Supporters | Material evidence of unruly rooting

Barcelona | An exhibit of more than 400 pictures and artifacts of football fandom’s recent checkered history occasions surprise not for its place within the halls of culture but that the material evidence has been so lovingly preserved.

Can one believe that the pig’s head, launched toward Luis Figo at the Barcelona–Real Madrid derby in Nov 02, has been kept for such display more than five years later—still looking like it has had the last laugh? Or that museum curators have dutifully cataloged the charred scooter, parked on its kickstand, that supporters heaved over San Siro railings during a 2001 match between Internazionale and Atalanta?

Conjuring associations with high school biology lab, the preserved head of a pig (cerdo) floats in a beaker of preservative at the Barcelona exhibit. Not just any pig’s head, exhibitors claim this as the specimen hurled toward Figo at the Camp Nou during the “Partido de la Vergüenza” (Game of Shame). (Antonio Moreno | El Mundo)

We imagine the latter entry on the glossed catalog pages of the “Pasión en las gradas” (Passion in the Stands) exhibit, ongoing through Apr 20 at the Barcelona galleries of the Espai Cultural Caja Madrid: “1 Vespa PX, moto scooter (blackened [by flame?]), 97kg, single cylinder, electric and kick starter, pressed steel monocoque on a two-wheel frame, 8-liter fuel capacity (empty). On loan from FC Internazionale.”

Also gaining entry are effigies of Spanish and Italian provenance: again, Luis Figo, a so-called Judas after his 2000 transfer from Barça to Madrid, receives abuse in the form of a pink-skinned blowup mannequin, shown from the rear, perhaps engaging in unspeakable deeds in areas hidden from view. The Brigate Gialloblù of Hellas, with whom author Tim Parks associates in A Season with Verona, claim responsibility for the horrific mock-up of a lynching victim dressed in the team’s cheerful blue and yellow.

The black figure, meant to communicate to Verona’s directors the ultra group’s views toward a planned approach for well-traveled Cameroonian striker Patrick Mboma, dangles from a noose near the entrance to one of the exhibit’s six themed sections, “Violencia.” The startling image ensures that the exhibition, in present form, could never be mounted in the American South.

The visitor must journey through a murderer’s row of sporting excess and sickness. Curated by Klaus Littmann of Basel, Switzerland, in combination with the Madrid-based PopArt Acción Cultural, the displays of photography, newspapers, video as well as signage and weaponry confiscated from Europe’s terraces break down into categories of fascination, words, masses, discrimination and prevention.

One review mentions that exhibit organizers have tried to balance the impact of images of bellicosity and death with humor—part of one room dedicated, for instance, to the Borussia Dortmund–themed line of funerary products—as well as with the massed colors and joys of spectator sport. The online virtual exhibit, with text in Spanish, Catalan and English, alludes to the “structured happiness” of the mass wave, said to have originated at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico. So even moments of glee contain a less-than-spontaneous component and might even morph, according to the exhibitors’ narrative, into more sinister expressions:

Page 1 of 2 | Next page