El Espectáculo, a Deep Play: The FC Barcelona and Real Madrid Rivalry in Basketball
Dept. of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen
Vad är idrotten utan sin publik? Platt intet, kan man med stor tyngd hävda. I och med de moderna elitsporternas höga kommersialiseringsgrad är beroendet av stora intäkter av avgörande betydelse för att en hög nivå på arrangemangen ska kunna upprätthållas. Och det är inte längre biljettpengar som är den dominerande intäktskällan i dagens eventidrott, även om de inte helt saknar betydelse, och i vissa sammanhang spelar en viktig roll för det totala ekonomiska utfallet av ett evenemang. Inte heller skulle enbart sponsorpengar räcka särskilt långt. Nej, det är alla dem som vill uppleva tävlingarna men som måste nöja sig med en medierad version, i första hand i form av televiserade bilder, som är idrottens viktigaste finansiärer.
In this article, I will demonstrate how a group of FC Barcelona (Barça) supporters, a group who call themselves the Dracs (the Dragons), put on an espectáculo. An espectáculo is a supporter practice that fans employ to create ambience at games. It is closely related to Clifford Geertz’s (1973) notion of a deep play. The espectáculo is not a single spontaneous event, but is part of a complex social practice that progresses through different stages. It starts long before the game is in play, and continues long after the referee calls the game off. The espectáculo is performed from the stand behind one of the goals. In order to show how the Dracs stage the espectáculo, the article’s empirical example is applied to the rivalry between Barça and its arch-enemy Real Madrid, a rivalry called el clásico in Spain. As el clásico is played in football, few know that it is also performed in basketball. To the Dracs, the rivalry is the highlight of the season, and provides a chance to mock their long-standing opponent. From their stand, Curba Sud, they communicate to other fans, players, visitors and the rest of the sporting world who see rivalry on TV, three features; Firstly, they have a fervent relationship to Barça’s players; the Dracs are the club’s most loyal fans. Secondly, the group is working as an extension of Catalan sentiments, in the sense of being the ritual’s foremost spokespersons of Catalan nationalism. Thirdly, the Dracs emphasise to the rest of the audience that Curba Sud is the place to be. The practice of supporting will be analysed by employing Victor Turner’s study on rite de passage and ritual symbolism (Turner 1967, 1969). I employ Turner’s analytical framework for several reasons. First, the rivalry progresses in stages, and is somewhat marked by three phases; separation, liminal and aggregation phase. In addition, the rivalry differs in ritual meaning to its participants: While the Dracs show up seven hours before the actual event starts, “less” dedicated fans drop in minutes before the first ball is thrown.
Partisan fans the Dracs
The Dracs present themselves as a grupo de animación or “ambience creators”, and left football in 1998. The Dracs, who originally were football supporters, provide two reasons as to why this happened. Firstly, in 1997, they suffered an assault from another Barça supporter group, called Boixos Nois, during a game at Camp Nou, Barça’s home ground in football. Secondly, the increased significance of free market forces in football, epitomised by the forces connected to neo-liberalism, has created a “gap” between the fans and the players. The Dracs contend that it does not make any sense to support footballers, as the relationship with them is all but superficial. In contrast, the Dracs set course for another sport facility within the club, Palau Blaugrana (Palau). Here, they have created an alternative and positive supporter cosmos to that of Camp Nou. Palau is home to Barça’s other professional sports such as basketball, handball, fútbol sala and hockey patines.
Barça is a massive organisation and organises dozen of sports. The Dracs have made point of supporting the Catalan giant in these sports, after they left football. The group belongs to the inner circle of Barça followers. Barça fans are divided into two distinct segments, socios and peñas. A socio, which means shareholder, is a season card ticket holder, a fan, and a member of the club. While many top European clubs are owned by corporations, families or one single man, Barça is run according to a non-profit model. The fans own Barça and annual revenues are reinvested into the club. The socios elect el presidente, a club official who stays in office for four years until the next elections are held. Today, Barça has more than 100.000 members. The other part of the Barça crowd are peñas. Peñas are small supporter clubs and have everything from about ten to 500 members. Currently, 1400 peñas are distributed throughout Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and the rest of the globe. It is among peñas the grupos de animación are found. The Dracs are one of them.
