Atlanta United team owner Arthur Blank (lower right) kicks off the pregame ceremonies on Saturday, December 8, 2018. Rappers Big Boi and Waka Flocka are among those who have participated in the ritual of hammering the golden spike before a United game. (Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)
Photo: hshin@ajc.com
Photo: hshin@ajc.com

Celebrities take part in Atlanta United fandom

Los Angeles-based Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja has already dazzled LeBron James and fans at several NBA and MLS games.

But on Saturday, the 7-year-old singer captivated her biggest crowd to date – more than 70,000 – when her tiny frame stood off to the side of the pitch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to belt the national anthem before Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers kicked off their battle for the soccer championship.

Standing in front of the MLS Cup in a ruffled tan skirt and boots, the pint-sized powerhouse adorned the song with plenty of vocal flourishes. She elongated the final notes of “banner yet wave” and reached high for “land of the free” – delivering “The Star-Spangled Banner” with confidence that belied her young age.

Malea’s dream, she has noted in interviews, is to sing at the Super Bowl.

At least she’s familiar with the venue. (The 2019 Super Bowl also will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.)

In its brief history, the Five Stripes have amassed a fan base filled with not only seriously dedicated Atlanta fans, but celebrities including rappers Big Boi, Waka Flocka and Lil Scrappy.

All were expected to be in attendance during Saturday’s game and shared their excitement for the home team on social media.

Waka posted a photo of himself on Instagram clad in his Atlanta United shirt, while Big Boi tweeted at the team Friday night with the message, “Let’s get it!”

The Outkast rapper is among those, including Waka and former Braves favorite Andruw Jones, who have participated in the ritual of hammering the golden spike before a Five Stripes game. Team owner Arthur Blank provided the honor before Saturday’s game, wearing a customized team jersey.

Other celebrities who planned to check out the Super Bowl of Soccer included comedian Jeff Foxworthy, former NFL player Chad Ochocinco, rappers Yung Joc and Lloyd, former Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, boxing legend Evander Holyfield and music producer Dallas Austin.

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