The tifo display

Section 8 Chicago, the Independent Supporters Association of the Chicago Fire, has a history of being one of the first supporter’s in MLS to create tifo displays at their club’s matches. This tradition, specifically that of "choreo" - the brand organized and done before kickoff in an important match - has its roots in continental European soccer. Supporters' groups for prominent clubs like AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are known to have the volunteer support of well-known artists to plan and execute elaborate displays. Some even release books ( documenting their progress and creativity in support of their club.

With Section 8 organizing another tifo display ahead of Sunday night’s clash with the New York Red Bulls, I spoke to the ISA’s president Tom Dunmore this week about Section 8’s work with the unique displays over the years.

Jeff Crandall: What is the significance of the tifo display for Section 8?

Tom Dunmore: They’re really important for us to show our support for the team, to build the atmosphere in the stadium and to get people actively involved in supporting the Fire – making a game so it’s not a passive thing that you just watch but something you can take part in. Making a display is a lot of effort and the coordinating it to be shown during a game is as well. Building that active support for the club is why we do it.

JC: What is the history of tifos for Section 8?

TD: It goes back to before even I was around – you’d have to find someone who’s been in Chicago longer than me because we have a long history of doing them – I think the second  longest history in the league behind DC, who were in the league a couple years before us. It was only in the last couple of years with the arrival of Toronto and Seattle that other supporters groups have started doing some of the things too.

If you look at our website,, you can see sort of a pictorial history of some of the things we’ve done over the years and they range from just regular small displays to very large displays like the infamous “Mega Bandera” which stretched across the entire Harlem end. It was paid for by fans and fan-produced.

That’s kind of the idea of it, it’s not something we look to the team to provide for us – we raise the money ourselves and often physically make the banners or flags. The display we’ll have on Sunday will be something that people have put hours and hours of free time into creating and also quite a large amount of money into purchasing the materials,

How many man hours did you put into the tifo for Sunday vs. New York?

It’s probably going to total a good 2-3 nights work involving 15-20 people so you’re talking 15-20 hours with that many people you’d get a lot: (225-400 hours!)

JC: What’s been your favorite tifo display since you’ve been with Section 8?

TD: I really like the ones we did for the playoffs last year. They covered four sections and it was rolls of table cloth that we taped together here at Toyota Park. The second one we did was particularly good – we made the civic flag, including cutting out the stars – a lot of complex stuff that I couldn’t possibly execute myself, fortunately we have some really smart people who planned this and we try to help them pull that off. That one was really good because it helped build that atmosphere for those critical games. Everybody before kickoff was really buzzed and that’s what the team needs every game… That’s what we try to create with our tifo displays.

JC: (Sidebar: Have to say I loved the display at the opener earlier this year with the quote from Harold Washington, “Business as usual will not be accepted by the people of Chicago”… Well done guys)

JC: Why is it so important for fans to get into the stadium earlier than 5 minutes before the match?

TD: It’s really important. When we’ve managed to get in there early for warm ups especially like we did for New England last year during the playoffs, the players really noticed it. You saw there were already hundreds of people in their cheering an hour before the game and it really went a long way to build the atmosphere for that game. It gives them a charged feeling when they go back in the locker room for warm ups that this is a big-time game, we’re a big-time club and these fans are putting in extra time to try and get the team going. At the end that builds the relationship between fans and the players.

You heard it here from Tom himself, albeit relayed through me… Tonight’s game will certainly be electric as very few tickets remain available… If you’re attending, make sure to join the Section 8 “March-In” to the Stadium at 7pm and begin supporting the team during warm ups! Just listen for the air horn to know it’s time to join up… Find them in Toyota Park’s North Lot near Gate B!