COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Crew SC announced two weeks ago that thanks to increased demand the club will be expanding their supporters’ section – known as the Nordecke – next season. And while ticket reps will be working hard to fill those new seats for the coming year, Brand Ambassador and club legend Frankie Hejduk is planning for the future.
During the second half of matches in recent weeks at MAPFRE Stadium, a second supporters’ section has formed. Dubbed the “Mini Nordecke” by Hejduk, a crowd of around 100 kids has made a ritual of showing off their own cheering skills.
The youngsters chant, sing and dance like their grownup Nordecke counterparts.
“It is a little bit rated-R over there for some parents and some kids,” Hejduk said, noting that he loves the Nordecke’s bite. “So I thought we’d start our own PG-rated Nordecke, and that’s how it started.”
Hejduk said the plan originated organically, when his own four children, along with the four kids each of head coach Gregg Berhalter and assistant coach Josh Wolff started bringing friends to games, combining into a herd of youngsters.
“Between those guys, we had somewhere between 20 and 25 kids at every game,” Hejduk said. “They always look at the Nordecke and they always want to sit in the Nordecke. We were all talking and I was like, ‘Let’s start our own little Nordecke right here, guys. You guys do a chant!’ And they led an ‘I believe’ chant on that side of the field. All the sudden there were a bunch of kids looking up and looking at them and they started doing the chant as well.”
Chris Houck has been going to Crew SC games with his wife Jocelyn on-and-off since 1999. The pair have always enjoyed the Nordecke, but have been hesitant to take their 10-year-old daughter Lily and eight-year-old kids Quentin and Beatrice into the rowdy environment. When the kids saw a group of fans their age, they were immediately drawn to it.
“The Nordecke is very appealing to kids, the dancing and singing and clapping, but you get into the language and it’s not suitable,” Houck said. “They saw [the Mini Nordecke] and said, ‘Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?’”
The Houcks weren’t the only ones who joined Hejduk’s merry band of miniature supporters. They’ve created quite a following, and are now planning chants, learning the game and planning tifos in Hejduk’s garage.
“They’re learning how tough it is and how fun it is to be a fan,” he said. “They had visions in the beginning of starting right at the beginning of the game and going the whole time. But 90 minutes of singing and dancing and chanting and waving flags, that’s pretty intense.”
Houck said his kids are still in the process of learning to love the game as much as the spectacle, but he hopes hanging out in the Mini Nordecke will be enough to result in a love of what’s happening on the field as well.
“It might be a little distracting right now until they get things down, until chants start rolling off of their tongues,” he said. “Even with flag-waving, it takes a while to learn that. It might be a little distracting right now, but I think it’s going to make them even more interested.”
Hejduk says his gratification comes from the smiles of the kids. “It’s all about them,” he says.
And while the Mini Nordecke might not be ready to rival its adult counterpart, the band of Hejduk recruits could be an important part of Crew SC supporters in the years to come.
“I joke with the kids, ‘Hey, you’ve got to put your time in in the mini Nordecke before you can get up there with the Nordeckers. You’ve got to get your lungs worked out and get a little more air in those things. The more you chant and sing for these 45 minutes, the bigger your lungs are going to be,’” he said. “They love it. They do it, and I tell them, ‘The time will be right when I send you over there.’”