Some of the dust is beginning to settle on yesterday’s controversy over the Capoing and other organisational issues at the upcoming USA v Mexico match in Columbus, Ohio.
As the day progressed, more information spilled out rapidly and some of the initial anger seemed to dissipate as the earliest conclusions were revealed to be less than the whole story.
That is not to say that there are not unresolved issues about the manner in which the football fans in Columbus were treated.
However, the earliest headlines about AO Seattle being ‘transplanted’ in to run things, which would have been a horrendously bad idea, proved to be an overreach at worst or a misunderstanding of what the parties had agreed at best.
Invitations had been sent out more nationally and many Capo volunteers including some from Seattle responded.
Later, we will tell the story of one of those, Tanya Keith a housewife from Des Moines Iowa, who is driving to the match to Capo and has spent a fortune on supporting the USMNT.
The article on her quaintly named Soccer Family Style blog took some of the initial steam out of the row, when she at least burst the myth that this was all about a Seattle takeover.
Even if that part wasn’t true, the Columbus folk had every right to be annoyed. Their role in the history and development of noisy support for the USA, especially against Mexico, is something that is very dear to them.
Even before this furore unfolded, AO Columbus President Brock Hemphill emailed us in connection with a separate article we are writing on the Rise of the American Outlaws.
He told us of the pride the City of Columbus takes in their role, especially with regard to the Mexico fixture:
“We definitely take pride in the rich soccer history here in Columbus. There is a reason why Crew Stadium is Mexico’s hell. We feel that this is the National Team’s home and we intend to keep it that way.”
The US fans of Columbus have earned the right to be treated with respect because of that history.
If they feel they have not been, either by AO’s National Officers or by US Soccer, then some goodwill measures and some damage repair is necessary.
This should be the case whether they are being territorial or not. Reasonable or unreasonable. They have earned the right to have their feelings considered.
But it’s not just a matter of bruised pride. They have been working hard for some time as Hemphill confirmed:
“Planning for night before and day of festivities have been underway for months.”
There are several issues for the AO, US Soccer and the wider fan community to consider and debate.
Firstly, we can all agree that the atmosphere in Seattle was fantastic. It surpassed some of the best atmospheres produced by some of the world’s best supporters, in some of the world’s biggest venues.
But does that necessarily lead to the conclusion that it should, or even can, be replicated in other venues and cities with a different fan culture, a smaller capacity, or a longer history of loud cheering. Is standardisation necessarily desirable?
Or even was it desirable enough to be worth this row?
There is a second point which is particularly hard for this website to make, given our homebase, but we’ve never shied from controversy. “Seattle” can be a divisive term in the supporter culture world.
The claims that spread across the net that Seattleites invented everything from ‘tifo to touchlines’ irritated plenty of longstanding fans elsewhere. It also must be said in defence of the Seattle football community that a fair share of grown-ups in the Emerald City also cringe when they see some of the braggadocious stuff posted online by newbies, claiming to speak for Sounders fans.
On top of the online bragging, the national football media had been fawning over high attendances, especially at Sunday’s game with Portland. That media focus exacerbated the irritation. Lastly, Major League Soccer’s generous gift of America’s best forward to Sounders FC magnified the general feelings elsewhere of media overkill about Seattle.
In that context, telling the Hudson Street Hooligans, Nordecke and AO Columbus that the atmosphere had to be ‘like Seattle’ was ill timed and unfortunate.
On the other hand, US Soccer and the AO are charged with providing the best atmosphere to support the American National side as they can organise. They did this in good conscience. They fulfilled their mandate.
We have seen it argued that US Soccer should not be in the business of organising Supporter Culture at all. Or, from the other point of view, that AO must remain fiercely independent of the USSF.
That is superb idealism and may hold water in a country where the sport is not trying to grow.
Consider that issue from this angle. Most of us welcome the idea of fans being involved in the running of a club or having representatives attending board meetings. The idea that supporters have no interest in the running of the clubs that they love is not even the reality in places where the sport is king.
If we accept that fans have a legitimate interest in the running of clubs, it is hardly an ideological stretch to say that club, or in this case the Federation, have a legitimate interest in assisting supporters. There is simply no ideological barrier being crossed here. It is a matter of degree certainly and respect, but there is no big deep line in the sand.
The National AO have every right to continue a consistent dialogue with US Soccer, who we would surely all fault if they were unwilling to communicate back.
LA Galaxy have on occasion offered journalists use of the empty seats on charter planes when they travel to CONCACAF matches. If a club can assist journalists, even with their mandate to be impartial, to fulfill their function then surely assisting the fan experience has a degree of legitimacy.
Of course there are limits. Fans cannot pick the team and Front Offices should not involve themselves in the myriad world of Supporters Groups’ politics.
In this instance, the USSF tried to ensure logistics for a match in which they definitely have a vested interest.
If a line was crossed, it seems to be one of etiquette, respect and proper consultation procedures.
- Should AO Seattle have been included on the conference call?
- Should AO Columbus have been given an absolute veto on Capos on their turf?
still remain and these are issues that should be discussed as the American Outlaws and football in the USA continue to grow.
Events may have taken all sides by surprise and found them without the necessary existing policies in place to cope with this particular confluence of events.
Prost Amerika is not going to tackle those questions today. We will contribute to the debate at the right time and encourage everyone else to participate.
And this is the main thrust of our argument and this editorial.
At this point, we would ask all parties to end this controversy today so that all attention can be focused on the players, the coach and the match.
There is a time to unite and a time to debate.
This is what we’d like to see unfold today:
Give AO Columbus an apology for any perceived slights.
In return, we ask all the good folk in Columbus to park their feelings and concerns for 13 days and focus on the best way to support the side.
Without them, there is no game to watch, no goals to cheer and no victories to celebrate.
Fans can decide whether they want to be American Outlaws down the line when policies are decided in a calmer period. Online declarations of leaving the organisation help no-one at this juncture. If you dislike what policies the AO subsequently adopt, there will be plenty time to not rejoin later.
This clearly is also not a time for formulating general policies moving forward for fans, the AO or the USSF.
This is a time for getting behind Jurgen Klinsmann and his side rather than focusing on issues, albeit very legitimate concerns, that surround Supporter Culture.
It does not mean anyone’s hurt feelings are misplaced, that their concerns do not deserve a full airing or that they haven’t been wronged.
Nor does it mean that we do not have to face big decisions on issues like local versus national at international games eventually.
The time for that will come and should come. It just isn’t now.
Now is the time to focus on the one last heave that will get the team to Brazil.