A guide to the Ultra groups in Serie A: Chievo
Key Ultra Groups: North Side 94
Other Ultra/Fan Groups: Ultras Chievo, Cani Sciolti (Wild Dogs or Bad Boys), Chievo 1929, Gate 7, Mussi Volanti (Flying Donkeys), Gioventù Clivense (Chievo Youth), Gruppo Milano (Milan Group), La Fossa dei Pandorini(The Pandoro’s Den), Brulè Boys (Grill Boys), The Friends.
“Come si scrive Ciampion Lig” - “How do you write Ciampion Lig”… certainly not like that. Of course it was tongue in cheek, an ironic gesture emphasising the Chievo fans own incredulity at their team’s success, success which saw them on course for a Champion’s League spot during their first ever season in Italy’s top flight. It wasn’t to be after the Flying Donkeys finished 5th in the 2001/02 season. Just 5 years later, with a little help from the Calciopoli scandal which saw Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio all banned from Europe, spelling the “Ciampion Lig” was the least of Chievo’s worries, they were in it! (Well at least the preliminary stage). It was an astounding achievement for a club whose existence was for so long peripheral, even non-existent in the eyes of their powerful overweening neighbours Hellas Verona. However this was Chievo’s time and their fans were keen to remind their city bedfellows. In a game against Livorno the Clivensi (Chievo supporters) produced the following “Chievo frazione di Verona, provincia d’Europa” – “Chievo district of Verona, province of Europe”. A club that hails from a suburb of around 3,000 inhabitants were competing in Europe’s premium competition. Their success became known as the “Chievo phenomenon” and how the Veronesi loathed it.
Writing in the Guardian Tim Parks (author of: A season with Verona) gave his own account of the Chievo area “I’d lived in Verona more than 10 years before I stumbled across it, a miserable case of working-class suburb overflowing into declining semi-industrialised fenland”. It is genius from Parks who conveys the haughtiness that every Verona loyalist expresses towards Chievo, both the place and the team. Chievo’s nickname in Veneto dialect is Ceo meaning kid, and their story is certainly a child’s fairy-tale. The ugly duckling that blossomed and became a swan, flaunting its feathers among Calcio’s elite. It is fanciful but not far off the truth. Although Chievo fans are maligned by their city rivals for their miniscule fan base and are certainly not renowned across Italy, they have still played their part in Chievo’s romance.
Having trawled through forums and fan sites, it is clear there remains an ambiguity regarding Chievo’s more stalwart fans. Are they really Ultras? Aside from the countless Hellas jibes some Empoli Ultras from the group ‘Rangers 76’ recognise Chievo’s North Side as the “The only real group of Ultras”. Allegedly a few boys who sat over a beer formed the group in 1994 to start a movement of ardent fandom as well hoping that the name would help their cause in claiming the Curva Nord as their own domain. Normally residing in the Curva Sud inferiore of the Stadio Bentegodi, derby days are the only occasions in which they move to the Curva Nord to accommodate for the greater number of Verona fans.
In the early years the group’s symbol became the Looney Toons character Marvin who as a member describes “encapsulates Chievo and above all the North Side who were aliens in the world of professional football”.
When Chievo faced Napoli in 2000 an overly offensive banner abusing the visitors (the content of which remains elusive) saw 5 members of the North Side expelled and created profound divisions. New leadership re-asserted the basic ideals of the group which include a non-violent apolitical stance and a rejection of official twinnings and rivalries. Yes you may well sit there gobsmacked because these are not your usual Ultras and this episode best captures their idiosyncrasies. Later that year Chievo’s promotion to Serie A saw the North Side flourish and the flying donkeys were followed more feverishly than ever before. As a result various sub-groups formed. These include Ultras Chievo (1999) who have now dissolved but were allegedly ‘less good natured’ than North Side, Chievo 1929 and Gate 7 who were formed as recently as 2013.
Although the North Side Ultras profess to have no rivals, Chievo’s prominence has seen Verona develop a new found hatred for their once ‘fictitious’ neighbours. The Mastini’s return to Serie A in 2013 saw the first Derby della Scala played for over a decade. There were murmurings of trouble in which the Clivensi reportedly threw objects and sticks at the Verona team bus. But as many of the Veronesi will tell you, historically this is not the Veneto derby they get worked up about. It is a rivalry that the Veronesi never believed would materialise, demonstrated by their banner in the 1995 derby in Serie B. “When donkeys fly we will play this derby in Serie A”, needless to say Chievo’s success and Verona’s struggles in the last decade have allowed the Clivensi to revel in a touch of schadenfreude.
Having written about Catania’s Ultras last week, the contrast is striking. If you were to juxtapose Chievo with the Sicilians, you would have to say they are the saints of the Ultra world. The Chievo story is unique and in a small way their fans have left an indelible mark on the pages of the clubs history. Whether you call them magnanimous Ultras or just fans the Clivensi offer a passionate and loyal support that follow and fly with their donkeys wherever they can!
by Luca Hodges-Ramon