AEK Original 21: Meet Athens’ Left-Wing Ultras

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Original 21

The Original 21 AEK Athens are one of Europe’s most notorious anti-fascist, anti-racist ultras groups. Learn more about this ultras group.

AEK Athens: Centre of Sports, Culture and Memory

AEK

AEK Football Club is a Greek football club that is based in Nea Filadelfeia, an area of the capital Athens. They are popularly known as Kitrinomavri (Yellow-Blacks), Enois (Union), or Dikefalos Aetos (Double-Headed Eagle). 

AEK Athens was established in 1924 by Greek refugees from Constantinople and has since then gone on to become one of the biggest football teams in Greece.

AEK is the third most popular club in Greece and the most successful Greek club in Europe. Moreover, politics has never been far from AEK Athens Olympic Stadium. They are eternal rivals of Panathinaikos, which is a club supported by the city’s elite.

Additionally, AEK Athens has a strong following from Greeks in the diaspora, especially in the USA, Germany, Cyprus, and Australia.

The True AEK Spirit

Greek fans are known for their deep love for their clubs. AEK fans are not an exception. Gate 21 has some of the hardest hooligans in the Greek football scene as well as across Europe.

The ultras are always ready to fight and defend their field on and off the stands. The ultras are always heard loud and clearly in the stands whenever AEK is on the pitch. They can be seen with flares, flags, and beautiful displays whenever their team takes to the field. Moreover, it’s not an uncommon occurrence whenever they play to see missiles and pyros been thrown.

They have been involved in many confrontations that have at times gone overboard. Clashes with rivals have seen the club also heavily fined in the local matches as well as European ties. In 2018, they clashed with Ajax ultras in their Champions League group tie. The two teams were charged respectively for the clashes, which also included a petrol bomb.

AEK and Politics

Original 21 AEK

Football and politics become homogenous in one way or another. AEK Athens is a club that has deep roots in the community around it. Therefore, the viewpoints of the community are generally reflected at the club.

AEK was created by refugees. For this reason, they represent the wider part of the general Greek society who feel they are left out and segregated. They offer a refuge for all fans.

The Original 21 plays a huge role in the community apart from cheering their beloved team. The fans promote the values of their club as well as those the community. AEK promotes inclusivity and harmony among its ranks and this has seen them become a force to reckon with.  

Rivals

The Original 21’s main rivals are Olympiacos Gate 7 and Panathinaikos Gate 13. Their main rival is City’s arch-rivals Panathinaikos with whom they square it out in the Athens Derby.

The Athens Derby is deep-rooted in the history of the two teams. AEK have a deep refugee history while Panathinaikos is considered a club that represents the Athenian high-class society. Therefore, this rivalry is very intense whenever these two sides meet. There have been various matches that have been cancelled after Gate 21 ultras stormed the pitch.

Against the Piraeus-based side Olympiacos, the rivalry stems from the fact that the two teams are among the most successful teams in Greece. This rivalry was further ignited in 1996 when former AEK star player and then manager, Dusan Bajevic jumped ship and joined Olympiacos.

In recent times, the rivalry was reignited when Olympiacos were awarded the Super League in the 2007-2008 campaign. 

Triangle of Brotherhood

Due to their values and common goals, the AEK Ultras have formed a great bond with ultras from AA Livorno and Olympique de Marseille. Additionally, the club always plays pre-season friendly with other left-wing football clubs. 

Original 21
https://www.flickr.com/people/thanos25red/ / CC BY

Some of the other teams that share the left-wing ideology in Europe include Celtic FC, Hapoel Tel Aviv, FC St Pauli, and Rayo Vallecano.

Original 21: Setting the Pace

AEK ultras are predominantly left-wing. However, like many Athens-based teams, there are far-right ultras groups that pop up now and then. Additionally, the identity is mainly towards the left since the club was founded by refugees. 

Nonetheless, the Original 21 has set the pace for all the supporters and it is rare to find right-wing supporters openly. The ultras have inoculated a sub-culture of anti-fascism and inclusivity into AEK Athens’ culture.

Midfielder @ Hooligan F.C.

Donald Maloba is a Kenyan football writer and former football player. He eats, sleeps, and breathes football. He supports AFC Leopards.

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