The Northern Guard Supporters (NGS), an unaffiliated, but organized collective of fans for Detroit City Football Club (DCFC), are dedicated. On game days, festivities begin well before they enter the gates of Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck.
Supporters of the team start match day at the Fowling Warehouse, the official pre-match bar of the club. One hour before kickoff, the Guard rallies on the streets of Hamtramck with their drums, chanting as they embark on “The March to the Match.”
As supporters finish their last swigs of Stroh’s, a local favorite beer, the capos gather. They’re the leaders of the march, dressed in all black. They conduct the group with non-stop energy and ear-splitting singing throughout the night. As they head out to the stadium, home team colors of rouge and gold flush out from under a bridge as supporters unleash smoke bombs, marking their territory.
NGS member Chris Motzenbecker says he looks forward to the march.
“This is a very big outlet for me. It’s a place where I get to go and get to let out a lot of energy, and I get to really just throw my all behind it,” Motzenbecker shares.
Most fans are decorated in Detroit City FC gear. As they turn the corner, residents of the neighborhood open their front doors and windows to get a glimpse of the group. Little kids smile and wave from porch steps as the supporters sing songs from Hell’s Hymnal, the Northern Guard’s chant book.
Although many of the chants contain explicit language, NGS member Adam Hernandez says the games are family-friendly and many people bring their kids to the games.
“I know that there’s a big thing about the swear words, and stuff like that, but that’s something you can easily look past, especially if you have kids, just for the experience alone,” says Hernandez.
The fans huddle together as the capos make sure nobody is left behind. Then, one of the group’s leaders steps up to grab the megaphone. Drummer Kristin Novak says that’s her favorite part.
“[My favorite part is] the speech, one of the capos usually does a speech once we get everybody gathered, once we are onto Jacob, to get everybody pumped up, to get some information on who we’re playing,” Novak says.
The excitement builds as the crowd takes in the last remarks of the capo.
“We are going to rock this place. So if your ready to tune up the band give me a hell yeah!”
The end is near. The Northern Guard Supporters make their final push to the game. A line has already formed outside of the stadium, and the group’s entrance is turning heads of those waiting to get in.
Mark Navarro, a capo, says that’s the whole idea.
“It’s our goal to give them energy to feed off of,” Navarro states. “It’s our goal to give them an atmosphere that they want to play in.”
At last, the Guard has arrived. The march is over, but the night is just beginning.
Photo Credit: Nate Pappas, WDET