Avanti ragazzi: Why Lazio supporters chant about the Hungarian revolution

‘Blood and Honour’ is a name that invokes images of Neo-Nazi Rock groups, those who spew out lyrics idolising an Aryan race and denouncing the Jewish parasite as they would see it.

But ‘Blood and Honour’ also stands for something different. (Although, rather coincidentally, something that also has musical undertones.) You see ‘Blood and Honour’ is the name of the Ultra fan group that follows Varese Calcio.

Despite being a rather small nondescript northern club located virtually on the Swiss border, it is home to one of the most infamous and politically overt Ultras groups in all of Italy. In a country where extreme politics is an ever present on the Curva, Varese have carved out a market for themselves in which they are amongst the elite of the extreme.

In itself that is an achievement, mainly down to the fact that there is plenty of opposition to be amongst the top few.

Other Curve famous for harbouring far-right views include the likes of Hellas Verona, Ascoli, Inter and even Arezzo. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a phenomenon solely of the far-right, the extreme left has infiltrated just as deep into football fan culture as anyone else. Examples of this being at Livorno, Ternana and Pisa. Indeed, there have been a number of lower league clubs whose entire foundation was resultant of politics, such as Spartak Lidense and Konlassata Ancona.

In more recent years the crackdown on the types of banners that can be displayed in a stadium has seen politics become less visible to the casual viewer, but it does still remain an undercurrent of the Italian ultra. Nowhere is this truer than at Lazio, who perhaps possess Italy’s most famous politically outspoken supporters.

Renowned or vilified all over the world for in the past displaying banners such as ‘Team of Blacks, Curva of Jews’ or ‘Auschwitz is your homeland the ovens are your houses’ towards hated rivals Roma, this is a club whose political views have caused such consternation that they have even become subjects of books such as the excellent ‘Football, Fascism and Fandom’ by Alberto Testa and Gary Armstrong.

But a lot has changed from the height of political outspokenness from Lazio’s Curva Nord and outright racist banners and choreography have been outlawed from stadia. Still, however, the political sentiments of Lazio’s Ultras are not difficult to discern, not just because of the numerous bans for monkey chanting at opposition players, but also because of the songs that thousands behind the goal sing.

Songs such as ‘Avanti Ragazzi di Buda’.

The first time I heard this song was on the TV. Lazio were playing at the Olimpico against someone who for now escapes me and, despite the drone of the commentators, you could still make out the melodic tone of the song emanating from the Curva. While the words were not exactly discernible, the rhythm of the singing was quite catchy and different to most things I had heard fans sing before.

Thus, being the calcio nerd that I am, I waded through YouTube clip after YouTube clip of singing Lazio ultras in an attempt to discover what this song was called. As luck would have it, I finally stumbled across the song and listened to it in its entirety. Truth be told my Italian is fairly woeful but even I could tell that this song had little if indeed nothing to do with football.

Determined to learn more, I endeavoured to find an English translation of the song to help me better understand what it was about. The following is that English translation:

Lead on youths of Buda
Lead on youths of Pest
Students, farmers, workers
The sun will never rise on the East.

We stayed awake a 100 nights
And dreamed for months
About those October days
The dawn of Hungarian Youths.

I remember you had a gun
And brought it down to the plaza, I waited for you
Hidden between my books
I will bring a pistol too.

Six glorious Days and six glorious nights
On our victory
But on the seventh day
The Russians arrived with tanks

The tanks broke the bones
Nobody brought help
The world was just watching
And sitting beside the road.

The girl won’t tell my mother
She won’t tell I’ll die tonight
She tells her that I will hide in the mountains
And I will return in the Spring.

Me and my comrades are prosecuted
Our revolution is lost
They will soon tie us up
And put us front of the firing squad

My comrades are standing upfront the firing squad
The first falls and the second
Our freedom is lost
Burying away the honour of the world.

Our comrades will hide their weapons
And will return, singing our marching songs
On that day, we will line up again
And return from the Mountains.

Lead on youths of Buda
Lead on youths of Pest
Students, farmers, workers
The sun will never rise on the East.

