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Six-Pack Interview Series Archives

A Six-Pack With…. Teddy Goalsevelt (Again)

By Dan Wiersema / Founder, FBM

In June 2014, during the United States' match against Portugal in the World Cup, America's bars and living rooms were invaded like San Juan Hill with the visage of Mr. Teddy Goalsevelt. He immediately became an Internet and real-life sensation. In the month's afterwards Teddy faded into the background like so many memories of the Brazil. Mike D'Amico, who played the part of the 26th President, returned to a mostly normal world of an everyday soccer fan. 

In preparing for our Free Beer Movement 2014 Person of the Year piece on the American soccer fan (which included D'Amico's Goalsevelt) we caught up with the Chicago native on what he's life has been like post-WC.

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Free Beer Movement: I realized that when we last spoke I only asked about the story of "Teddy Goalsevelt" and not Mike D'Amico's story. 

Teddy Goalsevelt: I should also preface that story with the fact that I am a died-in-the-wool football guy. I played all the way through college; was All-American. So I was sort of brought up in the culture of soccer being dumb and for people who can't play football. Which fed into my never giving it a try.

I casually followed World Cup '06 and enjoyed it. Watched lots of the matches, but didn't understand what I was watching.

Kept an eye on US Soccer for the next few years, and really threw myself at World Cup '10 as a fan. What a ride. I loved it.

So I said to myself, maybe there's something here? Maybe this doesn't have to be a once every four years thing? So I devised a plan to become a soccer fan.

FBM: This was the "Soccer Boot Camp" you mentioned?

TG: Yeah. I realized that what was holding me back was knowledge. We all grow up and absorb our sports almost through osmosis. We all know the rules: why NY hates Boston, who the greats are/were, etc. It's innate. It's our culture.

Soccer isn't.

And so I figured that was the biggest hurdle, was building that foundation of knowledge. So that summer... I gave myself one month. All I was allowed to watch, read, or listen to was soccer-related media. I figured if I can't come out of this a soccer fan I never will.

And I did.

So I started following MLS and EPL closer. Went to more Fire matches. Found Tottenham Hotspur. Started traveling to see USMNT play. The rest is history.

FBM: How would you describe your fandom since returning from Brazil? Have you attended many matches or watched a lot of soccer since?

TG: I attended some Fire matches, including the Spurs v. Fire friendly, but haven't been able to make any U.S. matches since getting back. Unfortunately, real life has been getting in the way. But of course I watch all the time, and follow the EPL closely every week.

Having my best fantasy soccer season ever!

FBM: I never did get a chance to talk beer with ya.. what's your favorite beer? 

TG: Having a favorite beer is like having a favorite child. They're all different and I love them dearly.

But my go to is always a classic Guinness. I like Stouts generally. Porters, wits, most anything Belgian (I can say that safely now, right?), and a good lager are also frequent picks.

I do have to say, though... my palate does not agree with the current hoptacular trend. But I'm hanging in there.

FBM: Have you brought any newbies to any games lately?

TG: As far as introducing new people, a couple highlights there. A local radio personality had me on their show a few times as the World Cup was wrapping up, and as most mainstream sports guys do, they made fun of soccer. Which, I get, but wasn't going to put up with.

So I threw it down, "Have you ever actually BEEN to a soccer match?"

"Uhhhh... no... ?" they responded.

"Ok, then you don't get to make fun of soccer any more until you go with me to a Fire match."

And they did a couple weeks later. Blew. Their. Minds.

"Wait, soooooo these people stand and sing THE WHOLE TIME?!"

FBM: Has the getup made any appearances recently?

TG: None recently. But a couple weeks after the World Cup had ended, there was a huge party thrown by a production company here in Chicago. The Optimus Block Party; it's one of the biggest of the year in the ad industry in Chicago. They close down a street for it. And every year they have a secret/special/surprise guest.

This year, they were going to play it cool and just have this band they brought in. But at the last second they decided to bring me on board, too, so I got to join some elite company. Past guests include, Chocolate Rain Guy, Rod Blagojevich, the Old Spice "Hello, Ladies" Guy... and now me.
 

FBM: Elite company indeed. Plans to attend the World Cup in Russia in 2018?

TG: Oh fo sho. I'm trying to get everyone I know to do it.

FBM: I mean Teddy did win the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-05. Perhaps he can settle some nerves again in Russia. 

TG: Coincidence?

FBM: I think not.

Tags: Beer, Six-Pack Interview Series, USMNT

The Sitter: Kasey Keller on Soccer in America and Damn Good Whiskey

FBM's Dan trying to play "journalist" with Keller.

During the 2013 Major League Soccer All-Star game in Kansas City we had a chance to sit down with Kasey Keller who's soccer resume over his 17 year career is most impressive (USMNT, Portland Timbers, Milwall, Leiscester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham, Borussia Monchengladbach, Fulham, and retiring with the Seattle Sounders). Nearly as impressive is his love and knowledge of whiskey.

Much thanks to Castrol USA for the opportunity to speak with Mr. Keller.

Free Beer Movement: You've obviously been a huge part of American soccer and American soccer history; a huge pioneer here and in Europe before many others. How do you feel like the sport has changed over your career?

Kasey Keller: For me I started youth national teams in he mid-80s. I was fortunately to go to two Youth World Cups in 87 and 89. I was a young goalkeeper first and then it was my time second. We were the first American team to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament and I was the first American player to be recognize with a Silver Ball (for a tournaments second best player). To see that side early on and to see that things were moving the in the right direction. From there I moved on to the full national team and started traveling.

I remember trying to qualify for '90 (the 1990 World Cup) playing in St. Louis Soccer Park trying to get 5,000 fans to come to the game and try and get some sort of atmosphere that was going to help the team qualify. Going to '90 with a bunch of amateurs competing for a federation that hadn't been to a World Cup in 40 years...

It was a starting point where now you look at it and really can't believe where the team's progressed. It's an amazing progression over a very short period of time. Now it's the hard part. Now it's taking the next percentage steps to catch up with the countries that have predominant controlled the sport.

FBM: Talk about your experience helping out the National Team for the Gold Cup after Chris Woods departed (Woods, moved from Everton to Manchester United with manager David Moyes, and was temporarily unavailable for the Gold Cup). Does Jurgen just call up and ask if you have a spare few minutes?

KK: (Laughs). Yeah. It was a case where he called me before the Gold Cup started and asked if I could help out in the quarterfinals through the finals when Chris Woods moved to Man U. This time of year is really difficult. Even if he would've stay at Everton it would've been impossible to come and work this tournament. It's one of those tricky situations that Jurgen was happy to bring in a few new people. Sounders were fantastic in letting me miss a few games and be a part of the Gold Cup. It was fun to continue to see different things and do different things in this so-called retirement of mine.

FBM: You have a very active retirement!

KK: I do! Which is cool.

FBM: What's changed? What's different under Klinsmann?

KK: It's hard. When Jurgen came in there was this big fanfare. A much higher price tag for a U.S. manager than there had been in the past. There was some ideal that he was going to wave a magic wand and we were going to have 25 world-class players. It doesn't matter who comes into a national team you're still dependent on the players that have already been produced. What he's been implementing will take a little time and people will have to understand the field and the non-field side. He's giving the players and the team a field little things that will make a difference.

That's the tough thing. You can't make 40, 50 percent things. You're trying to improve five, three, two percent things that are the difference between a 1-0 loss to a 1-1 draw or maybe to a 1-0 win. Those are the kind of little fractions. But at the same time you still need the players to perform and do their job.

Jurgen has admitted himself there are things he's had to learn about CONCACAF compared to some of the scenarios that he's been in before.

Overall the national team is in a pretty healthy spot right now. Granted eleven wins in a row right now doesn't hurt.

FBM: You came back to Major League Soccer with the Seattle Sounders and their incredible atmosphere. Talk about what it was like to come to Seattle and be a part of that.

KK: For me it was the easiest transition possible. First of all I'm coming home after seventeen years. But also I was coming home to something that really, really mattered. It was on the radio shows it was on all the TVs. My wife and I were having a competition to see when we'd have a time when we'd go out to dinner and somebody wouldn't stop by the table and say something.

FBM: How long did that take?

KK: I think it's still running. Which... it's just cool. It shows you that things have really moved in a good direction. Coming from Europe and how the game's perceived there to come home and have complete anonymity would seem strange, but  there's a really good balance here.

It's unintrusive. It's how you'd hope pro sports should be. You have the Seahawks, the Mariners, and the Sounders are right there.

FBM: You're in the broadcast booth doing color commentary for the Sounders and also ESPN. Has that changed your perspective on the game at all?

KK: Not really. We'll see what happens four, five years down the road, but I still take it as a player. I still kind of approach it like being the captain of a team. Sometimes you have to be critical, but you try not to be over the top. I try not to "Well... when I played..."

I take it from the approach that I'm supposed to help you (the viewer) enjoy the game. You're not tuning in to listen to me. I'm supposed to help you enjoy the experience and not try and overbear on the experience. 

That's my approach and people have seemed to respond pretty well to it.

FBM: You're a whiskey guy. This is a beer and soccer website, but I'll allow it. What are your top three whiskies?

KK: My top three. Lagavulin is my number one whiskey. I'm more of a single malt guy then a blended. Then I'll go to Talisker. Then when I want to go to blend I'll go with Johnny Walker Blue Label.

But then I have a bottle in my house of 18-year-old Macallan that was distilled in 1969; the year that I was born, that I haven't opened yet. I'm still waiting for the right moment 

FBM: Is it when the U.S. men's national team wins the World Cup next year?

KK: (Laughs) That could possible be.... we're waiting to see what that moment will be.

The other hard part is I also want to open it up when I have people around that are truly scotch people that will appreciate what's going on there and not try and mix it with Coke. 

FBM: Well then don't invite me over. I've got a lot of learning to do on the whiskey side of things.

Kasey Keller thanks for your time.

KK: Thank you.

Keller and Alexi Lalas in the ESPN booth during the 2012 MLS Cup.

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series, USMNT

The Six-Pack: Timber’s Army Home Brew Contest Winner Abram Goldman-Armstrong

It's probably no surprise that many American soccer fans are not only lovers of beer, but lovers of homebrewed beer. It should also come as no surprise that many Major League Soccer supporters groups host their own home brew competitions each year. The one that the Portland Timber's supporters, the Timber's Army has put on, officially or unofficially, since 2009 in certainly one of the more high-profile ones. In years past local craft brewers have made small batches of each winner's beer in several categories.

Beginning last year the Timber's beer sponsor Widmer Brother's Brewing Company, stepped forward to help judge and then brew the winner of one of the categories. For any home brewer going from nano-batches to a major breweries industrial brewing system would be quite the experience.

Just last month Widmer Brother's released "Green & Gold" Kolsch the creation of Timber's Army long-time member Abram Goldman-Armstrong. We had a chance to speak with Abe by phone to ask him about his history with TA, Portland as a beer and soccer town, and, of course, his winning brew.

