Merited or not, Atlanta sports fans have a reputation for fair-weather flightiness. Followers of the city’s big-league teams would do well to take a lesson from supporters of our lesser-known pro team, the Atlanta Silverbacks. In a city dogged by national derision for its lack of spirit, these soccer aficionados are a standout exception.
In the spirit of European football clubs, the Atlanta Ultras (aka Ultras 101) light flares and smoke bombs when the Silverbacks score, take heckling to the boundaries of vulgarity, and generally cause as much ruckus as they can without getting kicked out of Silverbacks Park. “We’re not just there to watch a soccer game,” says Steve Gurlen, founder and president. “We’re there to show what the team, the club, and our city mean to us. This is our house, and we’re going to protect this house no matter what.”
With membership dating back to 1996, the Westside 109 epitomizes undying dedication, especially to a team that doesn’t often get its name in the paper. Under the lead of founder Kurt Braunsroth, the club forms an unofficial drumline that’s known to follow the team to away games.
Despite their pugnacious nickname and “East Atlanta/Little Five Points tattooed look,” the Eastside 309 Guerrillas have a slightly mellower vibe, says Silverbacks spokesman Neal Malone, stressing that the groups have more in common than not: “After we win, they all celebrate.”
This article originally appeared in our August 2013 issue.