Welcome back to the Pyramid Ladies and Gentlemen! Big things happening in the world of soccer. Leicester City and Arsenal are level at the top of the Premier League, American players are leaving for Mexico, and MLS continues to bring in more offense then defense. And Aberdeen and only one point behind Celtic for first!
I wanted to preface this interview with an interesting note. This was almost the first live interview ever done here on the Pyramid. Over Thanksgiving, I was actually in Santa Fe and was supposed to potentially have time to sit down and interview Ron Patel face to face. That didn't happen, but we still managed to get an interview done. It's a fun interview, shedding some light on the city of Albuquerque, the history of soccer in New Mexico, and the teams 10 year plan. Check it out.
American Pyramid: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, what your role is with Albuquerque Sol FC.
Ron Patel: My name is Ron Patel. I was born in Liverpool, England and have been kicking the ball since I was 3 years old. I’ve had the opportunity to live in numerous places around the United States, Canada and England. I’m the President and Co-Founder of Albuquerque Sol FC.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and helping run a soccer team in particular? Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or have you always been into soccer?
I always had an interest in soccer but never thought that I would start my own team. My lifelong dream was to see England play in a World Cup match. I achieved that goal in June of 2006 at the World Cup in Germany. Following that life-changing trip I decided to give in to the entrepreneurial bug and leave corporate America to start my own business. I started a food delivery service in October 2006 called Just Dine In.
As I grew my small business, I kept finding myself pulled back to my first love, football. (soccer) In 2013, whilst being reminiscent and watching old You Tube videos, I came to the realization that I needed to start a soccer team in my adopted hometown of Albuquerque, NM.
In 2013, I set out to raise money from investors to bring a PDL franchise to New Mexico. I was introduced to a guy named Larry Espinoza. He had played on a semi-pro team in the nineties called the New Mexico Chiles, who did quite well. The team was sold by the ownership and unfortunately, moved out of state. There were a few other teams that came about in Albuquerque but wasn’t one now.
Can you recap the history of Albuquerque Sol FC for me? Basically, what's the teams 'origin story,' and how did you arrive at the 'Sol' nickname?
New Mexico is often underrated by people who haven’t been here. There’s so much more than just Breaking Bad! Albuquerque receives 310 days of sunshine a year and sits at an altitude of about 10 feet higher than Denver, CO. (Most people don’t know that!) We have great weather, we get 4 seasons, tons of great outdoor stuff to do and we don’t have to deal with traffic or natural disasters! It’s a beautiful place to live. I came up with the name of Sol FC because of the amount of sunshine we get along with the huge Spanish influence on our state.
What is about Albuquerque that convinced you it would be a good place for a team?
Many people ask why I think Albuquerque is a good place for a team. We need a major pro sports team here. It’s not gonna be an NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB franchise, I believe (and many agree with me) that soccer has the best chance at being the major pro sports team here in Albuquerque.
I remember reading earlier this spring that you think Albuquerque is a good city for pro soccer. Is that still something you are looking into to?
Since day 1, we’ve had what we call our “Ten Year Plan.” We are an amateur team now in the ranks of the PDL. We will be a pro team in the USL Professional League by 2018 and hope to have a fully funded US Soccer Academy in place by 2020. We will make a bid for MLS in New Mexico by 2024.
There is a lot of work to be done for all this to happen. We don’t expect the chips to fall into place. We are hard at work at cultivating a soccer culture in Albuquerque. What we mean by this is that we are a year round business, not just active during the 3-4 months of the PDL season. We’ve hosted all kinds of soccer-centric events like movie screenings for soccer movies, FIFA video game tournaments, Foot Golf tournaments, Premier League watch parties at breweries with breakfast from Food trucks. We hosted a watch party in Civic Plaza of Albuquerque’s downtown where over 1,750 people watched the USA vs Mexico game in October of 2015. We are still to host a Boxing Day Bash, the day after Christmas (an indoor soccer tournament) and many other fun events that keep soccer relevant in the forefront of New Mexico residents’ minds.
How has the soccer community in Albuquerque responded to the Sol? Sounds like you've been drawing some pretty solid crowds since the team started playing.
Since we started the team, we’ve always said that Albuquerque is a soccer town, we just don’t know it yet. We have discovered so many people that we already knew but didn’t know that they were soccer fans. That, added to the fact that 47% of New Mexico residents are Hispanic, makes for soccer to naturally be our sport.
Cast a vision for me: Where do you see Albuquerque Sol FC in 5 years?
5 years from now, the end of 2020, we will have just finished our 3rd season in the USL, have the finishing touches on our US Soccer Academy ready to go and preparing to move into our own soccer specific stadium in downtown Albuquerque. Many people laugh at me for these audacious goals, but I don’t mind, they’ll be the same people buying season tickets when we do it all!
Bonus Questions: What's your favorite book, regardless of genre?
My favorite book is the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It teaches that when you own a business, you must find a way to work on the business not in the business. That’s the only way to grow and be successfu
Who's your favorite current soccer player?
My favorite current soccer player is Steven Gerrard.
Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
My favorite soccer media is Soccer Morning, hosted by Jason Davis every morning on Sirius XM FC. My favorite soccer movie has to be ‘Next Goal Wins,’ the story of how coach Thomas Rongen helped coach the American Samoan national team to their first ever World Cup Qualification win.
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch?
My favorite team is Liverpool FC as I was born about a mile from Anfield.
Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
You can find out more about Albuquerque Sol FC online at www.abqsolfc.com or on our social media pages. We are active on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter (All under the handle @abqsolfc)
What would you like to say to the people reading this article about why they should get out and support the lower levels of American soccer?
The lower levels of soccer are so important to the foundation of our game and the development of our players. All kids in this great country deserve the right to go out and watch good soccer. The players in our sport are great role models and give our youth someone to look up to. The game itself teaches our young boys and girls how to be better human beings and how to work as a team to get better results. Soccer flat out produces better human beings.
When I was a young lad in England, I had two teams when living in Chester. Liverpool, of course, was my team but I was also an avid fan of Chester City FC. They were the local/lower division team in my area and it only helped grow my love for the game and the impact it had on me. I hope to bring that same joy to as many New Mexican youth as I can as I continue in my dream job, operating the state’s franchise, Albuquerque Sol FC.
Thanks for taking some time to answer all of these questions and doing this interview Ron. Go check out what the Sol are doing online. Big things happening, and they are pulling in some pretty good support for only being two years old. Thanks for taking the time to read this latest interview, and don't forget: If you want updates and would like to be the first to know when interviews and op-eds are being released, 'Like' us on Facebook or 'Follow' us on Twitter. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.