is what happens”. When we make broad statements with little or no thought to back them up nothing is gained. The problems in Baltimore are not very different from the problems affecting many other metropolises the world over: There is a growing wage gap which is drawing more and more urban people—black, white, purple, and green—into a feeling of hopelessness that can also manifest itself in violence. That is why many have posted articles that “explain” why riots occur in order to justify the actions of some (its kind of a no-brainer, but you can make your own analyses by sifting through the leftist rhetoric). Now we come full circle to Belgrade.

 

The Wall Street Journal article cited earlier in this post was titled “Soccer Violence Escalates in Europe”. The reason, according to the article, is that fans have been “driven by Europe’s economic struggles and what’s seen as an accompanying rise in nationalism and racism”. It isn’t a shocking conclusion and the figures don’t lie, at least those cited in the article: “The U.K.-based group Kick It Out counted 71 discriminatory incidents in Britain this season compared with 43 at this point last year,” and “In Germany, officials reported 7,863 soccer-related offenses last season, up from 4,576 in 2005-06. Italy saw 1,515 last year, up from 1,161.” Meanwhile in Spain, “penalties for sports-related offenses jumped by 22% last season from the previous year”.

The article’s author Naftali Bendavid notes that in the years following the Balkan wars of the 1990s “Serbian paramilitaries recruited from fan groups for the Balkan wars, as soccer hooligans became warriors and vice versa”. Indeed, some of this may be true. An article detailing the Grobari group, Partizan Belgrade’s Ultras, explains that:

“A defiance of authority since the tormented 1990s has intoxicated political and social spheres and reared its ugly head in football too. Many ultras took part in the armed conflicts and carry their scars today, translating the tribal nature of the Yugoslav wars to their clubs and ultras groups.”

Certainly Serbia’s continued exclusion from mainstream European society (the European Union)—and ongoing economic stagnation—is sure to have an effect on its young, male, job seeking population (incidentally, the core demographic of most football supporters). It is normal. That said I am not here to make an inquest into any Ultra group or football supporters in general, since I am first and foremost a football fan. I’ll leave that to the media; it seems that they are the champions at demonizing groups. What I am here to say is that economic disparities are becoming more and more pronounced, whether in Baltimore or Belgrade or anywhere else. And to paint over those real economic problems with the label of “White vs. Black racism” and other ideological (or political) slogans really does nothing to solve human problems that are very real. People feel forgotten by the systems they live in, making less and less money, while gentrification pushes up rents in low income neighborhoods. This frustration then drives some to extremes that can become violent. That is the challenge for governments all over the world at the beginning of the 21st century: To win back the citizens they are losing every day as a result of a world society unable to produce stable and ongoing economic benefits for all citizens.