We’re celebrating our 50th edition of our “Ultras Aufkleber of the Week” feature with a gratuitous collection of some awesome designs from a wide spectrum of ultra groups and a rundown of the do’s and don’ts of sticker etiquette.
We at FBTG would like to state from the outset that we do not encourage nor condone the act of defacing the property of others by securing stickers on it. In many places, this is a crime and can be punished severely. This blog post has been written to explain the ultra sticker culture to an audience that may be unfamiliar with it, not to encourage actual graffiti and criminal damage. Now that we’ve gotten that sorted….
When ultras and fan groups create choreographies and tifos, what they are actually doing is competing with their rivals. These impressive displays do serve the function of contributing to the game-day atmosphere and encouraging their players to compete, but more critically, they form part of an ongoing battle between fan groups.
The Football stadium is one of the final refuges of masculinity, whether you like it or not. That is not to say that you are unwelcome at a Football match if you do not aspire to such a fundamental interpretation of masculinity. That’s nonsense, anyone can come. However, in the opinions of those to whom the Kop / Sector / Block is a sacred space, criticism of overt masculine behaviour is not acceptable. Like it or loathe it, this is the mentality that exists in the world of the ultra. And two very basic characteristics that define traditional masculinity are physical prowess and creativity; two qualities that helped our pre-agricultural ancestors outsmart the prey and defend against the predator.
Competition of a physical nature between rival groups of male Football fans is well documented. We do not need to explore the topic here. Yet what is often misunderstood or at least overlooked is the importance that tifos and sticker designs play in this sub-culture. When a fan group creates a choreography, emphasis is placed on originality and execution. This is so that a group is able to demonstrate the creativity of its members and its ability to discipline them via an impressive show that wins respect and recognition.
Similarly when it comes to Aufkleber, fans and ultras will deliberately be as creative as possible, often while using very aggressive and antagonistic imagery and slogans. It is a way of boasting how resourceful their group is; “look at the talented designers that we have in our midst“. And of course, we judge a fan group by their sticker designs whenever they encounter them on lampposts, in train stations and in the stadium. Bare this in mind the next time you see a piss-poor effort of a St George’s flag with a team name in a dull font and a club crest on it.
Sticking Over Other Stickers
On their adventures, ultras will often encounter the tell tale signs that rival fans have been in the area before. Sticker designs placed casually around their city remind them that “outsiders” have had the nerve to come to their patch and leave their mark, often in locations that are deliberately visible. This is a way that fans goad each other. In the mind of the fanatic, this is unacceptable and must be immediately addressed.
How to respond? You simply pull out one of your Aufkleber from your pocket, peal the backing paper off, and slap it down on top of the tag of the original offender. One by one, this process allows the colourful calling cards of your opponents to be systematically removed from or at least improved in your city.
Placing a sticker design on top of that of a different fan group is an act of deep disrespect. If you place your Aufkleber next to an existing design, you are showing respect for the club in question and its corresponding fans. Though if you cover it up, you demonstrate to the world that neither you nor your fan group is afraid of the offending group who placed the original sticker. This is actually why fans who do this will allow a small part of the original design to remain visible; it enables subsequent viewers to see which club and / or fan group has been disrespected.
So now you have your awesome designs. You sent them across to the printing company, and a package arrived on your doorstep two days ago. You tore it open and had a good look at your work, appreciating that it looks even better on paper. Now is the time to consider what you are going to do with them.
It’s Saturday and you are away. You meet up with your folk before your departure and you distribute your new Aufkleber among them, often for a small fee. This ensures that you’ll be able to more effectively distribute your stickers across the town you are visiting. After arriving at the train station, you wait outside while a couple of your boys use the restroom. You notice a lamppost to your right, covered in stickers from other clubs who have had the same idea you have on their visit. You hop up onto a ledge, careful to make sure no feds are around, and you take out a sticker. But as you reach up, your heart suddenly sinks. You can reach all but two of the Aufkleber already stuck to the lamppost.
This is the point at which you realise that the ones below the top two have been stuck on top of other Aufkleber that proceeded them. The only ones that have not been stuck over are the top two. At this proximity, you are able to notice that they are from the same club, possibly placed here by the same fan. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot reach them. What a disappointment.
The location of where you stick your Aufkleber is almost as important as their content. Putting them as high as possible serves two purposes. Firstly, it means that rivals cannot subsequently place their stickers over them. And secondly, a sticker placed out of reach is indicative of some really big bastards. The sort of 6 foot 5 monster fan you who really don’t want to pick a fight with. Judging by the height of his sticker design on this lamppost, he is clearly part of this group. This is another subtle way in which members of the ultra sub-culture communicate the strength of their tribe with each other.
Only in Public Spaces
There is a car parked outside a house that I pass every single day. I think it is a Fiesta, but I can’t quite remember. The model of the car is not what draws my attention. It is a minor feature that the owner has decided to add to the vehicle’s exterior that I notice each sodding day. The owner is clearly a Spurs fan. A small, square sticker with the cockerel has been attached to the rear bumper of the car. The top half is blue and the bottom white. Some unimaginative trope such as “Spurs Forever” has been printed across it.
And every single day as I walk back home from work, the same thought crosses my mind. I could so easily pull out one or two of FBTG‘s own Hull Aufkleber and stick them across it, showing him what town he is in. Look at it as doing him a favour; he clearly doesn’t have too much taste as is. Yet each time the idea hits me, I tell myself no. I have told myself no hundreds of times now.
The fact is that you cannot place your fan stickers onto private property, as much as it often may be desirable to do so. The owner of the vehicle / fence / laptop / window may not be in the position to pay for their equipment to be repaired. It is nothing short of bad form to stick your designs onto the personal property of another individual. Stick to publicly owned places and infrastructure.
Once again, we would like to state that defacing property that does not belong to you is a crime punishable in many places and a practice that we at From Boothferry To Germany do not encourage or condone in any way. We also cannot be held responsible for the actions of any of our readers.