"In this country the fan is very important, without your support your local club will not be able to exist."
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Happy Monday everyone! I know a few weeks ago I said AP was done with new interviews until 2018. Well, after saying that, several things happened that have changed the release schedule. First, I was approached by the Atlanta Silverbacks about writing on their recent deal with the ASFC Trust, which you can read about by Clicking Here. Then last week I was approached by John Frusciante to do a special release interview on his new team, Monmouth Generals FC, which will begin play next year. I'd say more, but I've got work to do, so without further ado, please enjoy this interview with John Frusciante. Check it out.
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with Monmouth Generals FC?
My name is John Frusciante. I'm from Monmouth County, New Jersey, and I'm the founder & owner of Monmouth Generals FC.
How did you come to be a fan of soccer, and what got you interested in starting a team?
When I was young my dad was watching SSC Napoli matches on RAI (an Italian network). Ever since than I have been a fan of the beautiful game.
What really got me interested in starting a team is when I found out that I had a local team last May. I won't name the team but they weren't from here but just played at a local school. They didn't promote the club in the local community. It was sad that only the parents of the kids showed up. To give some context at high schools around here they sell out a high school football ( American Football) game, why cant we do that for soccer?
The New York Red Bulls play in Harrison, New Jersey, and that's about a 30 minute drive to Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls don't dominate the market, they don't even have New Jersey in their name because they want to attract big name players and get top dollars from sponsorship's. They sort of left an open space throughout the state for amateur soccer clubs to compete and grow within the community. Soccer is all about the community, from local players to an experienced coach from the area representing Monmouth County.
What's the origin story beyond Monmouth Generals FC? How has this whole thing come about?
When I first saw that other team play in a local school I saw the potential. They didn't market to the local area, no one knew they were here playing competitive matches and that's really sad. With Generals FC we will try to promote the club. We want to build a supporter culture, in a natural way of course, by just spreading the word so people will know to come. I believe the saying is if you build it they will come. Without supporters at the matches, and supporting this project, we can't make this a reality.
I'm a history buff, so I get the name Generals, but how would you explain that choice to someone thinking, 'that's a weird, different, terrible team name?'
I didn't want to come up with a name everyone has in the soccer world. I think it was more of what makes sense for the community. People from the outside looking in might not understand the name 100% but we will explain why we named it that and hopefully they understand and support the club.
According to your Twitter, Monmouth is looking to play in the Garden State Soccer League. What prompted you to join that league as you start the team, and have you been accepted into the GSSL yet?
We want to join the Garden State Soccer League for their summer season. Wanted to start small. I don't think we are ready to join the UPSL or the NPSL yet, so I think it was only right to join a state league and play competitive teams in the summer. And no, we haven't been accepted officially into the Summer division but its not an ongoing membership you need to apply for every season. We have contacted the league and told them we are interested and we expect to make an official announcement on the league in March.
Sounds like the GSSL is pretty thorough in assessing new teams. Is that what it seems like to you?
I'm not sure. I believe its an open membership, meaning if you have the money you can play.
In all good businesses, goals are important. What kind of goals do you have for year one, and then for three to five years down the line?
Our goals for year one are to put a competitive team on the field and build a supporter culture. I would like to see more than just the parents of the players in the stands because without them we can't make this happen.
In three to five years, we hope to take the next step. By then we would have built a club identity, people within the soccer community will know who we are and the local community will have seen a couple of seasons. Taking the club to the next level is very important. Its something that I think about at the moment, but we have to build the club first before we can join a league like the NPSL or UPSL. For example, McDonald's in the early years didn't have locations around the world, they started off small with one business and that's our plan with Monmouth Generals FC. We don't want to rush what we are doing, we want to build from the ground up.
How would you describe your community to someone who hasn't been there, like myself? What makes it special, and a good place for a soccer team?
