Getting Barra Brava About Soccer

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The Barra Brava are a group of fans who bring a different style of cheering and excitement to pro soccer games in the U.S. They're derived from Latin American fan clubs. But in Washington D.C., most of the members aren't Latino, even though the cheers are in Spanish.


Back now with Day to Day. Sure, baseball is finishing up the World Series, and the basketball season is just beginning, but kids are still playing soccer on the weekends, and people are going to pro games, too. In Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium, the city team draws a group of rowdy fans. They're known as La Barra Brava. NPR's Eloise Quintanilla reports.

(Soundbite of crowd cheers)

ELOISE QUINTANILLA: This might sound like a soccer stadium in Argentina or Colombia. Drums beat, horns blare and the stands shake. But this is a game between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls. In Washington, D.C., Section 135 is home to the Barra Brava, D.C. United's largest fan club. Many of the Barra's most ardent fans aren't Latin American and don't speak Spanish, though they try to learn the cheers. Troy Gent (ph) joined the Barra in March. He hasn't taken Spanish since junior high.

Mr. TROY GENT: (Spanish spoken) And in English, we got come on, come on, come on my heart. We will win, we will win, we will be champions.

QUINTANILLA: Chris Oreal's (ph) been with the Barras since last fall. He was drawn to the camaraderie of the club and the intensity of its cheering.

Mr. CHRIS OREAL: It's the volume, the volume matters. It doesn't matter what language. It's the volume that counts.

QUINTANILLA: Dave Gus (ph), another Barra Brava member, says he did something that Washingtonians consider blasphemous.

Mr. DAVE GUS: I gave up Redskins season tickets. I realize, as much as I love watching football, it doesn't compare to the experience of being at a Barra Brava game.

QUINTANILLA: In South America, organized supporters clubs are called Barras Bravas, meaning wild fans. Barristas - not the people who serve you coffee at Starbucks - have a reputation for clashing violently with opposing fans. D.C.'s Barra Brava is tame by comparison.

More than a thousand Barras pack the stands on game day at RFK. Similar South American-style supporters' groups have cropped up in cities like Columbus, Houston, and Chicago, but not everybody is crazy about them. For instance, Jim Barry (ph) can't see around the standing Barra.

Mr. JIM BARRY: We moved up here to try to see better because otherwise, you've got to stand up all the time. I mean, fan enthusiasm is fine, but I don't come to watch the fans. I come to watch the game.

QUINTANILLA: But many fans say it's exciting to sit with the Barra Brava. Sherry Cooper (ph) says it reminds her of Manchester United games in England.

Ms. SHERRY COOPER: Barra Brava is the closest you're going to get to, like, European and South American football. Definitely, you know, the atmosphere and their enthusiasm. That's why we joined today.

QUINTANILLA: Eloise Quintanilla, NPR News.

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