The Capo—Italian for the boss, the manager, the leader! You find them in the few or the few thousands leading throngs of supporters in unison as one voice. They come standing on chairs and ladders with their megaphones in hand getting the many to become one. It’s great when they stand and lead, but what if the Capo is not able to stand up to lead, what do you do? Casey Proud of the Northsiders — the Supporters Group of San Francisco City FC– didn’t let injury keep him from doing the thing he loves most.
Eddy: So, I interviewed the rest of the crew and they mentioned your name. All of them had nothing but praise for you. Heck, I was going to sign you up for a nominee for the Medal of Honor.
Casey Proud: (Laughing) Really, overstated I’m sure.
E: The exact words were “legend”, “hero”, etc.
C: I just start songs sometimes and drink beer mostly.
E: But it’s good because I think after hearing about what you do it is truly amazing in my book.
Tell me about how you got involved with Lado Norde?
C: Well, I’ve been part of SF City for a long time now or, relative to the ‘movement’, that started in 2013 to make it a team for the City at a higher level.
E: They tell me you are Capo! Do you help create some of the chants or how do you go about leading the supporters?
C: I’ve come up with songs along with some [songs] with some of the others—that’s been a group effort.
E: Way cool!
C: I am often the one that will ‘start’ songs, but that’s not always the case.
E: Let me ask you how do you prepare for match day? What’s a match day experience for you like?
C: I have a checklist- I have my gear, also cowbell (nice and loud to keep time), will go over songs, maybe write some down on occasion in case for reference. Since I became paraplegic earlier this year my prep is a bit more involved for that as well. Oh, and definitely canned food for the food drive.
E: They mentioned about being paraplegic; I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but do you mind telling me what happened?
C: Not at all. Snowboarding accident in February this year. I hit a jump completely wrong, broke my back, not sure if I’ll walk again but working on it. I stand in braces when we started chatting, now in my chair.
E: To be capo at all, after an accident like this, is truly amazing. I help lead and drum at the same time for our small little band and always keep in mind just how great a deal it is to be with my buds supporting our club.
C: Yeah, it’s been awesome to still get to go to City matches this year through. Been a favorite activity to help keep me positive. Seeing everyone, singing with them, celebrating, it’s been huge.
I need that in my current situation.
E: Well it is good to know those guys have your back both during and after the season.
C: Absolutely! Pete has been huge especially. Pete has been picking me up for all the matches this year, and also helped me move into our new home.
E: You did get the man a beer right?
C: Ha! Well, he’s got a club in Greece (Panathanaikos) and so I donated some money to their amateur teams as thank you. Knew he’d appreciate that most.
E: Yeah, talked to him! I think he was surprised that I knew about his club. I told him I saw the ultras on YouTube and that’s how I knew about them.
C: Yeah I just remembered seeing them around in various Europe matches.
Pete Bogdis shared some of the things that makes Casey unique with the Northsiders.
Pete Bogdis: One thing about Casey… his ability to laugh at himself is remarkable. I’m a notorious ball buster, and tend to use humor when dealing with bad situations.
We had a friendly against a new NPSL team from Napa earlier this year. I brought Casey. It was his first excursion after getting out of the hospital. I was pretty relentless on the drive up, saying things like ‘poor me, I can’t walk, I can’t feel my legs, waaah’ totally joking of course. He really got a kick out of it. When we got back to his house, his mom, who had flown out to help with his move to their new place asked how everything went? She had obviously been really worried. We got him out of the car, into his wheelchair, and I said, ‘it’s appropriate that we were in Napa (home of California’s wine industry) because all he did was whine the whole time.’ She loved it!
If humor is one medicine to help ease the pain of life then add passion for life as the other drug of choice for Casey. You can hear it when he talks about his club and the big picture surrounding its significance.
E: I have to share this quote from your friend Mike (Gonos) that is one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard of the game, clubs, and their function: “We have a team so we can bring people together and make our town a better place.” Not “so we can fill our quota” or “so we can get a larger fan base” but “to make our town a better place”. You don’t hear that kind of thing in sports today.
C: Damn right! We don’t take the ‘City’ in our club’s name lightly. We are the team from San Francisco made by and for the city. It’s part of why we’re so dedicated to the club. We’re also dedicated to San Francisco!
E: You know, I was at Keyworth Stadium watching Detroit City FC face AFC Ann Arbor in this epic match and what hit me was I was from another club and they treated me like family because we respected who they are and what they are about. Once you are arm and arm with fellow supporters you are family. I think this is the same with the men and women involved where you are in the Bay City.
One more question, for those outside of San Francisco that would like to come and be a part of the supporters section what do they need to bring with them?
C: Hmm, I think absolutely a can of food for the food drive, or five; plenty of sunscreen; be ready to put on a mask… the pigeon mask!
E: How did that come about by the way, real quick?
C: The pigeon is an unofficial mascot for us. Not sure if Pete or anyone told you the story, but it was a spur of the moment song from our earlier days. The mask came back then as well too!
I managed to warn him if I did come to San Francisco to catch a match they would be wise to get a very big mask for my big head.
Knowing how I wanted to talk more with him I understood he needed to leave. The off season will have a lot of adjustment to do for him, his mom, and all who love Casey. But in those days when the therapy is grueling or the frustrations of his paralysis is too much to bear no doubt Casey will focus on one thing to get him through the trials of his new life: Next Season it’s City till I die!