15 August 2007

United Force: La Barra Brava

The Washington Post has a great article on La Barra Brava in today's Style section written by David Montgomery. Every DC United fan, loud or quiet, young or old, black or red, should read it. There are also accompanying photos and video that you should check out, especially the photo montage with Barra narrative. The coverage is very well done and clearly shows how soccer supporters groups are different from traditional U.S. fans. The things I take for granted at DC United games, such as the drums, flags, seating, and singing throughout the game are seen as novelties by Mr. Montgomery, which reminded me just how different United games are.

The article shows the beginnings of La Barra Brava, including how important Kevin Payne was to the atmosphere we take for granted. It talks about some of the larger characters in the group with lots of quotes, and also has positive quotes from people outside the Barra that deal with them on a regular basis. Mr. Montgomery shows how the Barra has morphed from a South American supporters group to a melting pot of beggars for good soccer. The best quote of the article is:

"The Barra Brava works how America is supposed to work," says Conner, a recreation coordinator for Culpeper County, Va. "It's a great melting pot. We have 27 different nationalities there now. We have guys from Africa, we have guys from Europe, and South America, which is obviously our roots that we want to hold on to. What we want to be is the standard for American hard-core support."

To end let me just say kudos to Mr. Montgomery. Whenever newspapers run articles about subjects I am familiar with I can usually find some mistakes or glaring omissions, even in quality papers such as The Washington Post. This article had none of that, I had some minor quibbling with a couple of lines, but they probably say more about me than the writing. Plus, even though I hang out at bars with Barra members, sit right next to them, and always try to get their cheers going this article had little bits of information that even I didn't know. For example,

Someone holds up two of artist Terry's big white cardboard cutouts. One is a beer, the other is a man: Beer Man. It's a signal to Pow, who's been selling beer in RFK since 1980, to come on down.

I never knew that it was an actual signal to the beer man; I just thought it was a funny poster that somebody brought with them every game. Though it explains why I haven't heard any of the "Where is the Beer Men" chants in while.

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