The Dracs, in blue, yellow and red. Always there, supporting.
The grupos de animación see themselves as different from socios and peñas. As the Dracs stand, other supporters sit signs of laxness, a trait making the socios and peñas disloyal supporters. The groups are a cross between English hooligan activists, which Gary Armstrong and Malcom Young (1997:175) describe as Partisan Fanship, and the Italian Ultra movement described by Rocco De Biasi og Pierre Lanfranchi’s (1997) as a movement with an extreme, political culture. The grupos de animación’s beliefs are similar to those of the Italian Ultras: Never stop singing during the whole match, no matter the result. Never sit down, as opposed to armchair fans. Follow as many games as possible, regardless of cost or distance. The grupos de animación are organized by a core group, who exercises executive control. The groups are highly politicised, and ideology is too often claimed not to play a role in the formation of the groups’ identity.
The deep play the espectáculo
An espectáculo is a type of action or event where people congregate to celebrate or experience a sight or an intellectual contemplation that is capable of providing attention and move different human emotions. Staging an espectáculo among Spanish fans can be defined as a self-invented supporter practice, a practice loosely inspired by the way the Italian ultras create an atmosphere at football matches. The Ultras’ way of creating an atmosphere is found in the staging of a spettacolo. A spettacolo is a vivacious and vociferous form of support with an impressive hi-tech choreography performed from the curva, the stand behind the goals (De Biasi 1996:116). But the espectáculo is not a static practice, but multiple, dynamic, involving a high degree of organisation in order be carried out. The espectáculo passes on in different stages, and is a brilliant, physical sight. It renders a mixture of meanings communicated to players, team, club, spectators and to all others who are not on the ground. It has internal as well external orders and structures, as well as inner and outer meanings. The espectáculo starts long before the game itself starts, and includes the use of tifos, large banners and chanting. It has its peak during the game, and fades out after the referee calls it all off. The espectáculo is closely interlinked by how the game evolves. The Dracs, in this respect, turns out to be a vehicle of expressing different sentiments. Obviously, the dramatic texture from the curva draws everybody’s attention, and the espectáculo transforms the stand to become what Hans Hognestad (1995, cf. Geertz 1973) calls “a privileged space for deep play”. The espectáculo is something more, a deep play in its true sense when the game has its most intense moments. Geertz points out that the deep play largely is about betting; when men “come together in search of pleasure, they have entered into a relationship which will bring the participants, considered collectively, net pain rather than net pleasure” (Geertz 1973:433). The idea of deep versus shallow play or player is commonly employed to describe a persons involvement in a game (ritual) people located far away from the action are shallow (indifferent) players, while those nearest are deep players. This distinction indicates involvement, and evidently, supporters who are in the curba express deep emotions for Barça. For the Dracs, it has a clear meaning: It builds a bridge between them and the players. This allows the Dracs to convey themselves as being a part of the team, and they can claim to be a part of Barça. They can transform into Barça’s invisible force that the opponent fear the extra player.
Knowing the players and the sacred stand
A precondition for getting the espectáculo to work involves knowing the players. Supporting is an active relation, and by no means a dead deed where fans just sit and gaze. By this, I mean that loyal fans know the players by name and regularly natter with them off-pitch. This relationship is an exclusive and cultivated one, and distinctly points to notions of true, masculine moralities. To the Dracs, Barça’s players in basketball are entrepreneurs of true moral ideas, a trait distinguishing them from greedy, arrogant footballers. The basketball players are less associated with exorbitant transfer fees and towering wages, and thus non-corruptive. They care less about the glamour of sport, and are in it for the sake of the game itself. The closer players and sports are to values connected with amateurship, the more likely they are considered good role models of sportsmen and subjects of identification. The Dracs do not identify zealously with them, meaning a constant, blind grooming and cuddling. The basketball players are accessible, a condition difficult to achieve in football. The sports practiced outside Camp Nou are not subject to a high degree of public attention, a fact that is so valid in football. There is seldom any need for tough police protection against violent fans, and fans are allowed access to sacred territories, territories that often include the pitch, lockers or any other room exclusively used by players. In other words, players interact with fans. In doing so, they are perceived as informal.
