By Evan Ream
It is the 77th minute of a D.C. United vs. Impact de Montreal game. It is over 100 degrees despite being slightly overcast. D.C. United is winning 2-0 in a thoroughly dominating performance.
All of a sudden, it starts to rain. Fans on the other side of the stadium head for the exit. But not on this side. Not the District Ultras. The rain only makes them sing louder:
“If I had the wings of an eagle
If I had the ass of a crow
I’d fly over Montreal
And shit on the bastards below
Shit on, shit on!
Shit on the bastards below!”
Srdan Bastaic, the president of the District Ultras, picks up a 30-foot high black, white and red flag and waves it three or four times before putting it down, almost hitting the VIP section in the process.
“Sounds like we’re losing 3-0,” says Bastaic in a Croatian accent.
“Well they did threaten to arrest the entire section,” responds another member of the group referring to the illegal smoke bombs that were lit after each goal.
The District Ultras, a group that split off from La Barra Brava in 2010, are the main tifo builders of D.C. United fan groups.
Before the game, the Ultras were setting up this day’s tifo, a 40-foot eagle with its arms crossed and a mean look in its eyes.
“What’s your goal for this piece?” one fan asks another.
“My goal is always 30 seconds,” responds the first fan, not talking about the tifo.
Jokes — like this rain — down the entire tailgate with topics ranging from circumcision, to Balkans and sometimes a combination of both. The vibe of this tailgate is a young man’s dream.
The Ultras test out their tifo. When lifted up, supported by its three poles, it is about the size of a three-story building.
“It looks like shit.”
“Okay we’re not doing it then.”
A third fan comes up, “I think it looks beautiful!”
It is 7:15. The game starts in 15 minutes, and the Ultras haven’t figured out their tifo yet. They ultimately decide not to use it because they would rather have nothing at all than something that looks bad.
“Is anyone even going to the game?” yells one stationary fan.
All of a sudden, a fan banging the Mini Cooper-sized drum that takes two other fans to hold, wearing a black beret, combat boots with black knee-high socks, cargo shorts, a flag as a cape, sunglasses, gloves and a Ben Olsen home jersey yells, “All right you motherfuckers! It’s time to fucking go!”
The Ultras aren’t always punctual.
They march through the stadium to their section. In the cavernous tunnels of RFK Stadium, their voices echo endlessly. Stadium employees and supposedly neutral security guards join in their chants.
They get into their section after the game has started and start jumping around and dancing. The makeshift RFK stands bounce and
bend. They feel like they could crumble beneath at any time. No one cares.
Bastaic stands on two seats, directly over the aisle in between the two sections that the Ultras and La Norte, another D.C. United supporters group, occupy. Aside from a short break to switch shirts (he sweat through one of them), he stands here leading chants for 90 minutes. Most other supporters groups switch off or have multiple capos. Not the Ultras.
D.C. United wins 3-0. Srdan slumps over, exhausted. He tells me that he is too old for this, but just like the rest of the Ultras, he will be back next week. And the week after that. And every week which D.C. plays. Because that is what an Ultra is. Someone who shows up week in and week out to support the team they love. No matter what.