It had not been an auspicious first half. The ball in the home net four times and the linesman’s flag only raised once. Three goals conceded and not much sign that any response was possible.
The Ultras have occupied one end of the main stand since being moved there at the time of Covid induced reduced attendances. Tonight, for the first time since restrictions were lifted, the home terraces were reopened. Perhaps the Ultras liked their raised position, for they remained in the stand.
The home terraces held no more than a few knots of supporters. A cordon sanitaire had been established between the terraces and the area occupied by the away supporters.
Half a dozen Gardai stood in the No Man’s Land, looking bored. There would have been a time when they might have investigated the source of the smell of cannabis that drifted across from a group of thirty-somethings. Now no-one is bothered, the smell of weed is frequent on any street.
Not all of the Ultras had remained in the stand. A small group had gathered at the barriers of the neutral zone. It was the closest they could get to the away supporters and during the inactivity of the half-time break they traded insults across the empty space. Knowing some of those involved, it was intriguing to watch. What was the purpose of the small group’s confrontation with the much larger group of away fans?
It reminded me of a study of football fans in England. Perhaps it was written in the 1970s or the 1980s.
The writer described the behaviour of various groups of supporters and their reactions to encounters with opposition fans. One section was devoted to what the writer called “the nutter.”
One incident in the account remains in the memory. A train filled with away supporters was standing at a station after a match. A single supporter of the home team appeared, walking along the other track. As he passed each carriage, he stopped to shout insults at those on the train. The homeward bound passengers had replied in kind.
It was a bizarre moment. What had been the intention of the “nutter”? There had been no-one other than the opposition fans and the writer to see him. Who was he trying to impress?
Perhaps it is not about impressing anyone other than oneself. Perhaps those who had detached themselves from the rest of the Ultras were uninterested in what anyone else might think.
The home team went 4-0 down and the away supporters were jubilant. The small detachment waved at the volley of obscene chants.
When final whistle went, they lingered until one of them said something and they left for home.