Sunday, January 3, 2010

1/3/2010: The Nordecke- A Corner Kick Taker's Nightmare, A Soccer Fan's Dream

I'm currently doing a write up on the Columbus Crew for a Polish football, culture website called portalkibica.pl. This is kind of a rough draft, and I think I almost included every single essential thing you need to know about the Nordecke. But, if you think I missed something important let me know and I can do a correction perhaps. Hopefully it all translates, the guy I'm talking to has a pretty good command of English so I think it will.


All pictures by Sam Fahmi, his wonderful work can be found here. All article snippets by Shawn Mitchell and Micheal Arace, their great work can be found at the Columbus Dispatch's Crew Xtra.

The Nordecke- A Corner Kick Taker's Nightmare, A Soccer Fan's Dream
By Ryan Kozlowski

The Columbus Crew fanatical support call their section Nordecke (German for north corner). The dimensions of the supporters area are five sections that can fit around 3,000 fanatics when they're all crammed together. The front row of supporters are a good 10 feet from the corner flag. This is great if you're a Crew supporter, as the Crew players will often run over after a goal and get into the arms of a burly, sweaty supporter. It is also not so bad for the Crew player, as often times on corners the whole section will bow down in praise while chanting the kickers name. But, for the opposing player, it is pure hell unleashed. As it appears that even when streamers, smoke bombs, bottles, batteries, and drum sticks have been banished from the section, the Crew supporter can find something odd to throw at an opposing player; like a magazine, an orange, a twinkie bar, or even a sweater. The worst incident was likely this one back in the early days of 2008:

Near the end of the game, Ralston was hit with plastic beer and water bottles -- and, he claimed, batteries. He said he changed the rhythm of his kicks to extricate himself from the corner as soon as possible. At one point, he stopped what he was doing to toss away a smoke bomb that had been thrown in his path. At another point, Revs player Shalrie Joseph backed away with a scowl on his face and his middle finger raised. --From The Columbus Dispatch, 5/26/2008.

Two years ago this uniquely different atmosphere for an American sport did not exist yet. Nowadays, 3,000 Crew fans pack into the stand weekly to get fanatical for their side the Columbus Crew. They make it an all day event. They get at the bar or tailgate at 2 for a 7:30 game and they're out until 2 a.m. It's an event and the Nordecke at Crew Stadium is the place to be. For a big game sometimes one must stand, clap, and chant sideways. Further, at times, it feels as if the Nordecke section could tip over the rest of the stadium as one cannot move in the Nordecke; yet empty seats at times can be seen throughout the rest of the aptly named Columbus Crew Stadium.

When best trying to describe the all encompassing feeling of the club, the uniquely named Crew (which in Spanish only translates as gang) and their sardine packed support would likely be that the Crew lack glamor compared to sides in Los Angeles and New York. The stadium isn't that pretty, the actions of the fans can sometimes not be that pretty, and it is an unlikely destination for the Beckham types. To get into more detail, the Crew were the first team to build their own MLS stadium in 1999 and the stadium was built by far with the least ammount of money of any MLS stadium, to sum it up the stadium is a eyesore with a nice pitch. Furthermore, the Crew has the smallest market and population of any team in MLS, despite this the Crew's attendance of 14,000 is best for 7 or 8 out of the 15 teams. Also, one could describe the Columbus Crew, as the glamorous side on the field (the Crew has won the past two regular seasons and the MLS Cup in 2008, while also making it to the knockout stage in our form of the Champions League) with the least glamorous fans.

Not to say that the supporters in the Nordecke are bad people, could use a shower, or some snazzier clothes. Quite the opposite, some of the Nordecke supporters are the kindest people, especially when we win. It's more of a case of the section will do almost anything to give their team the home advantage and it has worked. The Columbus Crew at one point had never lost at home for 16 months (June 2008 to October 2009), or otherwise 24 games. Despite this statistic, most MLS fans would give Toronto or Seattle the best atmosphere, but most Crew fans say the proof is in the record breaking home streak. It just isn't an enjoyable place for the opposition. Further, some Crew fans believe that if you pit the Nordecke against any other section in MLS (forget the regular fans sitting in the expensive seats), that the Nordecke brings the best atmosphere.

Whatever one wants to say, the Nordecke has never been boring. That can be a good or a bad thing.

Fighting between at least 30 West Ham supporters and some 100 fans of Columbus Crew had to be broken up by police and security staff during the match in Columbus on Sunday. Rival groups began chanting at each other and fist fights broke out until police and security staff using mace and pepper spray eventually moved in to separate the sides.

Several people were handcuffed during the fighting but there was only one arrest - outside the stadium - for disorderly conduct.
--
Daily Telegraph.

The Nordecke has had their ugly moments and the Nordecke has had other moments that have been beautiful, as demonstrated in the following picture:

Just beautiful.

The section since 2008 has also had it's balance of praise and critics, such as Commissioner of the League Don Garber, who as of late, seems to be 100% behind the section despite the trouble that the Nordecke has sometimes caused:
"That is hot passion," Garber said. "I've told (Crew General Manager) Mark McCullers, just keep building that group 100 at a time."

And at other times it has been berated, this is a great article on the Nordecke's all encompassing stituation.

When it comes to the people that make up the Nordecke.. The Nordecke features three main supporter groups called the Hudson Street Hooligans, La Turbina Amarilla, and Columbus Supporters Union. The section also has some other groups such as the newly formed ultra group 94' BOYS, the Black and Gold Mob, and the unaffiliated supporters. The background of each group is quite different. La Turbina is the Latino group and consists mainly of El Salvadorans. Columbus Supporters Union is for the older and possibly wiser fanatical, 30 and ups. Hudson Street Hooligans and the other groups are for your younger 20 types.

