The experience in the Bank of Montreal (BMO) Stadium during a Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) match is like no other. The beating of the drums and the howling crowd will move your soul. The energy of the people adorned in the black and gold LAFC uniforms is unmatched. These are no ordinary fans. They are supporters of the club, and they are the organized force that stands behind their team until their last breath and who cheer for them win or lose, with the goal of global recognition.
Many supporter groups in LA organize to rally behind their team, but the 3252, named after the 3,252 seats that make up their section of the stadium, The North End, aims to unite the entirety and represent the fan base in everything involving LAFC from the stands to the community.
They organize donations to charities, travel together to away games and throw tailgate parties to strengthen their ties to the soccer community and their commitment to support the LAFC in every aspect. Together, they aim to create a safe and inclusive stadium experience that caters to their vast and diverse fan base.
For many in Los Angeles, soccer unifies our communities and can be a big part of the Latino experience. Some families follow their teams religiously, and the passion can be fiery and fierce. Whether we grew up playing it, watching it or even just kicking around a dusty old ball at the park with the primos, most Latinos have had soccer influence their lives in some way.
Getting involved with a supporter group is how Latinos in Los Angeles are making their impact and influencing the game and their team.
One Latino, a founding member of the 3252, Jose Salcedo, known as Rey, has been with the team since day zero, and his commitment to his team and the sport is centered around community. Soccer is a way for him to connect with his cultural heritage and to share his roots and his love for the game and his home team, the Chivas of Guadalajara, with his children and pass his passion on to them.
Salcedo has been to almost every Major League Soccer stadium in the U.S. following LAFC, and wants to influence the game for the better by strengthening ties in the soccer community.
CALÓ NEWS interviewed Salcedo about the 3252 and what the club does for their community.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
JOSE “REY” SALCEDO, 41, LOS ANGELES, SUPERVISOR IN LANDSCAPING, HE/HIM, LATINO
WHAT IF YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH 325?
I’ve been following MLS since it started back in 1996. For a couple of years there was only one team in LA, the Galaxy. After years I lost interest, because they were not really catering to the Mexican community. In 2004, when they announced the franchise of Chivas USA in LA, I came back. I wanted to connect from my roots and I wanted to pass that passion for my team to my kids. I started going to Chivas USA games for ten years until that franchise folded and was replaced with LAFC.
So I’ve been there literally since day zero. Me and my compadre Julio “El Chivo Mayor” were the only two fans that were there present at the announcement of the franchise.
My group is the District 9 Ultras. We are the biggest group in the north end, and we are the group with the most experience in the culture, because we had that experience with Chivas USA.
So we knew that in order to be successful as a supporter group we had to be united. We worked with the other leaders in different groups, you know, and we all agreed that we wanted to be the best support group in MLS.
WHY IS LAFC AND 3252 IMPORTANT TO LOS ANGELES?
There’s this sense of belonging, of 11 players representing you on the pitch. That’s what makes LAFC so special. Within The 3252 you have all these backgrounds and leadership with different ideas and even people who never watched soccer. All the people of LA have heard about those rowdy fans in black and gold because we’re everywhere, Dodger games, Laker games, Kings games.
We are a huge soccer community but before LAFC there was nothing to connect all these fans. We were floating around watching games at bars and restaurants, or watching our national teams when they would come and play, but there was nothing for us to gravitate to.
When LAFC came, we started recruiting by going bar by bar, four o’clock in the morning watching English Premier League games, talking to people about fútbol and telling them about the new team coming to Los Angeles.
So to us this is our baby, we take care of LAFC from all angles, from the stands to the community. We get involved with everything that has to do with representing our club.
WHAT DOES THE 3252 WANT FOR THE LAFC?
We believe in a global sport. We want LAFC to be recognized around the world. We want to be like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United who have fans all over the world. So we are traveling with our team to every country all over the world, preaching the word of the LAFC.
HOW DOES THE 3252 INFLUENCE IN THE STADIUM EXPERIENCE?
We’ve had our foot in the door since literally day one, everything that you see in the north end, we have had some type of influence in it.
We designed the whole north end with architects. We would have meetings with the architects and we told them how we wanted our stadium and what we needed in our section, so we can do what we do best and support our team. And that’s what you see in the stadium.
