"If people associate us with Robin Hood and the establishment is the sheriff or Prince John... I'm more than okay with that."
Welcome back to the Pyramid ladies and gentlemen! Got a lot of stuff going on that I'm excited to share with you this week. First, I've added some partnerships, both on what you could say is the 'business side,' along with our first Media Partnership. Check out the new tab labeled 'Partners' to see what we've got.
Second, I'm pleased to announce that our first official Media Partner here at AP is the North County Battalion. As I'm sure you'll remember, we interviewed Jason Barbato over the winter, and once the NCB season kicks off, you'll get updates at least twice a month as to how things are going for the new boys in San Diego.
Third, I'm pleased to announce that today's interview is brought to you by SoccerElf.com. SoccerElf.com is a brand new website dedicated to helping people all across the United States find the nearest pick up game. If you can't find one near you, guess what? You can create one. Right now, it's still the early stages, so AP has partnered with them to help get the word out, get more people on the site, and get more games going everywhere! The more chances to play, the more people will play. And the more people who play, the more the game grows. Check it out, be sure to share and spread the word!
Now, about this interview. Benjamin Falvo is the founder of Kew Forest FC. We actually started this interview back in December of last year, and even did a live Twitter interview one evening. Right after that interview things really took off, and I've just gotten around to getting all of this together. I'm really looking forward to seeing what these guys, and following their progress, especially to see how well the community model works. Check it out.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and running a soccer team in particular? Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or have you always been into soccer?
I started playing rec soccer at age 5 and continued to play up until my late teens on select and travel clubs. At a certain point costs of clubs and travel made the game prohibitive for myself and my family.
Now where exactly is your team located? I saw you're going to be playing in the Long Island Soccer Football League.
The club is located in the County of Queens. We are a club for the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens & Forest Hills. We will have a youth level team for training for the adult level. Our field, Victory Field, is located at the crossroads of several neighborhoods. All of these neighborhoods are very diverse with a built in soccer community from Europe, Asia, Africa and the America’s. Geographically it is perfect to be able to recruit the best talent in the County, which has a population of 2.3 million people. Ethnically the county is considered the most diverse out of the borough’s of New York City.
What does the soccer scene in Long Island look like? Lots of youth, lots of adults, a good mix of both?
The Long Island has a fantastic scene. Once again, ethnically diverse and has a lot of built in infrastructure of fields and culture.
How does the local community seem to be responding to the idea of having a soccer team in town?
Our immediate neighborhoods are responding very, very well. We already have several investors that understand the need for a group like ours and that our club business structure will attract the absolute best quality of player to the pitch. Furthermore we are in the process of securing one major regional sponsor that also understands the value of being involved in a non-pay-to-play adult and youth team. They very much appreciate the opportunity at hand. From a fan based perspective we have a very solid group people within community that have already spectated on early training sessions and are anticipating a fun upcoming season.
Tell me a little bit about the league you're joining, the LISFL. What kind of advantages does it have over other leagues that you looked at joining?
Great question. We chose the LISFL for several major reasons. First it’s an elite amateur league within USASA. The league has been around since 1948 and is run by a fantastic group lead by Gus Xikis who has been a massive positive force in the game in the United States. The teams from the league have become a respected force; the numerous State Cups that has been won by teams from the league over the years can attest this fact. Huntington S.C. in 1965 won the Dr. Manning Cup. To prove it was not a fluke, it was followed, by Forest Park 1980, 2003, Cow Harbor 1987, Hicksville Americans 1988, Glen Cove 1990, 1993, Farmingville in 1994, Real Caribe in 1995, Integral Kings 1998, Oceanside 1999, NYI Rovers 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005 Mineola Portuguese in 1981,2011 doing the same, The league clubs continued to leave their mark on the soccer scene, taking many major trophies. Patchogue S.C. in 1960 at St. Louis, MO. a finalist in the National Amateur Cup, after becoming Eastern U.S. Champion. In 1984 Lynbrook Steuben defeated Tulsa Oklahoma Shooting Stars to become National Champions in the men’s Over-30 class. Our over 30 clubs won the Marth State Cup 16 years in a row. Dr. Manning Cup 17 times, Heidecker/D’Arpino Cup 20 times, Marth Cup 16 times in a row, Flamhaft Cup 16 times 12 in a row and in 2010 NY Hota won the first ever O-40 Amoroso Cup followed by NY Polonia in 2011, 2012 a total of 88 State Cups. Success also in the US Open Cup OB Fenerbache USA made it to the Regional semi-final. In the USASA U-23 in 2012 Real Caribe became the National Champions.
