North America is a region where football and fans culture hardly developed. Sport in this region is very commercialized and turned into a passive contemplation of what is happening on the field. Football never here more profitable and therefore poorly developed .If you know about Mexican ultras lot of fan communities that the U.S. and Canada there is very little information. While still on hearing some group of fans of teams from Portland, Washington, Houston. Canada is popular for being the birthplace of hockey, however, and began to appear groups of football fans. This time we interviewed one of the representatives of the group in Montreal.
- Tell us about your club. What are your political views?
- Impact Montreal Football Club is the second oldest professional team from Canada-USA, founded in 1993. It's played in many different leagues since the start, since football was never really stable here. Now it's in its 20th year, and second year in MLS, the highest level in Canada and the USA. It's pretty notorious for having a lot of passion, from our Ultras all the way up to the owner. It has won 3 league cups(never in MLS, yet), and 8 national cups(Voyageurs Cup), the most out of any Canadian team. They won their latest Voyageurs Cup this season, beating our main rivals Toronto 6-0 at home in Montreal in one leg in the process, and then they won the cup in the final leg against Vancouver. There was a really amazing start to the season, but now they're cooling due to injuries and such, but still playing well. We’re currently in our Champions League, with one win and one loss so far and two games left to play.
- What are your political views?
- Front Commun Montréal is a Montreal Impact FC (Established since 1993, in Major League Soccer since 2012) supporter group born in 2012. Inspired by other international groups (Marseille, St. Pauli, etc..) and our own political ideals, we decided to create a group to politicize the kop of the IMFC. The goal was to get together to create a group with clear political positions: anti-racist, anti-capitalist, antifascist, feminist and against all forms of oppression. Members of the Front Commun Montreal wish to see changes in the relationship between the fans and they want to see these take initiatives to denounce the excess of capitalism in the football (soccer) industry, racism or homophobic behavior / speech / chants. FCM is part of a logical criticism of authoritarian behavior and works with the principles of direct democracy. FCM is also working with other groups (UM02 and ARMS) to denounce the repression made by security agents, the administration of the IMFC and the MLS.
About our political views, ARMS is pretty fluid. We've never really had a big emphasis on official political stances, and we like to see it as just representing (what should be) common sense values. That includes standing up against any and all forms of discrimination such as racism and sexism, as well as homophobia. Our last banner we made was an anti-homophobia banner that we unveiled at a game at the same time as Montreal's Gay Pride week celebrations.
Our team, and certain fans at games don't see why we do what we do, because to them a stadium should be free and apolitical. But some members in our group see it as a must to do what we do, because an apolitical kop is just a breeding ground for some types of far right elements, which was starting to be the case in Montreal. We decided to start up ARMS to show that Montreal,being a diverse and tolerant city is not the place where that would be welcome, from the stadium to the whole city.
It's also very important that we say what we say despite people not liking politics at the stadium. Everyone knows sport is usually a tool to keep people from thinking about society's issues, just a diversion like the movies, so it was important that there was a presence at games to make them think about these problems so that they can't be ignored.
We concentrate our efforts in the kop because we know the club is part of a foot business. We produced several banners to criticize homophobic behavior. Also, during a game played May 1st, we had a banner about the International Workers day. At one game we planned a distribution of brochures to criticise a decision of the club: since this summer, they want to approve each flag that rose up in the stadium...and they do not approve our Antifascist Action one. Finally, at some game we do physical intervention against the security guard and the police when they came in the kop to expulse someone or to make repression.
We used to have when that firm Ultras Skinhead Krew, which was most active in the period 2003-2007, but fell apart. There were about 20 left skins and they had a good reputation in fights, they even managed to overcome the banner of our main rivals.
- Tell about Canada ultras-scene. What is the ratio of right side and left side on the terrace?
- The Canadian Ultras scene is only what exists in Montreal. There are only 4 other professional teams in Canada(Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa) besides Montreal, and none of them have ultras for their team. Even in America, there are only one or two groups that are close to being ultras. I'd say the District Ultras of D.C. United are the most similar to us in Montreal.
There aren't many that have an ultras mentality. Most people are big consumers of their clubs, with lots of official club merchandise, quiet singing and not much passion beyond an average fan anywhere else. Many groups are actually quite pitiful. For instance there is a group of fans that hang a banner saying "Welcome to Blue Hell", but they have rules against their members waving flags during the game, they are only allowed to use them after a goal or before the game.
