Category Archives: Tifo

ultras

District Ultras: Small Numbers, Big Support In DC

In the corner of RFK’s crumbling edifice, a small but experienced group of fans have in recent times been making significant shows of support for DC United considerably out of proportion to their actual numbers. They are the District Ultras, founded in 2010. Here’s what they did in their first year:

Many of the individual members of District Ultras are not new to DC United, or to DC United’s historically active supporters’ group scene –  arguably the consistently strongest throughout much of the league’s 16-year history – but as a group they are a new addition to a scene traditionally powered by the well-known Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles groups.

Pitch Invasion asked Srdan Bastaic, one of the driving forces behind the District Ultras, where they had come from. ”Our core group has been around for much longer, handling all the tifo in the Barra for a long time, but as dominant as we were in, say, the 2005-2007 MLS period, by 2009 or so the supporter scene in US had become much stronger. It wasn’t just DC and Chicago anymore,” Bastaic said. “The DC atmosphere was already stagnating at that point and we wanted to be able to rival the new and old and improved groups. Successful groups need money to run and selling t-shirts and scarves to raise funds really wasn’t going to cut it at that point as it has in the past.”

Bastaic explained that this desire to take DC tifo to a new level and the required funding led to some intense discussions within Barra Brava. “So our tifo crew met, then tried to compromise and talk it through for several months and at the end we didn’t have a choice but to split into a separate group,” Bastaic explains.

This led to a breakaway group of tifo-mad ultras looking for a new section to call home at RFK, briefly floating amongst the other supporter group areas. “Nine of us walked and it was pretty funny for a few months,” Bastaic says. “We were all over the stadium, in the La Norte section one match, then in Screaming Eagles, then between sections. We actually did a few displays by walking into a section of regular fans and putting up these big 20 foot high banners, it was a pretty bizarre time.”

The District Ultras badly needed a space of their own. Bastaic continues, “Around the middle of the season, the DC front office figured we’re not going anywhere, so they gave us a far corner section in RFK. That’s when we started to grow, as people who were interested in our mentality had a stable section to come to.”

DC United versus Seattle, 7.15.10

DC United versus Seattle, 7.15.10

DC United versus LA, 7.18.10

DC United versus LA, 7.18.10

DC United versus Philadelphia, 8.22.10

DC United versus Philadelphia, 8.22.10

DC United versus Columbus, 9.4.10

DC United versus Columbus, 9.4.10

DC United versus Houston, 9.25.10

DC United versus Houston, 9.25.10

DC United versus Houston, 9.25.10

DC United versus Houston, 9.25.10

DC United versus Toronto, 10.23.10

DC United versus Toronto, 10.23.10

That first year in 2010 – with a tifo display every game – was, as would be expected, something of an uphill battle since the District Ultras had to “build everything all over again from the ground up,” as Bastaic puts it. Relations with the club were also “rocky at the start”, though smoothed over as the front office came to understand the group’s purpose: “we’re on the same side after all,” Bastaic says. Support from DC’s Screaming Eagles – particularly helpful with tickets for away games – was a big boon for the nascent group.

In 2011, another smaller though older DC supporters group, La Norte, moved adjacent to the District Ultras, and the two groups have developed a strong relationship together. This helped the District Ultras reach a new level with their support in 2011.

DC United versus New England, 7.20.11

DC United versus New England, 7.20.11

DC United versus Toronto, 8.6.11

DC United versus Toronto, 8.6.11

DC United versus Salt Lake, 9.24.11

DC United versus Salt Lake, 9.24.11

DC United versus Salt Lake, 9.24.11

DC United versus Salt Lake, 9.24.11

DC United versus Salt Lake, 9.24.11

DC United versus Salt Lake, 9.24.11

DC United versus Chicago, 10.15.11

DC United versus Chicago, 10.15.11

DC United versus Portland, 10.19.11

DC United versus Portland, 10.19.11

DC United versus Kansas City, 10.22.11

DC United versus Kansas City, 10.22.11

Starting a new supporters group is a massive challenge, even for those with the experience of the District Ultras leadership. As DC United General Manager Dave Kasper mentioned on the recent Pitch Invasion podcast, DC United’s support may have to wait until the club moves to a new stadium before it matches the new standards set in MLS support in recent seasons, reclaiming the ground once held by Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles.

