Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Queensboro FC: The story behind David Villa´s USLC franchise

SoccerNews in MLS 14 Dec 2020

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After an illustrious and successful playing career, Queensboro FC is David Villa’s next frontier.

Villa finds himself at the forefront of Queens’ first professional football club, albeit off the pitch, having called time on a career that spanned 20 years in January and culminated in World Cup, Euro 2008, Champions League and LaLiga glory.

Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer is part of the ownership group of start-up franchise Queensboro FC, who are preparing to compete in the USL Championship (USLC) – the second tier of football in the United States.

But why Queensboro FC for the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid striker?

“During my four years in New York, I developed my project of the DV7 Academy and launched a school for children in Queens,” the 39-year-old Villa, who played for MLS franchise New York City between 2014 and 2018 before leaving for Andres Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe in Japan, told Stats Perform News.

“My son was training with them and I spent most of my free time watching their training sessions. Then I get in touch with the people in Queens and realised how passionate they are for football and how many talented boys and girls are starting their path to play the game. I talked with my partners and all of us agree that this borough deserved to have a local club, a team that provides everybody the opportunity to go to the stadium, all the families together and enjoy the sport that they like more.

“Also having a first step for the professionalism is something necessary for the development of the talented players that want to have a chance of success. This is our motivation.”

“I started having this project in mind in 2016, but to start a team in New York City is a very difficult process that we are already working in,” Villa continued. “It is not only football, there are a lot of ingredients that you need to be successful like building a stadium, finding facilities to train… Several things that are not part of my main expertise but I have got familiar during these past years.

“I honestly don’t see myself as a professional coach, at least now, so I prefer to take this direction that allows me to create what I feel comfortable, obviously in the football universe, in the places that I like most.”

Queensboro’s introduction has been put on hold until 2022 amid the coronavirus pandemic, after they were originally scheduled to enter the USLC next year.

“We hope to build a competitive team, a team for the people of Queens, that unite all the diverse communities that lives in the borough. We want Queensboro FC to inspire all the children to practice sport and dream big and provide too a pathway to the professionalism,” Villa said.

“Another thing that we learned during our years in New York is that the football market was underserved, in example for coaching education. We want to try our best to develop an ecosystem of football knowledge around the team that embrace all the people that want to get deeper in the football world.”

“We want to be part of the identity of Queens, capture the essence of this borough, and this is something unique,” Villa said. “Second, our main priority is being competitive but developing local players. This is not an easy way and for sure it would take time, but it is very exciting for us to prove that there are a lot of talented players that will emerge when they have the right platform to help them.”

There is a Barcelona flavour in Queens, with former Blaugrana star Villa turning to countryman Josep Gombau as the club’s first-ever head coach and sporting director.

From 2003 to 2009, Gombau was a youth-team coach at Barca before going on to coach in Hong Kong and Australia, where he also led the country’s Under-23 team and served as an assistant for the Socceroos in 2016-17.

Gombau said: “It’s a project that we have been working on for a long time. It was something we started discussing while I was in New York for the first time in 2015-16 when I left Adelaide [United in Australia]. I’m very excited.

“From the beginning, I’m involved and something that as a coach I like. Last season in India [Odisha FC] was my 25th anniversary of coaching non-stop. I coached youth teams, professional teams, great experience with the national team in Australia. When you think at the end of life, to have different experiences is something I like. To build a club from zero is something that is very strange, but to do it is amazing. We are building the youth team and the first-team squad, even choosing the colours of the jerseys. A lot of things that a person like myself that I love football and like to be involved in all these things, it’s a big experience for us and great for me.”

“Our goal is to make a club that works very well with young players, that hopefully will be promoted to the first team,” Gombau said. “To have a first team with a lot of young players and help them achieve their dream to play in bigger leagues, like MLS or overseas. We want to play a kind of football that people enjoy, but we call our team a platform club that believe in youth.”

Queensboro will start life in the USLC but do they have ambitions to play in MLS – which will expand to 27 teams next year – in the future?

“We’re not thinking about MLS in the short term. We are just starting our journey and our mind is in the USL. We think we fit well in this league, it’s a perfect starting point for us. We’re not thinking of growing and go to MLS as an objective, or something that we will achieve in five, six years. This is not our challenge,” added Gombau.

“We just want to go step by step. We think in this league, we will have more chance to promote more young players – it’s well-structured this league. We don’t think about changing to MLS in short time, maybe in a long time, but not now.”

In the meantime, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works, but Gombau insisted: “As a new club, it was a big risk to start in 2021, thinking that at least the first six months of competition would be without fans. We think as a new club, we need to start with everything and our fans are our most valuable.

“The league gave us some good advice, telling us why not start with an U19 team in 2021? At least you will start your journey, see how everything works and this is what we’re doing. We will have a team playing in the academy league, starting in March. We will work with these kids and I hope we can promote some of them to the first team in 2022.

“We are focused on players who are hungry and want to achieve something, more than players who are close to retirement. We are thinking of bringing good, young players who see us as a platform.”

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