LOS ANGELES — If you’ve watched MLS on TV this season, you’ve heard it. If you follow any MLS social channels, you’ve seen it.
If you’ve spent time in the North End of Banc of California’s Stadium in the past six months, you’ve felt it in your calf muscles.
While Bob Bradley has his team flirting on the field with every record in the MLS history book, LAFC’s supporters have set their own golden standard with a chant so distinct, it is already among the league’s greatest all-time musical hits.
"Jump For LA Football Club" (JFLAFC) has become so emblematic so quickly — with renditions spreading as far as the Norwegian first division and as close as Fresno Foxes of the USL Championship — that even LAFC players are curious to know the story behind it.
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Black & Gold center back Walker Zimmerman recently interviewed 3252 President Jimmy L. for his podcast on the LAFC network — “The Locker Room” — where the two discussed how chants come to life, among other key components of the club’s emphatic support.
“Sometimes you guys will unveil a new chant that just blows our minds,” Walker tells Jimmy around the 9:00 mark of their conversation. “The organization, how does this get communicated to where it appears so in-sync and rehearsed?”
In response, Jimmy says: “It’s all organic honestly. It’s like wildfire, it just spreads.”
But of course, every flame begins with a spark.
Thunder Down Under (Sea Level)
Ask the members of the band that created the hit — LAFC’s 3252 Independent Supporters Union — and you’ll discover an interesting story of active support: two parts international inspiration, one part spontaneity and a freightliner belly’s worth of unity.
Monty S., a member of the 3252’s Expo Originals, remembers suggesting the skeleton of the chant at Banditos Tacos & Tequilas — a bar just south of Banc of California Stadium — during a watch party for LAFC’s visit to play FC Dallas on June 2, 2018.
Originally from Australia, Monty kept tabs on the A-League through family after he moved to Los Angeles. He felt the Australian premier division was instructive for MLS in that it was similarly young and mirrored the benefits and drawbacks of creating active support in a closed system. Monty drew inspiration primarily from Western Sydney Wonderers’ Red and Black Block, but one chant by their A-League rivals drew his attention:
Like most things in football, it turns out that Melbourne Victory had themselves borrowed the chant from another source.
But these inspirations were only a part of what became "JFLAFC".
Monty’s chant suggestion was well-received at the Expos' watch party, but it didn’t begin to evolve until the week leading up to the LA Galaxy’s first visit to Banc of California Stadium on July 24th.
Supporters were invited to the club’s training facility — drums and all — to rally the squad ahead of the second derby against the Galaxy.
“We really wanted to motivate the players,” Monty explains in a wide-ranging interview on an episode of the FCFC podcast where he discusses the chant’s origins.
Fellow 3252 supporter Julio R. of District 9 Ultras encouraged Monty to give the chant a shot toward the end of the session.
“Sam and I looked at each other and we just knew” says FCFC co-host Josh L. of the Tigers Supporters Group, who was also there that day. “This is a hit.”
An entirely new beast
As the season churned on, fellow Expo Original Benny T. began to teach the chant at tailgates before matches on Christmas Tree Lane, right in front of The Banc, and before long it was ready for the North End during a home match.
The San Jose Earthquakes visited LAFC on September 22 of last year and that’s when two members of the 3252’s Cuervos supporter group played an instrumental role in an iconic improvisation.
First, Jorge H. began to switch the jumping motion from straight up and down to side to side. Then, Josue V. — a capo of the 3252 — led the crowd to start jumping east to begin with, toward The Banc’s keyhole portal to downtown LA, and then back west.
On the fly, the 3252 had turned the chant into another beast entirely.
It’s not as if MLS hasn’t seen jumping supporters chants before — for years the Seattle Sounders ECS SG adapted Argentina’s famous “ole ole ola” chant with a pogo-pit style spin — but JFLAFC was something else.
Jimmy, a member of Black Army 1850 and former band leader himself who was elected president of the 3252 in February, recognized the chant’s potential immediately.
“Visually, it’s really awesome to look at, its pleasing to the ear, and anybody can sing,” he told MLSsoccer.com this week. “It’s easy, it’s awesome, and it translates well to any language.”
