Support AFC Mobile’s Grassroots Soccer Project

AFC Mobile’s promotional video, attached to the GoFundMe page, asks three questions: Why not us? Why not now? Why not Mobile?

I ask another one; why do you need a millionaire to fund a soccer club?

I was initially drawn to the AFC Mobile project because of my years-long internet friendship with Abram Chamberlain but I donated money to the cause because of the down-to-earth principles that guide the club. The co-founders of AFC Mobile are products of their environment, even if they may be transplants and not born-and-raised Mobilians or Alabamans. They’ve played soccer in the area and have firsthand knowledge of both the overlooked player pool and the underserved fanbase therein.

Beyond simply being well-versed in their surroundings, the directors of AFC Mobile are realistic. They aren’t pushing for an MLS expansion bid or taking sides in the still-simmering lower division soccer wars. The project aims to provide fans with an outlet for their passion and players with a platform to get noticed, both of which are noble endeavors worthy of support.

While the club is rather adept at social media, it is not simply a twitter account @-ing soccer leagues or hounding those who cover the sport. Abram and his fellow co-founders have taken the logical next step that so many seem unwilling to. Instead of merely observing the soccer landscape from afar and lamenting their plight from the comfort of living rooms or home offices, they have abandoned their impressive scarf wall collections and (momentarily) logged off twitter in order to step outside and create something meaningful in their communities.

This is not to say that you should forego your next donation to a local foodbank or to Oxfam, but rather instead of buying that next EPL jersey for yourself, consider chipping in to help this grassroots soccer project get off the ground. Surely, whether ultimately successful in all facets or not, AFC Mobile will be transparent about the process and helpful in case your mind is now abuzz with future possibilities for soccer projects in your neck of the woods.

Please consider a donation to help AFC Mobile as the club offer ssomething valuable to soccer fans and soccer players in southwest Alabama. Ten or twenty dollars will certainly go farther in their hands than it would in mine the next time I’m ordering a pizza online at 11:30PM.

They’re not asking for $100m entry fee to MLS or $4m to USL or even $10k to join NPSL. Instead they’ve agreed to join the Gulf Coast Premier League, which published the following paragraphs when announcing AFC Mobile’s addition to the regional league on January 3:

AFC Mobile was founded in 2015 by a group of soccer fans who felt that Mobile, Alabama had the talent and resources to compete at a higher level. This group has spent the past few years working to promote the South Alabama Soccer Association, Mobile’s local amateur adult recreation league, as well as volunteering and sponsoring teams in the city’s youth leagues. The club has garnered interest from the National Premier Soccer League, but instead chose the GCPL believing it was a better model for them.

We believe in local soccer,” said Mitchell Kahalley the Communication Director for AFC Mobile, “[and] it doesn’t get more local than the GCPL. Being a part of a league like this allows for the soccer community along the coast to connect and continue to grow. We want to have something that the city can rally around and be proud of. There are many ways people consume and participate in soccer in the area. Hopefully, AFC Mobile can act as a focal point and connect those various strands of the soccer community together, and give Mobile’s large pool of players a chance to be seen and hopefully take their game to the highest level possible.” 

Rather than paying money to a league office in another part of the country, AFC Mobile is truly investing in soccer in their community and any donations they receive will be directed to that end.

Again, I implore all of you who care about soccer. community engagement, or snarky folks like Abram who occasionally talk about soccer, to please donate to and widely share AFC Mobile’s supporter-funded, grassroots project by following this link.

 

Puerto Rico National Team Kicks off Caribbean Cup 2014

After a hiatus of nearly 2 years, since the conclusion of the previous regional tournament, Puerto Rico’s national soccer team is ready to contest the 2014 edition of the Caribbean Cup.

Puerto Rico has a relatively easy pass in the first stage of the competition. Los boricuas face off against Curaçao, French Guiana, and Grenada in Group 4. All group matches will be played from September 3-7 in the Juan Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

The top two teams from each of the four groups, along with the top ranked third-placed team, move on to the next phase of the tournament. Puerto Rico should be able to see themselves out of this group stage playing at home.

