1st Edition

Football and Violent Extremism An Ethnographic Study of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Ultras

    190 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book examines the ways that nationalist leaders and extremist groups have used football to advance their often-violent ideological narratives and to recruit and radicalise young people.

    Drawing on applied ethnographic research with the Ultra fan groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the book explores the behavioural dynamics of the BiH Ultras both on, and outside of, the football terraces. The book shines important new light on the Ultras' ideology, organisation and youth recruiting strategies, and their connections with other extremist groups. In a country, and region, divided on ethnic and religious lines, in which far right and ethno-nationalist groups are a visible presence in politics and society, this book helps us to better understand why, when and how BiH youth choose to join these groups, and why, when and how these groups participate in violent acts, hate speech, crime and racist actions, and it has important implications for efforts to counter violent extremism across the Western Balkans and beyond.

    This is valuable reading for any researcher, advanced student, policy maker or practitioner working in sport studies, political science, criminology, development studies, security studies or post-conflict studies.

    1. Introduction




    The BiH Economic Situation, Corruption and Youth Disillusionment


    The Criminal Landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina: An Overview


    The aims and structure of the book

    Methodological notes




    2. Setting the Score: The Ultras, Balkans-style




    Researching the Ultras


    Shame and Honour: The Ultras Way of Life


    Extremism and the Ultras in Post-Socialist Europe


    The Ultras and Football in Bosnia and Herzegovina: a Literature Review


    The Balkan Ultras’ Social World


    Fighting Stories, Schisms and Corruption


    The Croat-Serbian Nexus


    The Balkan Ultras, the Far-Right, Homophobia and Riots


    Balkan Ultras, Army Commanders and Drug Crimes


    Joining the Ultras in Serbia and Croatia: Structure, Fascination and Risk Factors




    3. Framing the BiH Ultras




    Football in Yugoslavia (and Bosnia): a Very Brief History


    BiH Ultras Style


    The Movementist Nature of the BiH Ultras


    Making Sense of the BiH Ultras: Risk Factors


    Environmental risk factors


    Political risk factors


    Socio-psychological risk factors




    4. The BiH Ultras Mentality and Their Actions 


    The Ultras Groups’ Structure 


    The Ultras Mentality 




    Anti-System Narratives 


    The Past and Tradition  


    Ethnic Nationalism 


    Violence and Homophobia 


    Criminal Activities 


    The Internet 


    Sharing Football-Related News 




    Voicing Dissent  




    Political Messages 



    Case Study: Srebrenica 


    Case Study: Sarajevo LGBT Pride Parade  



    5. The BiH Authority Response to the Ultras Threat


    The BiH Power Field


    Containing the Ultras: the BiH Legal Framework


    The Local Legislative Framework


    Policing the Ultras


    The Legacy of the Conflict: Poor Stadium Infrastructures


    Football Banning Orders


    Pyrotechnics, Drugs and the Security Firms


    Football Supporter Liaison Officers






    6. Conclusions

    Alberto Testa, Massimiliano Maidano, Hadidža Borović 


    Alberto Testa is a Criminologist and a Far-Right expert. Alberto is currently a Professor of Applied Criminology and a full member of the Association of British Investigators. Dr Testa is also a specialist in applied behaviour analysis (deception/credibility), forensic interviewing and cyber intelligence analysis. In all his studies, Dr Testa uses a covert ethnographic approach so evidence is validated by direct experience from the “field”. In 2021, Alberto was elected Fellow by the Council of the prestigious Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. He is the author of the book Football, Fascism and Fandom. The UltraS of Italian Football. Widely considered an expert on far-right extremism/terrorism and far-right hooliganism, Alberto is a regular media contributor. He has contributed to a wide range of media including the Washington Post; the New York Times; BBC; LBC Radio; Sky News; CNN; CBS; the Voice of America and many others.

    Massimiliano Maidano is an academic who holds a PhD in Sociology/Criminology from City, University of London. He has devoted his research career to examining the inter-ethnic relations and correlation between sport violence in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. He has also published articles and books on these subjects. Throughout his career, Dr Maidano has lectured on various courses, including sport and diplomacy, violence prevention, and globalisation in both English and Italian higher education institutions. In addition to his academic pursuits, he has played rugby and collaborated with UNICEF UK On Campus. He has been interviewed by various international sports media outlets about the intersections between football, hooliganism and politics.

    Hadidža Borović holds a Master of Arts degree in South-Eastern European Studies from the University of Graz. With a focus on extremism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), she oversaw a research portfolio at a department at IOM BiH, investigating ethno-nationalist extremism, sources of narrative dissemination, and the links between corruption and extremism. Currently, she is dedicated to addressing human trafficking and migrant smuggling issues in BiH and the Western Balkans. She was part of the research team investigating extremism among Ultras in BiH from 2019-20, establishing local contacts, conducting interviews, and offering insights into the local socio-political context. Her primary research interests include youth radicalisation, exploring alternative methods to challenge extremist ideologies, and examining the role of emerging technologies and digitalisation in countering these phenomena.