England & Premier League legend, Shawn Wright-Phillips dropped in on the boys at the beach and brought the premier league trophy with him.
Mbappé at the Estadio De Dogtown
By 4:00PM on June 16th, word was out that this was a special day of pickup on the horizon. Layers of people completely surrounded the court as the local crew were battling it out. A week before, we heard there was a chance that World Cup Winner, PSG/France’s frontman Kylian Mbappé might stop by to play. Excitement, anticipation and joy filled the air at and created a truly amazing atmosphere at Estadio de Dogtown as everyone waited for the arrival of Kylian.
The anticipation soon turned to sheer awe and amazement when Mbappe arrived and took to the court. Four of our top youth prospects had the opportunity to play against and alongside Mbappe in an experience they will cherish forever. His play, flicks and tricks were all amazing to see for any soccer fan and having a sideline view of this was captivating for the whole crowd. However, it seemed that his aura, presence and charismatic character are what drew everyone in most.
VBFC takes prides in giving back to its community and creating a safe environment for young boys and girls in Venice to achieve their soccer dreams. Mbappe, at just 20 years old has already one a World Cup, became the second most expensive player ever in the world, won the 2018/19 French league player of the year, and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a charity that helps disabled children be active participants in sport, which is what made this collaboration and visit all the more fulfilling. Two groups giving back to help the youth in the future.
Photography by Devin Lamoreaux (@devinlamoreaux)
Club America is one of the most successful and widely-respected clubs in Mexican futbol. They've won a collective 13 Liga MX titles, holding the record for the most domestic trophies of any Mexican team. We, at VBFC, were honored to have that very same Liga MX Apertura trophy visit Estadio de Dogtown while its current holders played against Atlas (another historically significant club in Mexican soccer) at the Stubhub Center on the other side of Los Angeles.
Among the many fan-favorites on the field for Club America, is Paul Aguilar. Aguilar, now 33, has starred for Pachuca in over 100 appearances, for Club America in over 250 appearances, and has over 50 caps for the Mexican National Team. He's represented the tricolor in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, and multiple Copa Americas and international friendlies, playing against the best players in the world on the biggest stage.
Gerardo (12) and Andres (10) aren't all that different from a young Paul Aguilar. They have those same dreams. They dream of representing their country, and are currently representing themselves and Venice. And they ain't doing too bad.
Saturday nights at futsal club. Sunday afternoons at Estadio. Doesn't matter. These young men are always giving their best; because they want to be the best. More importantly, they have a character and attitude about them that impressed us from day one.
Here's a typical example of that character and attitude that we admire so much in them:
They're the first to show up to futsal club. They're the last to leave. Meaning, they pack up all the gear with the coaches after everyone already left to go home.
US Women’s National Team Inspire VBFC Youth.
Before the beat down of 6-0, six girls from the neighborhood VBFC - Oakwood Soccer League were selected to walk out with a national team player who has inspired them for Sundays game against Belgium. This game was special because each national team player walked out the tunnel wearing the name of the young players they’ve inspired. Mallory Pugh was wearing lil Gerardo’s younger sisters name on her jersey. These six young girls have been playing soccer with us at Oakwood for a few years and have been whoopin on all the neighborhood boys kinda like the Belgians for awhile now. This experience has only planted the seeds into their little imaginations of what’s possible in life.
THe LA GALAXY recently put out this video celebrating the womens game. LA Galaxy have been leading the way and one of the only MLS teams to feature a girls academy along side the boys. Thank you to the galaxy organization for featuring some of the female talent that has been lighting up the Estadio since the begining.
Photo credit: Hana Asano (@hanaasano)
On December 29th, 2018, VBFC youth would compete in their first ever organized tournament, representing Venice.
Every major club in world football owes a large part (if not all of) their success to the quality of the players, coaching and curriculum of their youth system. The common denominator at legendary youth academies around the world – this includes FC Barcelona's "La Masia", Ajax's "De Toekomst" – is always the prioritization of player development over championships or trophies. For all of us at Venice Beach Football Club, the Oakwood Rec Center provides the setting for that growth and development to take place.
The feeling and sense of pride one has in representing their community's hometown club is truly special. Lessons learned in training at a young age can, quite literally, determine a player's path in this game. In the best youth academies across the world of soccer, young players are challenged both on and off the field. The expectations of professionalism, dedication and a consistent work ethic are balanced by a healthy environment and atmosphere. It's always about what is best for players, and ultimately for the club. At the Oakwood Rec Center, players have been immersed every Saturday in a professional environment that encourages them to take responsibility for their development, challenge themselves and have fun doing it. Once they arrive at Oakwood, they are free from their club/academy team environments. They're playing and competing to better themselves. No trophies. No championships. Just the desire to get better.
