#TIFOSWEAT is a group that took shape in July 2013 and whose culture would prove monumental in forging the tenacity needed to stand up to Precourt and MLS. With the USA vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier game approaching September of that year, a group of fans decided to make a tifo for the game. The word “tifo” is derived from the Italian word, “tifosi,” which means choreographed cheering and visual displays of fan support. A tifo is generally understood to be a physical sign or banner of some sort. Tifos are common to the European and Latin American soccer cultures. They come in all shapes and sizes from small signs on two sticks, to grand scale banners that hang from railings and rafters. USA soccer and the fans who would attend the game would be in for a treat. The group wanted to do something big.
During a quarterly Nordecke meeting at the Daily Growler pub on Riverside Drive, someone threw out the idea. Conversation bounced around regarding how to pull off such a project. Because their sights were set on constructing something gigantic, they needed a space big enough to accommodate the project. Morgan Hughes stood up and volunteered his company’s warehouse. “I had no idea what I was signing up for,” said Hughes. “We didn’t know how to do shit.”
As it would turn out, what Hughes had signed up for would ultimately turn into something much bigger.
During their first working session in the warehouse, Hughes broke into his best Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers fame) impression with an improvised song: Tifo sweat, going to my eyes baby, running down the inside of my ball sack, ohh ohhh. “Someone heard me singing “tifo sweat” and the name stuck. From the very first night on, our group was to be known as #TIFOSWEAT,” Hughes said. “We’re not a supporters group. We’re a hashtag. No one joins, and everyone is welcome.”
They had no idea what it was going to take to make even one tifo, let alone the number of pieces required for this project, one of them a sprawling ’45 x ’35 work of art. They didn’t know how to sew, they didn’t know to use a projector to trace an image; they just knew they needed a design, fabric, and paint. Graphic designer, Justin Bell, came up with the design, which showcased Columbus with the word “home” prominently at the bottom. There were several other smaller pieces that would accompany the large center piece.
The group met several challenges along the way but always figured out a way through them. “At that time, we were gridding, drawing square-by-square; we didn’t have a projector yet, the tracing wasn’t getting done. We were stuck on drawing a face. John Zidar said, ‘I’ll just freehand it.’ And he did. And I thought, God, how did he do that? He drew a 10-foot wide human face, and it was perfect.”
Beyond the physical challenges of producing the artwork, the #TIFOSWEAT gang overcame barriers that were thrown at them by the United States Soccer Federation and a group of capo interlopers from Seattle. But they maneuvered their way through everything that was thrown at them and produced one of the, if not the most, recognizable tifos ever created.
#TIFOSWEAT was forged like steel in a determined resolve that let nothing stop them. As a team they figured out a way to do the impossible, fought against the system, and won.
“From that day on, I truly believe that when we, as a fan base, decide to do something, it’s going to happen,” said Hughes. “So much of what #SaveTheCrew became started right then and there. I can’t adequately express how much that meant. We didn’t know how to do anything, and we did everything. We made six gigantic pieces of art, fought the establishment, and won, and we won the game. This became the foundation for what was to come. We had already become a force. We were becoming powerful. We were figuring out that we were damn good at getting stuff done. I had no idea at the time, of course, that we would ultimately team up with so many incredible people with such immense talent on the #SaveTheCrew effort.
“All of this made us primed to be good at what we needed to do. You don’t just become an astronaut and take off towards the moon without putting in the work. You don’t just walk onto the platform. You’ve got to go through the training. Astronauts do it intentionally. We did it accidentally. But we still did it. And put us on the platform and we took off. And it got us to the moon. As it turned out, everyone who became part of #SaveTheCrew had trained for this.”
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