Goldman-Armstrong in front of his own visage. Photo Credit: OregonLive.com

Free Beer Movement: What’s your history with soccer in Portland and the Timbers Army?

Abe: I started out going to my first Timbers match in 1988 with my parents. It was a Timbers reunion match. When the Timber came back in 2001 I got season tickets in section 107 and, yeah, I’ve been a part of it ever since. I’ve been actively involved in the organization since.

With MLS moving in we kinda got a little more organized and put together the Independent Supporters Trust know as the 107st. I was on the interim board of that and then I was elected to the initial board and the re-elected to the most recent board.

Along with that I edit and publish “The Whipsaw”, the Timbers Army fan-zine, now in our fourth year of that.

I’m involved in all different aspects. It’s definitely a major focus in my life.

FBM: What does it mean to be to be a supporter of the Timbers and what does it means to support a local club? What is it like to have live, local soccer in Portland week-in-and-week-out?

Abe: It’s really fantastic. The atmosphere at a Timbers match can’t really be matched in North America. Having a local team is really key. Going to a pub watching World Cup is fantastic or even if you have a good crowd watching EPL or other foreign matches, but soccer support here in Cascadia has really brought it to the next level.

When you go to a match here in Cascadia, whether you’re in Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver you’re going to find it’s more that a spectator sport. You’re there, you’re participating. We’ve always tried really hard in the Timbers Army to be engaging and engage the team. We’re willing the team to win and that’s really a key part of a local team.

You can be passionate about soccer, but you miss out on that day-to-day, when you go to a match, that shared energy. You just have to lose yourself to the crowd. You’re all there and it’s really pretty amazing.

FBM: How long have you been home brewing? What is it about having local craft beer with your local team?

Abe: I’ve been home brewing since I was 17 years old so about 17 years in total now. It’s really a big part of my life. I also write about beer. I’m really engaged in the brewing community here.

Beer is really interwoven into the Timbers Army here. I probably say hi to fifteen different brewers at a Timbers game. We live and breathe beer here as much as we live and breathe soccer. We have more breweries than any other city in the world. It really is a part of our fabric in Oregon. I think that’s something that’s a natural fit. Beer and watching soccer go hand-in-hand.

The whole beer community is really passionate about Timbers. And the Timbers Army is passionate about beer. It works out pretty well.

On our bus trip to Seattle we had about 20 different breweries sponsoring each bus. So each bus has its own Oregon brewery on it. Small, independent, local breweries that are really passionate about the team and willing to donate kegs. It’s not just that we’ve got beer on the bus, but it’s “we got local beer on the bus and here’s the brewer sitting on the bus going to the game and yelling at the referee with us for the full ninety minutes”.

I think we’re really lucky here in Cascadia to have a really vibrant brewing culture. It makes it that much more of a community to have local craft beer. And we have local craft beer in the stadium, too. Something that’s really important to who we are and how we operate.

FBM:  Discuss the Timbers Army home brew contest and how long Widmer’s been a part of it.

Abe: 2013 will be our four year for the Timbers Army Home Brew Competition. It started as a fairly informal affair and actually home brewing competitions were outlawed for a year so because of some weird law. So in 2010 we didn’t have any judging and we said, “well we’re going to all show up and tailgate” and did that. We decided to just go ahead and that just had a people’s choice award.

In 2011 we had a more formal competition again. All the beers were judged blind by a range of judges, some of them nationally ranked. We partnered with a couple of local breweries that year. The Lompoc brewed the winner, and the runner-up was brewed by by McMenamins, and the third place winner was brewed by Hop Works. That year I placed third with a Northwest-style Red Ale.

Anyhow in 2012 we had the competition again at Lompoc and Widmer had approach us to brew the winner. We basically split the competition in half. There was the “Full 90” which Widmer was going to brew; something that you could drink for a full match, something that was under 6 percent alcohol and something that wasn’t going to blow your face off with hops. It was a good fit.

Lompac brewed the winner of the “Pride of Cascadia” category which included IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ales, Imperial IPAs, and Northwest Red Ales.

In the “Full 90” category there was some pretty stiff competition, but the judges (Widmer sent down four of their brewers to help out) settled on a kolsch that I had brewed. And that’s how that all came about here.

FBM: Why did you decide to go with a kolsch? Tell us a little about the ingredients you used. Describe the taste and the flavor and how it best represents your passion for the Timbers and your passion for craft beer.

Abe: Kolsch, as you probably know, is a style that originate in Cologne, Germany. It's a top fermented beer. It's an ale, but generally brewed with all pilsner malts. Very light. Very, very pale ale. So pale you wouldn't call it a pale. It's very golden-straw in color. It's basically like a lager except for the yeast strain that is used. It's a style that I really fell in love with when I went to Cologne during the 2006 World Cup. I went around to a few of the local brewpubs and it (the kolsch style) really made an impression on me. It's a style that I've been pretty much brewing every summer since then.

It's a style that is pretty different than the stuff I normally brew, but it's worked its way into my rotation of beers that I brew. In this case I used a different yeast strain that I have never used before, a "kolsch-two" from White Labs here in Mount Hood. I used an organic pilsner malt from British Columbia and I used Hallertaur hops that I grew in my own backyard.

It ended up being the palest and brightest beer I ever brewed. I was really happy with it.

I was really honored that it won.

FBM: Being at Widmer, was that kind of a Willy Wonka experience for you?

Abe: It was pretty interesting. I brew on a ten-gallon system at home and even Widmer's test batches were brewed using a ten barrel-system so 310 gallons, but they stepped it up to their 250-barrel brew house and that's 7,750 gallons for one batch.

It was pretty unreal. I've been brewing for seventeen years and that was brewing more beer in one batch that I had in my entire life.

It was a good experience. I think I learned a lot about the practicalities of brewing on that kind of system. You can't do exactly what you want when it comes to availability of ingredients.

When I had to scale up the batch to brew at Widmer we had to make a number of changes; we obviously couldn't use the hops I grew from home (they ended up using Alchemy, Mt. Hood, and Hallertaur hops), the yeast strain I used was only seasonally available, and we ended up using Widmer's base two-row malt. We brewed three test batches before the big batch at the brewery and none of those were quite right. It was great to see that when we brewed it on the big system is was much closer to the original beer that the previous attempts.

That was pretty exciting.

VIDEO - Abram talks about his winning beer:

Note: All other photos courtesy of Widmer Brother's Brewing press release.

Tags: Beer, FBM In Action, Local Soccer Local Beer, Major League Soccer, Six-Pack Interview Series

The Six-Pack: Unsacred Brewing Co and Nick Rimando’s Wit

How do you know that craft beer and American soccer are kindred spirits? When breweries start naming them after players. Meet Unsacred Brewing, a new craft brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah. Just last month the opened their doors with a quartet of brews including a wit beer named after Real Salt Lake's goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

FBM spoke with David Cole one of Unsacred's co-owners about their new brewery's mission, their beers, and, of course, Rimando's Wit.

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FBM: Tell us about Unsacred Brewing. Where did the name come from? What's your experience in craft beer brewing? There definitely seems to be a "statement" being made about church and state and Utah beer laws, can you explain what you're trying to do? How does Unsacred fit into the Utah craft beer scene?

You bet it is a statement!  We are trying to be as offensive as possible, in a playful way, until Utah legalizes real, full strength beer on draft.  We hate that Utah law prevents the sale of beers true to style on draft just because they exceed 4.0% ABV.  We are lifetime full strength beer drinkers who “grew up” outside of the constraints of Utah’s laws, and as the owners and brewers of Unsacred we wish to remain somewhat anonymous considering what a shameful act we believe this to be.  However, we acknowledge that our foray into 3.2% beer goes against everything that we initially set out to accomplish in the brewing industry.  Utah regulations prevent the selling of full strength beers in grocery stores or on tap, and have forced us to set aside our principals and succumb to Utah’s antiquated laws as a necessary evil.  The day the law changes will be the day this Unsacred act stops. 

FBM: What beers and styles are you brewing? Tells us a little about each.

Priesthood Pale Ale is a traditional pale ale with a nice spicy hop profile.  The Vision Lager is a light, sessionable, American-style lager with a clean, crisp, pilsner malt finish, and Unfaithful IPA is a hoppy India pale ale. 

Unsacred Brewing's starting line up. From left to right: Vision Lager, Rimando's Wit, Priesthood Pale, and Unfaithful IPA

FBM: Why name a beer after Nick Rimando? Why the wit style? Are you worried that you didn't do the RSL keeper justice since the beer can only be 3.2% ABV?

We have always been fans of Nick Rimando and he is a fan of Wit-style brews, we know that because he loves a beer from Epic Brewing, their Exponential Wit Beer.  Most locations in Utah require 4.0%  ABV so we hope to have it in the stadium he plays in someday soon so all his fans can drink it and watch him making those saves. 

"You OK?"    "No... get me a Rimando's Wit."

FBM: You're obviously soccer fans by choosing to name a beer after Rimando. What is it about soccer and craft beer that makes them seem like such a good pairing?

Soccer fans are some of the most fanatic in the world, and the same could be said about craft beer fans as well!  Who wouldn’t love watching their favorite soccer team with a delicious craft brew in their hand?!

FBM: Any plans to name other, future beers after RSL players or coaches? Or any other soccer-themed beers? Maybe a Jason Kreis Kolsch?

If Jason is down for it we would do it.  We would need his permission, as we have with Nick, but wouldn’t that be cool?  Or how about Beckerman Bock?

FBM: Have you tried to make contact with RSL or Rimando at all? If so, what was their/his response? RSL's Twitter account expressed interest in getting Rimando's Wit on tap at Rio Tinto. Would that be in the works?

We contacted Nick Rimando prior to the naming of the brew and he was on board and excited about having the Wit named after him.  We are hoping to have the Wit on tap at Rio Tinto for the upcoming season!

Tags: Beer, brewery, Six-Pack Interview Series, The Best of Both Worlds, Through The Drinking Glass

The Six-Pack: North American Soccer Network’s Trevor Hayward

In 2011 the North American Soccer Network was launched with a handful of podcasts covering American soccer and a few Major League Soccer teams. In a little more than a year the network hosts almost 20 shows covering a wide swath of topics and corners of our side of the soccer world. Just last month, NASN began broadcasting NASN Radio, a 24-hour soccer-specific radio station featuring their original programming and on-the-hour news.

We had a chance to talk, via e-mail, with NASN founder Trevor Heyward about the quick success of NASN, giving proper voice to American soccer, and his network's future growth. Read on.

Free Beer Movement: NASN was founded just over a year ago and already produces a network over a dozen podcasts for global and American soccer fans. What do you attribute to your explosive growth?

Trevor Hayward: I think we've been trying to fill a gap in American soccer media since the start and have been pleased to see American soccer fans react so positively. The idea from the start was always to give American soccer fans a high quality platform to hear discussion and analysis of their teams and a place for them to interact.