For the tournament, coaches, parents and players travelled south to Irvine, CA carrying the reputation of the city on the backs. Most had never played futsal before, and many had never played with each other. But the work had been done. Both Teams boys 08 & 09 walked away champions against some of southern California’s top futsal programs, giving VBFC their first ever youth trophies.
Venice is proud of you boys.
Presented by Copa90
A storybook ending to a magical year. We were grateful to cap off an incredible 2018 that saw Venice host talent from across the globe, including FC Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, and numerous others. For nearly 2 years now, every Sunday at Estadio de Dogtown locals play into the moonlight in the company of professional players, amateurs, internationally-known musicians, local high school/college players, homeless and everybody in between. The event itself was a celebration of this pickup game, football's presence in Dogtown, and the local community - who showed up in numbers to support their hometown club.
Venice Beach Football Club, in collaboration with COPA90, present the first ever Venice Invitational.
On December 14th 2018, Venice Beach Football Club, in collaboration with COPA90, presented first ever Venice Invitational - a tournament that celebrated some of the top talent to grace the Estadio over the last year.
The First Annual Venice Invitational 2018 did not disappoint. Players from all over LA, and even US Women’s National Team player Allie Long came along with her squad from New York, which included her husband Bati, a professional futsal player. Allie and Co. decided the All Star game wasn’t enough, and they needed to play in the tournament. This turned out to be a smart move, as Allie definitely got her off season touches in on the day and won the whole damn thing in the process.
NBA MVP Steve Nash showed the people of Dogtown that his talent is universal between sports. Premier League & MLS Legends combined to put on a show during the Legends game for the biggest crowd Venice has ever seen at a soccer event. The Estadio never looked so good.
The party got started on the sand at Muscle Beach, right around the Estadio wall. There was Samba music being played, bicycle kicks being flung in mid-air and good vibes all around in the Venice Invitational Footvolley tournament. Exciting matches, postcard-like weather, the California sun, the beach and of course Roge and company's delicious "mate". It's quickly become tradition to sip on a cup of "mate" between games. There's no better way to enjoy futevolei in the California sun. Roge and company eventually presented Thiago Lusardi & Joao Barreto with the first Futevolei championship trophy, forever engraving their names in the sand of Muscle Beach forever on.
Directly afterward the futvolei competition, the Venice Invitational pick up games kicked off. Estadio's finest footballers - almost completely comprised of participants of our Sunday pick up games throughout the yea - were called upon once more in 2018 to showcase their talents on the court. This time, the audience was larger than ever. Fans, players, tourists, locals, neighbors, family and friends were all part of a diverse and energized crowd. Local talent was abundant on the day, featuring the likes of Nick Santhiago (VBFC, UC Berkeley, Golden State Force) and Alessandro Canale (US Beach National Team, UC San Diego, Orange County FC) Michael Rosario, Karim Barcelo, Igor Lants, Ashley Oswald and many other Sunday faces.
Special guest, Allie Long (US Women's National Team, Seattle Reign), brought her crew of New Yorkers to rep the east coast in America's most sought after pick up game; only now trading the Atlantic breakwater for the cool, Pacific breeze. All eyes were on the court, no one wanted to miss a second of 5 straight hours of high-stakes concrete football.
To decide who would battle it out for the right to call themselves "Dogtown Royalty", all 12 teams competed in a simple pick-up style group stage - same format as any other Sunday, but now with much more at stake. The rules stayed the same: one goal and you're off. Top two teams with the most points would compete in a final match of two 10 minute halves, following the Legends Match. There were silky moves, desperate tackles, and raw passion for 3 hours. DJ Ptrix had the music pulsating through the veins of everybody in and around Estadio. Professional barbers and Sunday regulars, Marcos (@lavishfades) and Oliver (@revilomota) were dishing out fresh fades behind the goal. Guest MC, Antonio (local legend, VBFC Reserve Team Captain), provided riveting Spanish commentary when he wasn't scoring golazos on the court. "Oohs" and "ahhs" rung around the Estadio throughout the event, as the crowd showed nothing but love for the ankle-breakers, assertive tackles and flare put on display by the players.
As the qualification matches winded down, Allie Long's New York crew started racking up a ridiculous amount of wins. Igor's baby blue squad and Michael Rosario's gold-striped amigos ended the qualification matches in a deadlock with 13 wins a piece. However, before the deadlock could be broken to see who would face Long's New Yorkers in red, the Legends would set foot on the Estadio court.
We didn't call it the "Legends Match" for nothing...
Lee Nguyen (former US National Team, LAFC) brought his smart, skillful and calculated play to the court for the pink squad, while playing alongside crosstown rival, Servando Carrasco (UC Berkeley, LA Galaxy). Lauren Sessleman (Canadian Women's National Team) brought the hustle for the pink squad, with goal-saving tackles. Stu Holden (US National Team, Bolton Wanderers) of the baby blue squad, had the highlight of the legends game, sending former Bolton Wanderers teammate, Zat Knight (former England National Team, Bolton Wanderers), to the skatepark with a silky snake with his back to goal. Steve Nash's (back to back NBA MVP with the Phoenix Suns) vision and touch had the local crowd scratching their heads, wondering why he wasn't drafted into the MLS instead of the NBA.