For a supporters section as diverse as the 3252 — where chants swing between Spanish and English, where Hangul scarves wave, and where official player shirts have been released in Vietnamese, Farsi, and Arabic — this was key to its spread inside the greater LAFC universe and beyond.
“'Jump for LA Football Club' has been our iconic chant that I think is probably best heard around the league,” Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week.
A league veteran who’s played in all but two MLS stadiums, Zimmerman eluded to Seattle’s Viking clap and Portland’s scarf toss during the national anthem as two other iconic league active supporter staples, but couldn’t come up with anything in-game that compared to JFLAFC.
“It reminds me a little more of the international feel,” the defender said. “Everyone’s crazy and its all the noise but [even in most of those international cases] it’s not unified. It’s not all of them singing the same thing and moving. It’s not organized, it’s just chaotic. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.”
The Secret Sauce
Despite the international inspiration and creative tweaks, if there was one secret sauce that made something like JFLAFC possible it was the 3252’s unity between Supporters Groups (SGs). The independent supporters union is a registered nonprofit, subject to bylaws, elections and a council.
By committing to form an umbrella for all active SGs, regardless of size, history or origin, open lines of communication were established both to the front office and between the different SGs themselves.
While other clubs in the league — Portland’s Timbers Army and Chicago’s Section 8 for example — have formed similar independent supporter’s unions, SGs at many other clubs have chosen to remain independent. Fractured support can make coordinating something on the scale of JFLAFC far more challenging but for a unified group like the 3252, it came naturally.
“For the capos we have a separate chat that we all discuss operations and with this one it was just super simple because it’s raw,” said Jimmy. “It was just a simple conversation of coordinating.”
By the start of this season, LAFC’s second in the league, the 3252 already had it down and patches of casual fans elsewhere at Banc of California stadium started to take part — though the safe standing makes the side-to-side movements far easier than normal seating.
Will Ferrell turning up with the 3252 all the way from his owners' box is amazing. How many owners in the world of soccer are doing things like this? Another great atmosphere tonight in LA. #LAFC #LAFCvPOR #MLS pic.twitter.com/sxaXboq3cp— MLS Buzz (@MLS_Buzz) March 11, 2019
“['JFLAFC'] is the catchy radio hit that everybody knows that they wanna go see when you go to see a band. As soon as it goes: goosebumps,” said Jimmy who, in addition to his presidential responsibilities, is himself is a capo in the North End. “They just go at it.”
The 3252 capos wield the chant like a weapon, using it as needed to lift the crowd or the team when either require an extra boost at home, or on the road.
For the club’s first away game of the season, it popped up across the country at Yankee Stadium, then at one point during LAFC’s 5-0 thrashing of San Jose in March, JFLAFC made the roof at Avaya Stadium shake like an earthquake.
The team felt it.
“San Jose this year just blew the doors off everything else,” LAFC boss Bob Bradley said Tuesday. “They were so loud on the day and I think that certainly had something to do with the fact that we went out and really went after the game because we knew that it was important to show our regular supporters and away supporters how much they mean to us.”
In the estimation of most supporters interviewed for this story, apart from tifos in the Pacific Northwest and Atlanta, this is the first time in-game MLS supporter culture has seen exposure on this scale. It’s helped bring the league into the global supporter conversation.
The next hit?
Now it’s hard for any supporter to go to an LAFC event, home or away, watch party or community-based, and not get the calf workout JFLAFC demands. But that’s not to say the Black & Gold clad SGs are finished creating.
They’re no one-hit wonder.
Another Ajax inspired chant — “A Call to Arms” — sparked at a watch party by the 3252’s Empire Boys SG this spring and has quickly become the club’s second biggest hit at home and away.
Because of the unity and creative nature of band — with other SG’s including the likes of LAFC Luckys, The KREW, Pride Republic, Armada, 42 Originals, LxsTigresDelNorthEnd, — there will be more hits in the future, but for Sam K. of the Tigers Supporters Group, "Jump For LA Football Club" was the first statement.
“This was the revelation of LAFC,” the co-host of the FCFC podcast said on the show about the JFLAFC history. “We did a lot of things, but that was the one that was like, ‘We’re here.’”