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The History of Supporter Groups

Being part of a supporter group is much more than standing in the crowd and cheering your heart out for your favorite soccer team. It’s a family of diehard fans who celebrate a mutual love for the game of soccer. These passionate fans make up networks who can watch, meet, discuss, and travel to various games of their beloved team.

In the spirit of soccer and the diverse fans who make the game a spectacle for all to enjoy, appreciating the history of soccer and supporter groups is a great way to build team spirit for the upcoming Copa tournament.

Supporter groups first made their presence known on soccer fields almost 80 years ago in Brazil. While the exact date of the first support group is disputed, many Spanish and European countries have heard cheers from field to field since.

An old and weathered black and white image of the Leitrim Football team circa 1910.

Ultras Began it All

The first European ultra groups were recognized in 1951 and soon gained active support through signature banners, choreographed chants, and firework displays as groups aimed to take their team spirit to a higher level. The rise of ultras contrasted with traditional culture of Italy, in particular, and overlapped with the country’s time of unrest due to violence.

The ultra movement of soccer continued to spread across Europe during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, beginning with countries closest to Italy. The creation of ultras impacted the culture of soccer in different ways from country to country. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany were impacted greatly because these countries’ soccer cultures were more influenced by English football.

The Rise of Hooliganism

Now, we have to admit. Supporter groups do, in fact, have a violent past. As we all know, emotions can run high in games and sometimes chaos has ensued. These acts of hooliganism, as they call it, has resulted in a number of fights, riots, and vandalism over the years. However, don’t be deceived. This hooliganism is far and few between these days.

Today’s supporter groups continue to be vocal, passionate, and filled with spirit, but, the violence has subsided. Instead, the focus has shifted to supporting your team instead of fighting against another.

Ultras move to the U.S.

Since soccer is still a relatively young sport in the U.S., it’s history is still being written. However, the European influence is apparent. Today, the U.S. is filled with the American version of Ultras – Supporter Groups.

These supporter groups are created by a core group of leaders and smaller subgroups based on political stance, location, and love for a specific team. It’s not uncommon for more than one supporter group to exist for a team. It’s also common to see a huge variation in size. Supporter groups vary from a few hundred to thousands to a whole section of seats at a soccer stadium!

Supporter Groups, like their European counterpart, spread quickly. Today, you can find Supporter Groups in almost every major U.S. city with some of the largest fan bases in the U.S. based out of New York, New Jersey, and California.

Supporter Groups will Continue to Grow

As we had mentioned, American soccer is still in its infancy. However, soccer culture will continue to grow full speed ahead. In fact, don’t be surprised to see supporter groups take the fields by storm this summer when Copa America celebrates their 100th anniversary here in the United States. You’ll definitely be able to spot supporter groups in the stands at this summer’s tournament from their loud cheers, colorful banners, and of course their awesome scarves!

However, whether COPA or not, you’re sure to hear supporter groups at any big game. Keep a lookout!

Need a scarf for your Supporter Group?

At Diehard Scarves, we work with some of the best Supporter Groups around. Their constant enthusiasm and excitement for their teams are infectious! Brown Bag Social Club of NY is one of many that we have done scarves for. Check out their Instagram for even more great shots!

A photo posted by Brown Bag SC (@brownbagsc) on

Contact us today to get started on your own custom scarf design. Check out our gallery for design inspiration. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We are constantly featuring our scarves and the supporter groups behind them.