When Coastal Carolina forward Sebastian Bahos tapped the ball past GW men’s soccer goalie Jake Davis for the first of the Chanticleers’ four goals against the Colonials Friday, a celebration was in order.
The diminutive player turned left and ran back down the sideline, his finger pressed against his lips in the international sign for quiet, staring straight into the stands at a special group of especially loud GW soccer fans.
That group is the J Street Hooligans, a student organization dedicated to cheering for GW’s soccer teams. It’s not unlike the Colonial Army – the official fan club of the men’s and women’s basketball teams – only with a distinctive soccer-style flair.
The Hooligans officially opened for business last year as the brainchild of a group of friends looking for an outlet for their soccer passion. They began going to men’s soccer games last year, and by the end of the season were an officially sanctioned student organization. They spent their budget, the standard $150 given to every new club, on a bass drum to bring to games and some buff and blue paint for their banners. Other supplies are scrounged up from wherever they could be found.
“What we’ve basically been doing is finding old banners at all of our jobs and stuff, and painting them,” said Chris Geissler, one of the louder Hooligans. “Doing it real soccer-style.”
Because attendance is often sparse, especially on weekdays, the Hooligans – with the help of their drum – are often the loudest fans at the game. They draw their cheers from their experience as soccer fans, and although they’re not always original, the cheers are almost always tweaked to give them a GW flair.
“We’re all fans of different [soccer] clubs, we all have been to a lot of other soccer games,” Geissler said. “We just kind of adapt the cheers the way we want. We clean them up a little bit often, because we’ve been asked not to use profanity, which is reasonable.”
In between cheers, the Hooligans are less than kind to opposing players. They generally tend to pick on the players closest to their section, but opponents with brightly colored shoes, an unusual hairstyle or anything distinctive tend to draw the Hooligans’ attention. The jokes are good-natured, but are frequent enough to get under their opponents’ skin.
“We’re here to support GW, but we like to make sure the other players know we’re here,” Geissler said.
The Hooligans were vocal enough earlier this season at the D.C. College Cup that the men’s soccer team from Howard, after beating the Colonials on a last-second goal, made a point of letting the GW soccer fan club know exactly what they thought of them.
“Probably things that shouldn’t be printed,” Geissler said of the Howard squad’s post-game words for the Hooligans. “It was fun though. Whatever, we deserved it, and we didn’t mind it.”
“When we get in their heads, they’re thinking less about beating GW, hopefully,” Geissler added. “That’s the idea, anyway.”
While GW’s opponents don’t appreciate the Hooligans’ sense of humor, the Colonials are big fans of their student section.
“I don’t think there’s anything better as a player, certainly as an attacking player, to hear that support, the whoops, the hollers of the supporters,” head coach George Lidster said. “They support us all the way through, so when you still hear them at the end, you’re losing four-nil, that’s a massive positive,” he added.
Junior forward Yoni Berhanu said that the Hooligans are especially valuable to the team in tough situations. For a young Colonials team that features only seven upperclassmen, the enthusiasm the Hooligans provide makes a major difference for the team on the field.
“A lot of times we get discouraged when we go down, and we’ll get silent on the field,” Berhanu said. “When they start cheering us on, it kind of gives us a little bit of pep and we start talking to each other on the field and get the communication and the energy. The energy is what we really need.”
Just like the team they cheer for, the Hooligans are still a young organization. For them, growing the group is a top priority so their cheers and jeers can be even louder.
“We’re trying to get as many people out as we can to be with us. We love for all the GW students to come into our section,” Geissler said. “We love GW students coming out, but we want them all in our section because we’re standing and cheering and getting really involved.”