The standard supporter kit lights.
The espectáculo is carried out from Curba Sud, one of the stands located behind the goals in Palau. Curba Sud transforms into an off-limit area for non-Dracs. The Dracs, like the Italian Ultras, monopolise a part of the stadium, and their obsession with the stand is similar to John Bale’s (1991) use of the term topophilia, which he employs to describe individuals’ love for a place. The most committed members spend a great deal of time there, and visit it several times a week. In fact, even when Barça is not playing, and Palau is used for fan training; the Dracs are there, doing something related to the espectáculo. Mostly this concerns practical planning. They eagerly discuss and plan different ways the espectáculo might look like, and attempt to visualise its potential outcome. Indeed, frequent visits to Palau outside match day means that the Dracs have a sort of autonomous status within Barça. In other words, the Dracs come and go as they want to, while officials tend to regulate other fans’ access to the facility.
Before every game, however, the strand is transformed from a naked and bare site into being covered with flags and banners. It is a barricading process, which aims at making the stand ready for the deep play.
The espectáculo against the Other
Framing the espectáculo within its cultural context involves having it contextualised within the dramatization of two opposing national identities, as suggested by Gary Armstrong and Richard Giulianotti (2001:270). In an interesting article in their book Fear and Loathing in World Football, they explore the social and historical construction of football identities, and suggest that the rivalry between Barça and Real Madrid falls within the concept of “project identity”. Project identity is the construction of social collectives that are committed to the creation of a life outside the pitch. This form of identity generates projects that point towards the transformation of society and can be found in fan cultures that envisage projects of broader, collective empowerment. This is certainly true for fan clubs in Barcelona; they are famous for fostering nationalist identity and envisaging a separate nation-state.
The rivalry between Barça and Real is still about the Catalan nation mobilising against the central government in Madrid, a conflict often explained by living collective memories from the dictatorship of the Franco-era. The rivalry reflects the social, political and historical hostility between the Catalan and the Spanish national identities. The game’s international attention, for example, is employed to further the notion to global fans that Barça is not Spanish, but a Catalan club. At games, nationalist groups are carrying out what might resemble symbolic guerrilla warfare. They smuggle banners into Camp Nou, and post them strategically within the angles of TV-cameras, so that fans can read in the background of their TV-screen that “Catalonia is NOT Spain”. In contrast, the sports media, as always, play a crucial role in dishing up the ambience and providing a narrative of how the Catalan society synchronizes and prepares for battle. (Lien 2001:127). There is reporting on preparations, injuries and earlier encounters. Journalists are making comparisons between the teams and players, speculating on how the game will evolve. The media is full of stories describing the true essence of the rivalry, emphasizing the importance of winning.
In other words, the rivalry bear witness to the weaknesses of a Spanish nation-building process that was never completed. Catalonia’s autonomous status and the flourishing of Catalan sentiments’ are communicated. Barça becomes a vehicle for expressing these sentiments and the espectáculo is the essential sight and place for contemporary political manifestations. The rivalry is, however, more complex than just being about “project identity”; fans relate to the rivalry very differently some consider it to be no more different than any other game, as the only difference is the opponent, Real Madrid. For others, this is the one worth seeing, while for others, it signals a clear message stay home, the ground is a potential war zone. The game is referred to as el clásico and is perhaps the most wellknown rivalry, which every die hard global fan wants see. Real Madrid, as well as Barça, however, has well-respected basketball teams and the two rivals play it deep there as well. The rivalry in basketball does not receive the same amount of public attention as its football counterpart, but, for obvious reasons, the tension is there. The basketball games are sold out, and the sports media fuel the public with antagonism. Loyal journalists provide the sports public with the latest updates until the very last minute before it all starts. The Dracs, on the contrary, have for weeks been ahead of everybody else; they are ready of the battle against Spain.
