Portland Thorns Open First Home Game with Win as Sunday White Leads the Crowd

 Photo by Shaley Howard.
Photo by Shaley Howard.
By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly

The Portland Thorns FC opened their first home game last Saturday night with a 3-1 victory over FC Kansas City.  I, along with over 14,000 fans, cheered as Thorn Forward Jessica McDonald scored two goals in the last 6 minutes of the game, breaking the 84 minutes-long 1-1 tie, thrilling the crowd and placing the Thorns second in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) standings, just slightly below the Seattle Reign.

Even with rain pouring down, Providence Park was overflowing with young and old “Rosie the Riveter” lookalikes, loads of families, lesbians as far as the eye could see, and starry-eyed young girls clutching their soccer balls in anticipation of getting them autographed after the game.  As someone who played soccer in the 1980’s when the idea of having a professional women’s soccer team was just that—an idea, it delights me to no end to be part of these enormous, deafening crowds out supporting and loving women’s professional soccer.

If you’re one of the few who haven’t attended either a Thorns or Timbers game—you may want to buy a ticket because it’s more than just watching a soccer match: it’s an experience.

And if you want the ultimate experience sit, or rather stand, in the Rose City Riveter (RCR) or Timbers Army (TA) sections — at least once. The RCR and TA are the heart beat and pulse for both the Thorns and Timbers games. It’s the general admission area that started in section 107 and now has hundreds of loud, raucous, and lively fans who are clearly proud of our city, our communities, and definitely our soccer teams. Really, it’s the party place to be on match day.

sunday whiteAnd when you venture to the party place you’ll hear and definitely see Sunday White—a capo for both the RCR and TA, which is an Italian word loosely meaning the person(s) responsible for leading and coordinating the chants and keeping the crowd cheering.

And good God does Sunday White keep the crowd cheering!

The first time I saw White she was jumping up and down on her capos stand yelling and screaming chants, smiling and seemingly having the time of her life. Without any hesitation she pulled me in for a selfie and then bounced back over to continue leading the crowd in chants.  Curious about who this delightful little ray of sunshine was, I asked her how she got involved with capoing the RCR and TA.

“I was going to soccer matches yelling, chanting and supporting loudly from stands and just started capoing midway up, facing the wrong way. When there was an opening for another capo I was invited to move down into a nest. I happily volunteer my time to get the crowd in sync and riled up to supply as much possible support and energy to the teams,” White said.

And she does spark enthusiasm and energy. Throughout the entire match White is continually jumping up and down, hands waving in the air—chanting, singing and yelling—enticing everyone with her positive energy and contagious smile to join her. After watching her for a while all I kept thinking, besides of course GO THORNS, was that capoing has got to be exhausting.

“Sometimes the physical endurance requirements can be challenging as is the mental battle in supporting, leading and refusing to mope when our boys or girls are down. But it’s key that we represent and police ourselves and help the RCR and TA be the most amazing damn supporter group ever!” White said. “We capos are trying to guide a ship of 3,500 people to share their support. It is a fight that is worthy of the effort.”

As an out lesbian who often sports a badass blond mohawk, White proudly displays her rainbow flag at every match, whether it’s Timbers or Thorns. She finds a sense of family and community from leading the RCR and TA and loves being part of something bigger than herself.

“I don’t know if it is easier or harder (being an out lesbian). I do know that I like the fight. I enjoy being strong. I like to think my gender is not an issue but at the same time I take pride in providing an example to other women that gender roles are meant to be broken,” she said.

If you’d like to join White and get involved with the RCR or want more info about the Thorns check out: http://byanyothername.org/so-where-did-that-tifo-come-from/ and http://www.timbers.com/thornsfc.

The next home game for the Thorns FC will be Saturday, May 10th at 7PM against the Seattle Reign FC.