In a new segment here on B/R, I'll be discussing my experiences as President and GM of Queen City Football Club, a National Premier Soccer League franchise. Writing about soccer is one thing, but what about those who are trying to turn it into a viable business? Or those who are trying to promote the game in non-soccer-friendly places? These are my experiences in attempting to ''Preach Soccer to The Masses''
While living in rural Spain in 2006-2007, the highlight of my week was my Sunday kickabout with about 40 other players. This was quite the diverse group; Arabs, Romanians, Spaniards, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, and one 6'2" 195 lbs. second generation Polish American tossed in there for good measure.
I was invited to play with the group by a local bar owner, who upon hearing my love for soccer, affectionately coined me ''Peter Crouch'' and told me where to find ''the best game in town.'' The next day I found myself suiting up with a slew of players, who were absolutely nuts for the game, but were all the norm in their home countries.
After playing in a few games and with all the players realizing I in fact do have soccer skill (I was four year all-league and all-conference in High School), the talk over obligatory kickabout beers turned to soccer and it's place in the United States. Everyone had an opinion.
''You guys are too fat.'' chimed in my friend Alberto. ''Too much McDonalds, not enough soccer.'' We all started laughed. Maybe he was right?
Amidst all of the joking and comments, Aitor had this to say.
''I think that people in the United States really don't care about soccer.''
After hearing that, I got to thinking. Is this really true? Do people not care for the game that is embraced by the entire world?
Being a bit naive I explained that soccer is growing in the United States and it is mostly people that do not know about the game that dislike it. Within a few years and with some effort things will change. With that being said, we all went back to drinking our beers.
Fast forward to 2008 and now I understand the far-reaching effects of that statement, having been on the front lines for the last year with Queen City FC.
Queen City FC was founded in Buffalo, New York in 2006 by four college friends who were all brought together by soccer. The idea for the club came about when Chris Keem, former president and GM looked at a Liverpool beanie he had on and said ''Wouldn't it be cool to own our own soccer team?''
The idea spread like wildfire and in a year's time they had founded Queen City FC and were slated to play in the National Premier Soccer League. The NPSL is considered the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid (that lovely thing that looks nicely color coordinated but no one gives a damn about).
The league is on par with the Premier Development League (PDL) which is the amateur league for the United Soccer Leagues (USL) which joins the lovely alphabet soup that is American Soccer.
In the NPSL all of the teams have a say in how the league is run, with the motto ''A league run by teams, not teams run by a league.''
Our goal as a club is simple. Since we are an amateur side, we are in the business of bringing in college players who need to play highly competitive soccer in the summer months.
These players play for us and also become a part of the club, working summer camps, helping out coaching in the inner city, etc. As they play different teams, various scouts come out and see them, with the hope of the players signing a pro contract.
It's obvious that our club goal is simple. But to make Queen City FC into a viable business is not that easy. To do this, we must sell the club, but more importantly we have to sell the game of soccer oftentimes to those who could care less about the game.
You would honestly be surprised by the responses I have received when contacting people about QCFC. It's as if I was bringing the bubonic plague into their businesses, but in round black and white ball form.
I have been told off, saying ''We will never support soccer ,'' calling it the ever so PC term ''a woman's sport.'' Nice. Some businesses will open up to the idea, but still are weary about soccer's popularity in a sporting landscape dominated by baseball, basketball, hockey and football.
Many don't give the game a fighting chance. I have even been told by local newspapers they would not publish anything to do with our club flat-out. Thanks for the help.
To make a team work, we need a fan base and this where the fun begins. We are lucky enough in Buffalo to play in All-High Stadium, which is a 4,500 seat stadium with all new field turf, score board, and a completely covered stand.
The entrance is at midfield and players walk out in typical soccer fashion. To put it bluntly, the stadium is incredible.
Now, trying to fill that stadium is another story. When the club goes out to sell tickets for games, to say pulling teeth is easier is an understatement.
This is when we truly encounter the ''soccer hating public.'' or the ''anti-soccers'' as I affectionately refer to them. Their goal is to rip apart anything soccer, from the lack of any real contact, to the low scoring and anywhere in between.
When I encounter said fan, I often try to educate Joe NFL on why soccer is not really that, with varied amounts of success.
Some people honestly feel dumb because they do not understand a game that is played around the world and do not want to portray their lack of knowledge for the game. Others simply wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole, and those are the people I want to reach out to. A sort of soccer-missionary if you will.
With these posts, I hope to help shed some light on what problems and issues are being faced in American Soccer at this time and in other amateur clubs like QCFC, such as how the international soccer world looks at US Soccer, how the ridiculous lack of transfer fees kill some clubs, and how soccer fanatic support really isn't what most people think it is.
One main point is you cannot make a league like MLS and expect everyone to swoon over it like a high-school sweetheart. Soccer in American culture starts at the youth and grassroots level. Queen City FC is just an example of the other 24 NPSL clubs and over 50 PDL clubs who are attempting similar projects all over the United States.
If you don't even enjoy the posts, at least realize that children and adults get into the games by becoming involved in soccer in their local community.
Sure, they may watch it on TV once in a while, but they need to find a place to learn more and simply play the game. It is through this that the amateur clubs and youth programs of America are really important to the development of the game as a whole.
So, as I try to Preach Soccer to The Masses, whenever I write an email, or hand you my business card, you'll see my philosophy which I adhere to , spoken by none other than Johan Cruyff.
"Little by little you have to teach the United States that this is the best game in the world.''