"I've been a huge Douglas Adams fan since childhood. I still have a very battered copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy that I read about once a year."
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Now, today's interview features Peter Schinkai of Toledo United. They are a first year expansion team in the Premier League of America's Eastern Division. TUFC is the leagues first team in Ohio, and one of nine new teams for this coming season, and they have big plans for what's to come. Check it out.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, what your role is with Toledo United.
My name is Peter Schinkai and I am the majority owner and President of the Toledo United Football Club.
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?
When I was a kid, my neighbor and best friend, Peter Meseke, was huge into soccer. By the time I was five, I was playing the game constantly. We'd play indoors in his basement during the winter and outdoors, in my backyard all summer.
Can you recap the history of Toledo United? Basically, what's the teams 'origin story?'
TUFC is the coming together of my life's work. It was always a dream of mine to own a soccer team some day, and Toledo is the perfect place for that club to be. Our roots are in the strong growth of the game in Northwest Ohio and our ability to grow is thanks largely to the for-bearers that have built up lower division soccer before us. It's simple and a little corny, but Toledo United really came to be as a way to help bring together all of the great soccer fans in our community.
What's the inspiration behind the logo and color scheme? Not a lot of orange in American soccer, and the logo pops really well.
Thank you. One of our goals was to create a logo and colors that really stand out. The logo is very intentionally basic, with the largest defining trait being the Phoenix that dominates the center. Along with my soccer background, I am an member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity and the Phoenix is the mascot for the Ol' Gal as well. Ever since I joined, it's been an important animal to me because it's a bird that represents so much that I believe in. It never gives up and always comes back stronger than before. That's really what I hope for TUFC.
We chose the colors Orange and Silver as our primary colors in part to stand out and in part as a tip of the hat to Toledo's Rustbelt heritage. Orange truly is the color of rust and much of Toledo was built on the Silver of steel.
I've never been to Toledo before. How would you describe your city to someone who's never been there?
It's a magnificent city that tends to get a bad wrap because so much industry has left. Downtown is going through an incredible revitalization right now and the suburbs are all unique and fun. It's also the perfect minor league sports town because along with TUFC, local fans have supported the Toledo Mud Hens and the Toledo Walleye for many, many years.
Tell me a little bit about the league you're in, the Premier League of America. What kind of advantages does it have over other leagues that you may have looked at when forming the team?
Everything about the PLA is designed with the teams in mind. That is what has fueled our amazing growth in the past year. Everything that we are trying to do is designed so that teams have long-term success and that games are enjoyable for the fans.
Does the PLA have a long term vision for their league and your teams role in that future?
I think that both the PLA and Toledo United share a vision of sustained growth. The league isn't trying to do anything new, it's just trying to create a sustainable niche in the Fourth Division of American soccer. We want all 12 teams in our league to be successful and we want to grow our brand in a careful manner.
Why should the average soccer fan, both in Ohio and across the US, care about a team in Toledo?
I'd say that nationally, Toledo has been seen as a black hole of soccer for too long. That perception is really not reality either. We have a vibrant and passionate soccer community here and our fans will come out in droves to support quality, minor league soccer.
Cast a vision for me: Where do you want to see Toledo United in 5 years?
We have a very unique situation in the minor league soccer environment. Our stadium is owned by Lucas County and the property is managed by LineDrive Sportz. We are working with these groups on a massive revitalization of the Lucas County Recreation Center. This is the former home of the Toledo Mud Hens and in a lot of ways is still the spiritual home of sports in the area. Through our partnership, we are working to transform this entire complex.
What that means for soccer fans is that we always want to be a part of the PLA, but we would hope to also field a team in the USL or NASL in a few years. We also want to field a women's team in the near future because in my mind. That is very important to me because I'm a strong believer that boys and girls deserve the same paths to success and I want to show all of our area's female players that they can achieve greatness at this level too.
Where would you hope to see the PLA in Ohio in 5 years?
My hope is that in five years, we've added two or three more teams in Ohio. Right now, TUFC is the Eastern most team in the PLA, but in my ideal world, we'd be the Western most team in a new division that carves out Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and perhaps Western New York.
Bonus Questions: What's your favorite book, regardless of genre?
I've been a huge Douglas Adams fan since childhood. I still have a very battered copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy that I read about once a year.
Who's your favorite current soccer player, and favorite past player?
Right now, I'd have to say Juan Mata. I love his passion for the game without ever taking himself to seriously. My favorite all-time player is Didier Drogba, who was both an incredibly loyal player to his club and someone that played with an intense passion for the game.
Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
I'm a big fan of the Miracle of Castel di Sangro. It's a great book, both for a soccer fan and for anyone interested in the Italian culture.
In terms of a great podcast, I listen to almost every episode of The Outer Drive. You have a lot of NPSL homers in Michigan, but this show has done an incredible job of being fair and balanced toward the old GLPL and the PLA. John and Fletcher are both great hosts and quality journalists.
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch?
Back in the late 90s, I had the opportunity to go to London for the first time. This was during the heyday of Arsenal and the entire town seemed to be painted red. The Gunners were winning everything, they had all the good players and they were fun to watch. I also met a gentleman who was telling me the sad tale of a small club in town called Chelsea. I heard about its history of woe and fell in love with them and their hatred of Arsenal. To this day, I'm a huge CFC homer who lives and dies with the club.
Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
The best place to learn more about Toledo United right now is at our web site, toledounited.com. We also try to be very interactive on social media, using our Facebook page and Twitter.
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?
As a fan of one of Europe's larger clubs, I get why fans cheer on a Chelsea, Manchester United or Real Madrid. I also understand the passion for the MLS in larger markets. The PLA game isn't as fast as those teams play and we certainly don't have a Messi. Instead, what the lower divisions offer is a true fan-based experience. The PLA is far more League 2 that EPL and that has a lot of benefits. Our teams are committed to making a fun and affordable soccer experience for our supporters. Our players give 100 percent to every game and practice and every person associated with a PLA or NPSL team has a tremendous passion to grow the game responsibly.
FIFA has suffered from some terrible press lately because of corruption at the top. At this level, we're just as appalled because nobody is trying to “make a quick buck”. We just want to celebrate the game that we love.
Peter, 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.