What's a Tifo?

What are tifos? Tifo, by definition, is the Italian word for a group of supporters or the act of supporting your team. The displays that take on the same name are rooted in Italian and Eastern European soccer back in the 60s and 70s when the rise of Supporters Groups (Ultras) began.

 Simple but perfect 

Simple but perfect 

If you google the word tifo and search images, you will see numerous forms of choreography ranging from small to large; Some may even show the face of The Joker or Freddy Krueger. Weird, I know, but there is also a reason for what is displayed on tifos and Supporters Groups (SG) can be very creative in their reasoning.

 One of the best displays ever put on by MLS fans

One of the best displays ever put on by MLS fans

For starters, SG are just that; groups of enthusiasts who support a soccer club. Their enthusiasm is, in most cases, excessive to most individuals. To be able to discuss tifos and their history or meaning, one must have a brief understanding of the type of individual(s) who create said tifos.

SG are the individuals cheering, drumming, flag-waving, singing, screaming, and doing whatever they can to support their club for 90 minutes or more. Unlike fans of other sports, such as baseball or basketball, SG practically work all year round and are ran like an organization. You will most likely see, or shall I say ‘hear’, these groups marching to the stadium well before kickoff.

 Dortmund's "Yellow Wall" is world famous for their displays of support

Dortmund's "Yellow Wall" is world famous for their displays of support

A couple of ways SG show their support are by tifos and chants, along with many other forms. These are some of the ways supporters can be creative and gear their chants or tifos towards specific themes. For example, last year, a few MLS clubs created large tifos to commemorate their departed supporters. Seeing these on match day can be a great sight for many match-goers but many do not know what goes into the creation and preparation of tifos.

 Tifos are a primary way supporters can get their message out to the worls

Tifos are a primary way supporters can get their message out to the worls

Large displays in leagues such as the German Bundesliga or the Spanish La Liga, tifos can costs tens of thousands of dollars while smaller tifos can still cost thousands of dollars. Not only do the material for these tifos cost quite a bit, they also take time and preparation. SG will generally have access to the grounds well before the match, so they have plenty of time to lay out their designs for these large tifos.

And tifos are an expression of the soccer culture that the supporters are from.  You won't see a lot of painted banners in England for example, but you will see a lot more spontaneous singing at certain players.  In South America the spectacle is the main job of the supporters, or barras. Confetti, fireworks, banners, and yes streamers, are on display for the full 90.  

 Collaborative efforts between the SGs can produce amazing results 

Collaborative efforts between the SGs can produce amazing results 

When asked which topic I wanted to write about, I chose tifos. Now, I have obviously seen many tifos on TV while watching professional matches, but I have never seen one in person nor been tasked with helping to prepare in the creation of tifos. This year, I am excited to see the types of tifos that the various FC Cincinnati Supporters Groups come up with and I also hope to have the opportunity to help in the creating of tifos. Overall, SG are meant to exude passion and support on match day and tifos can be a big part of that experience

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Mike Madanat

Soccer BasicsMike Madanat