On Saturday, in anticipation of the 3rd - 4th place match featuring Brazil, FBB teamed up with us to host a day of films of football and Revolutions. Between Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil, 2013 saw some of the largest protests in recent memory. What is less known, is that in all three of these cases football supporters have played a pivotal role in front lines of these movements. We began with Rua e Publica, a short that showed the effects of the World Cup for children living in the favelas of Belo Horizonte, and how they rebel in their own small way in search of a field to play on. This led us into the first of two features, called Vandalismo. Vandalismo, or Vandals, is a movie made by a collective of independent journalists who documented the Anti-confederations cup protests in Fortaleza.
In the film they show how protesters were inspired by the movements in Turkey and Egypt in learning how to deal with tear gas and other excessive uses of police force. The “Torcideros” (hard core supporters) are accused of hi-jacking the movement, and instigating violence and vandalism during an otherwise peaceful protest. On the other hand, those in the front lines, including students, football fans, and other disenfranchised youths, made the case that it is FIFA, the government and sponsoring corporations that are, in a sense, vandalizing Brazil. Perhaps with is best summed up with the line “what is a few cans of graffiti and some broken windows compared to 250,000 people displaced from their homes?”
Istanbul United, the final film of the forum, is an incredible depiction of how the lines between football supporters, activist, and vandal can quickly become blurred. The film documents how the unification of supporters from Istanbul’s historically rivaled clubs, Besiktas, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray served as an important counterweight to government overstepping its authority and abusing their power. In Turkey, these clubs are institutions, with social clubs, schools, universities, and multi-sport associations. The supporters of these clubs truly view their own team as a separate identity and culture, and the organic unification that occurred throughout the Gezi park protests is a testament to how football is transcendent.
Following the film, the Co-Director, Olli Wildhauer opened up to the theater’s questions. Activists and journalists in attendance were left shocked at how well he was able to depict the disorienting nature of both stadium terraces and violent protests. The juxtaposition between the two, and the how this led the supporters he followed to express unity in one context and absolute disdain for the other in another context.
Supporters groups are complicated. We have to remember that they cannot be stereotyped with a single political opinion, and view on the world. In the end it is a group of friends, and within all informal social groups, there is bound to be a wide range of opinions. What is perhaps most interesting about the case of Istanbul, is that these people were all galvanized to protect a public park. A park is a space for open discourse, just like a stadium terrace. As the supporters lobby for the rights of their community week after week in the stands, they united across club lines in order to protect a similar space that is open to society as a whole.