FBM: What is NASN Radio? How is it different for the slate of podcasts you already offer? What can we expect from NASN Radio?

TH: NASN Radio is our new 24 hour online radio channel that is available on just about every smartphone and tablet via partnerships with Stitcher Radio and TuneIn. If you tune in you'll hear shows focusing MLS and the Men's National Team, American soccer news updates at the top of each hour and live breaking news coverage seven days a week.

We currently produce at least one live broadcast Monday through Friday each week and we wanted to make our live broadcasts more accessible, particularly to mobile listeners. We also saw that many of our listeners listened to multiple NASN shows, so it was a natural progression to expand into a 24 hour radio network. Now listeners can tune in to NASN Radio and leave it on in the browser or on their mobile device and hear all their favorite shows along with our live broadcasts, all on a regular schedule.

There is no 24 hour American soccer radio channel available and I saw a great opportunity to offer American soccer fans a 24 hour radio network that they can listen to anywhere they've got a mobile connection. We've already received feedback from listeners streaming NASN Radio on their commutes to work and on their way to and from attending MLS games. These were the types of ways we envisioned our listeners using the channel and we've been overwhelmed by the feedback so far.

FBM: In the last few weeks NASN has debuted several new shows (not to mention Yanks Abroad a few months back). Tell us about a few of these new shows.

TH: Sure, I've been extremely humbled by the amount of talented people that have wanted to get involved as they see the network grow and see what we're trying to accomplish.

One of my new favorite shows is "The Big Question" hosted by Aaron Stollar. The show airs live on Thursday nights at 8PM and the show focuses on a single issue or question in American or international soccer each week with a panel of expert guests. We often get stuck in a news-reaction back and form with many of our shows and there are few opportunities to have a long-form discussion about big topics within the game.

Another new show we've rolled out is "MLS in 30" which airs on Tuesdays and Fridays. This show is focused on the very latest in Major League Soccer with the best beat writers and player interviews from around the league. I was looking to develop a show that could focus on MLS from a league-wide perspective and could focus on the the latest stories from around the league with some of the most knowledgeable beat writers.

And our most recent addition is "Seeing Red", an established New York Red Bulls show hosted by Mark Fishkin and Dave Martinez. The show has been a fixture for New York fans, having just recently recorded it's 100th episode. I'm also particularly excited about this addition to the network because we will be debuting a post-game call-in show for fans following each of New York's remaining road games. New York fans don't currently have a post-game radio show available despite being in one of the country's largest media markets so I'm looking forward to the reaction from fans in my hometown.

BSS... nice scarf in the background!

 

FBM: NASN has had incredible success with its flagship show, the Best Soccer Show with host Jason Davis and Jared DuBois, and particularly your USMNT pre, halftime, and post-game coverage. What is it about BSS that has made the bi-weekly episodes and the US match coverage so successful?

TH: Jason and Jared are a great compliment to each other and I think that's clear when you listen to The Best Soccer Show. The show does a good job analyzing and discussing American soccer while keeping things entertaining. I think because of this the show has been able to resonate with both long time hardcore American soccer fans and those that are newer to the game. The show airs twice a week and is always up to date and we are constantly working to bring the very best guests on the show.

The USMNT coverage has been a big factor in both the show and network's growth over the last six months, fans have really responded to the coverage and the feedback and interaction has been phenomenal. The coverage again fills a gap by providing a nationally accessible Men's National Team radio show that takes viewer calls. The pre/half/post-game coverage is a fantastic way to gauge the American soccer fans thoughts on the national team, often experiencing the ups and downs of supporting the USMNT within a 2 hour period.

FBM: In a highly competitive global soccer media world what is the importance of having a network like NASN and it's distinctively "American" voices?

TH: I think it's part of the evolution of American soccer fan culture. If you go to just about any other country you've got fan call-in shows and dedicated radio/television coverage to the national team and domestic leagues. With the exception of a few markets (Houston, Kansas City, Salt Lake and Portland do particularly good jobs) there aren't many options for American soccer fans to hear their teams discussed on the radio. I think it's important to have high quality options for fans to interact and further grow the American soccer fan community.

FBM: What are the future plans for NASN? What can we expect in the next year and beyond? (Any potential for satellite radio or solely on the Internet and related apps?)

TH: I hope to continue expanding the content available across the network where possible, focusing on MLS call-in shows, and expanding our video programming, with a possibility of launching a companion 24 hour online TV network over the next year.

We've been lucky to form meaningful partnerships companies like with Ustream, iTunes, Youtube and Stitcher and hope to continue increase the visibility both of our content and American soccer through those partnerships. We will also be developing a standalone NASN mobile application over the coming months, which will make the network even more accessible.

But the main goal has and will always be be to continue improving our content and providing the high quality independent media coverage we think American soccer deserves and American soccer fans want.

Check out all the great podcasts of North American Soccer Network and the new NASN Radio.

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series

Six-Pack Interview: LADUMA

LADUMA is now available for sale on DVD, BluRay, and HD Digital Download. Check out www.laduma-film.com to get a copy. Also, LADUMA will be screening in Columbus, Ohio on August 12th at the Arena Grande at 2pm. The event will be hosted by One Goal artist Dean Parham, who worked on the animation in the film and designs all of One Goal's posters.

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In 2010 the U.S. national team traveled to the World Cup with high hopes. Equally important was the historic decision to award South Africa the hosting rights, the African continent's first. LADUMA, the Zulu word for "goal" or "golazo" is an American documentary about the twin stories of the USMNT, its supporters, and the South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Free Beer Movement interviewed Ashwin Chaudhary (who along with Jon Korn filmed and produced their movie) about what LADUMA is all about, their experience in South Africa, and plans for Brazil in 2014.

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Free Beer Movement: Why did you want to make this documentary despite the disappointments of both the film's main focuses (South Africa's first round elimination and the USMNT falling to Ghana)?

Ashwin Chaudhary: In the soccer sense, LADUMA is the Zulu word for "GOAL!" or "GOLAZO!", and it's said with that same exuberance by South African soccer commentators when somebody scores. It literally translates to "it thunders," and it has a connotation of achievement. We felt it was the perfect name for our documentary, because the film is about the great achievement of South Africa successfully hosting the World Cup, and the USMNT winning the group. It's about that one moment where everything comes together, the one moment you'll never forget. For South Africa, it was the Tshabalala goal against Mexico. For us, it was Donovan's group winning goal against Algeria.

FBM: Describe the gameday experience before, during, and after a World Cup match.

AC: Although the end result for both South Africa and USA was disappointing, that's not really what the World Cup is about. Once you're there, and meeting soccer fans from all over the world, you really that the World Cup is a a celebration of what we all have in common, no matter whether we're from Ghana, Chile, Japan, or Mexico. We wanted to show what the World Cup EXPERIENCE was like, regardless of what happened on the pitch.

FBM: Why was it important to tell South Africa's (the team and the nation) story as well in LADUMA?

AC: We wanted to include South Africa's story in the film because we were completely taken by the culture, the people, the music - everything. This was no "ordinary" World Cup - it was the 1st ever World Cup in the continent of Africa, and we felt the setting of this story was just as important as the story itself. Those people know how to party, but there's a humility and warmth to the way they celebrate. Also, in South Africa, soccer is the black man's game, whereas rugby is the white man's game. Hosting the World Cup was affirmation of this soccer culture which is such a big part of South African identity. There's really no way to describe it, but everybody needs to visit South Africa at some point in their life.

FBM: One of the coolest things about LADUMA was the fact that you used still photography (as certain parts of the pictures grew or came into focus) where others might have used film clips. Talk about the decision to go that route and how it affected the film.

AC: The decision to use photos in the game scenes as opposed to video was initially budget driven, since a second of FIFA footage pretty much costs more than the whole film's budget. But with the animated stills, we were able to create sort of an alternate, dream-like universe. You can always look up the actual highlights on YouTube, but the LADUMA experience is unique.

FBM: How was the beer in South Africa?

AC: Ah, the beer! As far as South African brews, we mostly drank Castle, which is pretty common over there. It's pretty hoppy and tasty. Also, sadly, lots and lots of Budweiser. We actually did some corporate video work for Budweiser at the World Cup which helped cover some of our travel costs. Plus, Bud was the only beer they sold at all the games, but at least we felt pretty patriotic while drinking it.

What are your plans for this next World Cup qualifying cycle? Will we see another documented journey through the Hexagonal? Perhaps one with American Outlaws in Brazil as well? Or are there other soccer-related projects you're brainstorming?

AC: For Brazil 2014, we're focused on the World Cup more so than qualifying. We want to raise money and get sponsors before the tournament, as opposed to after. With better preparation and preproduction, and (hopefully) a deep run by the Yanks, the Brazil film can be even better than LADUMA. But we'll still be traveling to Qualifiers and documenting the journey to the World Cup, so stay tuned to our website www.onegoalusa.com as we announce the games that we'll be at. We're planning on being in Jamaica later this year, and possibly Antigua. We're always looking to coordinate with new Outlaws and US Supporters, so email us - info@onegoalusa.com to let us know what matches you'll be at!

LADUMA is now available for sale on DVD, BluRay, and HD Digital Download. Check out www.laduma-film.com to get a copy. Also, LADUMA will be screening in Columbus, Ohio on August 12th at the Arena Grande at 2pm. The event will be hosted by One Goal artist Dean Parham, who worked on the animation in the film and designs all of One Goal's posters.

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series, USMNT, World Cup

Six-Pack Interview with “Chasing the Game” Author and “Pelada” star Gwendolyn Oxenham

If you saw "Pelada", this story will be familiar to you. One of the documentary's two focuses, Gwendolyn Oxenham has finally put her copious notes from their three year, twenty-five country pick up soccer journey into a book. The result is "Finding The Game", a nearly 300 page re-visting of many of the stories from "Pelada", but with much more details and loads more stories that the film couldn't fit in.

Gwendolyn was kind enough to give us a few minutes of her time to talk about writing the book, telling missed stories, and where everyone involved in the "Pelada" movie are now.

​Per usual, a six-pack of questions for the "Finding the Game" author.

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Free Beer Movement: Talk about the process of writing this book. Have you been writing this since the movie came out three years ago? What did a writing day look like for this book?

Gwendolyn Oxenham: I started writing on our plane ride to Trinidad. Throughout the trip, I kept a notebook sandwiched between my cleats and wrote whenever I felt like it, mainly scribbling down details I worried I might forget. And then the bulk of the writing happened last summer. We were living in an apartment in Chapel Hill and my daily routine was to walk to the school library, bury myself in the stacks, and write until 5pm--then I took off for the field. There was an amazing pickup game everyday with guys from all over the world and it felt good to go from writing about the game to actually playing it.

FBM: Why was it important to also publish a book on your journey even though so many of us saw "Pelada"?

