Inside the Malmö FF Family
How did the fans of Malmö FF react to a fascist attack on Showans Shattak, a prominent club supporter? Neil Dunne reports.
On the night of International Women’s Day this year, four left wing activists and football fans were attacked by fascists in Malmo, Sweden. The most badly hurt of these was Showan Shattak, well known for his involvement in Malmö Football Club’s fan scene. Showan was on life support for many weeks and became a rallying point among the club and much wider. How did the fan scene react to his injuries?
The heart of the fan culture at Malmö is Norra Läktaren, the large terrace behind the goal that houses most of the main supporter groups. This culture is thriving at the moment and can hold its own against the bigger and better-known Stockholm clubs. Two ultras groups stand on Norra Läktaren, the larger and older group, Supras and a smaller group, Rex Scania. MT96 are the ‘tifo’ group at Malmö, responsible for creating largescale displays. Added to this is MFF Support, an official supporters grouping with a formal membership structure. There are other groupings as well, such as the hooligan groupings such as True Rockers, or the singing section up in Roys Hörna, named after previous Malmö manager Roy Hodgson.
Prior to the attack, Malmo was much like the rest of Sweden’s football clubs; politics were not brought into the stadium. This is not to say that the fans are apolitical, but that political affiliations are not displayed on the terrace.
However, Malmö FF does have a very unique identity in Swedish football, tied to the distinct identity of the city itself. Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden, located in the most southerly region, Scania (Skåne). This region is somewhat distinctive due to both the historical influence of neighbouring Denmark and the city’s large immigrant population, with up to 30% of the inhabitants born outside Sweden and a further 11% born to foreign parents. This distinct identity is seen by many as a source of pride and something that should be and is very much celebrated within both Scania and Malmö.
This is one of the sources of the unique culture to be found on the terraces of Malmö FF. The first thing you notice when entering Swedbank Stadion is the lack of Swedish flags, replaced by the flag of Scania, similar to the Swedish flag, with a red background. Joining the Scania flags on the terrace are numerous songs stating that the team and its fans are from Scania, not Sweden. But these songs and symbols are more about establishing a unique footballing identity than a political statement, provoking a typical reaction, with opponent fans carrying the Swedish flag and taunting the team for being Danish and not Swedish.
The second difference that has created the unique identity of Norra Läktaren is the large number of immigrants and second generation immigrants that are present at matches. The terrace is a melting pot of cultures, communities and nationalities. That is of course not to say that racist incidents never occur at Malmö FF matches, but, nothing has grown from small incidents and any that have happened have been dealt with quickly internally. All are welcome to support Malmö FF and Malmö FF is the politics.
The term used to group all Malmö fans together is MFF Familjen (The MFF Family).The unity and strength of this family was shown after the attack on Showan. The attack on Showan was politically motivated, and not related to Malmö FF. But MFF Familjen stood by Showan’s side throughout his ordeal and recovery, along with many others from both political and non-political backgrounds. With the attack being politically motivated, there were discussions on how support would be shown at matches for Showan. Would Malmö go against its non-political stance? There are many fans who are heavily politically active and who have stood with Showan and the others attacked in this and other incidents. So there is political leaning among individuals among the fan groups at Malmö FF.
The first match after the attack was Hammarby at home. This was to be a big match, as the clubs had not played each other for a long time, both with strong fan scenes. Unfortunately, the focus of Malmö fans shifted quickly to that of their friend and family member Showan who lay in a coma. The match’s significance had changed from a battle of two big fan scenes to a match to show their support for a friend in dire need.
The day of the match, there was a strange feeling around Malmö. While defiance and pride is the norm when a team from Stockholm comes down to Malmö, that day was different. There was a feeling of sadness and worry but some pride as well. Malmö was going to show their support for their family member without worrying what other fans would think. The fans chose to denounce any form of discrimination on the stands at the club. Banners were shown by Supras, Rex Scania and MFF Support along the theme of anti-discrimination and support for Showan.
This was considered to be a one-off by Malmö’s fan scene, their way of coming out and stating their stance against discrimination. Malmö showed that everyone has the right to Malmö FF and that anyone who goes against that, goes against Malmö FF and its culture.
That seems to be hard for some to understand outside of Malmö though. Some fans of other teams can’t seem to accept this stance. One of the clearest examples of this was when AIK Stockholm came to Malmö at the end of May. AIK’s Ultras Nord revealed a banner reading “SM och RS eran logik är kass, smutsa inte ner svensk fotboll med er politik”, or “SM [Supras Malmö] and RS [Rex Scania] your logic is crap, don’t soil Swedish football with your politics”. However, Supras, Rex Scania and all other groups have always shown the same stance; that Malmö matches are no place for politics and anyone who tries to stop others from supporting Malmö FF will not be welcome.
Although the attack has not made the fan scene more political, it has brought more resolve. When Showan was in need, the MFF Familjen stood up as one and has become stronger and more unified.
So the discussion about Malmo FF’s fan culture and its politics will continue on the internet, in pubs and on the terraces. Malmö fans will continue to do as they have always done. The reason why it goes from strength to strength and is considered as one of the best emerging scenes in Western Europe is through its comfort and pride in what it does and how it does it. Malmö FF is not a political club; it is a members’ club that prides itself on being run by the fans and not for money. Malmö’s Norra Läktaren is not a political terrace; it is a terrace that stands behind Malmö FF as one, no matter the origin or background of the individual. None of the ultras groups or other fan groups are political; their politics are Malmö FF.
Showan’s incredible recovery has helped cement the feeling of pride and strength of the fans scene. There is a feeling that they have done things in the right way since the attack. They responded in the ‘Malmö Way’.