Since ancient history, humans sought forming groups to fulfill their most basic needs such as getting access to food, shelter, and protection. The notion of belonging was thoroughly researched in different social and psychological works. Aronson E., a renowned social psychologist, defined humans as “social animals, creatures that are highly interactive with, and responsive to, other members of their species”. In the same sense, belonging constitutes a fundamental and powerful human need which appears in Maslow’s pyramid just above the survival needs and safety. Communities and societies were mainly created to satisfy this urge and provide individuals with an identity they can refer to, an identity representing a common ground to build trust and psychological bonds between the members.
Throughout a lifetime, we are often part of several groups; our caregivers for example constitute the first group we belong to; we depend on them to fulfill the most basic of our physiological needs. As we move on through life, we meet new people and tend to get closer to the ones with whom we share beliefs, values, skills, experiences, a passion. They can be friends at school, sports teammates, book club members, religious communities, sports supporters’ groups, etc. Furthermore, belonging constitutes a safety net to bounce on in times of trouble, and provides a space for sharing and for joint action. We often cross paths with other people in our earthly quest; being well surrounded helps us develop self-esteem and confidence. However, for smooth group dynamics and successful functioning, we must be motivated to interact with our peers and engage with those around us in order to achieve the shared purpose of the group.
Ultras groups are a paradigm of the complete group. Besides the shared ultimate goal, which is supporting their respective teams, the Ultras group members interact beyond the sports scope and make of their belonging a way of life. It is this continuous duty to be there for each other and help their surrounding environment that drives the Ultras member to adhere more to the group structure. The omnipresence of this feeling of belonging to the Ultras group gives it a familial perspective; members form one composed family completing the role of the biological one. Because this family is chosen, its members develop a pride of belonging, and the prouder they get, the more dedicated they become. The group improves with the members’ actions; the interactions between the different components creates a positive energy which is necessary to the growth and development of the group. Internal interactions inside an Ultras group could be for example initiatives to support student members with their exam preparations, or regular internal knowledge sharing sessions or activities. These actions aim to develop the individuals and make them strong nodes in the group matrix; after all, one of the main reasons of the necessity of belonging is seeking personal development in a supportive environment. On the other hand, external interactions are the actions affecting the environment outside the group; but done collectively. Food and blood donations, social activities such as visiting orphanages and hospital visits are all examples of actions which have a direct positive impact on the surrounding environment of the Ultras group, but do not necessarily involve football. These activities give the group a social perspective, and the intention is never to seek recognition or any material compensation.
The actions of the individuals within the group need to have common patterns in order to achieve a synergy that keeps the group alive and prospering. The good organization of the actions gives the group existence a meaning, unlike when randomness rules, then the group loses its core and integrity; chaos is also not attractive and definitely cannot satisfy the need of belonging born within each one of us. In order to ensure the harmony of actions, a successful group engraves golden rules that members abide by. These rules that hold values such as respect, modesty, and selflessness, are a prerequisite to achieve group homogeneity. Once this state is reached, the notion of separate individuals fades, and the group becomes one body animated by the harmonized actions of its cells. A concrete application of this mechanism could be for example if a member of an Ultras group did some action like proposing an idea for a “Tifo” or a banner, then it is the group that takes the credit for it and the member should never seek individual recognition. If personal fame is a motivation for an individual, then belonging to an Ultras group will not be a good match because it contradicts with the selflessness required for the group functioning. Accordingly, to meet the belongingness need of all its members, a real Ultras group must provide an equal treatment to all of them. In exchange, the Ultras group member should be proactive and channel his energy to servicing of the group.
The aforementioned notions lead us to the African concept of “Ubuntu”, a word originating from the Bantu languages of South Africa. The need to belong to an interconnected matrix is what makes us human. We, as Ultras Eagles members, endorsed these teachings and should know that every action matter, no matter how small it is. The force of the group is fuelled by the impact of those little actions every member does for the greater good, and through them, each member finds a way for his own personal enrichment while enriching the others. Even if the group is one body, each member is equally appreciated and is offered a chance to exploit their full potential to grow and exchange learnings with their peers. Geographical location is not an obstacle to be part of the group, and no matter where we are, the “Eagles” bond is keeping us united. As said, birds of a feather flock together.
The common thing that brought us together at first place is the unconditional passion for RAJA, which generates the core energy of the group. This strong energy feeds our belonging hunger and being part of the group gives us the opportunity to live our passion every day.