GO: So much happened away from the cameras--the book follows our adventures and offers a behind-the-scenes look as we hunt for games. Plus, when you're trying to squeeze three years and twenty-five countries worth of material into a 90 minute film, a ridiculous amount gets left out. A book allowed me to include the details and stories that were impossible to fit into the film, and writing is always what I've wanted to do.  Pickup--the world at play--is an often overlooked strand of the game that has so much to offer.

FBM: How did it feel to revisit these stories you told in "Pelada" through your journals and notes and then tell them in your own words?

GO: I love the people we met and played with so it was enjoyable to spend so much time thinking about them. And I like the interplay between the two forms of storytelling -- how words help me find images and how images help me find words.

FBM: When we had a chance to interview you after the premiere of "Pelada" at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin you expressed regret at the fact that so many stories were left on the cutting room floor. Is this book a way to "make good" on having those missing stories told and look at a few from the film in more depth?

GO: Yes! We probably could've made an entire film on just the Bolivian prison. Instead it ended up as a 6 minute story...and that was one of our longest vignettes; other countries got reduced to a single image. It's wonderful to have a chance to tell the full story.

FBM: What is the importance of keeping soccer in your (and everyone else's) life? 

I am most myself when I am on the field--and I think that's true for so many of us. That fact has great connective power.

FBM: Since the movie what have you (and Luke, and Ryan, and Rebekah) all been up to? Briefly fill in the last couple of years.. like "Where Are They Now?"

GO: (Director) Ryan (White)'s at work on an awesome documentary about Freda Kelly, the Beatles' longtime secretary who is telling her stories for the first time. He and (Camera woman Rebekah) Ferg also both worked on a doc about Prop 8. Ferg owns a production company in San Francisco called "RFilms" and is developing a documentary about the Mission District in SF. Luke (Boughen) just graduated from law school and is studying for the bar and looking for a job. And I teach English classes at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

Editor's Note: And, of course, Luke and Gwendolyn were married in June 2010, almost one year after "Pelada" made its theatrical debut.

"Finding the Game" is available TODAY from Amazon.com and other retailers. Go the extra mile, go local and ask your neighborhood bookstore.

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series

Six-Pack Interview Series: Live Breathe Futbol Founder Ebun Olaloye

 

As soccer in America grows so does the call for quality, stylish lifestyle apparel. We've all got our jerseys, scarves, and team specific Snuggies, but those have their time and place limitations. Thankfully soccer fans have great options with companies like Bumpy Pitch and Objectivo (maker of the FBM shirt!).

But there's a new kid on the block and he's a design machine. Introducing Ebun Olaloye and his brand, "Live Breathe Futbol", who's name implies that his shirts are for soccer fans both on and off the pitch; for those who's obsession with the game is a lifestyle choice. Olaloye makes shirts that work in game and at the bars.

We were lucky enough to get a few shirts from LBF and can attest to their comfort and style. Ebun was also gracious enough to answer a bunch of questions about where LBF came from, his thought process behind each shirt, and what's next for the company.

Read on....

Ebun

Free Beer Movement: Tell me a little about yourself. Who are you? Your background in design? Your background in your love of soccer?

Live Breathe Futbol: My name is Ebun and I’m a 21 year old architecture student at Temple University in Philadelphia. My obsession with design started when I was a child. I drew on the walls of my parent’s living room and on any blank surface I could find. In the 9th grade a friend saw my sketch of a t-shirt and asked me to make it for him. Since then I became obsessed with designing t-shirts and my sophomore year I made a new t-shirt every day to wear to school.

My love of soccer started in Nigeria where I was born. I grew up watching the Super Eagles and playing soccer with my friends during recess at school. I quickly became obsessed to the point where I’d disobey my father and stay out on the field much longer than I was allowed to. I always got in trouble for it, but to me getting to play for an extra hour or two was worth the reprimand.

FBM:Where did LBF come from? Why did you start it? How did it start?

The shirt that started it all.

LBF: My sophomore year in college I painted a t-shirt with Cristiano Ronaldo on it. It was bold, unrefined and unlike anything I’d ever seen. I got tons of complements on the shirt even from people who had no idea who he was. And shortly after I made a shirt with Kaka hoisting the Ballon d’Or trophy the year he won it. LBF still didn’t exist at this point; I was just painting shirts with my favorite players on them. One day, I was in class and drew a t-shirt in my sketchbook that had the words “Live Breathe Futbol” on it. I thought it sounded cool and got two dozen shirts printed up. All my friends at pick up soccer bought the shirts within a few days. At that point I hadn’t decided on a name for the brand, but ended up sticking with “Live Breathe Futbol” because there is no question about what it means; it is as direct as can be. If you see anyone wearing a shirt that says Live Breathe Futbol, you immediately know what their life is like.

I started LBF as a response to a fascinating phenomenon I witnessed firsthand at Temple University and other surrounding colleges. Everywhere my friends and I went to play there were a group of guys from all over the world who were playing soccer daily just because they loved the game. The conversations on the sidelines were all about soccer as well, so LBF is my way of championing this soccer-driven lifestyle that so many people across the world live.

FBM: What is the philosophy/beliefs behind LBF?

LBF: LBF operates under two core beliefs, with one relating to design and the other to futbol. LBF’s design philosophy is that a sport as beautiful and colorful as soccer needs a brand that provides fans with beautiful, well-designed gear that is culturally relevant to the sport. I haven’t seen a brand that makes soccer apparel that gets me super excited. My goal is to make LBF that brand for people. I want to design shirts that make people go absolutely nuts the same way they do when they see an amazing goal.

LBF’s futbol philosophy is sort of split into two parts. The first part has to do with the divisiveness of futbol as a sport. As an Arsenal fan, I am morally obligated to dislike Tottenham, etc… However, I feel the same joy as a Spurs fan when our teams win, and the same agony when our teams lose. My goal is to unite futbol fans based on our collective love and passion for the game. The second part of the philosophy has to do with championing the futbol players who play for the love of the game. My friends and I have never earned a dime from playing futbol, yet we’ve spent hundreds of dollars on league fees and driven hundreds of miles just to play futbol. I think it’s time that amateur players get some shine.

FBM: Inside each of your shirts reads, “This garment is designed with the history, character, and flair of the beautiful game in mind. Wear with pride. Remember it’s about moments.” Tell me what that means to you and what it means to the wearer of your shirts.

LBF: When I started LBF I wanted to make each piece mean something to the person who ends up wearing the shirt. The reason for printing the quote on the inside of the shirt is to remind the wearer that LBF isn’t just a brand that’s making cool t-shirts. Each design begins somewhere real, whether it’s a momentous game, a legendary player, or an emotion that resonates with every supporter. That way, you’re wearing something with a bit of history and character. Some people buy things based solely on aesthetics, and others buy for sentimental reasons. I just wanted to ensure that regardless of why you buy an LBF shirt you remember the moments that inspired its creation.

FBM: You recently won a contest with one of your shirt designs for the Philadelphia Union? Tell me about that.

 

LBF: Winning the Philadelphia Union‘s contest was immense for both LBF and me as young designer. My good friend, Jeff, sent me the link to the contest. I am not a huge fan of design contests because the talent out there is so amazing that it can be discouraging to even try at all. However, at the time of the contest I was in a mindset where I wanted to really challenge myself as a designer and see how I fared in comparison to other designers.

My goal with the Union contest was to create something that was culturally relevant to both Philadelphia as a city and the Union as a new part of the city’s sports identity. After a few iterations in my sketchbook, I decided that a hand drawn design was the best approach to capturing the classic and iconic look that best describes Philadelphia. Fortunately, the design resonated with people enough to make it the winner. I got the chance to stand on the field at PPL Park in front of 19,000 people. It was very special, too, because I got to share the moment with my friends.

FBM: How can fashion influence American soccer culture? What part does it play in American soccer culture?

I think fashion can influence American soccer culture if iconic American brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger embrace American soccer and promote the game with their clothing. By doing this, they expose people who never watched a game of soccer to the wonderful sport the same way Ralph Lauren did with his POLO line.

LBF Spring Fashion Show

Fashion’s role in American soccer culture can be looked at from two angles. The first is on the scale of the national team. American pride is on display at stadiums with flags waving and countless U.S. jerseys with “Donovan” and “Dempsey” written across the backs. However, this is a bit problematic because Nike wins in all of this. American soccer simply needs more fashion brands creating gear that people can wear in support of the national team. I honestly get a bit tired of seeing the same jerseys over and over again. A cool t-shirt is more versatile and more stylish than a jersey.

Fashion also shows the diversity in American soccer culture. I know a ton of guys who wear jerseys from countries they aren’t from just to show their support for or admiration of players from those countries. It is really inspiring to see how diverse American soccer fans are. I imagine this doesn’t happen in many other places in the world.

FBM: What’s upcoming for LBF? Any hints to the summer line?

LBF: There’s quite a lot upcoming for LBF. So far the brand has been run entirely by me, and in order to take it to the next level, I’ve teamed up with a good friend of mine who’s also soccer crazy to get things going. We also started an inter-collegiate league that features 24 universities in the tri-state area (NJ, DE, PA) called the Live Breathe Futbol Premier League. We will also launch a new website that’s pretty cool along with the summer line.

The summer line is going to be very relaxed. A lot of the pieces are understated and a departure from the graphically intense designs that the brand is known for. Summer is about kicking back, relaxing with your friends and not having a care in the world. The shirts will reflect that without losing the essence of living and breathing futbol.
 



 Check out Live Breathe Futbol for these and more awesome shirts!

Get the NEW Free Beer Movement "Pint Glass" shirt! Only from Objectivo.com

Tags: DrinkWear, Six-Pack Interview Series

Six-Pack Interview Series: Kyle Sheldon, D.C. United’s Director of Marketing Communications (Part 2)

Editor's Note: This is a shorter version of our "12-Pack Interview Series" where we talk to the people, personalities, and groups that are shaping soccer in the United States.

Kyle Sheldon (far left), in action, at the press conference
announcing D.C.'s signing of Charlie Davies.

Selling soccer in America is no easy task. Particularly in cities with many other major sports teams abound makes bursting through all that more difficult. The men and women on the front lines of this marketing war for Major League Soccer and their clubs have their work cut out for them.

We've remarked before that there are MLS clubs doing some amazing things to sell their teams and bring soccer to the forefront of fans minds in the U.S.

If you're a fan of any MLS side you may or may not be aware of all the work that goes into the successful selling of soccer. Today (and tomorrow) the Free Beer Movement hopes to give you an inside look at the marketing efforts of one team, D.C. United.

We spoke with Kyle Sheldon, United's Director of Marketing Communication and self-proclaimed "soccer nerd". He was kind enough to sit down and provide, in excellent and extreme detail, the focus of his department in selling DCU for the 2010 season.

Given Mr. Sheldon's (very welcome) verboseness we've decided to take down a whole six-pack in one sitting may not be the most responsible thing ever so we'll give you all two days to get through it all. Think of it like respecting a very high-alcohol imperial IPA or barleywine... those need to be sipped slowly and enjoyed in their full flavor.

