Footy fan talk: Y9 documentarian watches club through unique lens

Casey Wolfgang watches York9 FC through a unique lens.

The Toronto-based copywriter is not only a York9 FC fan, but also a York9 documentarian, having spent most of this Canadian Premier League season pitch-side photographing the team she loves.

“My colours under the [photography] bib are neutral, but the heart and tongue are black and green,” Wolfgang said with a sly smile.

Wolfgang, 31, began her photography career in live music. However, when the CPL was announced, she swapped the stage pit for turf pitch to photograph for a friend’s publication. Since the start of the campaign, she has become a familiar face at York Lions Stadium, but this assignment became much more than “just another gig.”

For Wolfgang, her love for York9 has become the perfect opportunity to capture her passion as a fan in an expression of her art.

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“You’re basically observing passion through a handheld microscope,” she explained. “You can see up close how much each player is putting into their every movement. It’s in their faces, and you end up appreciating what they do so much more because you’re seeing what’s going into it in such a different way.”

Through photography, she is able to capture a different side not always seen by supporters in the stands. She not only captures a moment in history, but also the raw and visceral feelings of the players, the exact moment that they feel them.

In short, Wolfgang’s primary goal is to freeze passion into a single moment. It’s a challenge she is more than happy to take on, especially with the help of other supporters.

On match days, she rides the subway to Pioneer Village from her midtown home. Upon arriving at the stadium, she drops her bag in the press box, before walking through the stands to observe the crowd. She then collects her equipment and assumes her spot to capture the match at either midfield or in front of Generation IX.

“They’re the best soundtrack to my day,” she said of the York9 supporter group. “They help make capturing action twice as motivated and creative. When I was shooting rock and roll, I’d go back to the three songs that were played during my pit allotment to remember how it felt at that point and capture that mood as well as possible. The soundtrack to the creative process applies for both music and football.”

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And she knows from personal experience how powerful, and inspiring supporter culture can be.

Wolfgang moved to Toronto from Kingston three years ago and found a second family in Toronto’s growing soccer community: “Soccer, and the people involved – in the stands, in the bars, in the box – were the first major community to make me feel welcomed; they can make you feel as if they were always happy to see you.”

That feeling of community only amplified for Wolfgang when the CPL was announced.

“I was drawn to the CPL immediately. At the beginning, when people were doubting the league, I was on the team of ‘it’s going to be amazing, we’ll show you!’” Wolfgang stated.

Rodrigo Gattas, left, in action for York9 FC. (Photo: Casey Wolfgang)
Rodrigo Gattas, left, in action for York9 FC. (Photo: Casey Wolfgang)

Now, in its inaugural season, the league has begun to deliver on what she initially promised others.

“CPL raises the bar for what people expect from Canadian talent, that unique, organic passion that comes from the Canadian pride,” Wolfgang said.

However, Wolfgang insists it’s not just the players who are making the league successful, it’s also the fans that play a massive part in the narrative.

“Canadian soccer fans are so wonderful in the way that we might sing against each other for 90 minutes, but then you’ll still get invited out for a beer on whatever turf you’re at,” she said.

“If you’re at a York9 game, it feels like every person you encounter has some heart deep passion for football and have made that conscious effort to be there for the ‘right’ reason. Whether those reasons are for community, for growth of Canadian talent, or just having the chance to get into the beautiful game.”

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For Wolfgang, the CPL has been a journey of personal growth on how she sees herself as a soccer fan and what it means for her to “support her club.”

“I used to spend my nights in the supporter sections waving flags, sometimes envying the photogs below. Now I am the photog below and sometimes resist that temptation to jump the barrier back into the stand when it’s exploding with the passion I felt on that side,” Wolfgang stated.

And while it’s been a delicate balance of understanding how to express passion versus how to capture passion, she seems to have evened her scales.

So much so, that when asked where she’ll be next match, she replied without hesitation, “I’ll probably be sitting on the pitch side, singing the songs to myself, looking like a little weirdo.”

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