Real Madrid are synonymous with footballing success and have become a truly universal club, followed by millions of fans around the globe.
Almost everything about today’s Real Madrid is modern and progressive; ranging from their fantastic stadium to their impressive TV channel (available to watch in both Spanish and English), and from the superstar players on the pitch to their superb training complex where their players are groomed.
However almost is the key word in the statement.
Even though the club is now arguably the greatest in the world, there is something that still tarnishes their reputation (and I’m not talking Jose Mourinho here…).
It is an unfortunate part of Real Madrid CF that still links it to a time when Spain was not the modern, cultural, forward-thinking, democratic country it is today.
I am referring to a nasty group of supporters who go by the name of ‘Ultras Sur’.
Organized Ultra groups (a phenomenon mainly consigned to latin countries) come in all shapes and sizes, with some having left-wing political leanings, some have right-wing tendencies, while some are completely apolitical.
The ‘Ultras Sur’ however are as far to the right of the political spectrum as you can get and take pride in what many consider to be Real Madrid’s weakness, their alleged links with fascism and the regime of the dictator Francisco Franco.
‘Ultras Sur’ were founded in 1980, when Spain was undergoing a transition from years in the wilderness under the authoritarian rule of a despot to becoming a full democracy.
This was a time when people, especially in regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country, were shaking off the shackles of oppression and taking pride in in promoting their distinct regional cultures.
They were able to speak in their ancient, traditional languages again.
The ‘Ultras Sur’ saw this transition as the first steps in the break-up of a unified Spain and were intent that in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu at least, the ideology of the previous regime would remain.
The group took their name from the south end of the stadium where they would gather and quickly became popular with young Real Madrid supporters, who may have been attracted more by the flag-waving, the singing (at the time a rarity in Spanish stadiums) and the tough reputations of the skinhead founders of the group.
Within a few years the entire lower area of the southern terrace of the Santiago Bernabéu was occupied by supporters of the group and awash with political flags.
It was the norm to see the ‘fondo sur’ full of ‘swastikas‘, white supremacist symbols and the Spanish flag of Franco’s regime.
In the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s , the group was at it’s strongest and had developed notoriety, not just for their ideology, but for the violence their supporters would cause on away trips against opposition fans.
Supporters of other clubs were not the only victims, as black players would often suffer horrendous, sickening abuse from the end of the stadium where the ‘Ultras’ were congregated.
This abuse was not only directed at black players of other clubs, as Freddy Rincón was to find-out.
Rincón signed for Real Madrid in the mid 1990’s and was immediately signaled out for treatment by the group. It was not uncommon to hear the ‘Ultras Sur’ making ‘monkey noises’ at their own player and the player was even said to have received death threats.
Rincón was forced out of the club after playing just 14 games!
Roberto Carlos and Clarence Seedorf also received some abuse when they first signed for the club.
Jorge Valdano (a man known for his left-wing ideology) who was manager of the club for two seasons was also subjected to abuse from the group when results in his second season started to go wrong.Follow @icentrocampista