Fútbol is life.
Soccer is more than just a sport for many fans around the world, including the Latino community in the Carolinas.
According to Carolina Demography, the Hispanic population in North Carolina has reached over 1 million and continues to grow exponentially. North Carolina’s Hispanic population increased by 28.3 percent between 2010 and 2019, 8.7 percent faster than the growth nationwide. Over one in four Hispanic residents live in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties, making up a quarter of the population statewide.
“To me, soccer means life. I’ve played since I was a kid, I’ve loved it since I was seven years old. It taught me to believe in myself to get the best results and always give it my all,” said a Mexican National Team and Charlotte FC fan at the recent MLS All-Star Watch Party held by the Club last month.
For most Latinos, fútbol is something they are born into. It is passed down from generation to generation. It is not something they choose, but rather a part of life. While many Hispanics share the same love for soccer, everyone has their own unique story about their first encounter with the beautiful game
“Soccer has been a very significant part of my life. I grew up with it, and back in Honduras, I played on the streets and at school as a kid,” Charlotte FC fan Jonathan Guzmán reminisces about his lifelong love for soccer. “It’s almost like a religion to me, it’s a passion, it’s an escape from stress, work, and life.”
Charlotte has a diverse Hispanic population ranging from nearby Mexico all the way down to Argentina. Soccer at its core is a uniting force to bring different communities together. The Hispanic community is ready to bring their own unique soccer culture and traditions to the Charlotte FC community.
“We hope to build a strong, inclusive fanbase that truly reflects the diversity of the community across the Carolinas and soccer is a great way to do that,” said Charlotte FC President Nick Kelly. “The game is universal and for our Club to be successful, we need to ensure that all soccer fans follow and support Charlotte FC as their MLS team.”
Former MLS All-Star Marco Etcheverry who resides in Charlotte, experienced this firsthand during his time at D.C. United through a supporters group founded by a local Bolivian.
“He took advantage of D.C. having two Bolivian players and one from El Salvador. The Salvadoran and Bolivian soccer communities in the city grew rapidly. Eventually, Honduran and Colombian fans joined and it only grew more. And now it is close to 10,000 members. I think the same should be done here by unifying all the different communities.”
Recently, Charlotte FC signed the first player from Latin-America, Uruguayan Guzmán Corujo. Corujo plays as a right central defender that brings a combination of physicality and intelligence with leadership qualities. He joins fellow Spanish-speakers, head coach Miguel Ramírez, assistant coach Mikel Antia and midfielder Sergio Ruiz who are all from Spain.
Since the announcement of MLS coming to Charlotte in 2019, there has been a surge of local support for the team which shows how far the league has come since Etcheverry’s playing days.
“When I was playing there were only 12 teams. It was great and all but now it’s much bigger it’s a bigger party, it’s more international and it’s great because there are so many more cities involved,” Etcheverry said, “When I was playing there was no Charlotte, Toronto, Nashville, there weren’t cities that are now enjoying the game. I think it’s a soccer fever that continues to grow and it’s amazing for soccer in the US.”
Telemundo Charlotte will be the flagship television station for Charlotte FC matches broadcast in Spanish when the team kicks-off next year. In addition, the soccer fever in the Carolinas has also inspired the creation of Spanish language podcasts focused on covering the team and run by Latinos Claudio Bonus and Jorge Gonzales.
“I’ve always been a soccer fanatic as well as Real España, Barcelona, and Liverpool fanatic. Now that we’ve got an MLS team here, it’s the best feeling,” said Charlotte FC supporter Jorge Gonzales. “Let’s go, Charlotte!”
Hispanics in the Carolinas have long waited for their own local MLS team to support in the United States.
“I was introduced to soccer at 3-years-old when my dad took me to a game to watch Alianza Lima, one of the most popular teams in Peru. I love soccer! I dream about soccer, I read about soccer,” stated Peruvian National Team and Charlotte FC supporter Carlos Carranza.
At its core, soccer is about bringing people from all walks of life together supporting a similar cause. Charlotte FC wants to stay true to what makes fútbol the most beloved sport in the world: bringing local communities together.
In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, Charlotte FC is hosting a festive Friday Night Block Party on September 17 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., to recognize and celebrate the Latino culture, diversity and love for soccer in Charlotte and the Carolinas. More information is available here.
All fans are welcome to enjoy music, food trucks, face-painting, games and special Charlotte FC guest appearances. The event is part of the activities the Club is organizing to engage the community and grow its fanbase ahead of the debut in 2022. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Each year, National Latinx Heritage Month, also referred to as National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of individuals whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
September 15 is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.