WASHINGTON – Late last Saturday night – long after the players, coaches and staff headed home from RFK Stadium – a few of D.C. United's most ardent supporters were still hard at work.
Members of the District Ultras and La Norte had come together for a marathon work session, beautifying the previously drab weight room at RFK with a mural.
Historically, the line between an MLS club and its fans has been blurry – while other sports aim to keep fans at arms length, players and fans in Major League Soccer interact in a truly unique way. Fans and supporters display their passion and love for their club through song, movement and art – players often return the affection by climbing into the stands or interacting with them at team-organized events.
"The club and city have always been intrinsically connected to me," said Srdan Bastic, a District Ultras member. "That's the magic of soccer – it's like that in other sports too I guess, but it seems more that way with soccer, maybe because of its working-class roots."
In keeping with this unique tradition, United approached their supporters groups with several ideas. The Ultras were asked if they had a "tifo" that they'd like to display on the walls beneath RFK Stadium.
They did the club one better, offering to create a more permanent display.
"The creative side of our fan base has always amazed me," United head coach Ben Olsen told MLSsoccer.com after training Friday morning. "They continue to stay with us in good and bad times and it’s just another example – to us – of how much we’re being backed by the people in Washington, D.C., and our fans in general."
The club says it has plans to incorporate its other supporters groups into similar projects in the future. For now, though, D.C. United's players will have something a bit more interesting to look at every time they hit the weights.