One Of Us
Despite his humble history, our club boasts a massive group of loyal supporters. Even in the most ‘dark’ times for the team and despite the long years spent in 3rd division it has been the hard core fans that distinguish it from the other small clubs in the country.
The story of this group of fans, the Jolly Roger Firm(JRF), is told in the following pages. We think the best way to introduce you to this story is through the eyes of a young member of the firm. Here goes his exciting recount:
"I have been a member of JRF for years. It had been a dream came true. As a young kid I loved watching the black-and-white army of fans surging to the stadium in the weekends. I thought I would be proud to be one of them. The G.O fans knew how to defend their town well. Over the years, my obsession with the firm grew stronger and stronger, day after day. I won’t be lying to you if a say I wanted to be a hooligan, not just an ordinary fan. I was watching them, cheering along with them and wanted to grow up faster so that I could be side by side with them in the clashes with the rival groups of fans.
The firm has always supported the team, in its ups and downs. It has always been a matter of loyalty and commitment that fans felt for their club. "Lokomotiv" is a small-town-team but we have incredible and die-hard fans. I knew that one day I would be a part of them… I would be a hooligan.
In the times when the “ultras” subculture was dominating in Bulgaria, something different was happening among the fans in Gorna Oryahovitsa. Certain part of the black-and-white fans established an organisation following the English model. While hooligan firms were common in England back then, in Bulgaria this style and way of life was just emerging. Everyone belonged either to a fan club (which was also a new trend then) or to the “ultras” style of support. There were also fans going to games unorganised.
At the very beginning when I found out about the ideology of the firm, I liked the idea a lot. I was determined to become part of the casual style (which is now the synonym for a poseur behavior but then it stood for honor and dignity). In the beginning I was observing what the older guys were doing, as it was a closed unit that was unthinkable to enter for kids with no proven reputation. I was impressed by the respect the members had for each other. The core consisted of about 20–30 people, sometimes amount to a much larger number. They wore designer clothes, the likes of Burberry, Lacoste, Fred Perry, Adidas and plenty of others, to keep the memory for the origin of it all (the hooligans fashion in England in the 70s and the 80s). As a matter of fact, these brands were difficult to find here, in most cases they were shipped from England.
The firm was called the Jolly Roger (after the song and album with the same name by the German heavy metal band Running Wild). A small firm supporting a small-town club that established its own traditions in this trend (or, rather, upgraded what the black-and–white army had already achieved).
As FC Lokomotiv (GO) was confident enough to rival the grand FCs in Bulgaria, likewise, JRF was pursuing this level against much larger firms. There were wins and defeats both in and outside the stadium but only one thing mattered: NO SURRENDER – one of the slogans of the organization.
The people of Bulgaria possess stamina and headstrongness (there is a reason for the saying: "Bulgarians can break walls with their heads”). The bravery and heroism, the hot blood in our veins (best proven in the numerous war battles abounding in Bulgarian history) influenced the past but have also influenced the present and future but also determines the behavior both inside and outside the stadiums.
If we did this fictional ranking of fans in terms of being loyal and wild (in any brutal sense of the term), Lokomotiv(GO) will definitely make it in the top 10 which would be an achievement taken that we are not a big-town team nor any “spoilt” grand one. Perhaps, it was because our town was small that made us so tight-knit unit and loyal to each other. I have always had respect for the people from the so called “old school”. I was watching them from aside, trying to get closer and be able to hear what they were talking about. Their stories really inspired me and I eagerly wanted to be an active participant, not mere listener and observer.
As time passed, I started imitating the guys in the group as way of thinking (I gathered a lot of experience around them and for that I pay them my RESPECT) as well as appearance. I was trying to dress in designer clothes to merge with them but had no favorite clothes brand, just tried to look groomed. The tolerance the organisation had for us back then, the youths, helped me a lot. We were not involved in absolutely everything but they made us feel we were part of them. We knew if things got rough they would help us. There are several quite good lads from my generation who later merged with the firm. I have to mention my friend (and author of this book) Tosh, who was one of the founders of this organisation and to whom I owe my significant growth as a fan thanks to his invaluable advice. Thank you, Tosh!
Let’s focus again on the organisation itself. Its logo was the skull and crossbones and the classic for a flag was the Union Jack with the Running Wild band logo on. Even to this day, I always perceive this band and our firm as an alloy that no one can melt.