The Dracs, Barça and Catalonia.
The espectáculo as a ritual practice
It provides little meaning addressing a rivalry without having it performed somewhere. A number of analyses of nationalism and national identity, for example, have pointed out the central role of rituals in the production and dissemination of the nation and promotion of imagined communities (Conerton 1989, Kertzer 1988, Lane 1981). Rituals are perfect scenes or sites where populations congregate and promote messages to “the others”, but they do also revolve around issues of social organisation. Communities, conveyed in rituals, need to come together, and somebody has to carry out the work of arranging them. In other words, every game has a composition and follows distinct organisational and institutional characteristics, as having internal as well as external orders and structures. Analysing a basketball game as a ritual not only involves mentioning important studies on ritual life, but also requires addressing a ritual’s complex meaning. But, more imperative, how ritual meanings interlink with ritual practices remains being to be explained as well.
A central contributor to the study of ritual life is Turner’s elaborate analysis of rite de passage (Turner 1967, 1969). Turner’s contributions emphasize that rituals evolves through phases, making a ritual into a process. The first phase of a ritual is separation: “The first phase (of separation) comprises symbolic behaviour signifying the detachment of the individual or group either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure, from a set of cultural conditions (a state), or from both.” (Turner 1969:94-95). In the second part, the ritual individual or group enters the phase of liminality: “…the characteristics of the ritual subject (the “passenger”) are ambiguous; he passes through a realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state” (ibid.). The ritual enters into a third phase, which is marked by the reaggregation phase. This means that the ritual’s subjects have consummated a ritual passage (ibid.:94-95). Setting the Dracs in context of this framework, and how they perform the espectáculo, the group goes through similar, but somehow, different phases. The espectáculo is as much about ritual symbolism as ritual practice, but is, perhaps, predominately about performing practices. Here, however, I will focus on the performance of practices: For example, members appear in Palau four to seven hours before the rivalry begins, meaning that they perform a set of practices in order to put on the espectáculo. They test banners, members are assigned tasks, sales stands are set up, etc. The first phase is time-consuming, and marks the constituting of putting the Dracs together as a supporter organisation. In the second phase, in liminality, which begins not only with the Dracs, but includes all spectators in the rivalry, the ritual subjects are part of a spontaneous community, a community where the espectáculo has a variety of functions. The espectáculo provides the players with psychological support, and the Dracs continuously play it deep, depending on how the game evolves. It is also in this stage of the ritual where the relationship between members and players appears most fervent. When the game reaches its end, the Dracs dissolve and clean up their stand, and discuss the game’s outcome. In addition to the game’s ritual process, the rivalry has a multitude of ritual symbols. I will not discuss all the rivalry’s ritual symbolism here, but deal with a few. As Turner argues, symbols are the smallest unit of a ritual (Turner 1967:19), and excluding them would be analytically improper.
While Turner makes it perfectly clear that “when the third mode of interpretation, contextual analysis, is applied, the interpretations of informants are contradicted by the way people actually behave with reference to the milk tree. It becomes clear that the milk tree represents aspects of social differentiation and even opposition between the components of a society with ideally it is supposed to symbolize as a harmonious whole.” (ibid.:22). Indeed, it is the rivalry’s diversity in social meaning which makes ritual symbolism relevant. The rivalry between Barça and Real Madrid is not only a symbolic fight illustrating the congregation of two conflicting national identities. The rivalry has difference in meaning, in the sense that fans identify with the rivalry very differently. In contrast to the Dracs, the socio rarely shows up four hours before kick-off, but finds his/her seat just before everything starts. But certain socios have a different objective: Some have discovered that the game’s popularity offers them possibilities to make huge profit they are organised sellers on the black market. Some socios only sell a ticket or two, while others engage in the black market rather professionally: They have access to many tickets and show determination in the way they approach potential clients. Outside the Barça campus, there is a highly organised black market, which is active many days ahead of the start of the rivalry. Just next to the club’s official tickets offices, the socios line up, scout for ticketless fans, negotiate prices, and try to make money.
