What spurred you on to start Black Arrow FC?
In 2014, some friends and I were planning on attending Brazil for the World Cup but when we looked at the ticket prices and travel info, we realized it was probably going to be one big tourist trap. So, we came up with another idea instead – we went to Europe at the same time as the World Cup and timed visits to different countries according to their World Cup matches.
The idea was that it would be more fun to be with locals in the streets as they cheer on their team and we ended up creating this video of our experience. The highlight of the trip happened in Croatia where we watched opening game of the World Cup in a Roman coliseum, while the country played Brazil.
After that experience, and as African-Americans who didn’t grow up around soccer culture, we were hooked. From that point, we brainstormed ideas about where and how black people could fit into the sport, off the pitch, and decided to start Black Arrow in late 2017.
What do you want to achieve by building the community?
That is a good question. Actually, building the community itself is the achievement we want. Obviously soccer is a competitive sport and there is so much negativity and separation that happens because people support different clubs, or different leagues. We’re using our brand as a way to connect black people globally, and also as a way to build a community that connects with all cultures.
From a fan’s perspective, elite-level football will look like a very multicultural sport. Do you think that is true in all aspects in the game?
When you look at most of the biggest leagues, there is a decent amount of diversity in the sport on the pitch. One thing that is missing is a unified representation off the pitch, which is why Black Arrow is so important.
Players can only do so much. We can’t expect them to build community, create jobs, generate media, and fight racism, all while trying to compete at the highest level every day. So we are creating more representation in the stands, media, supporter groups, fashion, and all elements of what is happening off the field.
What more do you think the media could do to take about inclusivity in football?
Our philosophy is to create what we want rather than asking or hoping someone else does it for us. If the media isn’t talking about black culture or inclusivity, that is fine with us because that is the void we are filling with our brand. That is what makes us in demand.
Also, it is important for the media to see brands like Black Arrow, to see our fans and the content we create. That way they can give us a seat at the table to lead us all toward more inclusivity within the sport.
Who were your sporting idols growing up?
Growing up my idols were Michael Jordan, Rickey Henderson and Jerry Rice. We didn’t really start following soccer until more recently. Growing up in America, without the internet, was very hard to follow the sport, and I was too busy watching baseball, basketball and football.
But on that note, we recently created this video called Why black folks love Arsenal, which starts out talking about Thierry Henry, because he was the first black player to really break into the consciousness of African Americans as far as being a global super star.
What is so interesting, though, is because so many African-Americans are new to the sport, as adults, we get to go back and discover so many amazing players that we never knew about before growing up.
What do you feel about the way black lifestyles are used by brands to promote their product?
That is another great question, but it speaks more to our business plan rather than how we ‘feel’. We’re here to work with these brands in such a way that they can tap into black culture, but do it in such a way that isn’t stereotypical, and make it authentic. That way, not only are they paying a black-owned business, but we can all push the culture forward in such a way that is mutually beneficial and respectful.
What events have you lined-up for 2018?
We are doing trips during the World Cup offering travel packages for people to join us in Colombia, on the caribbean coast where the Afro-Colombian community lives, to cheer and experience the culture, music, food, and experience how locals in Colombia watch the World Cup games. This is an ode to the trip my friends and I did back in 2014.
We just finished a really dope weekend of events in Atlanta. We had a party called The Kit Classic, where everyone had to wear a different soccer jersey to get in, and the next day we had a Street Soccer Tournament in a subway station!
We’re also working on a documentary in Kenya and Manchester, telling the story of the most famous Kenyan player of all time, Joe Kadenge. The film is about how he supported Manchester United for 60 years religiously because of the Munich Air Disaster in 1958. But, because he never made any money playing in the 1950s and 60s, he never had the chance to visit England or Old Trafford.
So this past February, for 60th anniversary, we took him to Old Trafford for the very first time in his life at the age for 83.