Below is the squad called in by national team head coach Victor Hugo Barros.
Name, player age, national team appearances (Club team or college)

Goalkeepers:
Eric Reyes, 22 years old, 9 caps (Unattached)
Matthew Sanchez, 20 years old, 0 caps, (Loyola University)
Luis Fiol, ??, 0 caps (Criollos de Caguas FC)

Defenders:
Joel Rivera, ??, 0 caps (Bayamon FC)
Juan Velez, ??, 0 caps (Criollos)
Gustavo Rivera, 21 years old, 2 caps (Barry University)
Carlos Rosario, 20 years old, 0 caps (Bayamon)
Sean Sweeney, ??, 0 caps (Fort Pitt FC Regiment; National Premier Soccer League – fourth tier in U.S.)
Alexis Rivera, 31 years old, 24 caps (Bayamon)
Steven Estrada, 27 years old, 2 caps (Bayamon)

Midfielders:
Emmanuel D’Andrea, 19 years old, 2 caps (Sevilla FC ‘C’)
Alvaro Betancourt, 20 years old, 4 caps (Bayamon)
Andres Perez, 25 years old, 10 caps (Bayamon)
Eduardo Jimenez, ??, 0 caps (Bayamon)
Juan Coca, 21 years old, 5 caps (Kultsu FC; Kakkonen – third tier in Finland)
Michael Fernandez, ??, 0 caps (Universitarios FC)
Andres Cabrero, 25 years old, 18 caps (Criollos)
Samuel Soto, 22 years old, 9 caps (Bayamon)
Alex Oikkonen, 19 years old, 6 caps (Kultsu, on loan from MYPA; Veikkausliiga – first division in Finland)

Forwards:
Eloy Matos, 29 years old, 3 caps (Bayamon)
Hector “Pito” Ramos, 24 years old, 21 caps (Isidro Metapan; Primera Division – El Salvador)
Joseph Marrero, 21 years old, 13 caps (Kultsu)

Luke Dempsey’s Club Soccer 101 is a Must-Have

In a sport that is wildly partisan and can be frustratingly dry, Luke Dempsey offers a glimpse into the world’s biggest soccer clubs with both respectful impartiality and a refreshing sense of humor in Club Soccer 101. Without boring his readers with mundane or overwhelming details, Dempsey provides useful information in an entertaining fashion. Every American soccer fan should consider Club Soccer 101 either as an introduction to the sport or as a quick read between European matches on the weekend.

The structure of the book, a vignette about each of 101 teams, allows readers to immerse themselves in the identity of a soccer club without getting bogged down by dates and figures. Club Soccer 101 is jam-packed with information but Dempsey does well to present it in an entertaining and digestible manner.

Of particular note for a large segment of American soccer fans (and which definitely piqued my interest in the book), Dempsey covers MLS teams and superclubs from Latin America with the same deference he gives the storied clubs from across Europe. Without missing a beat, Dempsey describes the masses of rave green fans in Seattle or the desperate die-hards in New Jersey who support the Red Bulls in the same tone with which he fills pages with the histories of FC Barcelona and Manchester United.

As a coffee-table atlas of sorts for soccer’s most interesting clubs or as a trove of clever quips to impress your friends while watching matches, Club Soccer 101 is a must have for any fan of the world’s game.

Is the American Soccer League for real?

The inaugural season of the American Soccer League kicks off next weekend with three matches slated for Saturday, August 23.

In those matches AC Crusaders hosts Philadelphia Fury, Icon travels to Mass United, and Newark hosts the Evergreen Diplomats. Western Mass Pioneers and Rhode Island Reds have a bye the first week of the season.

Oh wait, you haven’t heard of these teams before? That’s because none of them plays in an existing professional league. Only 2 of the founding 8 clubs recently participated in a league higher than a local or state amateur circuit. Those two are Rhode Island from the NPSL and Western Mass Pioneers from the USL PDL.

Don’t feel bad if you aren’t familiar with these teams. The league refers to some of its own clubs by multiple names, so it seems even they aren’t too familiar.

On the league’s schedule page the teams are listed as: AC Crusaders, Evergreen Diplomats, Icon, Mass United, Newark, Philadelphia Fury, Rhode Island, Western Mass Pioneers

On the league’s “Teams” page, the teams are listed as:
AC Crusaders, Evergreen Diplomats, Icon, Mass United, Ironbound Soul, Philadelphia Fury, Rhode Island Oceaneers, Lusitanos Pro Soccer

The league’s “About Us” page on its website uses three quotes from Sepp Blatter without context to provide the philosophical basis for the league and attempts to justify the money clubs will waste in this venture. Sepp Blatter is widely corrupt, openly sexist, and generally an awful administrator of the game we all love; he’s really the inspiration for your league?