Curba Sud, the stand and home of the supporter.
The separation The barricading of Curba Sud
For the Dracs, the separation phase deals with the preparing of the espectáculo, and can easily break down to distinct practices. First, the members barricade their stand, then, second, the Dracs try to out-sing Real Madrid players before kick-off. There are, however, myriads of ritual practices taking place around the stadium, but I will here deal with only a few. The first ritual practice that the Dracs partake in is what I call the barricading of Curba Sud. The barricading is a ritual transformation of Curba Sud and a preparation for the espectáculo and deep play. The stand is covered with various kinds of posters, posters that the group has made themselves. To a certain extent, the group marks its territory, and explains to outsider that their territory is off-limits to visitors. Borders are set up. To each match, members bring with them big bags packed with banners, and employ different banners to different events and sports. Banners are called pancartas in Spanish, and follow the same use and logics that commercial billboards next to the pitch serve to commercial TV to be seen by the others and to proclaim your existence. Covering the stand follows a highly ritualised routine. Members present split up into small teams, work two and two or by themselves, and start with the lower part of the stand before finishing on the top of it. Large pancartas with the group’s name on are always placed next to the pitch, while the smaller ones are set up elsewhere.
A pancarta is a homemade placard, similar to advertising boards, which is possible to observe at football games. The pancartas come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but their common denominator is the proclaiming of an integration of Dracs, Barça and Catalonia. A variety of signs and symbols associated with localism are used. There is a wide range of pancartas, and the use of colours is stunning: Posters are painted in blue, red, yellow red, white the colours of Barça and Catalonia. The Barça emblem and various emotional motifs of the Dracs’ mascot are painted, and only imagination limits what konds of posters that are displayed. The result is a transformation of Curba Sud into a site where supporter members express supporter identity.
Antagonistic player influx
There is seldom any rivalry without antagonism. No antagonism, no rivalry. Therefore, an imperative trait with the rivalry is antagonistic ritual behaviour, behaviour that can evolve into violent clashes between fans. This type of fan behaviour can easily evolve inte racism, xenophobia and chauvinism. Antagonistic behaviour is normal in the rivalry and supporters seize opportunities to direct their energy against the significant other. The rivalry is dramatised through metaphors of warfare, and is propelled by masculine moralities, such as allegiance, honour, and homophobic ideas. When an ex-Barça footballer returns to play in Camp Nou representing the archrival Real Madrid, for example, this triggers emotions, and is very much about treason. When the former Barça player, Luis Figo, in 2001 returned to play against Barça wearing the white Real Madrid shirt, the home fans were less than happy. In secrecy, Figo signed on with Real Madrid, contending before the transfer that he only would play for one club, Barça, due to its great glory. Money was not issue. His claims fell short, as he in 2000 became one of the best paid footballers on the planet. To the fans, it was obvious he betrayed Barça, Catalonia and the fans. He stated that he would never play for Real Madrid, but he did. Socially speaking, Figo became an agent of corruptive ideas. At his first return to Camp Nou, the scene awaiting him was a rainfall of fake bank notes.
Still, before the rivalry begins, all the Real Madrid players are subject to some sort of antagonism, regardless of the circumstances. The Dracs play along, and start with antagonistic chanting just after the arrival of the Real Madrid players. A day before the rivalry, the visiting team very often spends its night in a hotel somewhere in Barcelona. The following day, the players arrive in a bus to the stadium. This is also an occasion where antagonistic behaviour is expressed. It tends to become a bit violent, as radical supporters line up at the gate where the Real Madrid bus arrives. At sight, they throw objects and yell. The Spanish police know this, and gather there and try to prevent any hostile behaviour. But it is difficult.