My first closer encounter with the Jolly Roger Firm was in 1998. While walking around with some friends, I saw a small group of people heading to the rail station with a swift pace. I was excited because I recognised them- the “usual suspects” as we used to call them- members of the firm. They were going to an away game... I had a rush of blood to my head and instinctively headed towards them. By the time I reached the platform they were on the train already, chanting loudly with beers in their hands. I approached them and asked if they were going to football (I knew they were but just wanted to start conversation). They smiled and asked back: “Why, you want to join us?”. I thought they were taking the piss out of me but I had so much adrenalin that I said: “Yes, why not.” To be with the Jolly Roger on an away game was a dream come true for me. As the train doors were shut they pulled me in through the window. As I got in I realized that this was quite reckless of me as I had very little pocket money and my parents were not at all aware I was leaving the town (I was 13-14 years old at that time). After a few minutes, I started to care less about it. Someone gave me a bottle of beer and that brought the smile back on my face. I was the only kid to travel with them to that journey and it was a one to remember. I was warmly accepted and I felt free. Since then I have loved travelling to away games more than the home games although I went to both. What made the away games different and special was the unique feeling being in the enemy’s manor, on another’s territory, the need to prove yourself to the other team’s supporters, the mixed feeling of fear, anxiety of the forthcoming, the moment you can’t wait to meet the enemies. This was how bravery was steeled along with loyalty to friends and to the favorite team at the utmost. What happened then changed everything like a domino effect. I started going regularly to away matches under the wing of the “old school” boys who were still young back then. All I had been dreaming of was then coming true.
My hooligan deeds together with the firm rolled big like a snowball on a downhill. Even my classmates started thinking of me as somebody with anti-social behavior. I don’t say it was a good thing, but my age, surroundings and my temper pushed me to be like that. Lokomotiv (G.O) was playing in the lower divisions but it was no obstacle for us to be remembered for long everywhere we passed through. After our team dropped out of the “C” division and into the Amateurs League for a year, the season was marked with numerous clashes. Small and big towns met us with police forces as they knew what to expect from us. As our pride suffered from the fact that our team had plummeted to the “marshland” of “C” division we eventually used hooligan acts as a vent. Logically, there were fewer of us from the group of supporters who were on the terraces during the “golden age” in “A” division but the lads from JRF stood always by the team. A new movement called “G.O. BOYS” was established alongside.
The local Derby with our deadly enemy- Etar Veliko Tarnovo (VT), described in the coming chapters of this book, was knocking on the door. To our joy, they had also dropped out to “C” division. It was like a doping for us and we used every away game to train for our clash with them. “Black-and-white army, we punish, we destroy, we die but always for the win“ was quite a suitable soundtrack for the events that happened. We got on the trains for free as it was dangerous to charge a bunch of hooligans back then. Tosh and many others were the perfect example to me. The times were difficult, we had hit hard bottom and no way out was visible because our favorite Lokomotiv was struggling financially. We, however, were able to wipe the shame as no matter how hard times were, we always stood by our team, there was always this core of 40-50 people who never gave up and served as a worthy example to the present-day young supporters of the team. I am glad I was part of that core and I can tell the young fans now: ”It is all worth it, lads!” In the Jolly Roger organisation and in the firm you can find friendship, loyalty and adrenalin in volumes. Thanks to those, I became a very “fine young casual “.
The Others For Us
"I knew some of the older lads from Gorna Oryahovitsa very well and although our football differences we have managed to keep the friendship and a mutual respect for each other over the years. I have always been well accepted amongst them (a very few "boyars" can say that) even nowadays, when youth generation and old school have their differences and the tendencies have changed.
As an English football supporter and their fan’s ideology (which I followed and tried to boost on the terraces amongst us) I was really surprised, impressed and delighted of the Pro-British organisation they’ve created locally.
The most fascinating event will always be the football derby between Etar and Lokomotiv G.O. It’s packed with strong emotions and tension, especially with the bloody hatred between supporters of both teams in recent years.
Sometimes we clashed each other on and off the terraces, but somehow we managed to hold a good relationship and respect."
"The alcohol, heavy music, soft drugs, hooligan actions and British casual culture was the strong bond that connected the lads from “the railway" town with us.
This was one of the few places where we were badly beaten and we have never seen such hostile atmosphere!
I rate them (Jolly Roger Firm) high among the most frightening hooligans in the country. They never back down, they have always stood shoulder to shoulder with us in clashes in football and around. They were quite mad, as if they were using some special kind of drugs up there around their spot called ("The Stone"). They were such a great number of lunatics-hooligans for such a small town!"
"Jolly Roger Firm was probably the best quality firm among the others in the province. I was impressed by their great love, passion and sacrifice to the football game, supporting their team by any means. They are hard core of extremely faithful and loyal pals ready to do anything to defend their principles and the people close to them."
"Several things impressed me greatly, mainly those of them who supported their club with a frantic passion and pride which even the toughest English fans would envy for."
"It was a very hot and sunny day. There were about 25 of them lads and I remember all of them carrying those big and heavy rucksacks on their backs filled with flags and smoke bombs. They were well armed for the football.
They were waiting for the game like huge crowds will fill the terraces few hours before kick-off. 20 minutes before the match we entered the away end with them and suddenly there were about 30 banners (mostly British) on the fences in front of us. I was impressed with the loud songs as they were singing in perfect unison and style! You can hear only: 'Don’t stop' and they sang 90 minutes like that non-stop. It was clear that they were undertaking all this as their first duty and devotion."