Interview with a representative of the fan group XanthiFans

Again we return to Greece. This time we will focus on the region of Thrace, which is on the east of the country. Xanthi town is one of the largest in the area, and the football club of the same name because of its achievements is often called the "Queen of Thrace". Fan movement FC Xanthi takes pride of place among the local Greek ultras scene. The city is multiethnic and no problems in this regard in the stands does not arise, Nazis are here despise everything. Our friend and supporter of FC Xanthi agreed to answer a few questions.

- What is your name and how long do you support  FC Xanthi?

- Hi! My name is George and I support Xanthi since 1998.

- Tell us about your city Xanthi. What has football traditions in this city? How many football clubs? How often do you go to the tourists and the city is known?

- The first football club in Xanthi and in Thrace general was founded in 1903. It was the club of the rich people. In 1922 was founded another football club, Aspida Xanthi, by the refuges from Asia Minor. Aspida was the club of the working class. Those clubs merged in 1967 onto Xanthi FC. Nowadays there are some other minor clubs in the local amateur divisions (A.E. Xanthi, Elpides Xanthi, APOX, Remviakos, Atromitos Chrysa, Anagennisi Palaia Chrysa, Kosynthos). Aspida and Orfeas has also been refounded and play in the 1st Local Amateur Division of Xanthi. They have no support. The “representant” of the city and major club is Xanthi FC. Xanthi has tourism two times each year (in the Carnival and in the Old Town Festival, the 1st week of September). The city is known for its Old Town. Avdera is near the city and it has some archaeological sites. Also near the city there are the villages of Nestos (Stavroupoli etc.), the villages of Pomakohoria and Lake Vistonida.

- Tell us about the history of your support group XanthiFans. Do FC Xanthi other firms (Sick Boys, Rebels)? 

- XanthiFans was initially a fansite for the supporters of Xanthi FC. After the first firm of Xanthi (Rebels) closed, there was a need for a new club, so the fansite evolved into a club in 2008. Sick Boys is a group by some fans of Xanthi FC with a clear antifascist stance.

- What are the political views of the fans Xanthi? You take part in the parliamentary elections? You are an anarchist or a supporter of any political party?

- The city of Xanthi traditionally had many cultures and religions, so in a natural way fans of Xanthi has a stance against racism. There are fans who are anarchist, leftist, or apolitical, but all of them are against racism and nazism/fascism. Some fans take part to the elections, some not either due to being anarchist either because they are not interested in politics. As for me, I take part in the elections and I am voting for left parties.

- Which clubs have friendly relations? What fans hate? What is your relationship with the club from Thessaloniki?

- We have very friendly relations with the fans of Panserraikos. We also have good relations with the fans of Agrotikos Asteras (they came to the festival of XanthiFans before 3 years and we have a chant who can be literally translated as “Serres, Xanthi and Agrotikos, fuck Panthrakikos”, against Panthrakikos who is a common enemy of us. We hate Panthrakikos, because it has a group of about 15 members (also members of Golden Dawn, in fact Golden Dawn has set up this group) who since they got promoted to the 1st division started to provoke us and they also does not allow to people of muslim origin to get into the Komotini field. We also hate the fans of Kavala FC. This is a traditional local derby, but we have to play against them 4 years, because they have been relegated to smaller divisions (now they play to the 3d division). As for the clubs from Thessaloniki we dislike PAOK and Aris because they are something like the establishment teams of northern Greece. As I mentioned before, we have good relations with the fans of Agrotikos Asteras, and some of our fans also respect Iraklis fans.

- What achievements have your club? whether to participate in European competition?

- Our club has participated 4 times in the European competitions. Last time was in summer of 2013. We eliminated Linfield at the 2nd qualifying round of Europa League and then we got eliminated by Standard Liege. Our best finish in the Greek superleague is the 4th place in season 2004-05. We also have reached 3 times the semifinals of the Greek Cup (2002, 2005, 2007).

- Tell the story of the club FC Xanthi. What happened to your team during the junta? What do you think about buying the club in 1992 Skoda? why your logo depicted Democritus?

- The team was founded in 1967, when the two old teams of the city (Aspida and Orfeas) merged. It played in the 2nd division until 1989 (with the exception of the season 1984-85 when it played in the 3d divison) when it got promoted to the 1st division, where it plays since. During junta there was a law under witch the teams in the 2nd division expanded, but the clubs of each city had to merge into one team. Under this law was founded most Greek teams outside Athens and Thessaloniki. In 1992 Skoda bought the team. Members of the fan club that was existed then (Rebels) were favoring this buy, because they believed that the team will have better performances under Skoda. When XanthiFans was founded, the team was owned by Skoda for 15 years, so the club did not have any specific opinion about this. The logo of the team depicts Democritus because it is the most recognizable symbol of Xanthi Prefecture. In Greece, every team in general has a logo which depicts something recognizable from its place.

- Do you have any fans in other Greece cities and countries?

- There are no organized clubs of Xanthi in other cities, but we have some people from Xanthi who support our team in Thessaloniki, Athens, Crete and even as far as the USA!

- Do in Xanthi squats and other social projects?

In Xanthi there is a squat at the University campus, and also an open social project.

- Do you participate in rallies and demonstrations? Spend whether antifascist tournaments?

- There are often demonstrations in Xanthi and many fans of our team participate in these. The major antifascist tournament in Greece is the Radical Fans United Festival, which is held every June in Athens. It is far from our city, so until now we couldn’t participate there.

- Tell us about your stadium. How much is a ticket for the match and whether you can go for free? Is it necessary to to do home arena in Pigadia? Does now the old stadium?

- Our stadium opened in 2004 and it can seat 7500 spectators. The season ticket in our stand costs 65 euros and a ticket just for one match 10 or 15 euros (it depends by the opponent). It is a little bit difficult to get to the stadium for free. Unfortunately our old stadium is abandoned since 2004, so it needs a major reconstruction to host matches, and such a reconstruction costs too much. The team left the old stadium because it was in the city and it was not easy to make some renovations like parking places etc.

- As far as the strict laws in Greece against the ultras? Have you had a fight with the police?

- During last years greek laws has become very strict. For example, if a cop catch a fan with a pyro, the sentence is 6 months in prison without a trial! We didn’t had a fight with the police until now.

- Do you have a good relationship with the players and management of the club?

- We have very good relations with our players. As for the management, we have neutral relations.

- What performance do you prepare for a match? Are pyrotechnics? What ultras Thrace different from other regions of Greece?

- Before the match we prepare our banners and the chants that we will sing during the match. Due to the strict greek laws against pyrotechnics and because we have a small crowd we do not use pyros because it is very easy for the police to arrest anybody who uses one. Ultras in Thrace are very few, but as for our team we are very passionate, we try to support our team in every match and we do not give a shit about our arithmetic disadvantage!

- You visit other sports - hockey, basketball, volleyball?

- Some of our members also support the basketball team of Aspida Xanthi, which plays in the 3d Division. We used to support Xanthi BC (it played in the 2nd Division) but this team folded in 2010 because of economic problems.

- How many in Greece at the moment the Nazis? In Xanthi, a lot of Nazis? how do you feel about the murder of Pavlos Fyssas? I also know that there are many Xanthi Turks and Bulgarians. Do they have problems in Xanthi?

- Last years the number of Nazis in Greece unfortunately has increased due to the rise of Golden Dawn. In the last European elections Golden Dawn took a percentage of 9,39%. Fortunately, in Xanthi there are very few Nazis. The murder of Pavlos Fyssas was the proof that Nazis are not human beings and that they must be destroyed. The headquarters of Golden Dawn in Xanthi were destroyed by antifascists in a rally. Since then, they didn’t dared to open new offices. In Xanthi there is a significant muslim minority, which is made up by Turks, Pomaks (their mother tongue is a Bulgarian dialect, but most of them self-determinate simply as Pomaks) and Roma people. Greek nationalists hate them, but in Xanthi they don’t dare to do anything to them.

