By Ryan Bailey
The network of Community Captains, comprised of business and community leaders from around the Carolinas, is helping Charlotte’s new team connect at a grassroots level
CHARLOTTE — Soccer is more than just the world’s most popular sport. It is, in many cases, the glue that holds a community together. All across the globe, teams offer a focal point for their respective communities, and a common bond for people from all backgrounds. It is often said that a football club is nothing without its fans.
“Soccer plays a key role in Charlotte’s underserved communities, and as a global game, it has a unique ability to bring people together,” says Charlotte FC Director of Community Engagement Dustin Swinehart. “From the outset, Charlotte’s Major League Soccer team has placed a strong focus on community outreach, and it will continue in its mission to affect positive social change in the city and the Carolinas.”
Comprising community and business leaders from around the Carolinas, the network is helping the club connect at a grassroots level. Community Captains advocate for the growth of the club, and facilitate a two-way flow of feedback and news between the club and its community.
“I want to help get the community excited about the new MLS team,” says Community Captain Dimitri Apostle, who runs an insurance agency in Waxhaw, N.C.
“Soccer has the largest reach of any sport in the world, and along with that comes the opportunity to unite people through a common passion. Through community events and youth programs, I’m excited to share my love of soccer with a new generation, and be at the ground floor of this great new franchise.”
Duane Dyer, who played competitive soccer in his native Trinidad & Tobago, will use his Community Captaincy to forge a bond between the team and Charlotte’s Caribbean communities.
“The Community Captains program is a great idea,” says Dyer. “I think Charlotte FC has realized the importance of community involvement, and if I can help get fans into the stadium, and get the team involved in the community, it will be mutually beneficial.”
Gustavo Bentos enjoyed a professional soccer career across South America before arriving in the Queen City to play for the Charlotte Eagles in 2008. Since hanging up his cleats in 2011, the Uruguayan has served as an Outreach and Hispanic Pastor at Northside Baptist Church.
“I decided to become a Charlotte FC Community Captain for many reasons,” says Bentos. “Obviously, I love soccer, and I know firsthand how much of a positive impact it can have on people’s lives.”
Bentos believes the team can serve the community by holding soccer clinics, arranging visits to schools, and working closely with amateur leagues. “I’m very honored to be part of the program, and I can’t wait to see how we can work more to bring the team to the community,” he adds.
There are few better ways to foster positive community engagement than via social media, which is why influencer Javier Morales—known as QC Javi online—is delighted to serve as a Community Captain.
“I am a connector between the Latinx community and everything happening in Charlotte,” says Morales. “I believe Charlotte FC can be a super successful team in MLS, but for that to happen, the fan base needs to be present. I want to impact as many people in the community as possible to ensure the success on the field for years to come.”
Morales is hoping to use his new role to bring the team and the city’s Latinx communities closer together. He also stresses the importance of reaching those who may have been underserved by traditional sporting franchises: “I hope Charlotte FC can support immigrant families in the city through soccer programs for underfunded communities, and embrace all the different cultures that love soccer in this state.”
Charlotte FC is currently taking applications for new Community Captains. Register your interest here.