The league kicks off in 8 days and its website is woefully incomplete. Only 2 of the clubs have even partial profiles on the league’s website. It shouldn’t be any surprise that those 2 clubs have the same owner, which brings us to Matt Driver.

Driver is the owner of Atlantic Soccer Factory, a “soccer education” company from southern New Jersey. ASF evokes divided opinion among parents who have coughed up thousands of dollars in fees for Driver’s programs throughout the years.

Driver is the godfather of the American Soccer League but maintains ownership of ASF, which operates the AC Crusaders team. In addition Driver is the owner and head coach of the Philadelphia Fury team. How professional is this league when one man is a head coach, owner of two teams, league president, and league CEO?

The ASL, through Driver, attempted a hype train earlier in the year about challenging USL Pro as the country’s division three league. That will never happen.

The ASL cannot meet USSF’s guidelines to receive sanctioning as a professional league. As such the league should not refer to itself as a professional league. For the coming season, the ASL is sanctioned as a high-level amateur league.

The ASL is an amateur league with apparently professional teams, but even that designation may be in name only. Teams in the ASL will pay players and will operate during the school year so as to prevent collegiate athletes from participating but are hiring inexperienced office staff to run their operations.

Driver is quoted in a news story on the league’s site as saying, “We’re looking for players who are graduating from college, or maybe will come into this league as an alternative to college.” MLS clubs are finding it difficult to convince potential HG players from forgoing college for a soccer career but this shoddy upstart league can. Makes sense.

The fully professional and storied soccer club Rochester Rhinos offers general admission tickets for games against other fully professional clubs in the USL Pro hosted at Sahlen’s Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium, for $10.

First year “professional” team Philadelphia Fury offers general admission tickets for games against other “professional” teams in a makeshift league hosted at a local high school for $9.

Does that math make sense to you? I think there’s more than one dollar difference in the value offered by the Rochester Rhinos and the Philadelphia Fury.

Is the ASL for real?
Unfortunately I think it is and that will be bad news for most of these teams. I don’t expect the league to survive into its second year next fall if it actually manages to play out its full first season.

I am encouraged by soccer clubs that want to turn professional and are looking for a cheaper alternative to what if currently available through NPSL and PDL. When a league is scrounging for member teams, it is incentivized to mislead prospective team owners. Allowing inexperienced amateurs to operate professional soccer club offices is irresponsible and when these clubs fail it will poison the well for future attempts to grow soccer in the United States.

On Human Rights and Sports Writing in View of the FIFA World Cup

I originally drafted this on April 16 when I was in a very bad mood and never got around to publishing it because I was in a better mood the next day. So uh… enjoy this rant, you guys and gals.

 

Swindled, injured, indebted, and dead Asian and African laborers in Qatar act merely as an excuse for American soccer fans to bash on a former rival World Cup bid. Claims that Emirati human rights’ blemishes delegitimate NYC FC’s expansion plans into MLS similarly don’t come from a source of social justice. Soccer writers cheaply use human rights’ record of NYC FC’s ownership group to mask their disdain for a foreign ownership group starting another franchise in the New York City metropolitan area while MLS has ignored large swaths of the country.

There are few clear examples of natural crossover between sports and politics in which the narrative is not pushed by someone with only passing knowledge in one or the other arena. FIFA’s World Cup provides ample fodder for these articles as the suffering of human beings on the periphery of the festivities is ubiquitous even if overlooked.

The Republic of South Africa spent an estimated $5bn on the 2010 World Cup while FIFA, enjoying tax-exempt status, netted profit exceeding $3bn on the event. What was heralded as a watershed moment for the continent, Africa’s first World Cup rather replayed the same storyline of a European venture exploiting the Global South while sticking the host nation with an overwhelming infrastructure bill.

Whether FIFA was malicious in its attempts to strap South Africa, a country with crippling unemployment and widespread underdevelopment in the face of epidemics, the footballing organization wanted to make a political statement by awarding the 2010 games. FIFA told the world, and the host nation specifically, that an African country was ready to host the World Cup tournament. Sadly for the people of South Africa, that was not the case. South African cities are still dealing with the costs of long-since idle hotels and stadia.

