"Hoping for quality over quantity. Would rather have a smaller league of good teams than a bunch of sub-par teams."
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Good morning AP readers! Congrats on your decision via the Twitter poll earlier this week, now you get to read about 2016 US Open Cup participants Southie FC! If you don't like the fact you're reading this interview, don't forget to vote in the next poll. That will be coming out two Monday's from now.
Southie FC are from Boston, Mass, and recently competed in the US Open Cup, losing in the second round to the Rochester Rhinos of the United Soccer League. Sean Bakhtiari talks about the difficulties of playing midweek games as an amateur outfit, the changing landscape of the soccer league in Massachusetts, and the secret beach of Boston. Check it out.
Let's start with a simple question. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Southie FC.
My name is Sean Bakhtiari. I grew up in Hampstead New Hampshire, played four years at Providence College and now live and work full time in Boston. I am the co-founder of Southie FC
What's the story behind the creation of Southie FC?
When we first started Southie FC our expectations were twofold: First, we wanted to be the best amateur team in Massachusetts and New England. (We were the only amateur team from New England to qualify for the 2016 US Open Cup). And second we wanted to build a team environment that allowed good players, but more importantly good people, the opportunity to compete at high level in the sport that they love. We take pride in our "team-first" focus and it has undoubtedly been the #1 reason for our club's success. Every player buys into this attitude and in my opinion, is what makes this group of guys special...
You've already have a pretty impressive US Open Cup campaign under your belt now, too. You took down Seacoast United Phantoms of the PDL, and got to play the Rochester Rhinos of the USL. What was that like for the team, and how has it changed the mentality and expectations of the club? If it has, of course.
Our very first US Open Cup experience was great for the guys. It's the oldest soccer competition in the country and gives amateur teams a chance to play against pros. We have a ton of confidence in our ability and it showed in the first round when we upset Premier Development Leagues Seacoast United 2-0. We then had to travel 6 days later and take on the defending United Soccer League National Champions, Rochester Rhinos. That was a great experience too, but it's tough traveling midweek when we all work full time jobs in Boston. We lost 7-0 to a better team but we're disappointed in our performance. We didn't do ourselves justice and are hungry to do even better in 2017. Our expectations has not changed. We still expect to beat any team we play of were committed and keep our team first focus. We will continue to focus on winning our state leagues and cups and hope to again qualify for next year's US Open Cup.
I will say, something about that Rochester game did seem off. I know they're good, but they aren't exactly renowned for scoring bushels of goals. Now, Southie FC is located in South Boston, correct?
Yes, Southie FC is located in South Boston.
What's South Boston like? I've heard several people talk about how it's a very unique place, a little different from everywhere else in Boston.
South Boston is awesome. Has a very unique character compared to other neighborhoods in Boston. It used to be predominantly Irish, but it's become gentrified with a ton of young professionals and a lot of fun bars and restaurants. We also have a beach that few people know about, M Street Beach.
A beach in Boston? Would never guessed something like that was even possible. Do you live in South Boston, leading to the team there, or is it just the best place in town to have a team?
I live in Southie along with several other members of our team. And Our main sponsor is Local 149, a hip restaurant on P Street in Southie.
Keeping it local, never a bad move. What's the story behind the logo? It's not the flashiest, but it's got a nice clean look to it.
There's really not much of a story behind the logo to be honest. A friend of ours who played GK at Providence College with us, Tim Murray (now plays pro in Finland), drew it up one day and we liked it. The colors are fairly Irish, and there's a clover to represent the history of south Boston.
Not every story has to be involved. How would you describe the league you are currently in, the Massachusetts State Soccer League?
It's competitive at the top and weak at the bottom. We're currently 7-0-0 and the top teams historically have been Southie FC, Boston Olympiakos, Albania United, Mass United and Lowell United. We don't play as many regular competitive games as Amatuer teams from NY, MD, PA and NJ... States where we usually see amateur teams going far in regional and national cup competitions. But the top teams In MA are VERY solid.
I saw on the leagues Facebook page you recently beat Homenetmen 12-0. Seems to validate your point of strong at the top, weak at the bottom. Who's your biggest current rival, either for winning the league, or just in sporting terms?