Monmouth County has a mix of everything. Nice restaurants, great malls and nice beaches. Some towns that are in Monmouth County that are beach towns are Asbury Park, Belmar and Long Branch. I only named a few, there are a lot more beaches in Monmouth. What makes Monmouth County special for a soccer team is that there are a lot of soccer fans in the area, but they don't have a local soccer team to support. I remember one kid was wearing a Red Bulls shirt and I was mad because I support the Cosmos. The goal of the club is to give local soccer fans a local soccer team. You can support a foreign club; I do. But support local because without your support we can't operate every year. Going back to that kid wearing a Red Bulls jersey, I want a kid living in the area wearing Monmouth Generals FC merchandise because we are your local club. I live in the area, and as a club we care about the community. The Red Bulls don't care about Monmouth County or Central Jersey. I don't see them marketing or having youth clinics in the community. That's the problem I have with the Red Bulls and Monmouth Generals FC will offer a great alternative to that, a club that cares for the fans and for the community.
In a similar vein, what does the amateur soccer scene around you in New Jersey look like?
We had a local soccer team play at a High School last summer in the NPSL but I'm not sure if they will return to the area because they are not from here. New Jersey is weird because when you go down the block you could be in a different town. For example, if I walk out of my door I walk to the left and I'm still in the same town but if I walk to the right just past the traffic light, I'm in a different town. With that in mind, its really hard to find every single local soccer team in the area.
One thing I want to do with Monmouth Generals FC is I want to stop this stigma with amateur soccer, that the local community won't support the club because of the quality of play or whatever the case may be. I saw some people on social media saying this about amateur soccer. Not every single town or city will have a pro soccer club so amateur soccer clubs have to fill that gap. Soccer is all about community, local players, local coach, local club staff, everything is local and special for that community. Thats what soccer is all about.
Marketing and branding are two big parts of convincing people to come out and see your team, and you've got one of those knocked out already. Are there any particular ways you plan to market the team to the community, to show them you are worth supporting even if you are amateur?
Since we are an amateur soccer club we won't have the biggest marketing budget, so we have to promote the club using grassroots methods such as contacting local municipalities and having them do a press release to the local media on their press list and connect with youth clubs and let them know that we are a new club and explaining our goals and what we want to achieve. Local media is important as well, as they will help spread the word throughout the community.
As the NPSL, and now UPSL, grow into New Jersey, what do you hope to see happen to the soccer scene in New Jersey moving forward?
I hope we see more clubs form and grow from the ground up with the goal of one day playing at a national level. With more clubs in the state, more people will know that they have local clubs and that without their support the club might go out of business, that's the reality of lower division soccer.
This question might be a little tough to answer, but without promotion and relegation giving your club a chance to move up to higher levels, why do this? Why put in the time and effort and capital into starting a team?
I view Monmouth Generals FC as a club that wants change. I started my own media outlet and have my own podcast called the First Team Podcast. I started First Team Podcast in 2014 and throughout the years I have interviewed club owners, players, coaches and supporters and I experienced clubs going out of business and right now the NASL is suing the U.S Soccer Federation. I could share my opinions when I record my show or write an article on the site, FirstTeamPod.com, but its just one person. With a soccer club I believe more people will listen and pay attention to U.S Soccer.
The reason we will put time and effort and capital into the team is because we want to build a club from the ground up that is built by the community and for the community.
The second reason is because the U.S Soccer landscape is messed up at the moment, and I feel if we have another voice that wants Promotion and Relegation, and not just one person calling for it but this time its a group of clubs, Pro/Rel will happen sooner or later and we will finally see clubs get promoted because of sporting merit, and not how much they have in the bank.
What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
English Premier League. I support Everton Football Club.
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend to people reading this?
The First Team Podcast, because that's the podcast I host, but another cool podcast is the Long Ball Street Podcast.
If you could meet one person from soccer history, who would it be?
Where can people find out more about you and the team online?
You can follow me on Twitter @Jfrusciante1 and the club @MonmouthFC, and our website is www.monmouthgeneralsfc.com
What would you say to someone asking you why they should get out there and support their local non-league team, like Monmouth Generals FC?
Soccer in this country is not on par like Europe, we don't have TV companies around the world paying top dollar to buy the rights to professional soccer matches in this country. In this country the fan is very important, without your support your local club will not be able to exist.
John , thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, please consider supporting us on Patreon by Clicking Here. Or you can click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.