​It is clear from reading these lyrics that the song has nothing to do with football, even more starkly it has nothing to do with Italy. In fact, the song actually deals with a momentous moment in Hungarian history – the revolution of 1956.

After the Second World War, Hungary quickly came under the Soviet sphere of influence. A puppet government to the liking of the Soviet high command was established under the order of Mátyás Rákosi. Rákosi oversaw the imposition of a totalitarian state and ruled the country through the use of terror and fear – it is estimated that some 300,000 Hungarians were either exiled, imprisoned or killed under his rule.

Not long after Stalin’s death, however, Rákosi would be replaced by Imre Nagy. Nagy, simply by not being a tyrant, would earn the trust and favour of the Hungarian public. It was this favour, however, that would lead the Soviets back in Moscow to be rather unsettled by his command. This fear of Nagy’s popularity would lead to the Soviets eventual decision to replace him and re-insert Rákosi.

Rákosi would be gone again within the year (1956) and replaced by Erno Gerno, however unlike the still popular Nagy, Gerno would follow more in the footsteps of his predecessor. Arrests and oppression by the secret police (the AVO) would eventually become too much for some, as on the 23 October 1956 a group of students held a protest in the middle of Budapest.

They clamoured for free speech, free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Soon the crowd began to increase as more and more people dared to enter the streets. Symbols of Soviet authority were attacked and vandalised but in general the protest remained peaceful. Later that evening the protestors made their way to the national radio station and demanded to be able to broadcast their views and wants to the nation.

A cohort of protestors was allowed in but they failed to return, causing unrest to spread amongst the people outside. Misjudging the situation horribly, the AVO quickly opened fire on the protestors, killing two. These were to be the first shots of the Hungarian revolution. Gerno was prompt in condemning the protests and decided it best to send in the troops. However, much to his rancour, he discovered that many of the soldiers sympathised with the cause of the people.

Later that night, Gerno would seek the assistance of Soviet tanks, which would duly arrive as martial law was enforced. To appease the protestors, Nagy was put back in charge, but the Kremlin failed to see that his popularity with the people would make him a figurehead for the uprising.

Five days after the uprising had begun, Khrushchev, the Russian premier, would move Soviet troops back to the borders of the country. The Hungarian populace was ecstatic as they sensed that victory was just a grasp away. Now fully on the revolutionaries’ side, Nagy promised free elections and even dared to remove Hungary from the Warsaw pact.
But the joy was soon to be ruthlessly crushed.

Fearing that the events in Hungary would make him look weak in the eyes of the west, Khrushchev ordered the tanks back in. And this time they would come with devastating force. It was on 3 November that the Soviet tanks would re-enter Budapest and by the following night the rebellion had been ended mercilessly.

Nagy, who had continued broadcasting to the nation through the national radio, would later be executed for his role in the revolution. In the end, the Hungarian nationals never had the resources to hold off the might of the Soviet Union and support that they wished to receive from the west never looked likely to arrive. Despite the bravery of thousands of Hungarians, the country would return to being a Soviet satellite state.

This then brings us back to the Lazio supporters on the Curva Nord.

Why is it that a large contingent of Italian football fans with traditional right-wing leanings sing a song about the Hungarian revolution of 1956?

The song, titled ‘Avanti Ragazzi’, was written by Italians and has gained widespread popularity amongst the Neo-fascist community in Italy. Looking at the lyrics the reason for this may be hard to discern, as there is no overtly Fascist rhetoric within it. However, the main reason for its popularity is that the song is seen as vehemently anti-communist. The song is viewed from the standpoint of a brave nation standing up to the evils of the Soviet Union and communism, and as history has taught us, Fascist and communists do not make good bedfellows.

The politically outspoken banners may be gone but politics remain on the curve. Nowhere is this more evident than with ‘Avanti Ragazzi’, a song by Italians, about the Hungarian revolution of 1956, that is seen as a beacon in the fight against the red menace, sung by Lazio Ultras.

Words by Kevin Nolan.

Kevin is an Irishman who loves to watch calcio no matter how lowly the level, Parma being his team of choice. Besides the @GentlemanUltra, he also writes for @ItalianFD. Find him on Twitter @KevinNolan11.