One suspects if DC’s support does take a fresh spurt forward, it’ll be in part from District Ultras’ imaginative tifo efforts: as Bastaic puts it, “We’ve got a good mixture of veterans and new blood, and we can really go anywhere from here, supporting our club and representing our city.”

Update: Here’s a roundup of District Ultras’ 2011 tifo efforts

All photos provided by District Ultras. Photos 7.15.10 and 9.24.11 by Neil Brandvold.

Stoking Rivalry In The Right Way: Seattle and Portland’s Tifo Battle

Back in April, Portland had raised the tifo bar in the Cascadia region of North America at their home opener in Major League Soccer at Jeld-Wen Field:

Portland Timbers MLS home opener tifo

(Though, honestly, I preferred this Kings of Cascadia display from last year – less self-reverential. And of course, the Space Needle tifo.)

With that very much in mind, Seattle fans in the Emerald City Supporters’ group set out to do something special of their own for the team’s first MLS meeting with Portland at QWest field this past Saturday night.

On their opening night, the Timbers Army stepped up their game. ECS finally has a rival supporter group to truly compete with. They raised their game, and everyone and their mothers are drooling over what they saw at Jen-Weld Field the rainy night of April 14th. Many have already forgotten that the bar for atmosphere and passion was set by the ECS and Sounders faithful. An atmosphere that put MLS Commissioner Garber in tears, it being a real life expression of his long term dream of what MLS and soccer in this country can be. May 14, 2011 will be the day we all remind the world who is king in Cascadia. It is the day we will all put forth the support that rightly puts us at the top of supporter groups in North America!

Forget the ahistorical silliness of “ECS finally has a rival supporter group to truly compete with”, Seattle fans did produce a display worthy of the occasion. It was the right way up, and everything:

Seattle Sounders tifo - ECS

It pains me as a Fire fan to say it, but that’s some world class tifo from ECS. Scale, execution and concept are all top-drawer. Steve Kelley was certainly impressed:

Moments before kickoff, the Emerald City Supporters dramatically unfurled massive banners that commemorated the rivalry.

Large drawings of former Sounders Marcus Hahnemann, Preston Burpo and Jimmy Gabriel floated down the south end zone along with pictures of assistant coach Brian Schmetzer (the Sounders’ USL coach) and forward Fredy Montero.

Then slowly another banner rolled down from the deck above, displaying a picture of a fist crushing a Timbers ball and proclaiming, “Decades of Dominance.”

Finally, from below, a banner with a drawing of Portland nemesis Roger Levesque unrolled with a jab at Timbers fans that read, “48 seconds.” In the 2009 U.S. Open Cup against Portland, Levesque scored in the first 48 seconds.

So maybe this wasn’t Arsenal and Tottenham or Manchester United and Manchester City, but it was a celebration of what the game slowly is becoming in this country.

The banners were spectacular.

Eh, I can’t say I’ve ever seen EPL fans unveil anything even remotely in the postcode/zip code of a major MLS tifo display. Certainly nothing they’ve created. It added to an outstanding atmosphere in the stadium. This is what Portland-Seattle should be about, not the hipster-rivalry nonsense this rather incomplete Wall Street Journal article got into last week.

Nitpickers might say of the display that ‘Decades of Dominance’ is a little overwrought, but if you’re going to say something a little over the top, may as well display it in an epic fashion. This was epic.

It should also certainly be noted that Portland fans brought an impressive away tifo to the table as well at the game, something we hopefully will see more of in MLS and difficult to do away from home:

Timbers Army away tifo in Seattle

Where does all this tifo fit in MLS history? I guess we’ll leave that for Shawn Francis to figure out. There has been impressive stuff done in many places now over the years, each spurring on rival groups to greater heights. And finally, MLS front offices and headquarters seem to realise the value of these displays to the culture and promotion of soccer in North America as something distinct from other sports here.

At the end of the day, the purpose of tifo is to inspire your team and your fans and in a rivalry stoke the embers: on Saturday night, both sets of fans did this in a manner that can only engender more DIY supporter culture in North America, a really healthy development for the sport here. The good part about this for Cascadia is that it helps make the rivalry between Portland and Seattle about devoting what you can to do support your team in a positive fashion, and not about fighting or other nonsense.

