The Northern Guard have received national and international attention in the soccer community for their passionate and creative support in the stands at DCFC’s home Cass Tech High School stadium that exceeds support traditionally associated with the fourth tier of soccer in the United States. The former commissioner of the NPSL, Michael Hitchcock, has called the atmosphere created by the Northern Guard “One of my US Soccer highlights” and an “incredible experience.”
Founded in 2012 by brothers Gene and Ken Butcher, the Northern Guard brought drums, smoke bombs, flares and flags to the first-ever DCFC match to create an atmosphere similar to European supporter stands.
Over the course of two seasons, attendance in the supporters’ stands at DCFC matches grew to fill the 800 person-capacity section and many more supporters began to bring their own drums, flags, smoke and costumes to add to the atmosphere.
We are a supporters group for our beloved Le Rouge. We don’t care about the league we’re in, we care about the club we adore. We’re loud, vulgar, and rowdy. We use words and phrases that would make a seasoned sailor blush, but we also throw one hell of a party in the supporters section.
Our club gets our undying devotion, our club’s opponents get our undying fury. Join us on match day: No dues, no membership hurdles…just unwavering support for our local club.
We’re the Northern Guard Supporters: Louder than our foes.
The Northern Guard has no membership fee or official membership list but some estimates are that the group has roughly 800 members. As of September, 2014, their Facebook page had 4,915 “likes” and their YouTube channel had 237 subscribers.
Traditions and controversies
Many Northern Guard members wear skull facemasks and skulls are common symbols in the group’s flags and apparel. Founder Ken Butcher explained, “We wore face masks that looked like skulls because we kept hearing that the city of Detroit was dead. Well, if we are dead, then we were gonna be the walking dead.
Before home matches, the Northern Guard gather at Harry’s Bar in Detroit and march to the stadium, where they gather outside the opposing team’s locker room and chant “Can you hear (team name) sing? We don’t hear a fucking thing.”
As the opposing team is being introduced, the Northern Guard chant “Come and get it,” which has become the group’s unofficial motto.
The Northern Guard are known for their use of smoke bombs, lighting dozens of large bombs a match in their stands.
Once in each half, the Northern Guard will “Tetris” in the stands, linking arms and dancing side-to-side while singing the melody to “Korobeiniki,” the theme song to the video game Tetris.
The Northern Guard have developed an obscene parody of the traditional French song “Alouette” and sing “Detroit Alouette” in the 60th minute of DCFC matches, in which they ascribe various physical deformities to the wives of opposing players.
They have also adopted songs and chants that celebrate the group’s unusually confrontational style for American lower-tier soccer supporters, including “No one likes us, we don’t care” originally popularized by Millwall FC supporters and “We’re ruining football and we don’t care” from Manchester City FC’s supporters.
In the 80th minute of DCFC matches, the Northern Guard sing the first and last verses of The Pogues’ arrangement of Ewan MacColl’s song “Dirty Old Town.”
At the end of home victories, DCFC players will climb into the supporters’ stands to celebrate with the Northern Guard.
In 2012 and 2013, the Northern Guard would often chant “Fuck Ohio” when playing NPSL teams from that state. In the 2013-14 offseason, the Northern Guard offered a scarf for sale with the words “FUCK OHIO” on one side. Before the 2014 season, DCFC ownership banned chants, signs, tifo and apparel (including the scarf) with “the F-word” from the stadium.
NGS got further attention when a member of the Northern Guard’s Cascadia chapter was briefly shown holding the scarf aloft in the crowd at the 2014 MLS all star game in Portland.
Hooligans for Heroes
Detroit City FC ownership is supportive of H4H, and played a benefit match on Memorial Day of 2013 where DCFC players wore camouflage jerseys that were auctioned off after the match with proceeds going to the Wounded Warrior Project through H4H.
John Bieniewicz Fundraising
On June 29, 2014, soccer referee John Bieniewicz was allegedly assaulted by Baseel Abdul Amir Saad, a player in an amateur match he was officiating in the suburbs of Detroit. Bieniewicz died two days later of his injuries, and Saad was charged with second-degree murder. A memorial fund was set up to support Bieniewicz’s family, and at Detroit City FC’s next home match, the Northern Guard passed around a “swear jar” to raise donations for the fund, playing on their reputation for profane language during matches.
The Northern Guard also organized a minute of silence in Bieniewicz’s memory in the match’s 44th minute, during which they held up red cards in symbolic rejection of violence against officials. Through these efforts, the Northern Guard raised more than $3,000 that was then matched by Detroit City FC ownership for a total donation of $6,560 to the memorial fund.