AZ Alkmaar’s Ben Side ultras have a violent history of stabbings and pipe bombs, and have built a terrible reputation over the years.
It came after thugs tried to break into West Ham’s away area after the side’s semi-final clash in the Dutch city in the Europa Conference League.
Two Hammers fans stood their ground as the all-black boys tried to make their way down the stairwells leading to the stands.
Luckily, West Ham fans managed to stop the mob from gaining entry to the place where the families of the East London team’s players had gathered.
It’s not the first time that hooligans, alleged supporters of the team, have brawled with opposing fans – damaging the club’s image.
While the majority of Alkmaar fans are peaceful, a group of vocal ultras have caused major problems.
In 2017, a pre-arranged showdown between groups of AZ and Feyenoord hooligans ensued.
About 20 fans from both sides met in a remote wasteland for a slugfest, throwing punches at each other.
The site was on the outskirts of Alkmaar, about 50 miles from the Feyenoord site.
Opposing fans lined up facing each other, one side in white and the other in black.
They then attacked each other before the brawl started.
It was reportedly dubbed a “20-20” fight, with both sides previously agreeing on the rules.
Both sides agreed not to use weapons and not to hit anyone who fell to the ground.
The Dutch police launched an investigation and said they would not tolerate fights between hooligans.
In another incident that tarnished AZ’s image, fans violently entered a cordoned-off stadium.
The game between AZ and NEC Nijmegen in November 2021 was supposed to take place behind closed doors because of the risk of spreading Covid-19 in the country.
However, after 15 minutes, AZ fans burst into the stadium and set off firecrackers in the ground, disrupting the game.
Before the group entered AFAS Stadium, fans had set off firecrackers and flairs outside the stadium.
Black-clad thugs wearing masks and hoods were seen jumping over the barrier and some even making it onto the field.
Other flares ignited in the back corner of the grounds and red smoke lit up the grandstand.
Referee Jeroen Manschot was forced to stop play, but play resumed after security guards removed the rackets.
CLASH WITH DUNDEE FANS
Earlier this season there was also a clash with Dundee fans and police ahead of the European Conference League qualifier in August.
Fans reportedly threw glass bottles at each other when police were called to restore order.
Some fans took refuge in nearby pubs as glassware rained down on them and the violence escalated.
Police officers beat fans with batons to pay them money and evict them from the pub doors.
AZ fans are also said to have attacked a group of Scottish fans on their way to the Alkmaar stadium.
Footage appears to show youngsters from Alkmaar ambushing Dundee fans as they carry orange flags and banners around the Dutch city.
The violent group, once again dressed in black and with their faces covered, was seen charging at the Scots before fighting broke out in the street.
ORIGIN OF THE BEN SIDE SUPPORTERS
AZ’s hooliganism reportedly dates back to the club’s early days with a group known as the “Ben Side” fans.
The name refers to the group’s seat on the Jan van der Ben Stand, which was named after the chairman of a previous club.
According to an AZ fan website, the group claim they “first made a name for themselves” during an away game at Feyenoord in 1977.
There they clashed with opposing fans and threw beer bottles and cans at players.
In another notorious meeting, the group clashed with Haarlem in June 1977.
Riots broke out during the game, many supporters brought knives, and police later arrested several people.
In a particularly horrific altercation between AZ and PSV fans in March 1986, a 16-year-old was stabbed and around 28 people arrested.
The teenager, an unidentified PSV fan, was taken to hospital.
The same match also saw confrontations between fans, with a home-made pipe bomb being thrown into PSV’s stands, although thankfully no one was injured. The New York Times reported.
The group Ben Side has repeatedly expressed their support online over the past few years.
Dressed in black, its members cause a stir, set off firecrackers and wreak havoc at both home and away games.
However, the group claims they are only concerned with “improving the atmosphere in the stadium”.
The Dutch police say they are still evaluating footage of yesterday’s attack.
The police said: “Together with AZ, the municipality of Alkmaar and the public prosecutor’s office, we will assess the incidents of last night, which we regretted. Such behavior has no place in football.”
UEFA is also expected to conduct its own investigation into the events.
Dutch police said they had not made any arrests but added that they are trying to identify violent fans from the footage.