There's a strange type of supporting in North America, where the groups aren't ultras, they don't believe in much and they often make fun of other groups for what they think is doing "too much". But they'll still make a few tifos a year, or use pyro while wearing 130$ Adidas team jerseys and other official matos. Seattle especially is like this, they'll only use pyro outside the stadium, because they don't want to break the rules.
It's hard to say for all the Canada. We know some groups in USA that could be identified as allied in a political way, but for the groups in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, we don't think they have politicised groups. Also, there is not an important culture in our country to denounce the right-wing political ideas in football. Most of the groups are not politicise but some of them take decisions or actions that can be assumed as left positions. For example, many groups take position against the repression on supporters made by the police and the MLS authorities
Hopefully things get better soon in other places, but I honestly doubt they will.
As for politics, there aren't many political groups in Canada and the United States. If there are any, they're usually leftist
- Who are your enemies? What clubs are friendly to you?
- Our main rival has been Toronto, forever. This is a rivalry that goes beyond the teams, it is a rivalry between the cities in almost every way. Unfortunately the Toronto FC has long been absolutely terrible which lessens a lot of the passion for the rivalry games. It's gotten to the point where the only real question for many against Toronto is 'by how many goals will we beat them?' which is too bad, seeing as how this was definitely they most impressive rivalry in MLS. I have yet to see another game in North America with intense pyro use on both sides at the same time, which happened at previous Montreal-Toronto games.
As far as I know, there are no official friendships between any Montreal group and somewhere else. I know that for ARMS, we do not have a friendship with any other group at this point in time. We do however have a slight connection to the Virage Auteuil in Paris as one of our founding members was a member in Tribune G before moving here. It isn't a friendship, but we end up keeping a bit of an eye on the situation in Paris anyways.
Solidarité a tous les abonnés dans la virage Auteuil! La mentalité ultra avant l'argent!
- Do you have woman on own tribune? How on tribune relate sexism and homophobia?
- We have women in our group and also in the kop Montréal. We know that many women are part of the main ultras group of Montreal (UM02). For the global situation, we have to say that major parts of the kop are men. We have to criticise the patriarchal and machos culture in the terrace. For example, last year a guy came with a inflatable doll that you can *** at a sex shop. He personalised the other team with this. When we saw that, we immediately take action to explain to him how this message was sexist (representing the other team and supporters with a plastic women (objectified) made to fuck).
There are women and children in the tribune, with there even being a woman subgroup of the UM02. There are women involved at all levels of support in Montreal, with them being drummers or having important positions in almost all the groups I know of in Montreal.
Our section is very welcoming of women, which is great. It's really a shame to see many groups and sometimes even entire leagues against allowing women to support their city like everyone else. What matters is love for the city, love for the team. It shouldn't matter if you're a woman, a child, or a particular skin colour. If you have passion, nothing else matters.
North american support overall is quite good at being against homophobia, and it's the case here in montreal as well. One of our players was one of the first players in the world to come out about his sexuality, and we're proud that he felt at home enough in Montreal to both come out to the public, and to continue to live here even after he ended his career.
Discrimination is the same no matter who the target is, so it's important for ARMS to be against all forms. Thankfully, there aren't many problems with sexism and homophobia. If there are, it's most likely just a few idiot individuals who should have no place in our tribune.
The current president of the Supporters Association in Montreal is a woman, to illustrate how much of a non-issue gender is in our stadium.
- You have in Canada among antifascists - sexist and homophobic? Whether you think the anti-fascist movement to ignore the problems of women and gays?
- About the link between antifascist-sexism and homophobia, we consider this as a big issue. Especially in ultras football groups where you often have a kind of male hegemony. For us it's an important question and that's why we made the banner against homophobia. In Montreal, a player, 3 years ago if i remember well, when he decided to retired announced he was gay. It became a big question in the media. Right now, the thing is people think since this that the issue is close. But, many examples (chants in the kop) show us that we need to continue to fight against homophobia and sexist. Sexist is very important too for our group. We made an action 2 years ago...we went throught a guy that had terrific sexist comment and attitudes (he had an inflate girl to personnalize the other team in his hand(!) and was yelling sexist comments). Also, on our scarfs, we have a feminist symbol. Personnals commitment in others groups, antifacist/anarchist/communist/communautaries/etc, show us that we had to put feminist analyse at an important level because it's too often leave behind.
- How many Nazis in Canada?
