SUMMARY: a Capo ensures in-game fan organisation to optimise how impressive the support sounds and looks, as all fans have clear instructions what to sing and do. But having a single person leading all chants and songs sacrifices the wit and humour often associated with terrace life, something that has characterised English Football support for generations.
From Boothferry To Germany is a blog that explores and celebrates Football culture and its diversity (even if sometimes with criticism). We write very profoundly about cultural differences manifesting themselves in Football culture between nations and peoples, but we also like to acknowledge and discuss the more superficial elements that characterise Football fandom. In this post, we question the role of the Capo.
If you are new to Football or new to the term, the Capo is basically the leader of the fans during a game. Both sets of fans, home and away, will have a Capo, and during a game he can be recognised as the person standing in front of the loudest section of fans, occasionally on a raised platform, most times equipped with a megaphone, loudspeaker or microphone so that his voice can be projected easily. He will remain there for the game’s duration giving instructions to supporters. The Capo is unequivocally a very highly respected fan who has been part of the Ultra scene for years and has proven himself (or herself, but that’s very rare – support the Female Ultras Movement!) by whatever means relevant. Ultimately, he has earned the title ‘Capo’.
In a previous post Holmesdale Fanatics & The Smoke, we discussed the fact that the majority of fan groups of continental Football teams share a common structure, which we referred to as the ‘Ultra Model’. For many, the purpose of Football support is to intimidate your opponents by presenting a powerful army (or surrogate of), as we discussed in our previous post War Games: the Caveman Within. The louder, the better-disciplined, the more feared, the more numerous; the better. The Capo’s job is to direct and coordinate the fans in song and activity to make the appearance as impressive and intimidating as possible to the opponents. He will choose the songs, tell the drummer what to play, instruct fans to link arms or raise hands or turn around etc. The ubiquitous success of this model and its adoption in nationalities were Football fanaticism is a newer concept (Thailand, the USA, Australia, Finland etc) speaks volumes for its effectiveness; people identify it as the most effective way to generate a powerful atmosphere.
But using the Ultra Model and having a Capo comes at a cost. The best decisions in any field are always made by exploring lots of potential ideas rather than sticking to the first one or two you have. Business leaders like to brainstorm with many colleagues; the larger the pool of ideas, the more likely they are to find a successful one. The same is true with Football chants. The more people you have spontaneously creating chants and songs during a game, the more likely you are to get clever and witty ones. In this regard, we look back to England to illustrate.
The English fans largely do not use the Ultra Model to build their atmospheres, and therefore they do not have Capos leading the singing. Because of this, there is a lot more spontaneity in English Football chanting. Absolutely anybody in the crowd is able to begin a chant that he/ she may think of, and at any moment. A Capo will stick to premeditated songs that are in his head. The likelihood is that there will be fans stood before him with better ones, but these fans are not given the chance to sing them. Because of this, Ultra Model support is often very impressive to look at, but very repetitive and sometimes boring after 80 minutes; one man simply doesn’t have the capacity to think of fresh or better chants on the spot.
Chim chiminee. Chim chiminee. Chim chim cheroo. You look like a cunt and your mother does too!
On English terraces, the story is different. There is a reason why chants like “We saw your sister on Jeremy Kyle”, “Feed the Scousers – let them know it’s Christmas Time!” and my personal favourite “Chim chiminee. Chim chiminee. Chim chim cheroo. You look like a cunt and your mother does too!” (Hull City away at West Ham) are heard in England and not Germany. English fans are free to sing a chant if they come up with a good one at any moment; they have no formal structure with a single individual leading the singing. This is why on a good day English Football support is still the most celebrated; it has the most humour of any national Football culture.
Capos therefore are the part of the Ultra Model that ensures organisation and unity amongst fans during a game. A central authority giving orders to the fans in the Kurve is the best way to make support as impressive as possible. But applying this model and using a Capo also kills spontaneity and freedom in Football chanting and support, which subsequently leads to a lack of humour on the terraces and leads to atmosphere being more serious and repetitive.
Which is better? Your priorities and values will dictate whether or not you think a Capo is a good thing to have in place. Do you identify wit and humour as key parts of what make Football atmosphere enjoyable and entertaining? Or are scale and impressiveness of support far more important when comparing groups of Football fans? Do you value individualism? Or do you value collectivism? Whatever decision you make will inevitably say a lot about who you are as a person, and it’s not necessarily an easy question to answer.
Thanks for reading, we look forward to reading any thoughts you have in comments. Enjoy your game this weekend.