The notion of ‘winning at all costs’ is one ingrained in the American sporting psyche. As former American Football coach Vince Lombardi puts it “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” It’s a sentiment also established at the heart of Britain’s societal values, so it’s perhaps no surprise that football, or ‘soccer’, has advocated such beliefs up until the 1990s.
In many ways, as Jonathan Wilson notes in his book ‘Inverting the pyramid’, England’s success at the 1966 World Cup did more damage than good. Our inherent belief that hard-work, big tackles and bravery were somehow superior to team-orientated tactics, mixed with individual expressive flair, had been falsely proven. This is not a polemic of the national side, however there is a strong argument to suggest the lifting of the Jules Rimet Trophy set our nation, and subsequently America, back a good decade or two in regards to the development of strategic play.
The inception of the Premier League, and indeed MLS, has led to the sport’s continued augmentation and immersed us within the rich beauty of the game. For the first time in England (and in the U.S’s case since the demise of the NASL) we were seeing an influx of talent.
Unfortunately, many contested this transition, and as a result many young players saw their football education somewhat stunted. Recent years have suggested a change in emphasis on English shores, however, it seems our historical idealisms are very much still prevalent in American grassroots soccer.
That’s where Guerrilla FC come in. The club was founded in America’s capital Washington D.C. earlier this year and in the same vein as Barcelona’s club motto ‘Més que un club’ they aim to be more than a club. Chatting to the president and co-founder Justin Salhani, he tells me the club was born from the idea of a revolution. They wanted to challenge the hierarchy of soccer within the States and change local’s perception of football culture.
“When we were kids in the mid/late 80s/early 90s good coaching was hard to find. There was a generation of flair players who idolised Arsenal, Barcelona, Zidane, Ronaldinho and the like, but trying to emulate these teams and players were often performing acts of subversion against coaches who valued hard work over intelligence or technique.”
Guerrilla FC stands for those not willing to conform to the norms of American soccer and instead wish to show that ‘football’ is so much more than just ‘soccer’. Having been heavily influenced through his youth by the Premier League and Continental European football, Salhani and co. wanted to establish a ‘football utopia’ in Washington, something that is exemplified on the pitch, and a style of play similar to the South American approach.
Their revolution spans much wider than the football pitch though. The club wants to form an identity. They sell their own merchandise and produce a magazine to help those from the DC area understand what they are about and encourage others to get behind the cause. Salhani views art, culture and fashion within football as a powerful vehicle to help instigate change.
“We want to build an environment and culture in DC. To do so, we need to spread our message. Art and culture is the best way to spread ideas and build up an emotional connection to Guerrilla FC. It’s also a vessel to show what we are about. Our art speaks to our identity.”
At the moment the club is strictly amateur, a decision that seems unlikely to change unless their revolution reverberates across America prompting wholesale changes to the format of MLS. So what’s next for Guerrilla FC and do they hold any long-term aspirations?
“In the short term, we are trying to attract more attention in the DC area and build a larger community around our team. Then we will discuss expanding the team and potentially begin preparing for more competitive tournaments or qualifiers (the US Open Cup qualifiers have been discussed, but that is someway off).
In the long term, we want to bring culture to the city. We want to establish a base or HQ where the team can gather to watch matches and philosophize about the game (a café, bookstore, pub, or some sort of hybrid).”
It certainly is a fascinating project and the start of a movement that will no doubt resonate with many football fans the world over. Trying to implement change is a far from easy task but with the undisputed history of football culture behind them, the revolution will be heard.
For more information on the club, check out their website: http://www.guerrillafc.com/