- For the nazis in Canada, it's a very good question. We know in Quebec some small group related to neo-nazis ideology. For example, Golden Dawn had a branch in Montreal. Also, there are some right ultranationalist group, like Légion Nationale. We, and especially some friends group to us (RASH Montreal, Montreal Sisterhood), always keep an eyes on that. For us, it's mainly in the tribune that we try to sensitize people or get aware of any neonazi (nazi). But, the work is done outside by others groups and we met sometimes to talk about neonazi that we saw outside and in the stadium. Since we have the Antifacisct flag, we do not see nazi often. We sometimes discuss with those friends groups about action when we saw attitudes by Montreal Impact Supporter that can slip near a neonazi ideology. For right now, most of the neonazi know groups, in Quebec province, are no longer very active, so it's sometimes hard to spot them. Because they seems less organize, it's harder to find them, but we know they're still here.Also, we keep a track of known neonazi people in case we see them in the stadium
- Tell us about your city. As far as you popular soccer? Whether you love hockey?
- Hockey is a really popular sport here. We think a large part of the population would say they love hockey, and that's probably why the Montreal Canadiens are most popular then the Impact FC. Also, Impact FC is only 20 years old...difficult to compare to the Montreal Canadiens, established in 1909. Anyway, slowly, we think that soccer is getting more popular, and the IMFC is probably one of the cause. In fact, IMFC is not the first professional soccer club. In the 80' there was a team called Le Manic of Montreal (D2) and before, in the 70's there was the Olympique of Montreal (D2). They became important teams for the city, especially Le Manic, but not as the IMFC today. It takes 20 years and 3 championship for the IMFC to take their right place in the sport industry in Montreal.
At the beginning, the team and his owner, the Saputo company, received money from the provincial government to promote the soccer in the province. Kids and amateurs players often received free/cheap tickets to go to the game. That's how they became more popular and it's surely helps the development of the soccer in the city and the province. At that moment, the team was an non-profit organisation (2002 to 2012) playing in NASL/USL(D2) and that's why the government helps them a lot. Since they made their way to the MLS (D1), in 2012, they put some financial resources in publicity to keep the fans they got from the past. Also, they came in the economic portrait of the city as a new player that want a goo
Soccer is popular here, it is probably the city in MLS where the sport is so common to see signs of every day but it is nowhere near as popular as hockey. Here there are many different fans of many different teams across the world so it's divided across different things, whereas here the Montreal Canadiens Hockey team is the centre of sports in the city. Sometimes it's a bit annoying when the accomplishments of IMFC aren't as recognised in the city, because the media for almost all of the province's sports are about hockey quite often.
While it's not a hockey team, ARMS members often attend local basketball games to watch Montreal's team in the Canadian League. It's much much less than the very expensive hockey tickets. In Montreal, the hockey arena is a very popular place to be so the cost is high and it's really boring compared to seeing IMFC play in our tribune.
At least at the basketball games you can sit on a rail and wave a flag or stand to watch the game, whereas everyone gets annoyed if you try to stand at hockey games so the atmosphere is disappointing.
- Do you often travel to away games?
- Yes, we often travel to away matches. We still end up doing less road trips than many other groups in the world due to the distance between us. Our closest trip is longer than most people in Europe's longest trip, to give you an idea of how things are completely different here in North America. The group organises busses for nearly all people that go away, but there are more and more people who also make the trip independently to make things easier for themselves. Sitting in a bus for 10+ hours one way, then sitting in a bus 10+hours back right after the game is certainly an experience. It's a lot more manageable when we win!
Perhaps only Russian fans along with a few others can understand just how difficult away game travels are when the distance is so great. All our destinations are far away, and there is no real option like a cheap train to take. Our closest trip is about 5 hours away by bus, and some bus trips are easily near 10 hours to go one way.
This was a photo taken from a trip to washington DC
- Do you cooperate with the leftist organizations in Canada? participate in the protests?
The groupe, Front Commun Montréal, do not participate himself. But, most of the members are participating in protest against austerity program, durgin the students protest in 2012, in communist/anarchist/syndicalist/social housing defending organisation. In itself, that's how most of members of Front Commun Montreal met. But, for the moment, we never participate at a protest in the name of Front Commun Montréal. We do not have a particular position on the separatist movement because it would probably be hard to get consensual. That's why we prefer to say we do not collaborate with the separatist movement and it's not an expect issue for us.
- What performance are organized on the match?
- For games we are like any other city. We constantly try to make sure that all our flags our waving for our players and our opponents to see and we sing loud throughout the match. ARMS tries to also comment on current issues, whether that's for passing a political message, or simply to comment on our team. It is very important to have a constant presence and to make sure everything looks impressive and is done by hand.
