Setting the Mood: The Ultimate Display of Choreography of Supporters
Written by: Jay Landskroener
When you go into a stadium to watch the sport of soccer, football, futbol, calcio, you enter to take in two simultaneous experiences. The money you paid for your ticket helps revenue and spending on players, utilities at the stadium, and ultimately the game that is advertised. You see the ebbs and flows, tactics, fouls, goals, and poor(sometimes not so) officiating. But with the aforementioned ebbs and flows comes the second dynamic you experience.
From the time the gates open to allow fans into the stadium, there is a stir in the air. Usually, this feeling radiates from a specific part of the stadium. And as time passes and more fans enter through to turnstiles, that feeling gains energy. Once a certain subset of fans enter their section, that energy transfigures into full-blown noise and showmanship, at times organized chaos. This noise and showmanship range from the physical to the verbal, from aesthetics to emotion. To intimidate the opponents and lift up their own club.
In some stadiums, they only sing songs. In some, they wave flags throughout. In others, smoke fills the air. While some go as far as to light fireworks and flares to set the mood.
The people responsible for this experience are referred to in as many regional translations as the word soccer. These people are referred to as Tifosi, Ultras, Hooligans, Barra Brava, or in the US, simply as Supporters. And while the team gets a share of the revenues from the experience they allow fans, Supporters are groups independently operated and funded by the fans.
In our country, a good portion of marketing done by teams involves showing off the artistic creations and experiences made by the supporters. It could be the celebrations of a goal, the smoke rising seemingly from under the stands, the clapping of hands in synchrony, the flags waving among a crowd, or the ultimate display of choreography by the fans, tifos.
According to wiki, a tifo is the phenomenon whereby supporters of a team make a visual display of any choreographed flag, sign, or banner in the stands of a stadium. Tifos are primarily arranged by ultras to show their love to the club. They are most commonly seen in important matches and rivalries. Some tifos are political and controversial.
These displays can have multiple sections or pieces of art, one very large piece of art, card stunts, or numerous layers utilizing the stands and in-stadium logistics for artistic depth. Each of which I will explain below. The beauty of the tifo is that it can show the world how dope not just your club but your region, culture, and support is. And while they set the mood for the underlying ambiance of the fans, they can be as labor-intensive and coordinated as the player's journey to that same match.
In the US, these displays occur when the national anthem ends, and the first kick is played. So while days to weeks and sometimes months go into creating tifos, the display itself is only hoisted for a matter of seconds to a few minutes, leaving only photographs and memories of their existence.
Of the most common displays are banners. Simple banners can be across the front railing with writing across them to display their message. It's straightforward messaging and typically used when space or timing doesn't allow for more artistic creation.
Building into more depth, teams use sheets, tarps, even sails from large boats to create large(think the entire end line stands of a stadium) artistic creations to unravel over the section(s). This is actually quite common these days, and many places even do this with the American Flag during the National Anthem. These are typically the largest of tifo pieces and the easiest to get the sections to do.
The next largest pieces are typically hoisted in front of the sections. In Europe, the fans can throw ropes through overhangs in the stadium to manually lift these displays. Some places have physical hoists already in place. Those places, including our own Bank of America Stadium, use those for other reasons and just so happen that they can help with the artistic display.
The most difficult to execute tifo are known as Card Stunts. Card stunts are a planned, coordinated sequence of actions performed by an audience whose members raise cards that, in the aggregate, create a recognizable image. For this sequence to work, the vast majority of seats must be occupied, and everyone must be willing to participate.
Coordinating one of these is tricky. There are places all over Europe and even here in the US that has used a variety of each technique to create stunning displays. Displays made incredible by being multi-faceted, smoke-filled, and equally participated by the fans create memorable moments, moments that occur before the match even kicks off.
Without the Supporters help in creating and executing such beautiful pieces of art and choreography, the aura of the team is only as high as the players can make it. The fans, Supporters and beyond, are the ones who create and maintain the atmosphere. We bring the showmanship of the physical and the verbal, the aesthetics and the emotion. All the songs we sing and presentations made are intended to intimidate the opponents and lift up their own club.
With art, card stunts, flags, streamers, smoke, and songs, anything is possible. We all work together like the team on the pitch. For Our City. For Our Club. For The Carolinas. For The Crown.