"As soccer players we come together and have formed strong friendships which have extended to our outreach with the community."
To be honest, I don't feel like writing an intro for this interview. The timing of it is too....heavy. For those of you who don't know, Aromas Cafe FC have made noise thanks to a couple of US Open Cup runs. They also call Charlottesville, Virginia home. We started on this interview a week to a week and a half ago. You'll notice this is a shorter interview, as we cut things short at David's request so we could spread some positive news about Charlottesville.
As you retweet and share this interview, please use #UnitedBySoccer. Not just because it's Aromas Cafe's motto, but because it's true. I've met and talked to people because of soccer that I would never have interacted with otherwise. Let's spread some good news today. Let's be #UnitedBySoccer
Lets start simple, get readers familiar with you. Tell me a little about you. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Aromas Cafe FC.
My name is David Deaton. I am the 'player-manager' for Aromas Cafe FC. We joke that our team has no coach and I refuse to drop the player part! So player-manager fits best
I've played soccer all my life (but not in college). My passion for the game flourished more as adult living abroad and realizing how the game brings people of diverse backgrounds together. I travel for work so I always bring my boots with me and it is great to play with so many different people - some I can't even speak with but we communicate and develop a relationship through the game. I have played in Korea, Hong Kong, Greece, Argentina, UK, Brazil, and the list goes on.
But this is less about me, and more about the team and Charlottesville. We come from a diverse community and all have diverse backgrounds. But as soccer players we come together and have formed strong friendships which have extended to our outreach with the community. That is why we use the hashtag #unitedbysoccer
What's the 'origin story' behind the creation of Aromas Cafe FC? How did the club into being?
The team has been around in various incarnations for 10+ years; just playing in our local league. About 3 years ago members from the team asked me to help manage the team. I'm sure their decision was largely based on the fact I'm married with 3 kids and they felt I was the only person responsible enough to remind them when games were. But I would like to think it was also because I was organizing other non-league friendlies and other quality games.
One of those non-league games really was the catalyst for our current momentum. We had arranged for a friendly vs another team from Richmond. I didn't really know them that well. I got a text the night before from a friend that explained it was Kickers team plus MLS players that were all on break wanting to stay fit. I panicked but my crew didn't when I blasted them emails that night. They knew this level. And we drove there that morning and tied them 6-6 even though down 1-3 at half (no idea why the score was so high). We celebrated while they looked a bit shocked.
From that taste the crew wanted more. We engaged Aromas Cafe to be our sponsor so we could update our kits. Then we traveled to Neptunes 11-aside tournament in 2015 and won. From there we knew we had a good team and players still wanted more. We entered into the Open Cup and had huge success losing to USL team Richmond Kickers. And now on the brink of starting an NPSL team.
Along the way I learned a valuable insight to keep things fun. Can't take ourselves too serious. We can be organized, disciplined, and play high quality soccer. But if we lose the fun then players drop away, the chemistry gone, and fans unengaged.
Quick question. What was the teams name before Aromas Cafe came on as sponsor?
As soon as you mentioned how long you had been around, I wondered what the first name was. What does your local league look like? Or rather, what's it called, what's the level of competition, how many teams, those kind of little details.
Our leagues are casual and fun. Everyone knows each other and helps each other. It's a good way on Sundays to have an organized game. The talent is good as Cville is a hotbed of soccer. For the main league run by SOCA there are 3 or 4 divisions, co-Rec, and over 40 division. There is also a Hispanic league, Liga Latina, which many of play too. All great fun.
There is also 3rd social league that many people play with work colleagues and others new to the sport.
Sounds like there's actually a thriving local soccer scene in Charlottesville. Always good to hear about new scenes. Let's turn back to the team. Where do the majority of your players come from? Are they mainly Charlottesville guys?
Guys are from all over. One reporter described our line up as a "United Nations roll call". Players from Kenya, Croatia, Iran, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, and more. Most of these individuals have called Charlottesville home for years. And of course many from Cville too.
I'd agree with the United Nations moniker based on that roll call. How would you describe Charlottesville to an outsider who's never been, there like me? What makes it special? Why does it seem to draw in talented players who go on to join Aromas Cafe?
Charlottesville is an amazing town that is often rated one of the best cities to live in the United States. Mountains and outdoor activities galore. Wineries everywhere. And rich with history. Beautiful. With a nice bricked pedestrian downtown. And with UVA there is lots of energy and great places to eat. It's fun.
There are lots of good xD1 players here for two reasons: (1) community is very diverse which is great for making soccer popular. It's reported we have the hugest concentration of youth players compared to anywhere else in the state. So local players are good. And (2) the university draws many xD1 players as grad students. To be honest, there is lots of talent and many good teams.
Aromas has been making a lot of noise recently with your announcement that you are looking to make a move to the NPSL next year. What convince you that now is the time to take your team from Charlottesville out of local leagues to a more national stage?
Too much noise...?
Evolving into a semi-pro team has been in the works for 18+ months. We are nearly there and sponsorship will help to make happen. Your coverage will be huge to help us there.
Going with NPSL was easy because they want teams that have strong community involvement and as membership association they encourage teams to express their personality. That fit our vision. Plus, the level of completion is strong and their are teams nearby. All seem to fit.
You may have picked the perfect time. Lionsbridge FC is gearing up on the Peninsula, so your conference will be improved over this past season. When it comes to soccer in Virginia, why do you think it hasn't caught on a little faster? The NPSL conference only had four teams, and Richmond Kickers are the only pro team. What's held the game back?
That's a good question-- I feel like it's thriving. Don't know
Might be one of those occasions where a thriving local scene hasn't quite blossomed onto the national stage, but it looks like that is changing rapidly. In terms of getting Aromas ready to move from a local league to the NPSL,is there anything you guys are running into that is more important than you thought in order to make this move that other teams should know of? And the reverse, too. Things that you found aren't as important.
Things to do that are important: For is we have wanted to demonstrate what our team is about and build a coalition and network that understands our purpose. We already have relationships with Boys and Girls Club, International Refugee Center, etc. And we have had meetings with the city and county. Moreover we have been hosting friendly matches engaging players, other teams in the area, and even universities. This has been hard but important work for our foundation
Things I don't think really matter right now: A cool logo or kit. Rather we want to establish our team purpose first
At this point, David asked if we could step up publication in light of this past weekend and give people some good news to read about Charlottesville. The following is his closing comment.
We want to follow the tradition of teams that see themselves as a community asset; community builders. This is a higher bar to set as it requires excellence both on and off the pitch. But to be a team from a city you must serve that city. For us, in Charlottesville, especially now, we want to demonstrate that we, like the nation, are stronger because of diversity.