The emotional attachment and cultural expressions of football fans shape professional soccer worldwide. Clubs and the fan culture associated with them are often socio-cultural ambassadors for urban societies, regions, or countries. Since the mid-1990s, the male-dominated Ultras have been the central players of fan culture in Germany, replacing the so-called “Kuttenträger” and the hooligans. Many see them as the largest youth subculture at present. Stubborn and independent, sometimes even resistant, they operate in a highly commercialized environment shaped by massive security interests. What ideas and dynamics drive the Ultras? What is their relationship to profit-oriented clubs and the police? How do they appropriate public space? What role do girls and women play in the male-dominated scenes?
As an active football player, Michael Gabriel became German champion with Eintracht Frankfurt in the B- and A-youth and played with the second team of Eintracht for seven years in the then third highest German division. He took part in the 1983 World Junior Championship in Mexico with the Austrian U-20 national team. After completing his studies in sports science, his professional career led him into social work with young soccer fans. From 1992 to 1996, he worked for the Frankfurt Fan Project with the fans of the Frankfurt Eintracht. In 1996, he moved to the Fan Project Coordination Office (KOS), where he has been director since 2006. The KOS currently oversees 71 fan projects in Germany, which work with young soccer fans of the respective clubs based on the so-called National Concept Sport and Safety. The KOS has also been responsible for fan support for traveling soccer fans from Germany since 1996. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, it was responsible for fan support in all 12 host cities. As a soccer fan, he has probably experienced his best time with the Frankfurt Eintracht since winning the 2018 Cup and the 2022 European League.