Much like Kyle's words.

[You can read "Part One" of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]
 

4) All season the FBM is focusing on the supporters’ impact on the MLS game. How important is having two major supporters groups for DCU? How do they make your job easier from a marketing perspective?
 
Our supporters clubs are of paramount importance to our success. Clearly, Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles set the standard for in-game support in MLS. They were doing 15 years ago what you now see in Toronto, Portland and Seattle – and, quite frankly, only Portland has recently approached the same fervor and intensity that our supporters have been bringing to RFK Stadium since 1996. In more recent years, La Norte and District Ultras have also joined the fray. While they’re still smaller than the originals, they’re bringing additional energy to an already rockin’ RFK.
 
When I have a conversation with someone who hasn’t been to one of our games, I always tell them it can’t be described, that they have to see it in person. One can’t understand what it’s like to experience several thousand people standing, chanting, singing, banging drums, waving flags and generally losing their minds for 90 minutes straight. It is truly awesome. While our product on the field over the last 15 years has – on the whole – been very successful, it’s really our unique supporters culture that has been the factor that sets us apart from other sports teams in-market. None of the other teams have what we have and that is a significant advantage.
 
From a marketing perspective, our supporters clubs make our job easier by creating one of the most unique experiences you can have at a sporting event. One of the most difficult things we face is trying to communicate that experience outside the 50-year old walls of RFK. You’ll notice in any video we produce, we include several shots of the supporters in action – seats bouncing, flags waving, drums banging. It’s one of the few ways we can attempt to capture that energy.
 
Also of note, for our College Night program – which saw 200% growth from 2009 to 2010 – we hold seats in several sections just behind the supporters. We don’t want them in the thick of it, but is there anyone that enjoys a rocking good time more than college students? I’d argue there’s one group that enjoys it more – our supporters. We believe large numbers of college kids will enjoy the experience so much that they’ll come back of their own accord.
 
5) You’re welcoming three International friendlies into town: Manchester United vs. Barcelona (August) and D.C.’s matches against Ajax (May) and Everton (July). All three games are a part of season ticket holders’ package. How do these sorts of matches help DC United’s image in the local market even when the focus is less on your team and more on the high-profile “other” teams? Is any soccer played in D.C. automatically good for DCU?
 
Our Executive Vice President Stephen Zack did an incredible job of securing games against Ajax and Everton early in the year and negotiating the inclusion of the FC Barcelona-Manchester United game in our season ticket package. Our club has a long history of playing big international opponents over the years. The likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea, Celtic, Newcastle, Bayer Leverkusen, Boca Juniors, Blackburn and many others have made their way to Washington to play United. There are two major opportunities (among others) when hosting these games – 1) the possibility to make significant dollars (still very important for a League that has only a handful or profitable teams) and 2) the opportunity to gain attention from the soccer fan in-market who might not be a D.C. United fan.
 
I’m not sure If it’s unique to D.C. – I don’t think it is – but, our market has thousands of soccer fans who follow teams from England, Spain, Italy, etc., as well as Central and South America, but aren’t necessarily committed to their hometown club, D.C. United. The success of Toronto and Seattle, in particular, can be attributed to the fact that they were somehow able to capture the imagination, interest and (eventual) support of those very fans. Friendlies against the teams these folks support give us one opportunity to showoff our product – both that seen on the field and that seen off – i.e. our supporters.
 
Any big-time soccer played in our market is good for us, especially when we own the game. In the case of Barcelona-Man United, we’ve got the possible Champions League final coming to town. The Redskins actually own the game, but we did secure tickets – at significant cost to the club, as we had to pay full price – for our season ticket holders. While the cost was significant, we felt it would be a great value to our most ardent supporters to provide them with a ticket to perhaps the biggest game Washington has seen in a decade. That being said, we also know that we have fans who are only interested in seeing D.C. United play, so we offered those fans the opportunity to exchange their ticket for any other D.C. United match, whether in MLS or U.S. Open Cup play.
 
In summary, big games against big opponents provide big opportunities. In sum, big is big.
 
6) What sort of impact has the arrival of Charlie Davies had on ticket sales (season or singles)? From a marketing perspective how has his inclusion (and, so far, success) been a benefit to DCU? Is the hope to sign Davies to a long-term deal?
 
After scoring his fifth goal in his fourth game (the team’s fifth), Charlie Davies is on pace to score 34 goals in 2011. It’s safe to say, if he keeps up that pace, I think it will be everyone’s hope that we sign him to a 10-year deal. Clearly, though, Ben Olsen and the technical staff will evaluate his play over the entire campaign and decide whether or not to buy his contract from Sochaux at the end of 2011 (which would not come at a small cost).
 
It’s difficult to say exactly what impact Davies’ arrival has had on specific ticket sales. While it’s clearly had a positive impact, I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen more value from the relative awareness his presence has brought. In the several weeks Davies has been with the team, we’ve seen highlights on SportsCenter, major articles in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post (on a few occasions) and dozens of interviews for local TV and radio. Still to come in the near future are features on SportsCenter and the CBS Evening News. His story and journey is clearly an incredible one and has resonated well beyond the average soccer fan. While we can measure things like web traffic (which soared when news first hit he was on trial and when we officially signed him) and see the increased media attention, it’s tough to attribute ticket sales directly. That being said, his presence has had nothing but a positive impact in that department.
 
Beyond the coverage and attention, Charlie is like a lot of the young guys on our team this year – great personality, a willingness to do whatever is asked, a positive attitude and, simply, a lot of fun to be around. In seven seasons with United, I haven’t seen a better group of guys when it comes to helping the club off the field, not to mention that they’re an absolute trip on twitter. Follow our guys here if you like having fun.
 
To expand upon that point, while Davies has clearly been the biggest story of the year so far, it’s the new-look squad, built in the image of Ben Olsen, that has really made the difference for us in the early stages of 2011. We’ve got a long way to go, both on the field and off, but with one of the youngest rosters in MLS and some of the best young players in the League – things are looking up for D.C. United fans.
I’m excited to be a part of it.

Finally, an offer, from one beer drinker to another:
 
In honor of the Free Beer Movement, I will be providing a delicious keg of the brand spanking new DC Brau at D.C. United’s May 14 game versus the reigning MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids. 
 
I’ll host the “Free Beer Movement Party” in our Lot 8 Tailgate beginning at 5pm. In order to qualify for free beer, you must simply bring a D.C. United/MLS newbie to the game, prove you’re over 21 and agree to soccer-nerd talk with me. Send me an email for more details: ksheldon@dcunited.com.

[You can read "Part One" of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]

All Photos Courtesy (and with permission) of D.C. United's Flickr account unless otherwise noted. 

Support the Movement. Get the Free Beer Movement T-Shirt. Only from Objectivo.com

Tags: Major League Soccer, Six-Pack Interview Series, Soccer Marketing 101

Six-Pack Interview: Kyle Sheldon, D.C. United’s Director of Marketing Communications (Part One)

Editor's Note: This is a shorter version of our "12-Pack Interview Series" where we talk to the people, personalities, and groups that are shaping soccer in the United States.

Selling soccer in America is no easy task. Particularly in cities with many other major sports teams abound makes bursting through all that more difficult. The men and women on the front lines of this marketing war for Major League Soccer and their clubs have their work cut out for them.

We've remarked before that there are MLS clubs doing some amazing things to sell their teams and bring soccer to the forefront of fans minds in the U.S.

If you're a fan of any MLS side you may or may not be aware of all the work that goes into the successful selling of soccer. Today (and tomorrow) the Free Beer Movement hopes to give you an inside look at the marketing efforts of one team, D.C. United.

From l to r: Corinne Thomas (future Mrs. Sheldon), Kyle Sheldon,
Ben Olsen, and Olson's wife Megan Schoen

We spoke with Kyle Sheldon, United's Director of Marketing Communication and self-proclaimed "soccer nerd". He was kind enough to sit down and provide, in excellent and extreme detail, the focus of his department in selling DCU for the 2010 season.

Given Mr. Sheldon's (very welcome) verboseness we've decided to take down a whole six-pack in one sitting may not be the most responsible so we'll give you all two days to get through it all. Think of it like respecting a very high-alcohol imperial IPA or barleywine... those need to be sipped slowly and enjoyed in their full flavor.

Much like Kyle's words.

[You can read "Part Two" of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]

1) D.C. United had a very difficult and tumultuous previous season in Major League Soccer. What’s was the marketing/media strategy going into this season?
 
2010 was a record-breaking year for D.C. United – unfortunately, as our supporters well know, we were breaking all of the wrong kinds of records. Our struggles on the pitch were widespread and well documented. The only benefit of being out of the playoff race by August was that we were able to turn our attention to 2011 very early on. We began season ticket renewals earlier than almost any year prior and conducted full analysis and evaluation for almost all of our major programs and ticket packages before the season was even over.
 
We also knew midway through 2010 that we were in the midst of Jaime Moreno’s last season in United black. He truly was the last link to the incredible early years of our club. Heading into 2011, we knew that we’d have a ton of new players that would be relatively unknown, especially to the general market fan. As we discussed our marketing communications strategy during the offseason, we were keenly aware we’d have to introduce a lot of new faces.
 
We had a number of things fall into place during the offseason the made our jobs a little bit easier. Ben Olsen being named Head Coach gave us a guy who was not only one of the best known players in club history, but someone who is quite possibly one of the best interviews in U.S. soccer. The acquisition of players like Dax McCarty, Josh Wolff and, of course, Charlie Davies, gave us a group of new guys who were not only going to be significant contributors on the field, but who were personable, engaging and great with fans and media alike. We were excited to introduce these guys to D.C. and our broad strategy centered on that idea – we needed to generate general market awareness, enliven and excite our hard-core supporters, and introduce the casual fan to the new faces of D.C. United. Our plan was to do that as best we could via paid advertisements (print, radio, digital, outdoor); local, regional and national media (radio, TV, online); internal content production and distribution (dcunited.com, Facebook, Twitter); and by hosting a series of local events that would draw fan attention and media coverage.
 
2) Your pre-season marketing efforts, and correct me if I’m wrong, seemed to focus on getting the United brand out into the larger D.C. market and was directed at potential casual fans. I’m going to list a few of the more recognizable ones and hope you can comment on what each one was, why you chose these opportunities, and what was the goal for each.
 
You’re not wrong. You’re spot on. In fact, I wrote the above answer before reading this question and you’ll notice we used almost the exact same language. To reiterate, gone were the likes of Jaime Moreno, Luciano Emilio, Christian Gomez, Ben Olsen and others that were well known in D.C. over the previous several years. We were coming off a terrible season and had a lot of new players and needed to reenergize a fan base and market.
 
