A View Inside Belgian Hooliganism: Antwerp Casual Crew
Photographer Sebastiaan Franco - who recently joined the Chase team - gained access to the Antwerp Casual Crew, one of Belgium's most notorious hooligan firms. His pictures got published in his book “De Derde Helft” which means “The Third Half”. As hooligans say: “the team plays the first two halves, we play the third”.
In Antwerp, hooliganism started with the X-Side which is the name used by the Antwerp firm from the mid 70’s up until the mid 80’s.
In the mid 80’s the Antwerp Casual Crew originated from the X-Side. Belgian hooligans started to adapt the casual look from the British firms who stopped wearing their ‘club colors’ to attract less attention. Since then, fashion and expensive brands like Fred Perry, have been very important in hooligan culture.
In recent years the Antwerp clothing shop VIER even launched a clothing line labeled ‘ANTWERP’ where they integrated old X-Side pictures in their designs. They also shot a promo video starring some of the members from ACC.
Nevertheless, hooligans aren’t that eager to be photographed or filmed. It took Sebastiaan a long time to build a relationship with the members of Antwerp Casual Crew.
“My first contact took place in the summer of 2015 when I could arrange a meeting with a member of an ACC splinter group called Antwerp Finest Casuals. I started to go to every Antwerp Football Club game during the next six months. It wasn’t until I started to hang out at the same bars that I finally started to get in touch with members of ACC.”
After lots of late nights, drinking beers and shaking hands Sebastiaan started to become a familiar face to most of the ACC members. The next step was bringing his camera.
“People start acting differently once they see a camera, so I used a fixed 35mm camera with no flash to attract as little attention as possible. I also noticed that once the action started most people forgot I was taking pictures and I could blend in more easily”
Over the months Sebastiaan was invited to the ACC Christmas party, joined the group hiding in bushes awaiting a potential fight with rivalling hooligans from Lierse and was even a part of the critically acclaimed Casuals Against Terrorism march that took place after the Brussels terrorist attacks.
“During the Casuals Against Terrorism march I had to run and duck for cover as the police charged and used pepper spray and the water cannon on us. But the fact that I stayed on the ACC side of things was a reason for the members to trust me a bit more.”
“There are two sides to this specific story. On one side I saw a group of young people who continuously steered towards confrontations, excessive violence, and drug use. On the other side I saw a group of close friends who would do everything for each other.”
“If I have to define my work I would say it revolves around humans and how we deal with identity. In a certain way the people I photograph become my friends. This is necessary to be able to come close to my subjects. I show respect, however this doesn’t mean I approve of their actions”
Have a look at a selection of the pictures below. At the moment Sebastiaan is about to travel to Kenya for two and a half months for his next photo journey. We wish him all the best and are looking forward to the pictures he brings back.
The team plays the first two halves, we play the third
Congratulations, you have just met the Antwerp Casual Crew