Anyone who watches European football has heard about the Ultras
Anyone who watches European football has heard about the Ultras - highly devoted fans who are completely dedicated to their respective teams. They tend to be among the most vocal and passionate sections of a club's support but, are often thought about in a negative light.
In America, on the other hand, football culture is really just beginning. The first game played for the Major League Soccer association was just a mere twenty years ago. In fact, it's so new that the average Brit has only heard of a handful of teams, if any at all. LA Galaxy, most famously known for its acquisition of David Beckham, is perhaps the most winning and most successful of the bunch, winning the MLS Cup a number of times.
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The fan groups in the MLS might be passionate about their teams, but they are generally accepting and quite diverse as well. This is probably because of the way that the clubs handled their fans from the very beginning i.e. when the league first began, the clubs made sure to keep a close eye on the different groups, a step that helped to avoid the reputation of violence that has plagued some of the European football fans in the past.
The only problem with this tactic is that it left fans effectively neutered. But, things are starting to change now. In fact, many American fans have begun to model themselves on the Ultras in Europe. In fact, there have even been some events where fans can clearly be heard people shouting the same phrase said in stadiums all over the UK - "who are ya?'' - Complete with cockney accents and all.
The San Jose Ultras, the most outspoken supporters of the San Jose Earthquakes, have a direct link between American and European football culture. This is because the group was created by Dan Margarit, a fan who immigrated to the US back in 1999. Back in Romania, he was staying, he was a member of the Steaua Ultras, the SC Steaua Bucuresti supporters. Although this group has had some negative incidents in the past, Dan neither has any history nor does he sympathize with this element of the movement.
When asked about the growing parallels between European fan groups and their American counterparts, Dan stated that he believes things are different because, for most Americans, football is just something to enjoy on the weekends. But, for many Europeans, it's a way of life.
Furthermore, he doesn't believe that violence is a problem in the American soccer league, even amongst members of the Ultras. Although these American groups are inspired by the European Ultras that most fans in the United Kingdom and other countries around the world are familiar with, it's obvious that the chaos inherent in these leagues doesn't jive well with the clean reputation of the MLS.
In Dan's opinion, more excitement he can be brought to the American game of football. And, as the MLS grows in age, and Ultras begin to replace the soccer dads and moms in the stands, this is sure to happen. While the class and political divides that created the football Ultras in Europe don't exist in the United States, these passionate fans are still willing to defend their the Prestige of their Club with everything they've got. Does it get better than that?