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La Follette Grad and Latino Group Leader Omar Anguiano Supports Forward Madison and the Community

Lucas Robinson | Wisconsin State Journal

Walking the stands of Breese Stevens Fields, Omar Anguiano fist bumped and chatted his way through the deafening chants.

At Forward Madison’s match against the Greenville Triumph last Saturday, the crowd was raucous, a constant rumble at the end of the field.

“I haven’t seen the stands this hyped up in a long time,” Anguiano remarked.

When Forward scored their lone goal of the night, Anguiano was right there hoisting high a flag, setting off pink sports smoke and cheering with friends.

Anguiano, 33, is a well-known fixture in the Flock, Forward Madison FC’s umbrella supporters group. In 2019, the La Follette grad and East Sider founded La Barra 608, the team’s Latino supporters group that has joined other groups for female fans and those with disabilities.

At an early Forward player signing, Anguiano and his brother approached two organizers with the Flock about starting a Latino supporters group. Within weeks the group was off the ground.

“It was just spontaneous,” Anguiano said.

Anguiano has since thrown himself into La Barra, selling merch online and organizing charity drives.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic stymied some of the fanfare La Barra enjoyed in its first year, the group has kept up its community service mission. La Barra volunteered to help with the soccer camp for Amigos en Azul, the Madison Police Department’s outreach effort to the city’s Latino community. And at last Saturday’s game, Anguiano helped to have a family friend, Guillermo Telez-Giron, be honored at halftime for helping NASA learn how to grow plants in space.

“I hope it means something,” Anguiano said. “A lot of Hispanics that see us helping out, maybe seeing players that resemble them, look like them, seeing them here play at Breese Stevens. Hopefully we have some kind of impact on some of these kids, on somebody who may want to be there and join us.”

When La Barra is at matches, what do you all typically do?

It’s a little more laid back this year because of (COVID-19) restrictions. You don’t want to go too far out ... Me and my buddy were heavily involved in the drumming the first year. We’ve got flags that we have during the game. I brought the flags out for a game or two, but then people were grabbing the flags and running back and forth. I would love that for any usual season, but with this season, running back and forth, bumping into people, I thought maybe we just need to relax a little on that. But chants are a big thing, too.

Do you come up with your own chants?

One of them we always sing is, “Vamos. Vamos Flamingos. Que este noche tenemos que ganar.” (“Let’s go. Let’s go Flamingos. We have to win tonight.”) That one caught on with everybody.

We have a Slack, and we’ll put links to songs we hear from other places. It’s kind of hard to come up with your own lyrics and chants. Sometimes we find songs and we’ll kind of mix in the lyrics. But sometimes we hear chants from anywhere out in the world, other soccer games and we’ll use it.

Can you explain what La Barra means?

It’s got a couple of different meanings. Some people say it’s a bar. People say we’re going to la barra. But it’s also a big term in Latin America for the supporter groups, the fans. We took it from the South American meaning. We love the atmosphere out there. It’s intense. I guess that’s why we ended up going with La Barra and adding the area code, 608.

Do you all travel for games?

Yes, we have traveled. This season the only big traveling thing — I couldn’t go because it was on a Friday night and they left Thursday — was Omaha. Last year obviously no one was traveling. The first year I went to the season opener, and that was in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Then we went to the last game, which was in Lansing, Michigan. That was actually fun because we took buses. We had two full buses from Madison.

For the home games do you organize watch parties, do it remotely?

The first year that was a big thing. We would always have pre-parties. We’d always meet at bars. We partnered up with a bunch of businesses right around Breese Stevens, like Robinia Courtyard. We had a big partnership with a lot of the businesses around there. What we would do is tell them, “Hey, this game, this game and this game we’re going to be here. Expect this many people.” They were all for it.

The first year was just amazing because at those pre-parties and after-parties, we’d do 50-50 raffles. Usually we come out with merch or something like that and all of our proceeds would go to a certain place in the local area. Last year, because of the pandemic, we came out with a scarf and we donated all of our proceeds to The River Food Pantry because they were low on food. We always had some kind of community service implication with whatever we did.

What is your best memory so far being a part of the group?

My favorite memories are creating some kind of merchandise and seeing where it goes. We’ve had stuff go outside the U.S., to Canada, Germany. We’re doing something that other people are taking notice of us from outside. We released a jersey for Hispanic Heritage Month last year, and I think we had about 38 out of the 50 states order one — and we had four, five places outside the U.S. order one.

The first year a first division German team came out here to play us. At that time we had a partnership with Minnesota United, the (Major League Soccer) team, and they helped us out with where (the German soccer team) Hertha went to go play them, and on their way back to Chicago they took a bus, stopped here and they played us.

Just hearing what they said on social media about how loud we were ... No other away team has applauded us as fans. Hertha has been the only team to ever do that. I think that’s my favorite memory at Breese Stevens, just seeing how the first year we were actually that loud, that somebody took notice. Everyone at Breese Stevens was so loud almost three-fourths of the year. It was something Madison needed, I think, and the Flamingos now are just something people take notice of in Madison.

This article was originally published by The Wisconsin State Journal on October 2, 2021. To view the full story on their website, please click here.

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