Secondly… We had to honestly look at revenue streams. We refuse to be a pay-to-play club and with the quagmire of Solidarity Payments through USSF it makes it difficult as a revenue stream to sell players (not impossible but not easy). We also cannot do ticketing because we are using the built in infrastructure of a city park field. We can and will do merch. Never the less our first major source of income is sponsorship. We felt that to have the greatest impact regionally for our advertisers and sponsors the league was the perfect fit for this. Not only do we touch the city but also far out on the island. The entire population of Brooklyn, Queens and the rest of Long Island is 7.8 million people.
Is there anything you're really hoping to accomplish in your first year as a team? Or I guess you could say, what do you believe needs to happen for the team's first season to be considered a success?
After our first year, since any new team entering the LISFL starts in their third division, we plan on being promoted to their next division. The league allows for advancement. A much needed thing for regional leagues and groups. After the first year and into the second we will have our youth team up and running with proper training. This will not be run as a hobby but will be a profitable small business.
How has the turnout at tryouts been? Looks like you've been getting some really good sized groups.
We don't have a supporters group yet... but man.. the talent on our team is NASTY!!
We have former pro's in their countries here working odd jobs making more in the States. but really talented guys in their early 20's. And yesterday I had two calls from a NPSL and a PDL team that found out about our players... but they are committed to our club and what we are doing.
Really? That's pretty awesome. Are the communities starting to respond to the team more? I know you don't have a supporters group yet, but is word really starting to get around?
Yes.. We have a really great coach in Carlos Kiké Santander... former player at Olimpia in Paraguay and the fact that Omar Saleem is coming in May to overlook the club as our sporting director really helps. Kiké is really well known in the football community in Queens.
Alright, sounds like a solid hire. Now, do you a nickname for you team? Saw one of the news articles mention the name 'Huntsmen.' Thought to myself, 'that's a wicked awesome nickname.'
Huntsmen.. in Spanish. Los Cazadores.
We have one of the guys working on an illustration.. he's looking like a really cool Robin Hood kind of character. So if people associate us with Robin Hood and the establishment is the sheriff or Prince John... I'm more than okay with that.
Cast a vision for me: Where do you see Kew Forest FC in 5 years?
In five years we plan on being in the NPSL, developing players adult and youth and doing business internationally. We will be an even stronger keystone in the community.
Bonus Questions: Who's your way early pick to win MLS Cup next year?
What's your favorite book, regardless of genre?
I am a massive fan of history so one of my favorite books is “Open Veins of Latin America” by Eduardo Galeano. I think I read the book in a day and a half. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a 500 year look at Latin America. More than that it paints the picture of why Europe both politically and economically went into the America’s.
Who's your favorite current soccer player?
Right now. Jamie Vardy. Also a massive fan of Arda Turan.
Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
This will be my self promotion moment. I’m on the board of Year Zero Soccer and on our Year Zero Talks keep it open to include all perspectives from all sides in order to make the game better. We take an open source approach to information. We are not partisan. So we do not get into pro/rel debates nor do we tow the line for MLS and USSF (those seem to be the two warring factions).
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch?
I am a massive fan of local and regional leagues. However I love the business structure of teams in the Bundesliga. I love the fact that community members are owners of teams as well as big investment. Something that we are emulating at Kew Forest.
Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
Right now it’s KewForestFC.com, and on Twitter @kewforestfc . You can also visit YearZeroSoccer.org or my company iwilldream.com to find out more about me and initiatives. Feel free to give a donation to Year Zero as we have some really great projects this upcoming year. We are going to places the big companies, clubs, leagues and groups aren’t going to. We are bringing the game to some very undeserved communities and continuing our free open source dialogue.
What would you like to say to the people reading this article about why they should get behind the lower levels of American soccer in general, and Kew Forest FC in particular?
Support your local team… they are your first connection to the game and the ones who bleed the game more than any “big club” in the United States. For you team or club make sure the group is diverse from a player perspective and as a management and ownership group. Our ownership group is across the board right now. Black, White & Latino cultures, Man and Woman. This will also reflect even further with our players.
Benjamin, thanks again for your time to do this interview with me. If you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not. Make sure to spread the word. Share interviews, tell friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.