I'd say Boston Olympiakos is our biggest rival. They've been one of the best teams in MA for decades (they were crowned national amateur cup champions twice). Mass United, who now play in the ASL, have been a tough opponent for us in past seasons as well.
Sounds like you guys are something of the Irish/Local club, and they're the ethnic Greek club.
Yeah it seems that way on paper but both our teams are very diverse, we have players from Scotland, England, Brazil, Portugal and Jamaica.
There really aren't many truly ethnic clubs around anymore when you really look at. Ethnic neighborhoods still exist, but seem to be shrinking all the time. Now that Southie is established and proven to be successful, where do you hope to see the team in, say, the next 5 years?
I don't know about 5 years but next year we hope to be back in the us open cup and advance further than we did this year Goal is 4th round like La Maquina accomplished this year.
Good goal to have. La Maquina really raised the bar for amateur teams this year making it so far. Well, Kitsap Pumas too, let's not forget about them. How are you hoping to see the MSSL grow and change in the coming years?
Hoping for quality over quantity. Would rather have a smaller league of good teams than a bunch of sub-par teams.
There's a big temptation. Adding teams for the sake of having teams. What kind of support do the leagues teams get, and Southie in particular, from local fans?
Friends, family, girlfriends and dogs come out to our state league games. For cups, locally or national that's when we will get a good amount of fans. We had about 500 at our first round U.S. open cup match against Seacoast United.
Very nice. Any ideas on how to get that average attendance up?
That's a good question. Free kegs of beer maybe? I don't know. Doesn't really bother us to be honest. We just enjoy playing the game we love on a regular basis. When it comes to national cup games that's when we promote our games via social media and through our sponsors and leagues to drive attendance.
Good idea. Both the free beer kegs and really promoting the big games. I'm sure a lot more people would show up to a lot more games if beer was free. What exactly does the soccer scene in South Boston look like? Are you guys the only team around, or is there a lot going on beneath the surface that people don't know about?
Southie FC is the biggest men's amateur team in South Boston. There's another team called Celtic FC who play games in Southie and surrounding areas as well. Aside from that, no other men's amateur soccer teams in Southie though.
You ready for some rapid fire questions to wrap things up?
Yup hit me...
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch?
Love watching the Premier League. All 20 teams can beat any team on any day. I'm a Man Utd supporter and hoping Mourinho and Zlatan bring some magic to the Red Devils this season.
Favorite players, one past, one present.
My favorite player today is Messi, cliche but he's the best in my opinion. I also really enjoy watching Zlatan play. After reading his autobiography and learning his "rags to riches" story I really grew to like him. Favorite past player is Zidane. He's creativity is unlike any other player I've watched
Would you rather: World Cup or Euro's?
In terms of pure entertainment, the World Cup. Nothing compares.
In terms of competitions, the Euros. Less sub-par teams.
No chance of randomly seeing Fiji get kicked around by Germany at the Euro's. What's your favorite book, soccer related or otherwise?
I have a lot of favorite books. For soccer: "I am Zlatan" and "Sir Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography". For non soccer, "Pour your heart into it" by Howard Schultz, "Elon Musk" by Ashley Vance and "Losing my Virginity" by Richard Branson.
I've actually read four of those. Only one missing is Branson. Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
Highly recommended books. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram at @southie_fc and Twitter @SouthieFC
Last question. What would you like to say to the people reading this about why they should get out there and support the lower levels of American soccer, like Southie FC?
As the beautiful game continues to grow in the U.S., Amateur teams like Southie FC, Landsdowne Bhoys, Christos FC, La Maquina, LA Wolves, etc. will gain more attention through national cups such as the US Open Cup or USASA National Amateur Cup. There is so much talent and passion in these lower leagues and who knows? Maybe the U.S. will experience a Jamie Vardy story. Vardy, after all, was playing amateur soccer in England a mere 9 years ago earning just £30 per week...
Sean, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, 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 to read these interviews before everyone else, and make sure you aren't missing anything, click here and sign up for the newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling 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.