Hartford City Football Club, a new National Premier Soccer League team founded and owned by West Hartford residents, will play its last home game on Sunday, July 2 at 4:30 p.m. on the CCSU soccer fields in New Britain.
By Gillian Hixson
West Hartford native and president of Hartford City Football Club Shawn Simao expressed his pride and excitement for the local soccer club’s success as the team’s last home game nears.
Hartford City Football Club, or Hartford City FC for short, is a National Premier Soccer League team created and run by West Hartford residents.
Simao graduated from Conard High School and now lives in West Hartford with his wife and two children. The family of Aaron Sarwar, the team’s owner, owns several local businesses, including Shish Kebab House of Afghanistan and Bare Skin. The head coach, Christian Benjamin, is also a West Hartford native.
The “Agents of Hale” are the official supporters of the team. Hartford City FC’s website explains that the group is a tribute to Nathan Hale, a Captain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and a Connecticut native.
Hartford City FC’s season began in early May with a scrimmage against UConn and will soon end as the team plays its last home game against Boston City FC on Sunday, July 2. “This was the team’s inaugural season,” Simao explained. By the end of the season, Hartford City FC will have played 12 games, with at least one each weekend.
The team’s most recent game attracted a crowd of 1,310 people. “Seeing people consistently come every Sunday is something special,” Simao said.
The National Premier Soccer League, or NPSL, is the largest national league in North America and offers the players on the Hartford City FC team the opportunity to further their soccer careers into a professional sphere. Hartford City FC competes in the Northeast Region’s Atlantic Conference, which includes teams like New York Cosmos B, Brooklyn Italians, and Elm City Express. With their 3-3-3 record, the team is currently ranked third in their conference.
“Everyone in the soccer community is amazed with how quickly we’ve grown,” Simao said.
The team consists of both college soccer players looking to continue the sport through their off-season as well as post-collegiate players hoping to further their soccer careers.
Hartford City FC is “the next step in the path to playing professional soccer,” Simao said.
The team practices at least three times a week at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. And though Hartford City FC calls the soccer fields at CCSU home for now, Sarwar explained that the team hopes to move their home field to Dillon Stadium in Hartford. The team has already found a support group willing to donate time and money to clean up the historic stadium, Sarwar said.
Of his involvement with the team, Simao said being president of Hartford City FC is “the next stepping stone in growing the sport.”
Simao’s involvement with soccer has permeated throughout many of his “stepping stones” in his life. Other than his current position with Hartford City FC, Simao was an executive producer of Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story, a documentary detailing the successes and hardships of a professional soccer player.
He is also a co-founder of the non-profit American Outlaws Hartford Chapter Inc.
American Outlaws is an organization of American soccer fans who gather together to watch and cheer on the professional United States soccer team. The Hartford chapter started in 2009, after Simao joined what at the time was a small group of loyal soccer fans at City Steam to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Once the chapter was formed, the group started meeting at Damon’s Tavern on the Hartford/West Hartford line, and that was where everyone went to watch soccer. It started with 25 members, and has grown to more than 500. There are now more than 40,000 American Outlaws across the nation among more than 200 chapters.
The local group is now housed in downtown Hartford, in The Crossbar at Tavern.
Sarwar, the team’s owner and a West Hartford native as well as a Conard graduate, also maintains strong ties to the West Hartford community. Right now, however, Sarwar is out of town with his role as an officer in the Connecticut Air National Guard as part of the 103rd Airlift Wing.
As its inaugural season nears the end, Hartford City FC looks to add another win to their 3-3-3 record on Sunday. “Bringing soccer to the community is so important for the next generation,” Simao said.
With the team’s success in only its first season, the future of Hartford City FC and the next generation of local soccer players looks bright.
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