Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Ultras needed!

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 2:00 AMRyon Jones
Fans of the Reggae Boyz inside the National Stadium in Kingston, during a football match.

Pamplona, SPAIN:

Jamaica needs some ultras, and I am not talking about football supporters fuelled by racism, or politics, or prone to violence, or those who verbally abuse match officials. I mean fans who stick with their clubs and national team through thick and thin; who create an atmosphere making others want to come out and join in, even when the match is being broadcast live - those who intimidate opposing teams and supporters with their shared passion.

Nobody talks a better talk than local football fans. However, when it comes to cheering, that is reserved for when a goal has been scored, at which point the team will already be on a high and does not really need it; or at Reggae Boyz matches, the loudest the fans will get if the team does not score, is to say "boom" during the national anthem.

At the national stadium for Reggae Boyz matches, the only bit of edge we use to have over visiting teams was the heat and the less-than-ideal state of the pitch. The surface has since improved, and with our team of overseas players also being a visiting one, the matches have been moved to late in the night.

I have long held the view that local football is lacking real fans and it was confirmed when I had the privilege of watching Osasuna host Real Madrid inside the El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona, Spain, on Saturday.

 

LAST POSITION

 

Here was a team lying last in the La Liga table, with a mere 10 points, looking set to be relegated, having conceded 49 goals while scoring only 24, yet to win a match at home this season and entertaining league leaders Madrid. Not much to cheer about, right?

Well, somebody try telling that to the nearly 200,000 inhabitants of Pamplona. The 18,761-capacity stadium was sold out with only a handful of tickets going to away fans. But long before it was time to take their seats, fans gathered outside the stadium waiting on the teams to arrive. Though I was inside the tunnel when the buses arrived, there was no mistaking which team had just pulled up. The Osasuna players were greeted with chants and songs.

The world-renown Real Madrid team, with its plethora of stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Marcelo and Spain's national football team captain Sergio Ramos, followed and were met with boos, jeers and insults.

At match time, it was no different as the ultras who gathered to the right of the stadium sang, played drums and chanted for the duration of the match. The singing was so infectious that I, along with others in the VIP box and across the stadium joined in, and by half-time I found myself hoping for an Osasuna win, as I thought the fans deserved it.

Ronaldo fired Madrid into the lead in the 23rd minute, but this seemed to have only energised the Osasuna fans, as they booed his every move and increased the decibels. Nine minutes later, Osasuna levelled and when I thought it could not get any louder - it did. However, what was most impressive was when Madrid went 3-1 up in second half stoppage time and the fans did not boo or drop their heads. But the singing continued, and flags and banners were still been waved with vigour.

I do not know if it is because Osasuna is a fan-owned club, but Jamaican football fans need to take notes - ultras are needed.