John Koskinen had never seen anything like it. Neither had Herb Neubauer, better known as Crazy Towel Guy, or Duke head coach John Kerr, all fixtures at Blue Devil soccer games for the last 30 years.
Basically, a group of Cameron Crazies outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Just up Whitford Drive, in fact, a road that has been rebuilt this year almost as much as this rabid fan base.
At Koskinen Stadium, a pack of about 50-100 first-years has gathered for the first five games of the men’s soccer team’s season.
And with the team now 4-0-1, tied for its best start in 11 years, this group—“The Ultras”—has no intention of stopping what it’s doing.
What is it that it’s doing, exactly?
Good question. Screaming, heckling. Jumping. Eating pizza. Talking. It’s really good ol' fashioned sports fun as you might say, and in a 21st-century college culture full of alcohol as a part of weekend entertainment, it wasn’t apparent that any of these fans had been drinking.
They weren’t all soccer fans. Mostly men, though certainly not all, about half were from European countries and had grown up watching the game they knew as football. The other half, and some Europeans, just went for the hell of it.
“I’m terrible at soccer,” one guy said. “I like just coming out and cheering.”
And why stop? The team loves them, this group that cheers essentially nonstop during the game in several languages. The athletic department has partnered with the group both informally and formally—buying pizza for the Ultras, meeting with them and recognizing them on social media.
But in keeping with many soccer traditions, they do compare opponents to “sh**” throughout the game. And on more than one occasion, many chanted that they would let Duke defender Carter Manley “shag my wife.”
“I’m not a huge fan of the cursing,” said one Ultra, a sentiment that he said was felt by others too.
Others compared the chants to those of the Cameron Crazies, saying “Go to Hell Carolina” and other popularized sayings are on similar moral grounds.
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The group, which co-founder Ben Case said is more special with a niche for specifically men’s soccer and not other Duke teams, has significantly boosted student attendance at games. Inferno event coordinator Jonathan Osei said there were about 20 non-athlete students at games last year. That figure is about five times greater now.
And even for just 100 people, they certainly make their presence felt—and heard. Now they’re just waiting for their team to do the same on a national level.