FC Buffalo (National Premier Soccer League) is celebrating its 10th season by amplifying its community engagement. The team is doing this in myriad ways, according to Director of Community and Fan Engagement Ryan Schupp. One of the top items on the bucket list is to continue to extend its reach into Buffalo’s rich and diverse neighborhoods, because soccer is a game that is celebrated by numerous countries throughout the world, many of which have factions of residents right here in Buffalo.
Over the last decade, Buffalo has seen a rise in the number of refugees who have come to call this city home. It’s one of the reasons that FC Buffalo has teamed up with Journey’s End (which has a soccer team), World Refugee Day Buffalo (puts on a big annual soccer tournament), and Westside International Soccer (one of the more competitive traveling soccer organizations), for an upcoming fundraiser where all of the groups share in the spoils.
FC Buffalo will receive half of the funds raised via the fundraising efforts to pay for a team trip to Hamburg, Germany to play a match against FC St. Pauli II. The team will then go on to play a local club in Dortmund, Germany during the Dortmund Festival. These international matchups, Schupp told me, have already been a great team recruitment tool, with more D1 talent signing up, as well as players from other countries.
I asked Schupp how the Germany matchup came about, and he told me that last year the Lord Mayor of Dortmund, Ullrich Sierau, paid a visit to Buffalo and ended up stopping over at Mès Que on Hertel. FC Buffalo co-owner Nick Mendola ended up running into the Lord Mayor, who then invited the Buffalo team for a match, and to celebrate a festival. “It’s always a challenge raising funds to take 30 or so players and a volunteer staff to a different country for a match, but we’re really excited about how everything has been working out,” said Schupp. “After our travels to Germany, the team from Germany is coming to Buffalo to play on May 25 (FC St. Paulie at All-High), so that should be something for Buffalo fans to look forward to. Games like this are considered “international friendlies”, and are not part of the regular season play. We also have a team from Mexico (Monarcas Morelia at All-High) coming to take on FC Buffalo on May 3 – it’s the first game of the season. The players from the Mexican team will be visiting a couple of Buffalo high schools with Spanish-speaking students. It’s a great way for the students to meet people from other countries, while the players learn what it’s like to attend school right here in Buffalo.”
As we spoke, Schupp continued to impress upon me the importance of FC Buffalo’s commitment to Buffalo’s international and refugee community. “We’re doing a lot in the community these days,” he told me. “We are trying to be a force for good. Soccer (fútbol) is so big in European countries, and we have an opportunity to grow the allegiance here, as Buffalo becomes more of an international city. Even last year, after a couple of food trucks never showed up for games, we reached out to the owner of Lucy’s Ethiopian, who showed up with his whole catering operation! Now he’s a fixture at the games – the fans love the food so much that they are now going to the restaurant to eat. It’s been an amazing trade-off. To coincide with these efforts, we’re launching a Refugee Internship Program and also committing to working with refugee and immigrant-owned businesses for our game day concessions this season.”
Can you believe that FC Buffalo has been around for ten years? I remember first hearing about the formation of the club, and here we are, a decade later, learning about all of these wonderful advancements that are being made, at home and abroad. Many of these advancements go hand-in-hand with Buffalo’s rebirth, which is interesting when you stop to think about it. This city was at its strongest when immigrants were moving here in droves. Now we are seeing something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale. But FC Buffalo has come to realize the importance of supporting the latest waves of immigrants and refugees, many of whom consider soccer (fútbol), and Buffalo, a way of life.
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