The three main groups HSH, LTA, and CSU all started around 2006 and grew out of past groups, for the most part. These three groups stood in seperate areas until the Columbus Crew front office imploded the North End to make a stage for non-soccer entertainment. This peeved a lot of supporters. But, in actuality, forced the three supporters groups to converge in one spot in the North Corner. So, what happens when you force all three groups of your most rabid fans in one area and then give them four months of build up to compete against 2,400 traveling away fans on opening day? Magic. After that day the rest was history. The section continued to grow a little more each game until the Summer of 2008 and then ever since the section has been near capacity.

The section also works together to do tifo projects such as the following:








And, our little supporters lab for tifo:



Another great thing about our team is the connection we have with our players. We believe that they're fighting for us out on that field and we are helping to push them on. The players also always come over to the section at the end of the game to give a bow and then to visit. And, even though there might be a debate about what supporters section brings it the most, there is no debate on what section has the best connection with their players. Here are some pictures of that:











The Nordecke also has an interesting nickname for their club, the MASSIVE club or just MASSIVE. It is a nickname that was seen as a joke by most Crew fans who brought it up first during the painful and dreadful years (from 2005 to 2007 )when the Crew were near the bottom of the table. And, despite the Crew's current good form and talented team, it is still a playful joke because of the whole not so glamorous appeal of Columbus I stressed before. Don't get me wrong Columbus is a great city, but it still isn't New York or LA. Further, as stated we have a 10 year old stadium that is already falling apart, we don't sell out, we are in a town where college football dominates, we are not Los Angeles, we do not have the big names, sometimes things are thrown on the field that shouldn't be by the fans, and were in a country where the weekly soccer matches get a 0.6 rating usually. There is nothing obviously Massive, Galatico, Real Madrid-esque about the Crew. But, to us the Crew are MASSIVE. It is the most important team, it is one of the most important things in our lives. Nobody else might understand it, especially in America. But, MASSIVE is a state of mind. As in our heads the Crew result is front page stuff, our team is selling merchandise by the boat load, and our games are getting Super Bowl ratings.

Now lets get to our rivals, mainly Chicago, TFC, and our older rivals DC United (each is about five to seven hours away, or an interesting day on a bus away):

The mutual frustration of a draw turned physical after the game. Unruly fans, including some from a contingent of an estimated 1,500 Toronto supporters, confronted one another and the police in parking lots to the south and east of the stadium. Multiple arrests were made and mace or pepper spray was used to break up at least one melee.

At least twenty Columbus police cruisers and a heli-copter were still patrolling the lots 45 minutes after the game. Columbus police said that some fans were ejected from the stadium and there were at least three arrests.

A security guard said that Toronto fans ripped a stadium railing from its bearings. Multiple rows of bleachers in the Toronto section were twisted and bent. Toronto fans also unfurled multiple vulgar banners that were removed by security.

-Columbus Dispatch, March, 29 2009

Nowadays when you go to Chicago or Toronto you have to make sure you keep your wits about you. However, thankfully security at games has gotten a bit better in 2009 compared to 2008. For example, in 2009 we waited in the stadium for a hour and a half after the game and had to walk around the field to get to our bus, and there were still about 500 TFC fans waiting for us behind security. Yet everyone ended up safe as that was handled in a excellent fashion compared to 2008. As in 2008, Toronto's security told the Crew support that security would be holding us for 30 minutes to allow TFC fans to clear out, but apparently one of our fans said, "hey we would love to go to our bus now please" and security surprisingly obliged. And, security did not stop the 115 Crew fans from walking right into a melee of about 300 young TFC fans waiting and looking for trouble. In the Crew contingent there were a few families as well, since that day it hasn't been all roses between the two supporter groups, much less even Trillum's.

Trillum is a sort of flower that grows both in Ontario and Ohio, it is also the Cup that MLS has fabricated to try to intensify the rivalry. Basically, every issue between the two sides has been pushed by MLS. The Crew now play three games against TFC compared to two and the Crew for the third straight year will open at home against Toronto FC. Pitting the home opener against TFC allows TFC fans six months of offseason to make plans to make the six hour trip South. Both years that has led to big away crowds and trouble. However, even though MLS might have intensified the rivalry both groups took the bait.

In comparison to Toronto's mass contingent, the Crew supporters can only bring 100 to 120 to Toronto because Toronto FC sells out and doesn't allocate too well for away support. Therefore, the biggest away trip for Crew fans is against the Chicago Fire, because the Fire have an attendance similiar to ours. So, we bring about 300-500 fans. Here is a picture of our biggest away group this year:



Oh, and we have a song for our rivals:
Build a bonfire,
Build a bonfire,
Put Chicago on the top,
Put Toronto in the middle,
And we'll burn the (expletive) lot


I'll just leave it at that. And, while were on the topic of chants, the staple for Columbus is one that St. Pauli uses quite often:
We love you!
We love you!
We love you!
And where you go we'll follow!
We'll follow!
We'll follow!
Because we support Columbus!
Columbus!
Columbus!
And, that's the way we like it!
We like it!
Ohhh, ohhh, ohhh oh ohh, ohhh, ohhh oh ohh!


Any other questions about Columbus, please send them to Michal at portalkibica and he can send them to me.

Other links, Columbus Crew supporters videos can be found here. And, here is a link to my Crew fan website, Crewture.com, feel free to leave a message in Polish or English. Polska do boju!

2 comments:

  1. Good article, you highlighted the good with the bad. It's a fair assessment of the Nodecke. The pictures are great too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like your assessment of Massive, it is spot on and made me smile.

    ReplyDelete