Carmelo Anthony Aims to Give Puerto Ricans a Team of Their Own

Carmelo Anthony PRFC NASL

by JAKE NUTTING

Saturday’s friendly between Puerto Rico FC and the Puerto Rican national team was a meaningful moment — not only for the latest NASL startup as it inches closer to its July debut, but also for its celebrity owner Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony’s side knocked off the national team 1-0 through a goal from Joseph “Jackie” Marrero. The NBA star was on hand at Belson Stadium in Queens to shake hands and take in the team’s first public scrimmage before serving as King of Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day Parade.

In an interview with Jason Davis on Sirius XM FC’s United States of Soccer ahead of the match, Anthony acknowledged the mounting excitement of seeing several years worth of hard work come to fruition as the team is now less than a month away from its first NASL match.

“Knowing the process I had to go through, and the journey from where we started and where we’re at right now, it’s great,” Anthony told Davis. “I finally get the chance to see all the hard work that everybody put in. From the front office staff, to the players, just the overall club in general.”

There were, and still remain plenty, of naysayers regarding the NASL’s return to the Caribbean island. The Puerto Rico Islanders were a founding member of the modern NASL in 2011 but only lasted two seasons before financial insecurity forced them to take a temporary hiatus that became permanent.

The economy in Puerto Rico has dipped further since the Islanders folded and soccer still lags behind other sports in terms of popularity on the island, but Anthony firmly believes there is a thirst for a top-flight professional soccer club.

“It took me a couple years to really think about it and do my research,” Anthony said of the lengthy process that has led to this moment. “I really hit the ground and went around talking to people. I didn’t just do this to say I’m forcing a soccer team in Puerto Rico. This was a consensus. This is for the fans out there who wanted it.

“I would go to [Puerto Rican national team] games and I would see there was no marketing. It was just a couple posts on Facebook and YouTube, and they’d have 10 or 11,000 off of two days of marketing. So there was a need and a want for a team down in the island. You just gotta give it to them.

“For me, I just want to give them a professional club, something they can call their own.”

Anthony has assembled a solid team, with the hiring of former LA Galaxy executive Thomas Payne as President and longtime Puerto Rico Islanders coach Adrian Whitbread to lead his team, but he claims he’ll still be hands-on in a number of areas. The opportunity to sculpt a franchise of his own from the ground up is likely too tempting to pass up for the star athlete.

“I’m a competitor, and in all my businesses I want to be hands-on,” he admitted. “I want to be involved and know what’s going on. But at the end of the day you gotta put the right people around you… I hired Tom Payne to run my club, to run everything.

“For me it’s more about making sure that we have a top notch club, a world-wide club, a professional club. From the stadium, to the grass that’s in the stadium, what the fans want, the fan experience, uniforms, making the players feel comfortable and at ease so all they have to do is worry about performing on the field. They don’t have to worry about anything else off the field. When it comes to that, I’m very hands on.”

He may approach his ownership role from a unique perspective given his athletic career, but Anthony seems like a natural fit among his fellow NASL owners based on his thoughts regarding the turf battle between the league and MLS.

According to him, being able to own every aspect of his club outright in the NASL is essential. Outside of that major difference between the two leagues, though, Anthony sees no other significant differences.

“The business model is definitely a different model than MLS, but at the end of the day I don’t see a major difference in the competition,” he stated. “There’s just two different leagues. MLS is known as the big league in America, and in a couple years I see, hopefully, my dream is one big league here in the U.S. May the best teams win.”

Puerto Rico FC is slated to make their NASL debut on July 2 when they host the presumptive Spring Season champion Indy Eleven at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium.

  • The rock

    Does this tool know nasl is going to break sooner than later.
    We all know he sucks in basketball and only cares about his money but if he was smart, he could of gotten a billionaire group together and bought red bull.
    Beckham was restricted from ny but carmelo could of gone after red bull. Just saying y’all