Columbus's Culture of Soccer; No Capos Needed

Sam Famhi/Massive Report

The recent controversy between U.S. Soccer supporters over capos for the upcoming U.S. v. Mexico match underscores the different ways to support your team.

Culture is not something unique to different countries. Different cultures can take place within the same country, the same region, even the same state.

The United States may be one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, partly due to its size and in part how it came to be.

Today's explosion of controversy dealing with American Outlaw's decision to bring capos and other changes to Columbus Crew Stadium for the U.S.A.-Mexico game made me realize how different the cultures, even within groups supporting the same team, can be.

Multiple soccer fans who heard of the debate asked me today, "What is a capo?"

I realized this is not a relevant term in Columbus, and some other MLS cities, because their local teams do not use one. It is not a part of their soccer culture.

To be clear, a capo is someone who leads a section or sections of fans in cheers, synchronized movement, scarf waving, banner lifting, and so on. The capo stands facing away from the field for the majority of the game, instead facing the fans he leads.

This person must be a leader and be organized, but also someone his fellow supporters respect. If those he is attempting to organize do not listen or value his leadership then there is little hope for the capo to be successful.

The capo is usually, but not always, propped up in front of the section on some kind of structure in order to be seen and heard by those in the section.

Some cultures believe a capo is necessary in order for supporters to be supportive as possible. This may be true, especially with very large crowds that use a lot of choreography. They help to keep everyone organized and on the same page so things don't get discombobulated.

Yet there are other teams - other cultures - that do not use a capo. Many MLS teams, especially the original teams, don't have one. In Europe the cultures are diverse, but England is a place where fans don't use a capo.

Team's supporters can be equally effective with or without a capo; it just depends on the planning and organization that goes into the games.

Columbus Crew Stadium has not seen a capo from a home team in its existence. Those who used to reside in the North End did not use a formal one, the Nordecke does not designate one, and the U.S. supporters in Columbus have not needed one.

In the stadium's 14-year history there have been leaders who have helped to start chants, but things have always run as a committee, a group effort. That is just how the culture works in Columbus.

To take an example outside of Crew Stadium and to another sport, the student section for Ohio State football games, Block O, has used several leaders in order to organize the large group that fills the south stands. While these four or five students are able to get some things organized, often their pleas for organization are inaudible because the other students are already cheering.

Somehow Ohio Stadium is still one of the most revered venues in sports and provides a unique atmosphere, despite unsuccessful capos.

The decision by American Outlaws to bring capos to Columbus misunderstands and disregards the culture already in place in Ohio's capital. It is just not the way things are done.

It would be one thing if the culture in central Ohio had not worked for soccer, but it has been successful for 17 years of MLS play and namely for some of the U.S.'s most important matches.

Columbus Crew Stadium and the culture that comes along with it has been an incredible atmosphere to every national team game it has hosted. There is a reason U.S. Soccer continues to pick Columbus for the always important World Cup Qualifier against Mexico.

After last year's 1-0 win over Jamaica, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard gave Columbus and the atmosphere the city provides his stamp of approval.

"The atmosphere was fantastic," he said. "This is the one real true home advantage we have in America."

This is an unbiased player, as he spent his time in MLS playing in New York. He has played in front of some of the world's best crowds in World Cups and in his time with Manchester United and Everton. If there is an American who knows what an incredible atmosphere is, he is Howard.

"A very pro-American crowd, they didn't sit down, not for 90 minutes," Howard continued. "Thousands and thousands of flags waving. Hats off to the people of Columbus and the fans. It's not the first time it's happened either. It happens time and time again, so we're hoping we can come back here more often because it's special and really makes us feel like playing at home counts."

This does not sound like something that needs adjusting. The American Outlaws Columbus chapter, along with Crew supporter's groups and fans, always do a fantastic job of making U.S. games in Columbus special.

This is about the soccer culture that has been built in Columbus over many years. The people in this town have seen what works locally and do not be told how to do things. They do not need to defer to the visitors on how to run things in their home. They are the hosts and those coming to the party should see how things are done.

This is not to say that new ideas and input is not welcome, but these should be suggestions not requests or commands. Being told that there will be capos in a place that does not use them or that if they want songs in the rotation to submit them to someone from thousands of miles away is not the way to approach things.

There is a culture in Columbus that has produced a tried and true method. For anyone to try and come in and tamper with that disregards what this city has accomplished through building our own unique supporters culture.

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