We have plenty of surprises planned that we haven't yet been able to do, since ARMS has not been around for a while. The UM02 is the best group in MLS when it comes to this performance for matches as the only places that get credit for being loud and impressive are in stadiums where the groups singing are in the thousands while the UM02 is much smaller.
So for our performance , except that participate in the kop chants, we made several types of actions. This season, a few times, our group unveiled banners during home games . One in the context of the International Day of workers and another to denounce homophobia (common banner with another group). Also, we physically intervened against repression coming from the security agents and police who tried several times to leave some people of the kop . Then we also distributed a leaflet denouncing the repression of the police and security guards. Finally, every game we deploy Antifaciste Action flag to signify our presence, but more importantly, to sensitize people. It is also possible to say that we have produced scarves and t -shirts with a political message . On our most recent , it is possible to read Against Modern Football on it, is a critic of capitalism in football
Even with the size difference, many others from outside Montreal have said that they think the UM02 is the most impressive group in MLS.
- What achievements in your club?
- Like I said earlier, our club has many achievements. This year alone we won the Voyageurs Cup and became champions of Canada, for the 8th time in the short history of the cup competition. That makes Montreal the most successful Canadian team, along with their three league cups and many many 1st place seasons.
Hopefully this year will be the year in which IMFC wins its 4th league title, even though the league is pointless for Canadian teams to compete in. Even if a Canadian team cannot qualify for the champions league by winning anything in the league, it would still be nice to take that useless trophy away from all the Americans who have spent years and years of their life wanting it so much.
It would be pointless from a sporting perspective, but I am for anything that inconveniences this terrible example of Foot-Business and makes the fans in their official adidas merchandise sad.
I think the cup would make a nice tool to hold open the gates to the stadium on a windy day, it would be the only way Canadians get any use from the piece of scrap metal.
- What do you think about the struggle for the independence of Quebec?
- While we don't take a stance on that within the stadium, I would say that all of our members pretty much differ in how. About the separatist movement, we don,t have any link to it. Front Commun Montreal have no position on that issue.
- What do you know about the ultras scene USA?
- The scene in USA is pretty non-existant. Like I said before, there are both people who say they are ultras and such, but they don't have the dedication that comes with it.
The idea of a north american scene in general is more established. Long ago when I was a kid starting going to games, it would be impossible to picture moments like the champion's league game last night(http://web.stagram.com/p/552487733486067689_16413238), which is a sign of things growing.
If you had told me years ago there'd be a Russian antifa site doing an interview on the North American scene, I wouldn't have believed you. Maybe things will keep progressing beyond this with new generations of people.
It's slower to have that here in North America, because it isn't an environment where people grow up supporting the teams of their grandfathers and such like in Europe. Things are still young.
For the Ultras scene in USA, we do not know so much. First, because of the language (we spoke french) and also because we are not a big group. Also, we notice some politicized groups, but I think most of the groups, in the USA, and in Canada, are « straight fans ». I mean, they supported they team, but they do not add political critics in their actions, as far as we know.
We saw some actions against homophobia and a couple of Antifacist flag in tribune, but we don't really know who made those actions.
Otherwise, we heard that a couple of group belong to the Ultras movement, but we do not know what it means to them and what are their actions in that sense.
- What ultras scene in the world do you like best?
- For Ultras scene, it's sure we like Sankt-Pauli. Standard Liege (Ultras Inferno), Celtic Glasgow (Green Brigade), Besiktas (Carsi) and Olympique de Marseille (South Winners) are also ultras that some of our members follow. But, we do not stop at those club. I mean, we also take a look at some actions made by fans with no link to one or another ultras group.
- What do you know about football fans in Russia?
- For the question of football fans in Russia, we do not know much about that. Maybe some members of Front Commun Montréal would know better, but for my own, and for the majority of us, we do not follow football in Russia. I know about some right wing fans in Moscou, but not much (and I don,t remember where I've seen that.
- What are your plans for the future?
- We would like to get more involved with the community overall. It is important to be diverse and try different ways of supporting your club, or fighting discrimination. In support or in political matters, it is best to not get used to just one way of doing things.
- Your wishes Russian anti-fascists
- I encourage russian antifascists to come and visit Montreal, and to contact us at any time. This is the same for russian antifascists, especially at such an important time for fighting this increase in fascist tendencies and power in Russia.
So whether it be events, ideas for banners and flags or ways to protest it is good to be creative and try new things.
It's especially fun if it breaks stadium rules, Против современного футбола!