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From Boy to Man, from Fan to Ultra
By Greg Mockos, Emerald City Supporters Club
January 4, 2009

Fond memories of Diego Maradona


     My passion for soccer began in 1988. I was a 6-year-old American boy living in Naples, Italy. The 1990 World Cup was coming up and sure to light up Italy and the world. But for now I was focused on what was going on locally: Diego Maradona- the best player to have ever played the modern version of football. At the time I was not genuinely interested in football itself, I did not understand it and, frankly, was probably too young to understand the delicate balance the sport was between culture, entertainment, and business. In 1988 I was brought to the San Paolo Stadium with my father to see Napoli-Lecce. We had poor seats by your typical standards. In fact, there were no seats; it was a basic concrete terrace on the southern edge of second tier of the stadium. I remember my father being quite nervous at the time. We were two Americans that stuck out like sore thumbs in a packed section filled with Neapolitans. I think that most were amazed that any American even followed the sport and we were warmly welcomed.  

     For 30 minutes before the match the stands were standing and singing. The chanting was for Diego who rarely did jogging, sprints, or stretching as his warm-up. Diego preferred to juggle and put on a show of foot skills for the entire stadium. The pre-game festivities and the chanting, the flags, one of which my dad had bought for me outside the stadium before the game, the horns and the smoke intrigued me. I did not know that at the time I was sitting along with the Ultras Napoli, the ardent supporters of the Partenopei. The game ended 4-0 for Napoli.  

     I continued going to home games on and off between 1988 and 1990. The world cup was then an event during which my understanding of the game became more refined. I remember crying after Diego and Argentina were eliminated by the laboriously effective yet monochromatic soccer the Germans played. I was devastated, literally even though I had no connection to either team except for Diego Maradona and a few other Argentineans that played for Napoli. The 1990 World Cup got me more involved with soccer as I began to play it and watch it. In the following years we moved to Turin. At this point I followed the Serie A, played on the local team, filled countless sticker albums with player stickers, watched all the soccer shows, and read the pink Gazzetta dello Sport. During my time in Turin, I began to follow Juventus (the drug scandal with Maradona had made me turn my attention away from Napoli). I loved Juventus’ dominance and became attracted to their ability to bring in unknown players and turn them into world soccer superstars (Platini, Del Piero, and Zidane to name a few).  

     I also played on an amateur team made up of mostly Juventus fans, and as my relationship with these individuals grew, I became aware that they were more than fans - they were ultras.

     As it is commonly known, ultras is a term used to describe ardent soccer supporters. The word “ultras” is derived from the Italian word “oltre” which, translated into English, means “beyond." The concept being that Ultras were beyond the average fan in terms of dedication, passion, and support. ultras were known world wide for their colorful displays, their choreographies, their chants, and sometimes for their violence, born from passion, not delinquency.  

     I lived in Turin for 3 years during which I became friends with many ultras that belonged to the Juventus group “Drughi.” I spent two seasons in Curva Sud, the supporter section on the southern end of the Stadio delle Alpi with the numerous Drughi which was a group born by the fusion of several smaller groups (Gioventu’ Biancornera, Black & White Supporters, Filadelfia, Indians, Arancia Meccanica).  

     The Heysel disaster, in which 39 Juventus fans lost their lives as a result of English hooligans, had made the groups want to rid themselves of English names and resort to a local Italian name: Drughi. I remember going to games at the Stadio delle Alpi: the view was terrible, the field was miles away, there were no seats, but Juventus was on the field and that was your team, from your city, with all your friends at your side making sure that no other fans could come to our stadium or city and try to make it their own.

     Although I had only lived in Turin for three years, during the latter two of these I felt a great sense of pride in the city and I had a sense of belonging. I guess it had to do with the attraction of being part of something larger than you. And the Drughi offered a great experience in which I made many friends, rooted for a great team, and had one too many pints. In the end I knew that I belonged to something larger than me that no one would question. I recall being talked to and addressed differently if someone knew that I attended Juventus matches with the Drughi.  

     Whereas I was just another body and not a significant player in the group, the prestige that came with sitting with the Drughi made you feel superior to the other “fans." The additional effort put forth for making banners, flags, and singing and standing the whole game made you feel like you deserved attention. And attention we would get. Almost without fail, when a goal was scored or a penalty stopped, our players would always point to us. In those moments, all the troubles in life, the stress of a week of classes and homework, and the disappointments with the women all went out the window. Those precious moments were worth it and drowned out all that was bad in life. Those moments strengthened your love for your team. These are the moments that I want to recreate with the Sounders in Seattle come 2009.  

     I plan to do so by being an active member and organizer of the Emerald City Supporters-a group of individuals in whom I saw the same passion and the same love for their team and city as I did in Curva Sud at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin.  

Greg Mockos is the Chief Organizer of the Emerald City Supporters Club. See details of how to get involved at

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© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited




© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited