The Seconda Categoria of Italian football is a place where only the hardy tread and even then it is probably the fool hardy. Yet it is down in the lowest reaches of the game where the unusual and the sublime usually mix to create something truly unique.
Just to the left of a small group of men waving their flags, a woman stands with her dog waving. In her hand tightly grasped is a red and white scarf, her shock of white-ish, grey-ish hair marks her out as probably being in her mid-60s.
Then a call goes out, “Tutta la Curva”, it is quickly roared back in unison by the small group of Ultras. You pay it no real attention at first, but as the chant goes on you begin to realise something, something different. It is this woman, an almost grandmother like figure who is leading the chant. She is not your stereotypical Capo Ultra, but then again this Konlassata Ancona Calcio, and they are not your stereotypical football club.
As the name would suggest, the club is from the city of Ancona, a port city along the Adriatic Sea with a population of just over 100,000. The club itself has been around since the 18th August 2010 and is an off-shoot of the Polisportiva Antirazzista Assata Shakur club.
Polisportiva were founded in January 2001 by a group of boys, some of which used to belong to the Ultras of Ancona, the main club in the city from whom Konlassata get there red and white colours. The club were set up with the intention of giving everyone, no matter their race, sex or background a chance to get involved in sport. Something that they have strived to achieve in the intervening 15 years.
How do they go about achieving their objective? The main way Polisportiva manage this is through a football tournament that they have held in the city every year since 2002. The competition, known as the Anti-Racist Mondialito, has grown from an initial four teams to 24, with over 300 participants from communities in the city. To name but a few, this includes Senegalese, Afghan, Bangladeshi and Albanian communities.
However, football is not the only vehicle the club uses to spread its message. In 2004, a cricket club was also founded, the first in the city of Ancona. Polisportiva also runs a gym where its members are taught various martial arts.
Nonetheless, football is the clubs bread and butter and the sport for which they have become best known. As already mentioned, Konlassata currently play in the Seconda Categoria, the second last tier of the Italian game.
Despite being such a lowly level, it is currently proving a step too far for the club as they sit bottom of the table, with a return to the Terza Categoria, a league they had only escaped the year before looking likely.
Although relegation will be a disappointment, the goal of powering up the leagues is of secondary concern to the club’s overarching aim of diversity and inclusivity.
Having read this far, there is perhaps one thing playing on your mind – the club’s name. It is quite unusual and doesn’t sound very Italian. The simple answer is that it’s not, the long answer though showcases why this is perhaps one of the most idiosyncratic clubs in Italy.
From where then does the name Assata Shakur originate? Assata Shakur was born on the 16th July 1947 in Queens, New York, under the name Joanne Deborah Byron, her married name being Chesimard. Assata was and still is an African-American civil rights activist who was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army (BLA).
In 1973 a car that Shakur was travelling in with two other people was pulled over by State Troopers. By this time Shakur was a member of the BLA and was wanted for questioning in relation to a number of robberies.
As the two Troopers approached the car, it is alleged that the Troopers came under gun fire to which they responded by firing back. The aftermath of the resulting shoot out left Shakur injured along with Trooper, James Harper.
Tragically though, Harper’s Partner Werner Foerster was killed alongside Zayd Shakur (no relation to Assata), who was also in the car. Here, however, is where the version of events become somewhat blurred. Shakur maintains that she was shot at with her hands in the air, while prosecutors argue that Foerster was shot from point blank range.
In the resulting trial, Shakur was convicted of first degree murder and armed robbery and was duly sentenced to life in prison. However, after two years of her life sentence, Shakur escaped from prison, living underground for a while before re-emerging in Cuba in 1984. It has been on the Caribbean island that she has been living ever since, an island which offers immunity from extradition.
In 2013, the FBI took the unheralded measure of putting Shakur on the Top 10 most wanted Terrorists list, offering a 1million dollar reward for help with her recapture. By being placed on the list, where she still remains, Shakur became the first ever woman to become a Top 10 most wanted Terriorist. She is also only the second so called domestic terrorist to be placed on the list.
Despite being convicted of first degree murder, an escaped felon, and on the FBI’s most wanted list, Shakur still has many followers who proclaim her innocence. One of those of course being the tiny Italian football club that bears her name.
The club has also had some legal problems of their own, with club president Alessio Abram falling victim of the law. Alessio was sentenced to four years in prison for a series of offences relating violence at sporting events.
A well-known political activist in the city, Abrams arrest was met with vehement opposition by all of those involved with the club. However, despite numerous marches and protests, Abram remains behind bars.
Moving away from political struggles to a more heart-warming story, in 2014 whilst playing a Terza Categoria match in which Konlassata were leading 1-0, 23-year-old opposition player Aldo Cani collapsed as a result of a cardiac arrest. Seeing the event unfold, Konlassata player Jorge Salazar rushed to the young man’s aid as an ambulance was summoned. Aldo survived his ordeal thanks in no small part to the quick thinking of Salazar.
Still a very young club, Konlassata have a lot of growing to do, but they are achieving this while not forgetting their original ethos. They may sit bottom of the Seconda Categoria, however for Konlassata Ancona, their priorities lie with promoting inclusivism and combatting racism. And it is in this spirit that their unique story will continue.