Thanks to alumni like Alfredo Naim '07, Tony Ho '21 and others, the St. Edward’s-to-Austin FC pipeline is growing more robust. But all of them will tell you that supporters groups like Los Verdes and La Murga de Austin are every bit as vital to the club as the front office. The band, especially, Naim says, “is something that we’re really proud of."
“The supporters love it, and as a staff, we love it, too. It’s a huge asset that happened organically. They’re there to support the club, but also to express what the community is all about.”
In fútbol, supporters groups are organized fan clubs independent from the team’s management that fervently promote the brand. Some cities have more robust supporters groups than others, but few in the United States are more vibrant and inclusive than those in Austin, says Naim, whose entire department works closely with each of them.
“The grassroots effort to get the club to Austin morphed into the supporters groups,” he says. “Once we got the stadium, they shifted their focus to supporting the club. The supporters groups truly represent the community as a whole.”
And certainly none is louder than La Murga de Austin, the supporters section band. Sometime in 2017, shortly after Precourt’s ownership group started discussing the possibility of an MLS team in Austin, the band’s organizers — influenced by the fútbol atmosphere in Central and South America — started brainstorming. By the time Austin FC was lacing up for its first game, the band was already performing throughout the city, blasting popular cover songs with custom lyrics and chants.
Stephanie (Prado) Dempsey ’08 and her husband, Edward Dempsey ’05, are both members of La Murga de Austin. Neither saw it coming. They attended local watch parties for every game while Q2 Stadium was still under construction, but they were initially skeptical of the circus that surrounded them at the bars. The drums. The brass. The chanting. The band’s members acted as though they were marching in a Mardi Gras parade — or, more accurately, a South American Carnaval celebration.
“What are these people doing? Why are they so loud? Why are they doing this?” she remembers asking her husband.
“In the English Premier League, they’re in the stands doing this all the time,” he told her.
“Yeah, but these people are at a bar.”
In the beginning, Dempsey admits, she just didn’t get it. But her attitude quickly changed after the couple attended their first away game in Denver. They spent two days roaming the city with roughly 200 other Austin FC fans, and when they hit the stadium that Saturday, the atmosphere was electric.
“Once you hear those drum beats, and that snare …,” she says, pausing, her eyes lighting up. “When you give yourself up to it, you start to feel the band’s energy. You start to feel the passion, not just for the music, but for the team and the players, too.”
Back home again, she started paying closer attention to the chants, and soon she was practicing hand signals as a wannabe “capo” — a captain who helps direct — with La Murga de Austin every Tuesday, just outside the stadium. She’s never been a musician and doesn’t play any instruments, but she’s been a teacher for most of her career, and after using her inside voice all week, she’s ready to let loose come game day.
“Being able to scream and just let it out — Aaahhh!” she roars with a smile. “It’s almost like my meditation.”
The more Dempsey talks about La Murga de Austin, the more she sounds like Naim, and Ho, and Emely Alvarado '21 and José Covarrubias ’18, too. As Ho put it, “it’s more than soccer.” Whether they’re approaching Austin FC from the band or the academy, from the perspective of media or supporter engagement, they’re all motivated, in the end, by Ho’s question: How do you build community?
“I think the club is major for Austin, especially right now, in the times that we live in,” Dempsey says. “This is that connection that’s going to hold us together no matter what’s happening outside of us.”
By Carson Vaughan
Photography by Chelsea Purgahn
Explore more of this 5-part series of Hilltoppers who are part of a cultural shift as Austin embraces its first major-league pro team, Austin FC.
Austin connections open career doors for student Tony Ho '21.
From the classroom to the office, Alfredo Naim '07 leverages his economic studies.
Emely Alvarado '21 shares her rise at Austin FC.
How a St. Edward's connection helped José Covarrubias '18 realize his calling.