Team and Nation Building: California Football Federation
In the 1989 Kevin Costner-James Earl Jones feature film ‘Field of Dreams’, an Iowa corn farmer hears voices urging him to construct a baseball diamond in his field. He builds it, and magically the 1919 Chicago White Sox appear and play for him and his neighbors. In 2007, magic became reality, as a group of soccer supporters in Philadelphia, the ‘Sons of Ben [Franklin],’ formed to lobby Major League Soccer to award the city an expansion franchise. They showed up at league meetings and draft pick ceremonies, loudly chanting their team into existence in little over a year. The Philadelphia Union now play in the MLS, a soccer specific stadium in Chester, PA, with a special seating section reserved for the Sons.
Soccer–football really–is a sport that is by its very nature tribal, political, and national. Supporter groups have strong ties to causes across the spectrum. I myself grew up supporting Mexico, watching broadcasts from Tijuana Channel 12 from Aztec stadium, and getting caught up in a spontaneous World Cup street celebration following a Mexican World Cup victory over Belgium in 1970. I later went to France in 1998 and Korea in 2002 to cheer for the Yanks. Teams like Celtic in Scotland, St.Pauli in Hamburg, and A.S. Roma are famous for their progressive supporters. It was in this spirit, in 2017, I began to image a uniform shirt, that could someday be worn by players representing an independent California National Soccer Team.
Our bi-lingual California Football Federation logo will soon be trademarked. But as this novelty project expanded, I learned more about the politics of soccer in the United States, where a rich and quite corrupt US Soccer Federation (based in Chicago) continues to mismanage the sport in America. It’s a pay-to-play system for youth players that shuts out minority and low-income kids, while women, both players and coaches, are paid less than the men. The MLS is a single-entity big business monopoly backed up by the USSF.
In California, in a level below the three big-city MLS franchises, is a vibrant community of nearly 60 locally-supported pro, semi-pro, and amateur minor league soccer teams who compete in the USL (three tiers) and the NPSL, with names like the Sacramento Republic, the Fresno Fuego, Napa Valley 1839, and Riverside Coras. They have their own supporter groups and rivalries, and all would jump at the opportunity to be promoted to a higher tier.
What if, I thought, we offer the name and trademark of the CFF/FFC to the minor league teams of our state, as a talking shop for the many issues the small teams have with the USSF? Sport news outlets would then pay attention to what it had to say, as statements from a ‘breakaway’ California Federation would certainly make headlines. So, the offer is now being formally made to every team in the state and we are waiting for the response.
At the heart of this independent project is the formation of an actual California national team of coaches, players, and staff that could compete on the field of dreams. There exists a tournament ready and waiting – the CONIFA World Cup for countries and regions that are not recognized yet by the world FIFA board in Switzerland. Since 2012, our neighbors to the north in Cascadia have fielded a team, which last May-June finished 6th at the CONIFA 2018 World Cup in London, winning matches and glory against Barawa, Ellan Vannin, and Tamil Eelam.
With a population of 40 million and hundreds of thousands of players competing, California has the money, people, and resources to have a Bear Flag team that can serve as another building block for our future independent nation. One idea has us recruit players first in the Central Valley (a Hwy 99 squad!). Please support the CFF. Go support your local minor league team, become a founding member of the Federation, help us join CONIFA, and if we ‘build it, they will come.’
Sven Serrano Founder, California Football Federation