With the Dracs, on the other hand, it’s a different case. In Palau, the Dracs watched the Real Madrid Players arrive in buss, and minutes later, the visiting players were warming up. About two hours before kick-off, Palau was almost empty, except for the Dracs and some Real Madrid players on the pitch. A couple of players entered the pitch, and began throwing shots at the basket as part of their warm-up preparations. The members gathered in Curba Sud, and were ready to out-sing their guests. The Dracs use chants and idioms from an international supporter language with familiar gynaecological references. What they’re actually saying, through the chants, is that the opponents have poor female attributes. Insulting is believed to be more effective in this way, and the players considered true masculine agents are compared to being sons of prostitutes, a negative masculine trait. The Dracs chants repeatedly the same chant: “ijho de puta, Real Madrid” (Son of a bitch/whore, Real Madrid). The chanting is about directing a message to the Real Madrid players, and is a chance for the members to muck the opponents and an attempt todestroy their concentration. The chanting is a symbolic demonising and theatricalisation of social relations. The visitors get a feeling and touch of what is awaiting them, as this out-singing is a warm-up to the real espectáculo.
The espectáculo in practice.
Entering the liminal phase the deep play
When the Dracs enter into the deep play, the ritual’s participants experience solidarity expressed through a symbolic comradeship. The deep play commences just before the game itself starts, and an undifferentiated community, which constitutes the Dracs and all the spectators, come into full force. Through the undifferentiated community, the members perform the espectáculo and the group enters into the role of being an extension of Barça’s basketball team. Important practices performed is the display of a tifo and the complex choreographed practice of chanting. Chanting is somehow norm-governed by how the rivalry evolves. During the game, the members frequently communicate with each other about how they decide to support. During the game, the group categorises between friend and foe.
Just minutes before the games starts, officials play the Barça hymn over the loudspeakers, and the Dracs perform a special designed tifo for the game. While the hymn is played a song that lasts for four or five minutes the players come running out from locker rooms. They greet the audience and start to throw balls at the basket, as part of their final warm-up. While the hymn has to be played and the players’ names are read out loud through the loudspeakers, the players use the moment to keep the body and muscles warm before it all starts. For the Dracs, on the other hand, this is when they perform the tifo. A tifo is a choreographed supporter event consisting of a complex, mixture of flags and banners that are on display from the stand. Tifos are said to be supporter practices first originated and carried out by fans in the Mediterranean countries and South America. However, tifos are now part of global supporter family behaviour, and can be seen everywhere. The tifo in which the Dracs perform is similar to the types of tifo that Italian Ultras’ put on at football matches a “sophisticated choreography” (De Biasi & Lanfranchi 1997:98). A tifo deals with transmitting messages to players and audience. The transmitted message depends on the game in question, and the Dracs design all types of tifos. Normally, they have a variety of collections of tifos, collections employed at different games and sports. The tifo sets the theme for the match, and comes in different shapes and sizes. Some are vast and demand a great deal of planning and organisation, while others are small and more spontaneous.
The one employed at the rivalry has a distinct meaning: It symbolises Barça’s relationship to Catalonia, signifying locality and that the Dracs’ close ties to the players. Transmitting the message can be done several ways. For example, a placard is painted with a message saying “L’ACB tornará a ser culé” (“The ABC League will return to be Culé”). This is a message to the players that with their victory, Barça will become Spanish champions. The Dracs are setting the agenda and stress the importance of winning. Barça’s basketball players will be assisted by the Dracs in bringing the league trophy to Barcelona. All members are required to participate in the performance of the tifo. The realization of a tifo calls for extensive planning. The head of the group and other members are obliged to know which game is being played, what social context it enters into, etc. Tifos are performed at handball, fútbol sala and hockey games. Those performed at basketball games require the most planning.
