What’s a tifo?

This tifo was produced by Borussia Dortmund’s supporters.

Combined ShapeCaption
This tifo was produced by Borussia Dortmund’s supporters.

The banner will rise, covering the lower level of the Northern end of Bobby Dodd Stadium for Atlanta United’s inaugural game Sunday.

The planned dimensions: 180 feet wide and 60 feet tall.

The message: Well, you’ll have to be there to see it.

Tifos, an Italian word meaning a choreographed show of support, are a staple of home crowds at soccer games around the world.

They are meant to inspire the home team. They are meant to intimidate the visiting team.

They can be really, really cool.

Atlanta United’s four main supporters groups, Terminus Legion, Footie Mob, Resurgence and Faction, are cooperating on the historic first banner that will be unveiled before the game against New York Red Bulls. None wants to say what will be on it.

They started to plan it November. They hoped to finish the layout and sewing the bolts of cloth together Wednesday, and then start painting it Thursday. The cost has surpassed $1,200. A rotating group of 30 people in total have worked on the production for eight hours a day since Tuesday. More than 50 were expected to show up Friday to put on the final touches. The work is being done in a warehouse in metro Atlanta. No one wanted to say where.

Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann said the best tifo he has ever seen in MLS was in Kansas City, where he was a player. The supporters created a tifo with a Game of Thrones theme for their game against Los Angeles. It depicted the Night's King rising up behind one of the goals. "Welcome to the Blue Hell" was on a sign above the tifo.

“We are usually in the locker room or coming out when they are pulled down, but it’s obviously awesome to see those before the game or after the game,” Kann, a native of Decatur, said. “It’s cool that the fans take time to do things like that.”

For the best and biggest tifos, go to Europe.

Porto’s fans unveiled a giant banner featuring a dragon’s face before against a Portuguese rival. The eyes were cut out, and fans lit flares to make the empty sockets glow red.

Borussia Dortmund's yellow wall of fans created a Tifo of a skull that grows and eventually expands to take up most of a giant section of the stands behind a goal. The opening chords of AC/DC's Thunderstruck play as the tifo blooms.

In 2013, the supporters of the German giants created another of a man holding binoculars before a Champions League game against Malaga. Below the man's face were the words, "On the trail of the lost Cup. " Malaga's players can be seen in a YouTube video looking at the giant face as they take the pitch. Dortmund won 3-2.

Though there are so many cool tifos done by supporters of teams throughout Europe, Atlanta United’s tifo will be inspired by the city, according to Long.

“There’s lots of stuff here in Atlanta that we can draw from,” he said. “We don’t need to look at other MLS teams or global teams.”

Each of the groups have at least one graphic designer. They have collaborated on tifo’s look. Sheets will be stitched together, the design taped off, and then painted. Ropes and pulleys aren’t allowed at Bobby Dodd Stadium, so the sheet will be rolled either up or down to be unfurled.

Why go through all this work for something that may be seen for less than five minutes?

Austin Long, a marketing assistant with Terminus Legion, said he was reminded why during a conversation with Jeremy Wright, president of the Independent Supporters Council, when Wright visited Atlanta a few weeks ago.

“He said something that really struck me: The role of supporters is unabashed support for your team,” Long said. “You inspire them and they inspire you.

“A tifo is an element of that where you can visually show your support for the team that’s fun and creative.”