One might think that things are going well in the cultural home of football, this year’s host nation of Brazil. There have been widely reported violent cleansing of neighborhoods surrounding the designated tourist locations around World Cup stadia. National and regional police forces that were already known for violent conduct doubled down in the two years leading up to kick-off, adding extra soldiers to patrol and conduct evictions in multiple major cities in Brazil. Brazil’s government has decided to revise its existing counter-insurgency training tactics, but rather than improving its public face, these changes have been geared towards increasing the brutality and gratuitous exhibitions of violence in efforts to quell the sentiments of resistance among the native population. Continue reading

Cuba’s Golden Ball Winner of 2013 – Ariel Martinez

The excerpts were originally published in Spanish by Mario Lara on Fútbol Cubano. The full article can be read in its entirety here.

Cuba’s Golden Ball Winner for 2013: Ariel Martínez

A nuestro entender el jugador espirituano es el mejor jugador del año en Cuba, jugador inteligente, rápido con una gran gambeta y buen disparo con ambas piernas, Ariel se convirtió este año en un jugador vital para sus equipos. Con sus tres goles, de los cuatro en total que marcó Sancti Spíritus, en la Primera Vuelta del Campeonato Nacional, mantuvo las esperanzas yayaberas de clasificar para el Torneo de Clausura hasta la última jornada. Adoptado por el Expreso de Villa Clara se fue abriendo de a poco un paso en el once inicial, hasta convertirse con sus goles y asistencias en el jugador Más Valioso del cuadro Naranja en las semifinales y Finales camino a la obtención de su décimo tercera corona.
Convocado a la selección que participó en la Copa de Oro en Estados Unidos, Ariel fue sin duda de lo más remarcable en los dos primeros partidos de Cuba, en los que sumó una asistencia, antes de su apoteósico desempeño frente al conjunto de Belice encaminando con un triplete (primer cubano en lograr un Hat Trick en dicha competición) el pase de Cuba a los Cuartos de Final del Torneo por segunda vez en su historia.

“In our view, the player from Sancti Spíritus is the year’s best player in Cuba. An intelligent player, fast with a great dribble and a good shot with both feet, Ariel became a vital player for his club and national team this year.

With his three goals, of the four total that FC Sancti Spíritus scored, in the First Round of the National Championship, he sustained the hopes of the yayaberas [people from the region] to quality for the Torneo de Clausura until the last matchday.

Brought in by FC Villa Clara, he slowly stepped up into the starting eleven, until with his goals and assists he became the MVP of the orange squad in the semifinals and finals on the road to lifting its thirteenth crown.

Called up to the national team that participated in the Gold Cup in the United States, Ariel was without doubt the most remarkable player. Notching an assist in the first two games for Cuba, before his tremendous performance against the Belizean contingent routing them with a triple (the first Cuban to score a Hat Trick in this competition) propelling Cuba into the Quarterfinals of the tournament for only the second time in its history.”

Silver Ball: Osvaldo Alonso Continue reading

Rochester Native Jordan Allen Signs Homegrown Contract with Real Salt Lake

It’s finally time to be excited, Rochester.

After an accolade-laden freshman season at the University of Virginia, Rochester native Jordan Allen has signed a Homegrown contract with Real Salt Lake of MLS.

Allen is eligible for this signing mechanism, which allows him to join RSL without going through the MLS draft, after spending a couple seasons with the club’s residency academy in Casa Grande, Arizona. In addition to an All-ACC Freshman Team, a second-team NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region Team, and a third-team All-ACC selection for his freshman season with Virginia, the versatile 18 year old racked up numerous personal awards for his club play with RSL.

Allen was named the u-16 Western Conference Player of the Year for the USSF Development Academy for his outstanding play in 2012. Top Drawer Soccer placed Jordan behind only professionals Diego Fagundez, Zach Pfeffer, and Jack McBean in a list of the best talent nationally for his high school graduation year.

Before moving out west to join RSL’s academy, Allen was a standout for local academy club Empire United (now Empire Revolution) and his high school, the Aquinas Institute. Son of former Rochester Rhino Howard Allen, Jordan has a killer mix of athleticism and the critical ability to read the game. Youth national team coach Javier Perez tapped into this skill to groom Jordan as an attacking fullback, while he is also naturally able to play as a forward, a winger, or a traditional wide midfielder.

Real Salt Lake’s coaches have seen a lot of Jordan in academy games at both the u-16 and u-18 level, the MLS Reserve League, youth national team appearances, and the NCAA season that just ended. Apparently the coaching staff likes what they have seen and couldn’t wait until 2014 to sign the talented wide player.

RSL announced they had signed Allen to a Homegrown contract around 5:30 EST/3:30 MST on December 31.