- Many of the girls on tribune Xanthi?

- Yes, it is a fact that we have many girls on our terrace!

- Tell me about the ultras scene in Greece. What is the ratio of left and right fans? Are there any fans fight for political reasons? 

- Nowadays most fans are no politica. There are many left fans, and few right, but they still exist. Before about 10 years, there were few left fans and much more right, but now this has changed. Sometimes occur some fights for political reasons, but most fights occur just about team differences. Fortunately there are no Nazis in Xanthi’s fan scene and we hope that there will never be.

- How often travel to away matches? In what city did you go in Greece? What is your long-distance travel in Greece?

- We travel to away matches about 1 time per 2-3 months. This is because many teams in Greece don’t give tickets to away fans. Our last travel was before 1 week to Corfu for the match against Kerkyra FC. We have been in Athens, Livadeia, Larisa, Katerini, Ioannina, Veroia, Thessaloniki, Serres, and of course Kavala and Komotini. The longest trip XanthiFans did was in Athens, in 2007 for the semifinal of the Greek Cup against Panathinaikos and in 2013 for a match against Panionios. As for fans of Xanthi in general, their longest trip was in Kalamata, in the 90’s.

- Are there organizations in Greece against the commercial football? What is your relationship with radical FANS united ? What is your financial situation, as stated on your club greece economic crisis?

- There is a group (Radical Fans United) against the commercial football, racism and fascism. They print a fanzine. Some of our members read RFU’s fanzine. The financial situation of our team is very good (an exception for greek teams) due to the financial backing of Skoda. As for our fan club, it does not have any problems, because all the members are trying to support it financially, even if they have to cut those money from somewhere else (most of our younger members are unemployed). Unfortunately I am too unemployed.

- You are to cooperate with the immigrants? Do fans of Xanthi people of other nationalities? do you support the national team of Greece?

- As far as someone wants to support our team, he is acceptable to our terrace. In Xanthi there are very few immigrants and most of them don’t watch football. Our fan club we have donated clothes etc. to poor immigrants who where in need. As for the national team of Greece, in my opinion it functions like a manager’s office for some players. Most of our members do not support it at all, others do not actively support it, but they watch it during tournaments like World Cup or Euro, just for having an “interest” in the tournament.

- If you have your own magazine? Do draw graffiti? Many of you punks and skinheads?

- We don’t have a magazine, because we have not much members so we can’t afford its costs. There are many graffiti in the city which are drawn by some members of us. In our terrace we have punks. There are also a couple of punk bands in which participate members of us!

- What do you know about Russian fans? About MTZ Minsk, Arsenal Kiev? I know that Yuri Lodygin studied at your academy

- I know that Russian teams have in general very strong crowds, but also that most fans in Russia are Nazis and racists. I only know as names MTZ Minsk and Arsenal Kiev, but I haven’t listen many things about their fans. Yuri Lodygin started his career in our academy and he also begun playing professionally in our team (season 2012-13). His wife still lives in the city of Xanthi with their kid. He comes here during holidays and he is a really cool guy. He doesn’t have the “star” attitude, he is chatting with fans who see him on the streets etc.

- Is you weapons during fights? In Greece there are fights with other fans?

- We are against the use of weapons. In Greece there are often fights, mostly outside the stadiums, where there is no police. Some of the fans of the “big” teams often use weapons.

- What is the ultras scene in the world do you like best?

- The old good Italian scene, from which started the whole thing, before its destruction by the Italian laws was the best for me. As for now, I think that the best scene is in Argentina!

- What are your plans for the future?

- I can’t do any plans for the future, I live for the moment :p!

Your wishes to Russian anti-fascists

- Hold strong, as you did in the 2WW. Football shall be played with the heads of Nazis!!!

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