Just before the playing of the Barça hymn, members were preparing themselves to perform the tifo, a tifo aiming to signal that the one and only important purpose of the evening is to win. Each member was provided with a special assignment. Some flittered flags, while others were holding placards with the players’ name on. On signal from the Dracs’ leader, the tifo went on display. The members started chanting when the hymn was played and showed the billboard: “La vostra victoria es i sera sempre el nostre orgull” (“Your victory is and will always be our pride”). The message is about masculine pride and the importance of winning over Real Madrid. It reflects the rivalry’s ritual context, where the spectators, other supporter groups, the players and officials are reminded of the rivalry’s social, cultural and historical meaning. The Dracs project themselves as playing an important role in the ritual. For the members, it is imperative to display themselves as the team’s extension and to help “their boys”.
In sum, to stage a tifo enters into the over-all practice of staging an espectáculo and shares similarities to the carnivalesque, or have carnivalistic traits, as described by Richard Giulianotti (1991, 1993, 1995). Giulianotti employs carnivalesque fandom in his analysis of the construction of Scottish football fandom, which stands in strong contrast to fandom associated with hooliganism (Finn & Giulianotti 1998). Carnivalesque football fandom is in opposition to the negative English football fandom, in that it displays a non-violence attitude. Such fandom is an attempt to interrelate supporter conduct within the milieu of the carnival, which is characterised by the abandonment of the hedonistic and the psychosocial jouissance of eating, drinking, singing, joking, swearing, wearing of costumes, engaging in elaborate social interplay and enjoying sexual activity (Hall 1993:6, on Bakthin). The similarity to the carnival shows that the practice has behavioural traits, which can be found in performance of the tifo. A tifo’s stylish aspect, with using flags and different type of colours, are traits one might find in the carnival context.
Always supporting; loyal we are.
The practice of chanting
Chanting is the central ritual practice of the espectáculo, and is therefore the most imperative aspect of the deep play. The chanting stresses the fervent relation between members and players. Chanting follows the progression of the game, but how it is performed differs. Chanting takes on a more formalised form at basketball games, because the majority of the members are present there. The Dracs sing about their relationship to the players, their love for Catalonia, the loyalty to Curba Sud, etc. Songs differentiate strongly between friend and foe, and this is especially evident as one cinsiders when the chanting is performed. Under the rivalry, members do not chant while Barça is playing defence. So doing would mean to support Real Madrid. In contrast, chanting is only carried out when Barça’s boys are attacking. In defence, the Dracs create noise by hammering on their drums or just by creating simple booing. Therefore, chanting provides Curba Sud with a particular spatial meaning, in which symbolic affection for Barça is expressed. The Dracs have about 40 to 45 chants, but not all chants contain lyrics. If not, words are substituted with humming of a chant’s melody. Clapping and the use of drums accompany chanting. The group does not only chant in Catalan, but also in Spanish and English. The Dracs transforms into a male, supporting choir, a choir that varies its chants according to the progress of the ritual event. There is frequent interaction, an interplay that follows the ritual’s intensity. Very often, chanting just stops as the members get emotionally involved in what is happening on the pitch. If there is a free kick or a referee decision considered as unfair, members start shouting, but as soon as the ball is in play, they resume chanting. Therefore, it is imperative that members know the chants by heart. In order to know all of them, a new member needs at least half a season to learn them properly. An interesting trait with the chants is how they tend to follow certain etiquettes of international standardisation. In other words, chants employed by the Dracs are only their local version of the same song that supporters use elsewhere on the football planet. The Italian Ultras’ use of chants, for example, might be similar to the chants that the Dracs use. The difference is spotted as words are altered and adapted to the social and cultural context in question. Even if the context alters, the melody often remains the same. For example, the famous song “You’ll never walk alone”, a chant whose social origin is ascribed to FC Liverpool fans, is used by the Dracs as well. They have only swapped the words and made their own version of it. While Liverpool fans sing about their club, the Dracs sing about Barça. Another example is “Go West”, a song written by the English popular band Pet Shop Boys. “Go West” was a number one hit and dominated the charts in the 1990s, and the melody has also been annexed by supporter organisations across the globe. The melody is often hummed or chanted with other words. And, of course, the Dracs have made their own version of it.
