Intent on changing soccer culture in the United States, Natalie Portman and other public figures founded the club Angel City FC .
LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González
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Leer en español: Angel City FC: Gran apuesta de Natalie Portman en el fútbol femenino
"Angel City isn't just another soccer club". Under this motto, an institution that seeks to do things differently in the world of soccer begins to take its first steps, which will also be based in the city of Los Angeles, in the United States. And it is that for this dream to materialize, they had to have the support of investors and public figures who are not usually linked to this sport, where the name of actress Natalie Portman stands out as one of the founders of Angel City FC.
As often happens in these cases, the typical start of an expansion club is difficult, especially when it is in women's soccer. Signing good players, attracting the attention of the fans, generating a sense of belonging, are just some of the steps that must be overcome step by step. However, with Angel City FC things don't look so typical, why? Because the new team of the National Women's Soccer League of the United States (NWSL for its acronym in English) has begun to revolutionize the soccer culture of the country since before its debut.
To find out more about how this team project that is led mostly by women came about, you have to go back to 2019. In that year, Natalie Portman was attending a soccer game of the United States Women's National Team with her friends Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, Uzo Aduba and Jessica Chastain. After witnessing the USA's consecration at the Women's World Cup and being captivated by the personalities and mission of its players, the actress began looking for ways to draw attention to the fight for equal pay in soccer.
«Al ver a mi hijo idolatrar a jugadores como Megan Rapinoe y Alex Morgan de la misma manera que lo hizo con Lionel Messi o Karim Benzema, me di cuenta de que amplificar a las atletas femeninas podría cambiar rápidamente la cultura» - Natalie Portman para The Guardian
But the issue went far beyond economics. Portman was even bothered by the fact that not even the best female soccer players had a retirement plan or some kind of compensation to live on after their professional activity. It is from then on that the inspiration begins to emerge to create a different model in the world of soccer and thus found Angel City FC, a club that would be everything the actress wanted women's soccer to become.
The path was not going to be easy, but thanks to the right people, everything would bear fruit. Portman first shared his idea with Kara Nortman, a venture capital executive in Los Angeles, and then with Julie Uhrman, a technology executive. The time was right and none of the three missed the opportunity. Over time, the initial investors appeared and the stars continued to align themselves with the contribution of figures from the Hollywood industry such as James Corden, Christina Aguilera, the aforementioned Garner, Longoria, Aduba and Chastain, as well as athletes such as Serena Williams, Mia Hamm and Cobi Jones.
"It got to the point where we didn't have to look for investors. They came to us because they wanted to be a part of Angel City and they understood the role they would have to play as investors. That makes them the best kind of owner, because they care so much about the side. both on the purpose and on the profit side", highlighted Julie Uhrman in an interview with local media. And it is that today Angel City FC has more than 60 co-owners, of which two thirds are women.
A purpose with great expectations
What is Natalie Portman and Angel City FC looking to change and promote? As stated on the club's official website, the purpose is nothing more than "to set higher expectations and unite everyone equally to fly higher together every day." Likewise, this vision also includes a fund of players that can guarantee them safety, trust and fair treatment.
On the other hand, it is also worth noting that thanks to the club's associations with the sponsors, they have been able to contribute in different ways to the community, among which are donations of sports equipment to young athletes and the planting of seven gardens in the primary schools of the locality. But what has attracted the most attention is that the club contributes 10% of its sponsorship income, which exceeds $30 million, according to Uhrman, for the benefit of the community.
But not all the weight should fall in the offices, but also within the field. Eniola Aluko, a former professional player, is in charge of the sporting direction of Angel City FC and her first hire was to be a coach who was aligned with the purpose of the club, and that is how Freya Coombe arrived. The English strategist will have a varied squad that includes university soccer players, selected from the expansion draft, some names with a long history in the league, and even foreign signings.
In short, Angel City FC has a mindset and focus that is unprecedented on this side of the world. Regardless of whether they manage to become a competitive team this season, all efforts go into enhancing their values and making women's soccer well recognized globally as well. Will they be able to do it? There is no other choice but to take flight with them and find out.