* Ads at Metro stops and on Metro buses:
 
Our marketing team identified very early on the need to garner general market awareness via outdoor advertising. In short, people weren’t encountering our brand often enough to make an impact. Coupled with the fact that we had the previously mentioned new faces, our approach was two-fold – we wanted to smack people in the face with the D.C. United badge and introduce our new players. In other words, we needed to recapture some of the relevancy that was lost after missing playoffs for three straight seasons.
 
Our idea was not a novel one – we created a series of identifiers for some of our key players (Dax McCarty was The Engine, Andy Najar was The Phenom, Chris Pontius was The Workhorse, Santino Quaranta was The Veteran, etc.) and centered everything on the new man in charge – The General, Ben Olsen.
The call-to-action was simple (and centered around one of our most valuable assets): Join Olsen’s Army. The creative – designed by our Creative Director Ben Mahler – was also clean and simple. Big badge. Big player image. Very little copy. We wanted something that stood out amongst the clutter and didn’t try to do more than it needed to.
 
We did a mix of outdoor ads – within metro stations, on buses and at bus stops. We also did one large wallscape featuring Davies and Andy Najar, in a young, trendy neighborhood that hit just a few weeks before the home opener. To achieve the wide mix of (costly) ads, we worked with our partners, adidas, who supported a large portion of the total outdoor ad buy.
 
We received incredible feedback from our supporters. One of the benefits we hoped to see occurred very early on – our hard-core supporters were so jazzed to see their team represented around the city that they were tweeting, commenting on facebook and posting photos frequently. It empowered them to be excited about their team again.
 
I personally knew the campaign was a success when Ben Olsen – who was featured across all ads – pulled me aside and said, “what have you guys done? I can’t eat breakfast in this city anymore without someone coming up to me and saying ‘hey, you’re the general!’” I told Ben I was sorry… but that that’s exactly what we wanted.
 
* Third jersey launch at the Washington Auto Show:
 
Where United is, there also is Volkswagen. VW is obviously our biggest partner and is closely tied to everything we do. When conceiving of a launch for our third kit, we wanted something that was both different and high profile. We had several people internally working directly with Volkswagen – who invested a hefty amount of money in the event – to help us pull off the reveal during the busiest day of the Washington Auto Show, which sees tens of thousands of people come through the Washington Convention Center over a long weekend in February. 


We had a huge 15x15 foot replica 3rd jersey made and hung behind the stage and stationed a couple of good lookin’ VWs stage left and right. Of interest, we were somehow able to keep the kit under wraps until the actual reveal – something that is very rare these days. That led to significant web traffic for those wanting to see the new kit. Following the reveal our large jersey was hung at the Convention Center entry way for the remainder of the show. It ended up being a great crossover event that put us in front of a ton of people who might not have otherwise encountered our brand.
 
* United truck cruising the streets (and at D.C.’s Shamrock Fest):
 
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tbridge/
Our Marketing Manager, Amanda Farina, discovered the AdVan – why it’s called an AdVan and not an AdTruck is beyond me – while doing some research last year. The Portland Timbers used the truck for some of their promotions in 2010 and we immediately dug the uniqueness and high visibility the truck provided. In working with the Portland-based crew at All Points Media, we were able to secure the services of a truck the three weeks leading into our home opener. It aligned perfectly with our pre-season Olsen’s Army campaign and we jumped at the chance to do it. We were also lucky to work with a video production company based out of Minneapolis, Elite Edge, to create a really sick 90-second spot that played on a loop while the truck was out. The truck was in-market for 21 days and spent eight hours a day driving around downtown D.C., Northern Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland. We targeted high traffic areas around rush hour, lunch and big events (Capitals and Wizards games, concerts, Shamrock Fest, etc.). The driver also periodically parked the truck during the day and handed out home opener information and various premium items (key chains, sack packs, hats, tees).
 
* Ben’s Olsen’s Chili Bowl:
 
This little promotion was a bit of a miracle. As we entered the last two weeks before the home opener, we were looking for one more promotion that would generate general market interest and local media coverage. 


We worked with a topnotch local agency – AKQA – who conceived of the idea and helped us execute the entire thing in six days. For those that don’t know, Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. landmark on U Street. It’s the most well known eatery in all of D.C. and happens to be about two blocks from Ben Olsen’s house. The Thursday before our Saturday home opener we took over Ben’s Chili Bowl and turned it into “Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl.” The takeover included new signage on the front of the store and our giant 3rd kit hung up on the side of the building. From 6-7pm Thursday evening, we had Benny, Charlie Davies and Dax McCarty behind the counter giving out free half-smokes – their signature meal – to all in attendance. AKQA designed an exclusive “Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl” t-shirt and anyone who purchased tickets to the home opener or checked-in to the Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl location on foursquare received one for free. The full-time staff wore either a 3rd kit or D.C. United branded aprons the entire day.
 
We generated coverage from local TV affiliates, Comcast SportsNet and several local blogs. And, it was a whole ton of fun.


Video of the event:




 
3) Thus far most MLS teams haven’t tied much marketing to the coach, but you guys have made a pretty big deal about having people declare they’re apart of “Olsen’s Army”. Was this because Olsen has just as much name recognition as players on the team (being a former member of DCU)? Are you wary of tying your efforts too closely with a coach if things don’t go well?
 
Ben Olsen is the absolute man. Our fans adored him for the way he played – with heart, passion, grit, and determination – and loved his honesty and commitment to the team off the field. Because of his work in the community, he was and is very well connected outside of the soccer-loving public. In other words, he’s one of the best-known sports figures in Washington.
 
When he was named as the team’s Head Coach at the end of November last fall, we knew we had a guy that our supporters would get behind immediately.  As we discussed how to best integrate Benny into our pre-season campaign, we borrowed from a song our fans had sung for years in support of the head coach. The simple first lyrics of the song are “we’re all part of Benny’s army, we’re all out to win the League.” We made a slight adjustment using his last name in the formal campaign, but felt the message was just as strong. The call to action simple – join us.
 

Additionally, the Olsen’s Army campaign was conceived primarily as a pre-season initiative, so we instituted it knowing it would phase out as we got into the season and began to focus more on specific games. The team continues to do well – and the campaign has been successful enough – that we still use the tagline periodically. Clearly, if things don’t go well it becomes more difficult to use, but we also believe Ben has built up a lot of 
“political capital” with our supporters and that they’d support him through any potential early struggles.

[You can read "Part Two" of our interview with Kyle Sheldon here.]

All Photos Courtesy (and with permission) of D.C. United's Flickr account unless otherwise noted. 

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Tags: Major League Soccer, Six-Pack Interview Series, Soccer Marketing 101

Six-Pack Interview Series: Major League Soccer “Insider” Shawn Francis

Back at the end of the July the Free Beer Movement took flight to Houston to take in the Major League Soccer All-Star Game. While we were there we nearly had a meet up with an MLS VIP, but due to our schedules (well... his... that's why there's a "V" and an "I" in there) we didn't meet up.

But that didn't stop the man from getting in touch with us and writing one helluva article about the Movement on MLSSoccer.com (which you may have heard of). Mainstream media baby!

This fine gentleman was kind enough to give us a few moments of his time and participate in our "FBM Six-Pack" Interview Series (a more efficient version of the "Starting 11" Interview Series we also feature).

Ladies and gentlemen.... Shawn Francis, head writer for MLS Insider and The Offsides Rules, a great blog that's a mash up of pop culture, American soccer, and occasional partial nudity.
 

----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
We got inside the head of the "Insider".

1) Major League Soccer launched their new website before the current season and hired you as their in-house blogger at MLS Insider. How's life at MLS HQ? What's the coolest thing you've been able to cover in your new gig? The worst?

Life at MLSHQ is funny. Some days I can't believe that my 3-4 year long quest to get a job there actually paid off but then some days it's just a job just like any other; as the saying goes "once you get a check for something, it's work no matter how much you love it. That's not a complaint, that's just reality for all of us who aren't independently wealthy, on public assistance or heir to a Greek shipping fortune.

What's the coolest thing I've been able to cover? At this point I would have to say it MLS Cup last year. To be given as close to all access as possible to the premier soccer event in America was pretty rad. There were so many random, unique moments that week in Seattle: seeing the drummer for Rancid humping RSL's gear into the locker room, standing directly behind Nick Rimando's goal when Donovan missed that PK and seeing John Harkes belt out Bon Jovi like only a Jersey guy could in a bar at 2 a.m. won't be forgotten or topped easily. But Toronto in November has the potential to be just as memorable.

The worst? Hmmm. Covering the SUM Cup during All Star week this year was actually not bad, it was just the oppressive humidity that was a total downer. The tournament was held at some soccer complex in the 'burbs south of Houston, so far south that it was in coastal Galveston County. Bear in mind that this was in July. It was so humid that after standing on the sidelines for 4.5 hours (there were 2 games to cover back to back) the pages of the paper on my clipboard were wet just from the moisture in the air, air which incidently was populated by hummingbird-sized mosquitoes. Oh and the first thing you saw when you got out of the car in the parking lot of the facility was a sign that read "Beware of Snakes." Good times.

2) You made your mark on the American soccer Internet world at the writer for The Offside Rules, focusing on the culture, people, and personalities that surround soccer in America. What makes this side/face of the American soccer world so interesting? How much more rewarding is covering this angle than the statistics and game action?


 
You need to be reading this.

TOR started out as my bar stool. If I were a baseball fan in NY I could walk into any bar in Manhattan and say to the guy next to me "What the hell is going on with the Mets? They are horrible!" If I tried that with the then-MetroStars I would have be presumed to be one of the crazy guys that stand out front of the Port Authority preaching about Lord knows what. I lurked around the Bigsoccer and Metrofanatic boards a lot but I never posted too much because it was often argumentative for my tastes. So I decided to create my own space to talk soccer, specifically more about the lifestyle and off-the-field aspects because no one else was touching it at the time. And stats and analysis bore me very quickly, not my idea of fun.

My view of sports and blogging is differs from a lot of people's take. I look at sports as entertainment just like music, movies, TV etc and all of those things focus more on the celebrity aspect more than the numbers angle. Have you ever seen a music blog declare Arcade Fire the Band of the Year based on record sales, merch sales and ticket sales? Hell to the no. But in sports that seems to be the norm and that should definitely be the bread and butter but the other stuff is actually fun (to me at least) and that's why I follwo sports, to enjoy myself. Besides, I'm horrible at math.

The weird thing about TOR is that people who discover it and start following often don't get that it's just my personal playpen and not the news. It's not CNN; I don't claim to be a journalist, I'm a guy who likes soccer and needs to talk about it more than I get the chance to in the real world so I ramble about it on Blogspot. It's not the Paris Review; it's not meant to be that serious for the most part. And it's certainly not a commercial endeavor; I've run two ads in 4 years for friends' businesses (Bumpy Pitch; Onionbag.com) as a mitzvah. I've never made a dime from it. For the most part I'm just trying to have a laugh.

