New Siler City Futbol Club promises local, accessible soccer for 2021

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/6/21

SILER CITY — Inclusive. Competitive. And, most importantly, local.

That’s the pitch behind Siler City Futbol Club, a brand new volunteer organization of coaches, teachers and community leaders …

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New Siler City Futbol Club promises local, accessible soccer for 2021

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SILER CITY — Inclusive. Competitive. And, most importantly, local.

That’s the pitch behind Siler City Futbol Club, a brand new volunteer organization of coaches, teachers and community leaders determined to offer accessible youth soccer for the town they call home.

“We have so many kids traveling to Asheboro and High Point and Liberty to play soccer,” interim president Chad Morgan said. “We thought: ‘Let’s build something (here) that we can be proud of.”

“It’ll benefit the area greatly,” added Octavio Hernandez, the club’s interim director of coaching. “There are plenty of kids that want to play soccer.”

Siler City FC debuted last month on social media, sharing its blue and gold crest across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while linking to a website that proudly deemed the area it’ll soon serve “Soccer City!”

But the club — which will sponsor travel teams through the spring and hopes to kick off its recreational season for children ages 4 through 9 this fall — has been the been in the works for much longer.

It’s been around two years, Morgan said, since he and other leaders now on the club’s board of directors started seriously pondering how to bring youth soccer to Siler City — and how to make it stay.

As a longtime Chatham County Schools employee, Morgan knew that wasn’t the easiest task.

When he first arrived at Chatham Middle School as a teacher in 2001, Morgan recalled, the school indeed had soccer nets at its athletic fields — but they were laying sideways, on the ground.

It was an apt metaphor for Siler City’s past struggles to provide a consistent platform for soccer — the largest sport in the world, and among the most accessible — to its rapidly growing Latinx population.

“It’s hard to get it started,” said Morgan, who’s now the principal at Chatham Middle.

Morgan played a key role in creating Chatham Middle’s soccer program and also assisted Paul Cuadros, the now-UNC journalism professor who built a varsity men’s soccer team from scratch at Jordan-Matthews High and coached the Jets’ predominantly Latinx roster to an NCHSAA state title in 2004.

Those middle and high school teams remain in place today, stabilized by a supportive school system. But independent leagues have struggled to catch on in Siler City — and in a day and age where club soccer and the exposure that comes with it are crucial to players’ college scholarship chances, that’s a problem.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hernandez said.

Before he entered high school at Jordan-Matthews — where he played under Cuadros and earned MVP honors in the Jets’ 2004 state championship match — a young Hernandez had to travel to Pittsboro just to get competitive matches in. And now, his 12-year-old son, Aiden, is experiencing the same issue.

At one point, Hernandez signed Aiden up for a Durham league “just to get him playing at a higher level,” he said. But driving an hour each way to practices three times a week — even longer for some of the team’s weekend tournaments — quickly grew old. As did the cost.

“We did it for one year,” Hernandez said.

Plenty of Siler City FC’s other board members (including Morgan) also have children who’ve opted — not necessarily by choice — to play some form of club soccer in surrounding towns, cities and counties.

In a Dec. 18 Facebook post, the club painted the problem simply: “Siler City has plenty of fields, plenty of area youth, plenty of supportive parents, and a history of great futbol. Why can't we play here?”

If things proceed as planned for Siler City FC, that’ll be happening soon.

A handful of already-formed teenage travel teams — including Morgan’s futsal team that currently plays in Durham — are planning to compete in local tournaments under the Siler City FC crest in February and March. Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, the club may also host a distanced showcase event or two.

All in all, Siler City FC is trying to build trust — specifically among Latinx families, whom the board sees as an absolutely crucial element of the league’s success. Latinx board members such as Hernandez will be key in connecting with those families and creating a league they feel included within.

Something as simple as having a bilingual club representative who can speak directly with parents — rather than through a translator — can make all the difference in the world, Hernandez said.

It’s all part of Siler City FC’s ultimate three-pronged goal, as laid out on its website: “instruction, competition and fun.” Plus, a lot less commuting and a lot more hometown pride for Siler City,

“It’s giving the community something to build around,” Morgan said. “Soccer is about everyone.”

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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