For Real Salt Lake soccer fans this season something has been off - and it's not on the pitch.---
Last fall I wrote a story called Real Passion, about La Barra Real, the burgeoning and never less than noisy group of 70 or so Hispanic fans who spent last season jumping up and down in the north end of the stands cheering on Real. Whether the team played well or not - and last season it was at best a mixed bag until the play-offs - La Barra was relentless in its support.
When I went last week to Sandy's Rio Tinto stadium, however, to see Real play Toronto F.C., the chanting and singing that typically floated south during a game was notably muted and confused. That's because two Hispanic supporters' group, La Barra in the north east corner and newcomers La Union Real in the north west, now compete with each other, hammering on drums and blasting out on trumpets.
La Barra's highly organized and motivated leader, Luis Castro, says no split has occurred within his ranks and that La Barra moved to one side of the north end because of the upcoming concert schedule that meant the stadium area when they typically stand would be built out to accommodate upcoming events. Only two members of La Barra went to La Union, which Castro says has a very different style to his group. "Everything we do for the team, we make ourselves, like the big flag. It comes from our heart." La Union, he says, is more interested in finding sponsors.
La Union's founder, Carlos Morales, says friends of his had hung out with La Barra during matches, but "they didn't make people feel comfortable," so he decided to set up La Union.
A Real spokesman said its front office tried unsuccessfully to deter what some saw as a parting of the waves. End result, two very similar and inevitably discordant sounds rumble up from the north end, although it's La Barra, with its vaguely militaristic dedication to discipline that, at least during the Toronto game, tended to win the day.
Tomorrow at 2 pm Real plays first time visitors Philadelphia Union.