Through thick and thin, Ultras remain supportive
It’s a cold Wednesday night at U-M Soccer Stadium. A steady rain streams down and will continue to do so all night. It’s the kind of night that leads most students to huddle in their dorms or in the library. But from the stands in the middle of the field streams the distinctly loud beating of a drum.
The drum, perhaps more aptly identifiable as a glorified paint bucket, serves as a rallying cry for the nearly 100 voices that will continue to drown out any ill effects that the raw weather might bring. The bucket would later crack — hardly out of the ordinary — only to be used until the tattered remnants cease to produce the coveted noise.
“We love you, we love you, we love you,” chants the group in unison. “Where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, we’ll follow, because we support the victors, the victors, the victors, and that’s the way we like it.”
And follow they do.
They’re not just here for this game against Detroit — Michigan’s first victory of the season. They will be back for the women’s game against Rutgers the next day. And for the men’s game against Penn State just days later. And for each game after, cheering with the same unbridled passion as ever.
The group of supporters, known as the Michigan Ultras, was started in 2010 with the intention of unifying students at Michigan who love the Wolverines’ soccer program. The now 1,000-plus students who are members of the group have sets of cheers, rituals and traditions with the goal of supporting both Michigan soccer teams, and occasionally antagonizing their opponents.
“Really it’s just a group of people who love soccer and love Michigan, and love to bring the best environment to the games as possible,” said junior Jack Googasion, the president of the Ultras, on Oct. 8. “It’s really clear to see that when we bring our best, the team responds equitably.”
They may not get the fame of the football student section or have the name recognition of the Maize Rage, but the Michigan Ultras believe they have as much passion as anyone.
“It’s a more intimate group of people, but its a passionate group of people who just want to see the team do well,” Googasian said.
It’s that passion that leads to making a sign with a baby picture of one of the opposing players, only to be coupled with a chant of, “This is a face only a mother could love.”
The same passion compels them to create a sign depicting senior midfielder James Murphy as LeBron “King” James.
And it’s that passion that leads even the most even-keeled members to spend hours researching the opposing teams as if preparing for an exam, looking for any minute detail that can be used as ammunition, often toeing the fine line between rowdiness and vulgarity.
“Our favorite thing to do is look up their Twitter information if it’s not private, or —” Googasian said, suddenly glowing with excitement, “what’s really funny is if we can get their Tinder profiles.”
And when the Ultras invariably cross that line, they know event staff will remind them “that there are little children around” and they need to tone it down.
Throughout the men’s soccer season largely marred by frustration, as the Wolverines are now 2-8-4, the support has remained steadfast.
After a recent loss to No. 2 Notre Dame that sent Michigan to 2-7-1, the entire team walked over to the Ultras and sang “The Victors” together as a show of appreciation.
“We’re having quite a difficult season so far,” said senior captain Lars Eckenrode. “But to see them sticking it out 10 minutes after the game was over, those are the little things you need to pick you up after you’re crushed about a defeat. These guys care so much. (Their support) is massive.”