The chanting follows the progression of a rivalry, and is guided by a distinct choreographed pattern. This can be identified through two practices, that of drums and clapping, and that of chant-leadership. Drums accompany the chanting, and the members use five drums at rivalry. The most experienced members carries out the drumming. The drummers put themselves in front of the group, thus being nearest to the pitch. Throughout the rivalry, the members employ additional drums in order to create extra noise. The chant-leadership consist of the group’s leader and experienced members. There doesn’t seem to be any strict norms for who can be part of the chant-leadership. The chant-leadership’s objective is to monitor the game’s progression and to select appropriate chants. The chant-leaders are moving around amongst the members, encouraging the group to chant louder. Chanting is also subject to aesthetic evaluation. For example, if a chant is not performed well, the chant-leadership just screams out that chanting is horrible, and everybody stop. In contrast, when Barça is attacking, and suddenly a Real Madrid player snatches the ball, the members immediately stop chanting. If they had carried on singing, this would involve supporting the Real Madrid player; moreover, it would reflect a symbolic defeat for the Dracs. But certain chants are regularly employed at distinct moments throughout the game. At time-out and the short breaks, between the 1st and 2nd quarter and the 3rd and 4th quarter, Dracs performed the chant “Indis-1899”.
In sum, the practice of chanting illustrates how the members are permitted to play out antagonism against the Other. Through the ritual, a continual altercation between the two conflicting identities is played out and the Dracs play a central part in the dramatisation of the conflicting identities. This can be related to the members’ attempts at transmitting sentiments to the players. The members remind the basketball players of their role in the ritual: They represent Barça and Catalonia.
A tifo, a part of the espectáculo.
The aggregation phase Game over
The third stage of the ritual process relates to the aggregation phase. Here, the subject is in a relatively stable state, and has rights and obligations vis-à-vis others of a clearly defined and “structural type” (Turner 1969:95). For our purpose, it remains to locate the beginning of the end of the rivalry in other words, the aggregation phase with the liminal phase. There does not seem to be any rigid principles for when the liminal phase ends and the aggregation phase begins. However, the beginning of the aggregation phase is marked by the ending of the game. At that point, the performance of a series of ritual practices starts. When it becomes clear that Barça is heading for victory, the Dracs chanted “L’hora dels adéus 1899 guanyarem” (It’s time to say goodbye 1899 we have won). The community constituting the Dracs and the spectators is dissolved, and people leave Palau. When the game is over, the Barça hymn is played. During the hymn, the players thank the spectators for their support.
The aggregation phase points towards interesting ways of leaving Palau, meaning that the ritual subjects the fans have their own ways of leaving the game before it is over. Such a pattern indicates that the game involves polarization in a social meaning. Certain fans, the socios, for example, are always in hurry, and often leave Palau before the entire event is over. Normally, it is said, they fear being caught up in a traffic-jam. On the other hand, committed fans, such as the Dracs, always remain. The Dracs has a rather intricate way of leaving the ritual site. First, they stay to the bitter end, and by this, true love for Barça is demonstrated. The Dracs want to represent a form of symbolic commencement and conclusion they enter the ritual arena first and are the last to leave. As the rest of the spectators have vanished, the members remain and un-barricade Curba Sud. By and large, the members’ un-barricading is a cleaning-up action, where materials used are put back to its designated place. Pancartas are folded and counted, and put into the bags that the leader of the group brought with him. Flags and banners are rolled together and put back into a booth together with the drums.
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 This article is based on fieldwork conducted in Barcelona, Spain in 2002, and is an edited version of chapter four in my Masters Thesis (Haugsbakken 2004.
Copyright © Halvdan Haugsbakken 2008.