No More Tifo: Aberdeen’s Red Ultras Disband

red-ultras

Britain’s standard-bearer ultras group, Aberdeen’s Red Ultras, disbanded earlier this month.

Their website simply states:

We are sad to announce that as of Tuesday 5th January 2010 the Aberdeen Red Ultras have ceased to exist.

The Red Ultras were set up in 1999 by a group of supporters who wished to bring colour and atmosphere to games involving our beloved Aberdeen Football Club. It has not been easy to do this within the safety climate that currently exists in Scottish Football and mistakes have been made during this time. The pictures that will remain on this site are testament however to all of our members hard work over the years and will remain as a reminder to all what can be acheived if you truly believe in your cause. We are forever grateful for for the dedication and passion our members have displayed and we will continue to share a bond of friendship that will never end.

We would like to take this opportunity thank you all at Aberdeen FC who have assisted and the Aberdeen supporters in general who gave us great support during these years, we appreciate your support more than you ever knew.

The Red Ultras are no more however we must be happy with what we have achieved, we did it for the team we love and that love will continue regardless of what the future holds.

Phenemonal displays like this, lighting up European nights at Pittodrie, will be no more:

A message from one of the group’s leaders on a messageboard simply said “I have decided to disband the group as of today,theres far too much hassle with it so after much debate the group is no more.The lads will still of course attend games but there will be no more RU banners etc on show.Who knows what the future may bring but id like to take this opportunity and thank every one who has participated in the displays over the last decade and to those who have kindly donated to the cause. STAND FREE”

“Hassle” was probably an understatement.

Articles in the national press like this one that simply equate “ultras” with “hooligans” hardly helped. Press treatment from both the local Aberdeen and Scottish newspapers was even more malicious.

The Red Ultras had little support from the club (despite images of their displays being used in marketing campaigns), and were also forced to move to a different section after complaints from the corporate boxes that pre-game displays of banners and flags were partially obscuring their view.

Without safe standing areas, and without any appreciation or understanding of what ultras are trying to do from the authorities, it is always an uphill battle for ultras groups in Britain. England and Scotland lag not just far behind Germany in understanding how to safely manage supporters’ culture beyond passive consumption, but now also well behind North America.

The reference to “mistakes” in the Red Ultras announcement indicates, of course, that some actions taken by members of the group did not meet with approval from other Aberdeen fans. A recent smokebomb incident pissed off a number of fans in the Ultras’ new section.

But, judging from the outpouring of regret at their disbanding on Aberdeen’s forums, the majority of Dons fans appreciated the passion the Red Ultras brought to Aberdeen’s games home and away. Hopefully they will reform, learn from mistakes they have made, and perhaps after their absence begins to be felt at Pittodrie, they might be welcomed back with a bit more understanding and accommodation for their efforts.

Photo Daily: Ballspiel-Verein Borussia 1909 e.V. Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund fans giant banner, celebrating the club's one hundredth anniversary. BVB won 1-0 over Freiburg. December 19, 2009..

Borussia Dortmund fans hoist a giant banner, celebrating the club's one hundredth anniversary. The initials refer to the club's full name, Ballspiel-Verein Borussia 1909 e.V. Dortmund . BVB won 1-0 over Freiburg. December 19, 2009.

Photo credit: clickraa on Flickr, via the Pitch Invasion Photo Pool. For more on the origins of Borussia’s name, see Jeremy’s recent excellent post.

Tifo Video: U-11 Lech Cup, Poland

Lech Poznan U-11 Cup

Boy, do they start them young in Poland. Ever wondered why there seems to an endless supply of ultras willing to anything and everything for their team, from singing to, well, burning stuff at very dangerous temperatures?

Maybe it’s because the culture filters all the way down to junior tournaments.

The Lech Cup for under elevens is one of Europe’s elite youth tournaments, and this year’s edition featured Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona (well, their Hong Kong youth team spin-off) and Valencia. And of course, hosts Lech Poznań, who brought a few supporters out.

The banner reads something like “Everyone starts out small in order to achieve something big.” Welcome to Polish football, kids.

Tifo Video: IFK Göteborg

AIK tifo display

In a return of our tifo video series, we stop in Sweden to look at a beautifully choreographed and executed tifo display by supporters of IFK Göteborg in a match against AIK (who we featured just a month or two ago) earlier this year.

