As the MLS season begins to wind down, and the US Open Cup trophy gets crowd, all across the country, adult men and women are gearing up to start their fall/ winter amateur adult soccer seasons. Some are in it for fun, some for fitness, some to stay match ready, some dreaming of being the amateur club that upsets numerous MLS sides to be the first amateur USOC victor since the Greek Americans A.C. in 1994, and in the heart of all of this is a little upstart club in Wilmington, Delaware called Bearfight FC
Under the management of Player/Coach Kieran Todd, and entering their third season in the Inter County Soccer League's Premier division, Bearfight FC has come a long way from four guys sitting in a bar in Wilmington putting together a plan to start a member supported, member run adult amateur club with aspirations growing its' member base every year and dreaming of purchasing a lower division pro club some day.
Bearfight FC is no where near that goal yet, but the people in control keep looking to clubs like FC United of Manchester in England, and US clubs like Nashville FC as inspiration. The club keeps growing at a steady pace, and we recently sat down with BFFC President Jeremy Sharpe and BFFC Coach Kieran Todd to discuss the club.
"I've talked about this before. There were four of us at Stoney's Pub one night that decided to take an idea that many had kicked around and make it a reality. We all love the game of soccer and hate the business of US Soccer and MLS. We love our clubs in our cities, but there isn't that connection that you see in other parts of the world, where there is a very blurred line between club and supporter. We looked at clubs like FC United of Manchester, who were fed up with how Manchester United was run, and said, 'Fuck it, let's do it our way', or AFC Wimbledon who had their club yanked out from under them and decided to start their own club and thought, 'Well, why can't we do this? Let's start out barebones, at the lowest level and see if we can grow this. Let's be the middle finger that the current US Soccer pyramid so desperately needs.' Maybe the growth hasn't been as wildfire as we had hoped and dreamed, but we are still here, and we continue to grow a grassroots member base." said Sharpe.
When asked about this coming season, Sharpe told tBG, "We started in 2013 in a bar with no players, no coach, no money, and a very thin idea of what we were doing. Luckily Eric Shertz was there to do the research, and Justin Lee may be the best ‘get shit done' person in the world. Fortune would have it that we got a few members, had just enough players to start the season, and had former US National Danny Califf come out on the pitch with us. The results weren't great our first year, we finished dead last, but we accomplished something. Last season, we rolled with the momentum, added a few new players, and went from last place to third. This year, from what Coach Todd is telling me, the sky is the limit with this club. We've had another year to gel, and added some new players."
"My realistic expectations you say?", chimed in Player/Coach Kieran Todd, "To win our division and get promoted to Ultra division.I have no doubt in my mind that we have the talent and skill to do this."
The focus shifted to Todd, the former captain and starting left back and current Coach of Bearfight FC. Todd went on the talk about the transition from playing to coaching, "It's different looking at the game from an entire team perspective versus from only my position on the field. It's now what can we do to make an impact as opposed to what can I do from my position to make an impact. I know have to think about subs, formations, styles of play for 18 guys, not just me."
"What is our style of play?", said Sharpe.
"We play a hybrid." replied Todd, "Punk football. I do this for the love of the game, the love of this club and its supporters, and a drive to constantly better myself and learn. That's what drives me. That's what will drive this club."
Sharpe added, "Both on and off the pitch that is what will drive this club to success. Maybe not always wins and losses, but success is more than that. Success is building this club correctly, both on and off the pitch, and building it in a way that isn't just a sports club, but a family."
As we steered both of them back to the upcoming 2015 season, Coach Todd started touching on what he is excited about this year.
"2015.....I'm excited to see all the guys coming back, they know what this club is about...I'm equally excited for the new guys, they are all eager to earn their spot in this clubs history."
"Coach Todd has told me that we have added some excellent pieces, and that our returning guys look ready to go. We are getting a guy back in Mauricio that was on our inaugural roster back in 2013, but blew his knee out a few days before the season. Well, he is back and I'm glad to see that crest back on him. He worked hard over the last two seasons to rehab that knee. I'm glad he is still part of the family. We want our members to look out there and see that this can work, that if we keep doing it our way, the punk football way, we will build a competitive club and continue to move upward. More importantly, we will do it by making all of the members feel that they are just as much a part of it as the players on the pitch."
