Bukaneros: Nothing to hide, a lot to defend

Go up the metro steps, cross the street from the stadium and take a few side streets and there they are. They may be standing about 50 metres from a street called Fofo the clown but there is nobody laughing here. It is two hours before kick-off but there are already 50 or so Bukaneros standing outside their headquarters preparing for the match. Inside another 20 or so as T-shirts for today’s protest are sold whilst others get the flags ready for the game.

If the Spanish media are to be believed, and too often they are not, Spain’s Ultras are all the same. The image painted by some journalists is one of unemployed, uneducated, overweight and violent white men who just want to cause destruction. On the street outside the Bukaneros HQ, that theory is blown out of the water. The growing group is a mix of ages and races and Victor, who has agreed to be interviewed, also pours cold water on that theory.

Victor, a Bukanero and proud, is a university-educated man who works for a company that is based on one of Madrid’s busiest streets. He is non-violent and wants racism kicked out of football and Spain. Victor has agreed to speak to Football Espana to set the record straight on a few things and there are a few things that do need answering. First of all, what does it mean when you call yourself a Bukanero.

“A Bukanero is a member of the Rayo Vallecano Ultras and to be a member you simply need to be a Rayo fan, non-racist and not have a xenophobic attitude,” says Victor. In Spain, the Ultras are proud of their title and happy to be classed as such but for many, there isn’t much of a difference between an Ultra and a hooligan.

Victor argues there is a big difference. “They have different ways to see football,” he counters. “In Europe, in general, the Ultra groups are there to support and encourage their team. Hooligans are more interested in violence and have always caused problems across Europe. In Spain, there are Ultras who are both.’

So if the Bukaneros are just a supporters group, why are they in the news so much? Two weeks ago, police raided the Ultras’ HQ and confiscated more than 400 flares. The police put the flares on display for a photo op but the fact that they were taken has raised some questions.

Firstly: Why? It is not illegal to have flares in Spain and so why the authorities took them and then put them on display like a huge drug bust is slightly baffling. The other questions is, if flares are forbidden why do the Ultras have them and also was there really a need to have 400 of them?

“We always used flares inside the ground. Since a few years ago they have been forbidden and you can be fined €6000,” Victor replied. “We have always said that having them in the ground is a way of encouraging the team but since we are not allowed to use them inside, we use them outside.

“In the case of the confiscated flares, we had them for a photo and video we had planned to do and it was to be done behind closed doors inside the ground and was approved by the club. We wanted to do it three months ago.”

Victor adds that after the death of the Deportivo La Coruna supporter in November last year, the club and the Ultras felt it was best to wait. Victor and the Bukaneros are very keen to point out that no one was arrested or charged over the confiscation, which again raises the question, why were they taken then?

It is not the first nor the last time the Bukaneros and the police have had issues with each other. The raids were carried out by 100 or so police, according to the Ultras. At the time there were only 100 of them in the HQ. In total they have over 600 members with another 200 who join the group occasionally. Other clubs have far larger numbers.

So why is it that they seem to make the news more than other Ultras groups and get more police attention? Could it be down to politics? Rayo Vallecano is in a working-class neighbourhood and the club’s supporters generally hold left-wing political views. Could it be down to the fact that Spain’s right-wing political party, Partido Popular, are the party in power in Madrid? Victor certainly thinks so.

“There are various reasons [for the constant police presence and raids] and one is the fact that the police are being used as an instrument by the government and in particular Cristina Cifuentes [A Madrid politician who has been very vocal against the group],” Victor alleges. “We have been accused constantly in the Press but we have never been charged with anything.”

Victor claims that the group have problems with the police almost daily and adds: “We are tired [of the police] and we have made an complaint about various issues, including the recording of the Ultras without their permission, for taking the flares and also for threats?’ What does he mean by ‘threats’? “For example, they say if you go to the ground we will fine you, if you go to this place we will find you, etc.”

A strong accusation to be made and one can only ask if this is the case for other Ultras. Victor says that the Bukaneros have no contact or relation with the Ultras from Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. But the police have claimed for a while that all the groups are linked. That brings up another tricky issue.

After the events of Madrid Rio, where one person lost their life, the police and government claimed that Bukaneros were involved. All the Press were quick to publish the allegation but five months later the police and the government have finally admitted that the group had no involvement on that tragic day.

It angers the Bukaneros that the club never defended them and also that the media that accused them with no evidence, have not been so quick to publish articles that confirm their non-involvement. And even though they have been proven innocent, they still have strict controls at the club’s gates.

In part two of this exclusive interview with the Bukaneros the truth behind the incident that saw a fan hand back Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt is revealed, as well as what happened when Rayo Vallecano went on strike…