Never thought I’d ever be on a press conference with a Hollywood actor talking football. But there you go. That’s what the crazy world of MLS can produce.
Speaking from what looked like his caravan or trailer, Matthew McConaughey, part owner of MLS expansion team Austin FC spoke passionately about how the sport captured his imagination through travel, his home town of Austin and his family’s love for the yellow-shirts of Brazil.
Not sure he had much choice on the last one. McConaughey’s wife, model and designer Camila Alves hails from the small Minas Gerais town of Itambacuri.
His laid back accessible approach, complete with grey Austin FC t-shirt and tinted shades, captivating, and his enthusiasm impressive if not quite infectious, the actor waxed lyrical on the game, much in the way a relatively new fan to the sport would.
But why become an MLS owner?
McConaughey repeats the question verbatim, scratches his forehead, looks out the (presumably) open door to his right and begins. His voice is upbeat and engaging...
“Well, closing in on my fifties, I’ve got three children, travel all around the world with my job. And what’s the one game that’s always in town wherever I go, whether it’s Reykjavik, Cleveland, New York, Cape Town or Mali, Africa? Football, or soccer, as we call it in America.
“My kids play, my wife’s Brazilian, so I damn sure better had started picking it up more than what I had when we got married. So soccer’s become part of the family.
“On ownership. I’m into making some legacy choices now. I’m not interested in being a mascot. I don’t mind being out there, being the face of some things, but I’m interested in being more than just a mascot.
“I always dreamed of being in at the ground level and help building a team. I’ve always studied and appreciated General Managers and great sporting organizations that have succeeded and lasted like the All Blacks in rugby, or the Patriots in American football.”
Excitement still in his voice, McConaughey raises his intonation, “And... it’s here in my backyard. Austin, Texas! I would’ve been involved at the ground level anyway, so I wanted to get in at the capital ownership level. I was invited and I hoped on board.”
McConaughey is convinced the new MLS team will be a success and something that Austin, Texas’ fastest-growing city, is crying out for.
He may well have a point. Despite living through pandemic times the club has completed all that’s been asked of it in preparation for MLS 2021, including building a brand new stadium. But probably the most telling factor behind his claim of Austin’s readiness is they’ve sold 15,000 season tickets right off the bat for the 20,500 capacity Q2 stadium, with an additional 15,000 more applicants on an exceptionally healthy waiting list. What many MLS clubs wouldn’t give for that!
And on his Minister of Culture role?
“For a team that’s going to be representing the city of Austin, I need to be there as someone who knows Austin really well, that the two are mirror images of each other,” McConaughey said.
“The team, the product we put on the pitch and the fan experience in that stadium. My goal, as minister of culture, is trying to align [the two]. When you take a snapshot above Q2 Stadium on any given night that we play, you should be able to see in the crowd the diversity, creative colors and vibrancy of Austin, Texas.”
In a matter of a few days the club will debut in MLS, going from vision to reality. Austin FC play their inaugural MLS match on Saturday against Will Ferrell’s Los Angeles FC.
Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 23). Recorded Wednesday evening (7 April), the TBIR team discusses CFM’s Florida rendezvous, the goalkeeping situation, the new MLS schedule, opening game v Toronto FC and the MLS pundits’ unflattering CF Montreal predictions... Plus all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine... Don’t miss it!
Also... great chat with CF Montreal’s new signing Kamal Miller recorded Fri 9 April (on a special episode 24) - well worth a listen...
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