Once during a meeting with the ownership, and Julio and myself told the ownership and the president of the club, we want something that’s embedded in this stadium so that we can tell our kids and our kids can tell their kids and their grandkids that their great-great grandparents were here since the beginning. And they told me like, What do you mean, what are you talking about?
I said look: I want a block of cement buried inside our stadium signed by all the original fans that believe in this project. And we have a block of cement buried right in the middle of the pitch.
We are proud of everything that we have built in our short history.
We say that the BMO stadium is our cathedral. When you walk inside anybody’s house, especially here in LA, you’ll feel at home. So that’s what we try to do with anybody that walks inside our stadium. We don’t look at color, we don’t look at sex. If you are passionate about the sport, mi casa es su casa.
HOW DOES THE 3252 INFLUENCE WHAT HAPPENS OUTSIDE THE STADIUM?
In the supporter culture we have a little bit of everything and sometimes things get ugly. That’s the reality of it, but we’re not ok with it and that’s why we are trying to change the game and the mentality of it. We want to influence the game in a positive way. We want to be recognized as people that come to the stadium and sing their lungs out and give 90 minutes plus of supporting the team and support those 11 guys into victory.
In 2020 before the pandemic, we went to see Leon Guanajuato. I don’t want to talk bad on no one, but that stadium has been very notorious in the past at soccer games. I told my people that we’re going to go and we’ve got to be careful, support the team and come home safe; but the next day, I want to be in the newspaper for the right reasons.
So the day of the game you get the newspaper and you see the LAFC fans that came together and went to an orphanage and brought all this stuff for the kids and took the kids and the staff to the orphanage. It was unbelievable when we walked out of that place, people were clapping saying thank you for coming to our city!
We had the entire community come together and we went to an orphanage with necessities, blankets, food. It was an orphanage that was two blocks away from their own stadium, and the most important thing was we were able to take kids from the orphanage to their first soccer game.
We had a whole day of fun with the community, and we brought their supporters because we believe that we can change the game. I want to impact the game the right way. I want to impact the kids in our communities the positive way. We believe that little by little we do our part, and once the ball starts rolling it’s gonna get big.
HOW DO YOU COORDINATE WITH OTHER TEAMS AND THEIR FANS?
We usually reach out because there are those radical supporter groups that don’t want anything to do with people who travel away, but there are fans that want to participate in the community and are willing to have those friendships.
Usually it’s either us reaching out or them reaching out, to say, ‘hey you guys are coming, is there anything you guys need, do you guys want to hang out?’
We throw the ball out and if they want to kick it, we do a lot of different events. It isn’t always to do with soccer. We’ve gone out to feed the homeless,
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF UNITY AMONG SUPPORTER CLUBS?
LA, being so diverse, everybody has a different background, Instead of us picking at each other’s differences, we thought about how great all those differences put together are going to make us.
We saw it like a salsa: we got tomatoes, you got this you got that, and we’re gonna mix this up and it’s gonna become the best tasting salsa in LA, and we became the best tasting salsa in MLS right now.
When we started sitting down and really hammering out our ideas we would spend seven to eight hours brainstorming and saying, “OK, how are we going to make our sauce better than anybodies’ sauce,” with that idea of becoming something unique that would represent LA. We wanted to make something so unique that everybody in the hood, everybody in LA was going to feel represented by.
We all have something to do with it. We want everybody that ever thinks about the Los Ángeles Football Club, to have a smile on their face when they talk about it.
We just had a festivity this past weekend, we celebrated the community. And that’s what we do, brother. We had all our friends that bring their traditional foods to the tailgate and we all share it. We get to experience their homeland food. Food, drinks and football bring people together. That’s just the key to everything
HOW CAN OUR READERS GET INVOLVED WITH THE 3252?
We have the page @lafc3252 on Instagram or @district9ultras, on Instagram and Twitter. We tell people, you want to get involved, you’ve got to show up, there is no magic thing. You show up to the game, you talk to us, and we’ll let you know when the events are happening. You’ve just got to show up, and you’ll see the magic work by itself.
Subscribe to our free newsletter and get the change to win 2 tickets for LAFC game. Click here.