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"A Good War Unit": New Popular Front Documentary Gives Inside Look at the Anti-Fascist Football Hooligans Defending Ukraine
Two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th, a previously obscure Instagram account belonging to an Arsenal Kyiv football fan and member of Ukraine’s only anti-fascist hooligan firm began posting interesting photographs of young hooligans in military gear holding light weapons. One of the first photos was remarkable: about a dozen young men stand grouped together holding mostly Kalashnikov-pattern rifles, the man in the middle with a WW2-era Soviet DP-27 light machine gun. The group is flanked on either side by two men holding RPG launchers—one is the owner of the Instagram account, Anton, and the other wears a shirt that reads “Hoods Hoods Klan: No Fear, No Weakness”. The group was tagged in the post with this same phrase, “hoodshoodsklan”. Over time, those observing the many ideologically motivated groups defending Ukraine became familiar with Hoods Hoods Klan as a part of the broader anti-authoritarian milieu enlisted in the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine (TDF). Hoods Hoods Klan is an anti-fascist, anti-racist hooligan football fan club, and are participants in both the coordinating body for anarchists and antiauthoritarians within the TDF, the Resistance Committee, as well as the civilian anarchist aid initiative, Operation Solidarity.
One of the first among journalists and researchers to discover Anton’s Instagram account was former Vice News journalist and founder of independent media outlet Popular Front, Jake Hanrahan, who has done extensive work in Ukraine, including a documentary on another fighting formation participating in the Resistance Committee, anarchist militia RevDia. In the early days of the ongoing war in Ukraine, Hanrahan began a conversation with Anton and other members of Hoods Hoods Klan, shortly after traveling to Ukraine, where he covered both the Resistance Committee and Operation Solidarity. Recently, Hanrahan spent time with the anti-fascist football hooligans fighting for the TDF. We take a quick look at the Popular Front documentary he made in our following review:
Frontline Hooligan is Popular Front’s latest video production and comes on the heels of their documentary covering the recent unrest on the French-administered island of Corsica. Between Frontline Hooligan and the Corsica coverage, Jake Hanrahan managed to travel to Ukraine just prior to the invasion, where he covered civilian defense training in anticipation of war as US intelligence assessments began forecasting with high confidence that the Russian military would cross the Ukrainian border. Frontline Hooligan takes Popular Front’s audience back to a country now already accustomed to the daily realities of war.
Hanrahan races around the outskirts of war-torn Kyiv in the bed of a civilian pickup truck interviewing members of a regional squad of the TDF, all of them Hoods Hoods Klan hooligans. They zoom back and forth between training sessions at the firing range and defensive fighting positions around the Ukrainian capital, talking about life before the war, how Hoods Hoods Klan organized into a cohesive fighting unit of the TDF, the war from both a hooligan and an anti-fascist perspective, and what the firm ultimately stands for.
Frontline Hooligan is a striking portrayal of Europe’s prolific hooligan culture prior to the Russian invasion, from the streets of Ukrainian cities and the flare-lit ramparts of her soccer stadia, and later of Europe’s 21st century war, from trench networks and bunkers manned by armed Ultras. Riding around with the lads, Hanrahan is at his best, drawing on both his familiarity with the working-class world of football hooliganism and his deep knowledge of anarchism and anti-authoritarian movements in Europe. Speeding down a highway to a range for small arms training, Hanrahan asks one Hoods Hoods Klan fighter, “Do you miss football?” The response is uncertain, now four months into a hot war: “A little.” Throwing punches into the palm of his off-hand, Hanrahan asks, “Do you miss fighting?”—as in, fighting other hooligans. A resounding “yes,” followed by: “We were one against all Ukraine’s football firms.” Again, with great attention to the antebellum hooligan world of Ukraine, Jake asks: “Who is your biggest rival?” The fighter answers: “Dynamo Kiev.” “Now Putin?” Hanrahan shoots back with a laugh that is characteristic of his reporting from modern conflict zones. “Now Putin, yes…”
Another fighter, interviewed earlier in Frontline Hooligan, confirms what many conflict analysts thought when they saw Hoods Hoods Klan emerge as a fighting unit in this war, recalling various football hooligans that joined the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s: “We were strong in football [hooliganism]… Now we’ll be a strong war unit.”
Beyond his interviews with members of Hoods Hoods Klan, Hanrahan travels to civilian areas severely affected by the Russian invasion, such as Borodyanka, near Bucha, north of the capital, talking to an average resident outside the ruins of her apartment block, hit by Russian airstrikes and missiles. The devastation is almost total. Answering questions so many have asked as to how self-proclaimed anti-fascists can fight on the same side as openly fascist units within the Ukrainian military, such as the Azov Regiment, Hanrahan insightfully offers this explanation from the field: “The destruction and massacres carried out by Russian forces are why people with many different and sometimes conflicting ideologies are all fighting for Ukraine. It’s not about politics for them; it’s about survival.”
Popular Front’s latest documentary is a unique look at how pre-war organizations, in this case, drawn from the marshal substrate of Europe’s fighting football hooligans, mobilized themselves for the defense of their country against Russian invasion. Frontline Hooligan gives us more insight into the complex constellation of groups fighting for the defense of Ukraine, and does so with the style that is characteristic of Popular Front. Jake Hanrahan’s excellent coverage of Hoods Hoods Klan can be seen on YouTube, here:
 “Firm” is a term originally from the British football scene that means an organized hooligan football fan club.
 An “Ultra” is a member of a hooligan football firm with a distinct ideological affiliation, almost always considered to be on the far-right or in this case the far- and post-left.