Having said that it's been really cool to make so many friends via TOR. Those who get it, get it. But I have to admit there were points where I didn't get it and have heard it from the readers. I've always kept it really personal and unfortunately I've been guilty of letting the worst of me out on occasion; some things that I thought were funny or worth airing out in public just weren't. For the last few years I've been trying to not say anything that I wouldn't say to anyone's face, not because of any self-appointed journalistic ethics but more or less because even though I like to make immature jokes I'm still an adult on some level. But I sometimes miss the mark on that sadly.

I guess that was kind of a serious answer for someone who just said he doesn't want to be serious.

3) With competition from all-corners of the globe (the English Premier League, South America, J-League!, etc) for the attention of a soccer fan in the United States what's the best case you can make for American soccer and Major League Soccer?

The best case is this: it's ours. Would you rather be a in long-distance relationship with a super hot chick but you only get make out once a year and you have to get up at 7am every Saturday to call her or would you rather be married to a good looking local chick and have a real, honest-to-God daily relationship with her? For me there is no competition.

 

They said goodbye once already....

4) New York Cosmos? What's their deal? Are we really going to see this zombie team make it back to top tier soccer in the United States? What's the impact for soccer in the US if this is the real thing?

From what I gather the New York Cosmos is 1) a logo, 2) a youth academy, 3) a memory. I think they blew their wad early by bringing out Pele, Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto to say "the Cosmos is back" for what, a youth program? Kind of a waste. Personally, I think the only way that you get people excited about the Cosmos name again is if that it is playing in MLS in the 5 boroughs and the only way that happens is if the Wilpons (who own the Mets) get involved. No one has the land and the clout to get a stadium built in less than 5-8 years. Let's put it this way: the Jets couldn't get a stadium built in Manhattan and they are the NFL. The Nets took 8 years to break ground on their new arena in Brooklyn and they are the NBA with Ratner, one of the most juiced people in NYC real estate, as an owner alongside pop icon Jay-Z. Do you think a soccer team will get the breaks that the NFL, NBA, Ratner and Jay-Z can't? I don't but if Wilpon is in you don't need as many breaks because he already has the land right next to CitiField.

I'd love to see them as the second NY team, but it's not going to happen quickly. But who knows, maybe the powers that be at MLS have an ace up their sleeve provided the group that owns the Cosmos name has the cash.

5) How do you feel about being the bridge between soccer and cool? That may seem a bridge too far from your modest perspective, but there aren't a lot of soccer sites that can go from "A Tribe Called West" (cool) to Preki bobble-heads (nerdy) to River Coumo (cool, again) to Star War-Red Bulls connections (nerdy). Given that soccer fans are usually the equivalent of sci fi convention attendees this injects some must needed "cred" to our fandom.

Well thanks for thinking I'm still cool. I'm 34 now, married with 2 kids, go to church on Sunday and I am too fat for skinny jeans so I often feel that I've lost the cool. I guess it goes back to TOR being personal; I write like I speak --poor grammar, swears and all-- and write about the same things I talk about to the other ESC guys at the tailgate and it's not just soccer. Just like anyone else I like Star Wars, girls, music, clothes etc. It's not like some grand plot, it's just my normal interests in print as opposed to a verbal conversation. Make no mistake though, I am as geeky as anyone else.

But we need to inject "pop" into American Soccer. With the NFL, NBA, MLB we don't have to make pop cultural connections because those guys are part of the entertainment landscape in a way that most soccer players aren't in this country. My feeling is that is pop culture isn't going to come to us, we better start reaching out toward it. And there are other blogs that are doing their thing in a way that's more "lifestyle" driven and less hardcore stats; analysis; The Original Winger and The Third Kit are great examples of that.

6) Predictions for the growth of soccer in the U.S.? Where is this thing headed? Where will it settle in the American sports psyche?

Where is it headed? Canada it seems with Vancouver and Montreal joining TFC in the league soon.

The thing I find interesting is that even within the single-entity system you can kind of see haves and have-not emerging among the clubs. They may not be able to fight too much amongst each other for players as far as wage-wars go but I think it's going to be all about what a club can offer a player aside from money. "Can you offer me big crowds like Seattle and Toronto?" "Will I play on grass with your team?" "Can you put me in a soccer-specific stadium?" "Does your team feature any DP's?" "Will I be treated as a pro athlete with all of the perks that entails in your market?" These are questions that I can see players; their agents start asking and things that clubs are going to start touting. With that in mind I think players are going to want to gravitate toward the Torontos, Seattles, LAs and New Yorks while it's going to get harder for places who might have small crowds (Colorado), tight pockets (New England) or bad stadium situations (D.C.).



Do you think these pricks could
give us a couple of minutes on their show?

As far as what the nation thinks, I think times are changing for sure but it's still going to be a while before our game is water cooler talk outside of the World Cup. It does seem like we get closer and closer every year. I think the key for the national team is to reach the round of 8 in the World Cup; if we hit that mark again with the money ESPN; Nike are now investing in covering the Yanks and the attention that this year's World Cup generated I think we'll see even more people outside of soccer take an interest.

But the key I think is raising the interest in the domestic league. If all of the existing soccer fans in America, the ones who get up at 7am to watch Chelsea but can't be bothered to drive 17 miles to see Chivas USA, would become MLS fans it would not only change the league from a business standpoint but it would change the way the public and non-soccer media view the game. If we had a domestic league full of Toronto-sized crowds it would be very hard for SportsCenter to ignore it.

7) Can you get us five minutes with Frankie Hejduk? I think we've got a pretty good case for him to join us as our spokesperson.

Ha! He would be great wouldn't he? Your best bet is to try and catch him in the Bob Marley section of your local bookstore; he'll talk to anyone there apparently.

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Tags: Major League Soccer, Six-Pack Interview Series

“Pelada” and Beer: Inseparable


(Editor's Note: You didn't think that we could go one article without mentioning beer, did you? We decided to split our interview into two parts and so here's the article from our conversions about what the "Pelada" filmmakers learned about soccer and beer... something we're very interested in. Read our synopsis of "Pelada" and the regular part of our interview with the filmmakers here.)

There's a scene in the stunning soccer movie "Pelada" where a group of seriously past-their-prime Brazilian men are resting after a brutally poor match they've just played in. The whole game the old men scream and yell at each other about poor touches and scuffed shots oblivious to the fact that they were probably making the exact same mistakes moments earlier.

But it's after the game and that no longer matters. The first and second halves are in the past and they're onto what is referred to as "the third half". Surround by dozens of empty, half-empty, and soon-to-be empty beers they revel in stories of their past greatness and of the beauty of soccer in general. This is the sport stripped to its core; what's left is the game's fans and, not surprisingly, beer.

For long-time fans, and probably new fans to soccer, it's hardly a shock as to how ingrained beer is in the sport's culture. It's one of the reasons for the foundation and growth of the Free Beer Movement. Soccer and beer; the two are inseparable.

"There are things that you can count on. We were always sharing beers after a game," says Gwendolyn Oxenham, one of the "Pelada" filmmakers.

The stars of "Pelada" readily acknowledged the fact that they easily could have made a whole movie about the tie-in between beer and soccer.

"Every game that's what you do at the end is that people just start drinking and eating a lot," Oxenham continues.

Whether post-match in Brazil or pubs in England or in the streets of Austria during Euro 2008 or the living room of Luke Boughen's old soccer teammate from Germany, beer creeps into "Pelada" almost as much as the game itself.

Ryan White, another member of the "Pelada" crew laments the fact that they missed out on many opportunities to further investigate the connections between beer and soccer.

"I think if we'd hadn't been making a movie we would've been drunker a lot more," he says. "We probably didn't drink as much as we should have."

The sense of community that both soccer and drinking create that makes them so intertwined argues Rebekah Fergusson, the fourth member of "Pelada".

"It's those communal activities where you end up, like that one field in Brazil, in a zillion chairs around these teeny-tiny tables with beers being poured. It's just pouring."

Then it's not surprising that when you combine the world's oldest drink and the world's most popular sport you create at an atmosphere that almost no one can refuse to pass up. Certainly the filmmakers, despite their work responsibilities, found plenty of time to devote to drink.

And in a movie that examines the global appeal of not just soccer, but soccer in its most pure , simple, and prettiest form as pick-up, it's reassuring to know that beer has its rightful place alongside.

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Tags: Beer, Six-Pack Interview Series, Twelve-Pack Interview Series

FBM Interview Series: The Makers of “Pelada”

(Editor's Note: After its world-premiere at the South By Southwest Music and Film Festival "Pelada" is blowing up across the nation at variety of film festivals and movie theaters. Tonight the movie makes its Los Angeles premiere! Hollywood, baby! Follow the movie on Facebook, Twitter, or their website for locations and showing in your area.)

It's the morning after the world-premiere of their movie at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The stars and filmmakers of "Pelada" still have that glow about them that proud parents of a newborn and newlyweds carry on even after the big day has passed them by.

For three years they've traveled to twenty-five countries in search of pick-up soccer, played in dozens, if not hundreds of games, met and heard the stories of countless more people connected to the sport, and all along the way recorded this incredible journey to share it with others. And now after all of their hard work their film and their story will be seen by people all across the world.
 
And if that wasn't reward enough I'm really about to make their morning after.
 
"You guys saved my marriage," I say, greeting the four behind "Pelada"
Luke Boughen, Gwedolyn Oxenham, Rebekah Fergusson, and Ryan White.

The four of them chuckle. The ice is broken.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 

I stumbled across "Pelada" almost two years ago when it was still called "The Soccer Project". The story of two former college soccer players chasing the game across the globe sounded fascinating, like something you always wished you could do, but never had the chance, or the courage to do.
 
Sitting in the make-shift theater SXSW constructs in the convention center there's not an open seat to be found. Except for the four in front of me; that's where Luke, Gwedolyn, Rebekah, and Ryan will sit. It feels weird to be sitting behind the people who actually made the movie. I mean, if you were at an art museum staring at a painting and then Picasso was standing next to you what do you do? Can I even get up to go to the bathroom during this thing or is that rude?

I don't go to the bathroom.

Gwedolyn and Luke are the focus of the movie. Rebekah and Ryan stay behind the camera. Both played soccer in college; Gwendolyn for Duke and Luke for Notre Dame. They're faced with the daunting truth that their soccer careers are coming to a screeching halt. They're at a sporting fork-in-the-road and neither of the paths say professional soccer.
 
Of course neither of the paths point to what they do next, but I guess that's what makes this movie so wonderful.
 
Not satisfied with transitioning into the "real-world" they pack their bags and travel the globe in search of pick-up soccer.
 
"Pelada" is the Brazilian word for pick-up. It literally means "naked" and one supposes that a ball, a couple of people, and a bag of tricks is probably the most naked form of soccer. In a sense both Luke and Gwendolyn are completely naked in this film as well. Not literally, of course, but figuratively, as they shamelessly try to enter as many pick-up games as they can on their journey. From beaches in Brazil to a prison in Bolivia. From slums in Argentina to forbidden co-ed games in Iran. From skyscraper rooftops in Japan to a former landfill in Kenya their travels take on the exotic and sometimes dangerous, but always return the comfortable setting that it is still all soccer.
 
