RSL tifo artists burglarized, but soccer community responds

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SANDY — When Ryan Terry left United Soccer Center after working on another ‘tifo’ banner for an upcoming Real Salt Lake game, he didn’t think anything would go wrong.

The center was his home-away-from-home, a place where he had cut, traced, designed and painted tifo displays the past two years. The business was owned by a roommate, closed to soccer matches on weekends, and the staff seemed particularly impressed with some of his designs.

“We weren’t here again until Tuesday,” Terry said as he walked into the center for another weekend recently. “When we came in again, everything was gone.”

Terry’s tifo dreams were dashed. He didn’t know how he was going to replace the lost equipment, and he considered giving up his hobby for good. But a windfall of determined donors and outpouring from soccer fans around the country convinced him otherwise.

Jake Simons, Terry’s fellow RSL supporter and friend, estimated the value of the stolen supplies was at least $1,000, including a $750 LCD projector the group used to trace new designs onto large canvases.

“It was really disheartening,” Simons said. “Not only was our stuff stolen, but we’re really gearing up right now. We’re getting better and better at this, but it was a huge setback to have everything just gone, all of a sudden.”

Simons jumped on social media, set up a campaign at and solicited donations from RSL fans on Facebook and Twitter, asking them to contribute ‘anything you can’ to help replace the equipment. In 20 minutes, the campaign earned $500. Within an hour, the group raised $1,000. By the end of the day, the project had received more than $2,000 from soccer fans in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Portland, Kansas City and Seattle. The total currently sits at $2,611 — and counting — with 114 donations.

RSL tifo artists burglarized, but soccer community responds
Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Terry

“It shocked me; I didn’t expect them, nor ask them,” Simons said of the donors from outside the Wasatch Front. “I put it out there for RSL fans and my friends. We really wanted to keep doing stuff, so we needed help. But people responded in a huge way.”

Terry thought about giving up his passion, even after coming off his most impressive tifo to date. A black canvas that spilled out over section 35 at Rio Tinto Stadium had a special message for team owner Dell Loy Hansen: “Make (general manager) Garth (Lagerway) an offer he can’t refuse,” it read, in a theme of "The Godfather." Hundreds of RSL fans responded to it on Twitter and Facebook.

“I wondered why we did all this stuff,” Terry said. “I didn’t know that people actually pay attention; a lot of times you get a comment or two on Twitter. But after this, to see how many people notice, it was cool.

“It’s fun to see the impact it has on the stadium. I would’ve thought it was 10-15 people, but this experience shows that it is a lot more.”

The campaign spread like wildfire through a tight-knit community on social media, but primarily on Twitter. It earned mentions from RSL color analyst Brian Dunseth and the owners of the Park Cafe in Salt Lake City, who each donated $100 to the cause.

More of the norm, though, were hundreds of fans who donated between $5 and $25 to keep the campaign going.

“When I saw that their equipment was stolen, I was kind of heart- broken,” RSL fan Chris Enger said. “I knew that these guys have put their own personal money into that project, so when I saw the link to the GoFundMe, I knew I had to give. It was amazing to see them earn their goal in one short hour.”

It's the power of the Internet, but it also speaks to the people in Utah and people in general. They would give money to some dude who they have never met. It just blows me away.

–Jake Simons

Many donors were among Terry and Simons’ friends from local RSL supporter’s groups. While the duo isn’t officially affiliated with any group, they have made friends and contacts in several factions.

“It’s the power of the Internet, but it also speaks to the people in Utah and people in general,” Simons said. “They would give money to some dude who they have never met. It just blows me away.”

Simons plans to leave the campaign open for the remainder of the season, in case any fans want to donate money to the tifo efforts. They are also welcome to contribute time and artistry every weekend at United Soccer Center, 9100 South and 500 West in Sandy, he added. A dozen tifo painters still gather there every weekend to put together the group’s newest design.

The duo is already planning to put the remaining funds to use. Simons said a tifo labeled “Soccer for dummies: Porter ball” during RSL’s 1-0 win over Portland on April 19 drew rave reviews — and they are currently designing a follow-up for Saturday’s fixture against the Timbers.

Simons wouldn’t tip his hand. But he did say the new tifo was “very Oregon.”

“Eventually, we will run out of money,” he said. “We’ll then go back to paying for it.

“There’s no stopping us at this point; we will find a way.”


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