This two-tier display includes flag waving on the terrace above, with scarves held up across the lower level below.

And then….there’s a little colour added to proceedings.

Tifo Video: Nabisco Cup Final, Kawasaki Frontale vs. FC Tokyo

Nabisco Cup Final, Kawasaki Frontale vs. FC Tokyo

Today, our tifo series swings to Asia for the first time.

We check out Japanese fans at the Nabisco Cup (also known as the J-League Cup) final between Kawasaki Frontale and FC Tokyo, held earlier this week.

This video is a little slow to get going, but there’s some gorgeous colour, some impressive banners, and generally well choreographed displays from supporters of both teams.

And the coup de grâce: a mascot on rollerskates.

Many thanks to @aishiterutokyo on Twitter for the tip. Check out his FC Tokyo blog as well.

Tifo Video: Blue-White Fanatic Kop, Lausanne

BWFK Tifo display

Our tifo video series rolls across from Belgium to Switzerland, and we find ourselves in Lausanne, a small French-speaking city perhaps best known as the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee.

Swiss club FC Lausanne-Sport, founded in 1896 and successful for their first half-century, haven’t won the league championship for other forty years.

Their supporters’ group Blue-White Fanatic Kop (BWFK) take their name from Lausanne’s colours, and their English spelling and use of Kop is indicative of their formation in the 80s, when the influence of English support on the continent was considerable.

The group recently celebrated their twentieth anniversary, and decided to mark it with a pre-game display translating roughly as “united for twenty years”. It’s fairly spectacular, despite the rather noticeably empty stands.

Tifo Video: KV Mechelen, You Are Gold

Anderlecht

This week, our new tifo video series has shown displays from supporters in Australia, Northern Ireland and Sweden.

Now we make a short hop to Belgium to take a look at supporters of KV Mechelen, a team who have historically been close to becoming a dominant force in the Belgian league, but who have somehow often fallen short.

Two successful periods in the 1940s, including three domestic titles, was followed by decades of mediocrity and lower division football, until a further rise and championship in 1989, and even a European Cup Winners’ Cup title in 1988. The team then fell down the league again due to financial problems, returning to Belgium’s top flight Jupiler League in 2007

In this recent tifo display by their supporters against Belgium’s dominant force, Anderlecht, all sides of the stadium are involved in impressive uniform: the team’s colours are red and gold, and they have apparently adopted Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” as their anthem, so hence the gold theme.

Tifo Video: AIK in Sweden, Fear of the Black

AIK in Sweden

Our series on supporter tifo displays on Pitch Invasion jumps from Northern Ireland to Sweden.

Below is a compilation of displays by supporters of AIK (Allmänna Idrottsklubben). AIK were founded in 1891, and after being one of the dominant forces in the early decades of the Swedish league, have only had sporadic success in recent years.

This hasn’t prevented a number of extremely vibrant supporters’ groups from developing in the past decades, and AIK have continued to have very strong attendance numbers. Prominent groups include the historically largest group, the Black Army, and Sol Invictus and Ultras Nord.

Tifo Video: Glentoran’s Legion 1882

Glentoran's Legion 1882

Our new series on Pitch Invasion moves all the way from Australia to Northern Ireland, as we look at the growing ultras culture in the IFA Premiership.

Glentoran are the current champions of the league, and their supporters’ group Legion 1882 (which references the year the club was founded) was formed just two years ago.

The new group picked up the pieces from Forza Glentoran, a previously active group, and they quickly picked up a love for pyrotechnic displays, including smokebombs and flares.

Though still a relatively small group, Legion 1882 have picked up strength fast, and save their most intense moments for the passionate games against chief rivals Linfield, as you can see below in a display at Windsor Park from October 17th.

Tifo Video: Sydney FC Supporters

SydneyA new series on Pitch Invasion debuts, though it’s actually a bit of a return to our roots as half the reason I started this site back in the day was to show tifo displays from around the world.

To kick things off, we look at Australia with a video documenting the making and display of a variety of banners by supporters of Sydney FC in the A-League.

It’s all fairly simple stuff, but effective and I like the peak at the making of it — always interesting to see how this gets done. Sydney’s biggest supporters group is known as The Cove, and here’s what they do.