So imagine my surprise when I got the chance to sit down with the four minds behind "Pelada". It's an oft used line when you meet famous people that you're stunned at how normal and approachable they are, but since I just watched an hour and a half of the four of them traveling the globe in a way that most can only dream of and speak so eloquently of the sport I so love and now we're sitting over coffee in the lobby of a hotel it's not that outrageous of a suggestion.

Despite their normal-ness their journey is anything but. For the viewer and the soccer fan it's one stunning shot and amazing story after another. The movie is like a fantastic soccer match in itself; end-to-end action leaving one extremely satisfied.

"Interesting situations bring out interesting stories and interesting characters," Fergusson says when I ask whether or not they purposely sought out the fascinating and, sometimes, dangerous storylines that are included in the film.

"We just wanted intense stories," Oxenham follows up.

So then it was almost unavoidable for the four of them to be involved in such places as violent barrios in Argentina, a Bolivian prison, and a co-ed game in Iran.

"That's where the good games were. In the Bolivian prison that's where the best players were in La Paz. They've got all the time in the world," Luke Boughen explains.

Ryan White suggests that "Gwendolyn always kind of wanted to up the ante a bit more" when it came to looking for compelling story lines and quality pick-up matches. At one point in the film Oxenham is not content watching Luke play pick up in Iran with a group of men. Head scarf and all she joins in, but it spotted by some policemen which leads to a nervous part of the film where the crew may have its equipment confiscated by Iranian government authorities.

"It was like the chicken and the egg. Did the adrenaline or the game come first?" White asks out loud.

The truly difficult parts were not if the four could find enough stories to fill their moving, but which ones would make the final product.

"At the end of the day it's still like a piece of art to translate the experience to something that people can digest," says Fergusson. "It was really hard. The four of us collaborating and arguing and debating."

In the end the filmmakers' goal was to make a movie that both soccer fans and non-soccer fans could both appreciate.

Oxenham says, "It was always important doe us to not have it be a soccer movie just use soccer as a vehicle to tell these other stories."

"I think we know, for the most part, that we'll have the soccer crowd. I think the most rewarding comments are going to come from people who don't like soccer." White adds.

"Pelada" is movie that satisfies multiple angles.

At its very core White says their movie was simply about "a trip around the world."

And Fergusson delves deeper into their mission, "To be able to show the world that Americans play and to bring it (the movie) back and show the U.S. this deep passion that exists outside in all these countries."

But in the end the movie is going to most satisfy those people who love the game as deeply as the filmmakers do.

When it was suggested that their movie may have saved my marriage I wasn't just looking for an ice breaker, but hinting that one of "Pelada's" most enduring messages might be that it helps explain the sport's attraction for millions upon millions of people across the globe to those who might never "get it".

For someone who's love of soccer is often viewed as an oddity or mystery to my friends and family the power of persuasion that "Pelada" has could be summed up when my wife said to me, "I may never get everything about soccer, the offsides rule, but tonight I get you a little bit more."

"I had a conversation with a guy whose wife came with him to the screening and she's like 'I don't get it, I don't like soccer, I never go to his games, but now I get it. I understand now more of what it's all about and why he loves it.'" Oxenham tells me.

"We've had a few people come up to us and say that I didn't want to go to this movie; I was dragged here by brother, father, someone and I'm so glad that I did."

Much like surfers have "Endless Summer" to show others just what makes them tick inside, now, perhaps, American soccer fans have "Pelada" to communicate and, hopefully, pass on their passion and dedication to others near and dear in their lives.

A suggestion that White finds, simply, "cool".

Read PART 2 of our interview with the "Pelada" crew where they talk about the global appeal of, what else, beer.


(From l to r): Luke Boughen, Ryan White, Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Rebekah Fergusson

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Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series, Twelve-Pack Interview Series

Six-Pack Interview Series: Soccer Without Border’s Founder Ben Gucciardi

Editor's Note: We continue our interview series, this time with questions for Ben Gucciardi, Founding Director, Soccer Without Borders. As opposed to our "Starting 11" series, this is what we like to call the "FBM 6-Pack," a short, straight-to-the-point Q&A.

Soccer Without Borders is an international organization focusing on youth and community development while giving children the opportunity to play organized soccer alongside learning. Read on about SWB mission, accomplishments, and Gucciardi's future vision for SWB.

If you'd like to donate money, time, or soccer equipment to Soccer Without Borders there are links at the end of our interview.

1) Where did the idea for Soccer Without Borders come from? When did the organization get off the ground? What was your first project?

The idea to start Soccer Without Borders came from a strong desire to contribute something positive to the world and to do meaningful work. At the time when it started, soccer had been such a powerful force in my life. Mostly, soccer had been a positive thing, but towards the end of my playing career, I also started to feel that there was a lot of missed opportunity to do more with soccer to address social issues, both large and small. When you look at sports, you see so much negativity in the way people interact, fighting, trash talking, parents complaining etc, and all of this is an expression of larger societal issues. But none of that is inherent in sport. Instead the coach and program leaders create a certain environment and set the tone for the way a program functions and behaves. So my thought was to try and expand the potential of soccer and capture the extremely powerful and positive aspects of the game. You can then use that appeal of the game to engage youth that are often difficult to engage, and once they are engaged, it becomes possible to use soccer as platform to create dialogue around relevant social issues.

Like most things, you start with an idea and with time it evolves and becomes more focused. I think our program is still very much in the process of being refined and finding its best expression. We have learned so much about what really works well and what is less effective since the organization got off the ground with our first program in Granada, Nicaragua in the fall of 2006.


2) What does a traditional (if there is such a thing) project look like for SWB abroad? What are your core areas of emphasis (models and methods)?

There are four aspects of an SWB program: soccer play and instruction, life-skills education, training coaches from the communities and themed camps and tournaments. Our programs are always run in partnership with schools, community centers and local NGO’s and we try to staff them with local staff as much as possible. We also maintain an SWB office in each of the communities we work in that serves as a youth centered sage space for the community, as well as a place kids can come for programming and gear.

The life-skills aspect of the program varies from place to place, and we try and get a lot of input from community leaders about what to focus on as well as inviting them to leas sessions. One of the programs we use is the Girls For A Change program (www.girlsforachange.org) . This program asks youth to look at the negative issues in their communities and work together to design a project that works at addressing the root cause of the issue, and then the youth actually go out and do the project. In this way, young people can start to see how much of an impact they can have, which I think is a key aspect of confidence, just feeling like your voice and your actions matter.

3) How many projects has SWB established thus far? Where? What have been some of the organizations greatest accomplishments?

So far we have established six ongoing programs in Granada, Nicaragua, Solola, Guatemala, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ndejje, Uganda, New York City, NY, and Oakland, CA. I think our greatest accomplishment to date has beet the growth of the program in Nicaragua. When we were first there, there was about a handful of girls playing soccer. Today we have more then 200 members of the girls program and we run a league for girls and hold popular life-skills events on a daily basis. I think across the board, our biggest success has been in engaging populations that would otherwise not have access to soccer opportunities, and witnessing the positive things the program has brought to their lives.

Another thing I would say is that we have been able to reach a lot of young people here in the U.S. through presentations about the program. These presentations are done by our staff as well as volunteers that travel abroad and return, and in this way, we are able to use soccer as a way to raise awareness about social injustice and the huge disparities in opportunity that people have in different places.

4) You have been personally involved in a refugee and immigrant team in Oakland, CA. Can you tell us a bit more about what that encompasses? Some of the hardships and some of the successes?

The program in Oakland is run in partnership with an amazing public high school called Oakland International High School. This is the school where most newcomer immigrant and refugee students that arrive in Oakland get referred to because of its emphasis on English language development across the curriculum. Our teams are called “Internationals United: and we play in a club soccer league through the CYSA, and we practice two days a week with games on weekends. What is unique about our team is that in between the girls and the boys teams we have youth from 13 countries (Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Liberia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Uzbekistan, Russia, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua) speaking a wide range of languages. It is a pretty amazing experience to watch the team begin to form connections across language and cultural barriers and build meaningful friendships. For most of the girls, it is really there first time playing soccer and being on a team, and while not always easy, it is pretty special to watch them progress and build their confidence by learning a new skill.



The challenges are many as well, things like paperwork for the league (many parents don’t speak English and the forms are not translated), getting to games (very few parents drive so al the kids bus in to downtown Oakland and we have volunteers who drive to the various fields), end up taking a lot of time and energy to get done. Cross -cultural relationships can also be complicated as well. There are tensions that need to be worked through and talked about and misperceptions that occur all the time, and while we can usually deal with them, it is not easy for people to want to say something to their teammate and not be able to communicate. Things get bottled up, and then let out in unhealthy ways. A final challenge is that much of Oakland is a difficult place for all youth to be in, and immigrant and refugee families are often targets of gang violence and recruitment. For example, a father of one of our girls players was murdered last year outside of his apartment in Oakland by a random drive by shooting. This was a refugee family from that came here seeking safety and the chance to build a new life. While this is an extreme case, a lot of these youth experience and witness violence in their communities.


Soccer Without Borders: 25+12+6=1 from Clare Major on Vimeo.





5) SWB is particularly committed to promoting girls’ involvement in soccer and education. Why is that such a crucial component to the SWB mission? Give us a few examples of where this has worked well.

 
About 85% of our staff are women who played in college or the pros. I think across the board these women had immensely powerful experiences playing soccer, and they have done so much in order to share their experiences with other girls that lack the same opportunities afforded to American female athletes. The two most successful areas where girls’ programming has really taken root are in Granada, Nicaragua and in a slum Buenos Aires, Argentina. In both of these areas, we have built a girls soccer movement that has far reaching affects that girls have verbalized about their self-confidence and the perception their communities have of their abilities.





6) What would you like to see SWB grow into? What are some future goals for the organization and what are you doing to help accomplish them?

 
Right now we are in a transition period from an all volunteer staff to beginning to have some full time people that actually make a living doing this work. I would like to see us make this transition successfully and to begin to be able to really improve our existing programs. We are currently doing a lot more on the business side of things, trying to focus more on fundraising and standardizing a lot of our policies and procedures. This is the less fun but equally necessary aspect of our work.
 
Once we really hone in on best practices for our programs and solidify the existing programs, I would like to see the program spread to new areas. One thing about this work is that there are just so many areas where a program could be successful. In most of the world, nothing gets kids attention like soccer.
 
We have lots of ideas we would like to implement, like having a tournament where the girls from all our different programs could travel and play each other, to having the players in Oakland and NYC go to the other project sites to coach and volunteer. It’s all just a matter of time and funding…
 

Editor's Note: There are several way to support the Soccer Without Borders mission.

 

 

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series