"The members", said Coach Kieran Todd, "They are the reason this club exists. I started out as a supporter of this club..All my decisions and actions are made with that in mind."
"I'm obviously a member of this club, also." said Sharpe "In our first two years, the experiences I've shared with the members have been incredible, whether is was Justin and I walking through the trophy room at the Ukkies (Philadelphia Ukrainians) and seeing US Open Cup trophies on display, or looking over and seeing Eric smile with a look of happiness even though our results weren't great, eating bear meat with Danny Bauder when our club won its first ever match, or just having beers at the Pub for one of our parties, the membership of this club, every last one of them, are people that I am so humbled to share this with."
Anyone who has followed this club for any time may be aware of the three tag lines that constantly appear on their social media outlets, their merchandise, and even in talking to them, ‘Punk Football', ‘Loyalty. Inclusion. Family. Pride.', and ‘Live Like Shertz'. We asked both Kieran and Jeremy what those phrases mean to them and the club.
" I can only speak for myself" said Todd, "but they mean this: as stated we are a hybrid team and we do things a lil' different than most, you never know what we are gonna do next this Punk Football. Live Like Shertz...Eric was the best of us. We should all try and leave an impression of acceptance and family."
As for Loyalty. Inclusion. Family. Pride. Coach Todd said, "It is the backbone of this club's philosophy anybody that is a supporter/member, a player, and FO person, and myself believe in and practice these points."
When turning to Jeremy Sharpe, he said, "Starting with Punk Football, it's not a bunch of guys with mohawks and spiked jackets playing soccer only. It's a philosophy of doing things are own way, knowing that we may ruffle feathers, but that's okay. Sports are so manufactured these days - it's all corporations, billionaires, and highlight reels on ESPN. Punk football is that kid outside trying to bend a ball, believing for a moment, that he is David Beckham, or that kid in Philly wearing number 9 and hustling down the pitch. He isn't trying to be like Sebastien LeToux, in his mind, he is Seba. Or the adult player who runs his ass off every week, taking bumps and bruises, playing for a team like BFFC. He isn't here for money or glory, but for love of the game. Punk Football is a big FU in the face of this prefab league structure in the USA. I'm glad we have a major soccer league, but it's so force fed, so manufactured. It misses what makes this game great. It's men and women with jobs playing rec league, it's kids that play for the love of the game, it's adult teams on waterlogged pitches uses car headlights to light a field. It's knowing that there is no separation between player, coach, and supporter. We are all in this together. We are going to do it our way, on and off the pitch. We aren't for everyone, but we aren't going away anytime soon."
When bringing up Live Like Shertz, Sharpe said, "Kieran hit the nail on the head. Eric truly lived in a way that was the best of any and all of us. The soul and spirit of this club will always be tied to what Eric made us and how Eric lived. Let's move on from that because I don't want to cry today. Let's talk about that first BFFC slogan, Loyalty, Inclusion. Family. Pride. Those words say it all. It's who and what we are and strive to be. Anyone who wants to be involved, wants to be a member is welcome. We always stand together, we help each other, we are always there for each other. And that thing this ties us together, player, FO, supporter, ball kid, whatever, is this idea that we are going to take over the world, and do it our way."
Finally, we asked both of them about Wilmington Copperheads, a new American Soccer League club in Wilmington, Delaware.
"Bring them on," said Sharpe. "This city is ours. Wilmington is punk football."
Added Todd, "We will play anybody, anywhere. We will win, or we will take our lumps, learn our lessons and apply them to get better."
"Like I said," Jeremy chimed back in, "this is our city. We have built this club together, from the ground up, on no budget, and a belief in real soccer, grass roots. For that alone, our club will never hang our head in shame."
Bearfight FC starts their 2015 season on September 13th at 12 noon versus Fox United. Bearfight FC's 2015 season schedule is available at this link.
Interested in becoming a member of Bearfight FC? Their membership page is http://bearfight-fc.ticketleap.com/bearfight-fc-2015-2016-season-membership/