Soccer Ultras: A Point of Unity in Ukraine
On 07 DEC 09, in a park in southern Odessa, soccer ultras (i.e ultra-fanatic soccer fan groups) from Chornomorets Odessa and Dynamo Kiev clashed in an orchestrated brawl. Spurred on by adrenaline and hatred for one another, members from each group beat each other senselessly until the Dynamo Kiev ultras retreated into the surrounding tree line. Five years later, in 2014, both groups, along with ultras from 26 Ukrainian soccer clubs, including those from eastern Ukraine, signed an indefinite truce signifying the newfound unity of Ukrainian society after Euromaidan.
Ultras from different clubs became close and began to help each other. Charity tournaments to strengthen our partnerships were arranged and opposing ultras began to communicate with each other on a positive level. — Male, 18, Chornomorets Odessa ultra
Post-Euromaidan Ukraine is rife with examples of civic unity at the grassroots level. One only has to look to efforts of unpaid volunteers working to help wounded Ukrainian military veterans or assisting internally displaced peoples from the conflict zones to see tangible examples of a unified Ukrainian society.
The truce was created to not only unify opposing groups during a difficult time but to show others that we could all pursue one goal — a united Ukraine. I don’t know how successful we’ve been but the truce still holds. — Male, 36, Chornomorets Odessa ultra
Announced on 13 FEB 14, the truce initially only promoted collective security — ultras could work together to stabilize their communities during the tumultuous Euromaidan period — the truce has evolved into an example of compassionate camaraderie within a demographic of Ukrainian society beset by violent fractures.
Though occasional fights between individuals affiliated with ultra groups still occur, scenes reminiscent of 07 DEC 09 have long become a distant memory. While the future of the truce remains unknown — especially if the conflict in eastern Ukraine is resolved — the current state of affairs suggests ultra groups are positive force in Ukrainian society.