MVP by default, was without a doubt, US Women's National Team player, Allie Long. This woman did not stop. She balled out in every minute of every game from the start of the qualification matches, rallying her squad to top the leaderboard in total wins. And she continued to ball in the Legends Game, stringing passes together for the baby blue squad, winning the Legends Game in the process. After a spectacular, star-studded display - the Venice Invitational Championship Match was set the begin.
The stage was set. But first, a tie-breaker had to be played. Igor vs Michael. Drew vs Antonio. Chris vs Karim. Nick vs Ronaldo. Ashley vs Nicole. Baby Blue vs Gold-Stripes. It was a tense match, as the usual rules were in place; one goal and you're off. After a high-paced and intense back and forth, baby blue squad finally broke the deadlock after Nick Santhiago drew the attention of two defenders and dished a ball to Chris Lopez, who guided the ball into the net with a no look, backheel touch. Just like that, Rosario's luscious, flowing curls were banished from the court. Pain on one side. Joy on the other.
Enter, Allie Long.
The championship match between Allie Long's squad and Igor's local crew was a tense one. Two 10 minute halves. Nothing more, nothing less. Everyone on the beach had their eyes on Estadio. The local kid, Nick Santhiago repping his hometown club in the baby blue kits he designed himself; Allie Long reppin' the east coast in the red. The local crew took an early lead. Two goal by the local kid, Nick Santhiago and one more by part-time dentist, full-time baller, Igor Lants. The baby blue squad went into halftime with a lead, but were edged out in the second half, as Long's squad pounced on some rare mistakes. That's the New York state of mind. Time was winding down. The local crew, heartbroken, but proud, accepted their fate. The East Coast had taken the Championship on the westside in the first annual Venice Invitational. Mad respect for Allie Long and the New York crew.
Mark, or "Pops" as he's affectionately referred to by the locals, closed out a truly amazing day with a heartwarming speech while players, fans, and spectators all helped pack up shop. Remember, this ain't Gunsmoke, it's Cops and Robbers. The pen is mightier than the sword. And communication rules the nation.
The sun was setting at Estadio de Dogtown. For one day, people from all walks of life witnessed the First Annual Venice Invitational. It was a day that was not only a celebration of the sport, but of all the people that made that day possible. Everyone who came to a pick up game on a Sunday over the year and built the family that has grown on this patch of concrete on the boardwalk. All the families who want their kids to be part of a club that is bigger than youth soccer, and bigger than them. And all the characters in this club who bring color, heart and soul to our game here in Venice.
Our friends at Red Bull gave us the keys to the consulate for the night. We decided to throw a party and highlight some of the artists within our club. We’ve been extremely fortunate with so many different creative talents within one organization. Whether it’s photography, video production, painting, or graphic design, we’ve seen some amazing work come out of our community by some of LA’s most talented players & supporters. Some of the talent on display was work by local pickup legend/ US Beach National Team Alessandro Canale, Venice local Photographer Josh Rose, Baller of the streets/pitch/camera Devin LaMoreaux, Linden Degurian, Nick Santhiago, Joe Walsh, and Ben Green.
Location: Estadio De Dogtown
Photography By RJ McNichols (@Rjmcnichols4)
Versus Atletico Madrid
The girl Eunice Beckmann recently did this to Atletico Madrid.
We were super lucky to have Eunice around this summer. Having played with FC Bayern, Basel, and now Madrid CFF, it was special to see such a talent show up for pickup.
Before starting the season in Spain this year, Eunice spent the summer training with the club here in Venice. Through out the week she would put work in session after session in the gym, field, and beach always with a smile on her face.
On Sunday afternoons she was putting on shows at the Estadio. Her ability on the ball was fun to watch and her eye for goal made it clear why she was leading scorer for the Swiss side last season. Not only did she show everyone around her what a professional looks like, she donated her time to help coach the VBFC girls, played in a few games with them, and even rainbow’d a couple of players. There isn’t a better role model out there for any young girl with big dreams.
Summer Youth Camp
The Next Generation of Local Talent.
As the end of summer loomed, we brought together a handful of the players from our Oakwood Youth League to participate in a preseason-style training camp at Oakwood Rec Center in the heart of Venice. The kids battled it out in the heat working on their fundamentals and creating stronger bonds with their teammates/neighbors. Players trained both on the pitch and on the court working hard to get better each day of the camp.
Our City // Our Future
FCB X VBFC
BARCA AT THE ESTADIO
July 27th, 2018 marked history in Venice for local football. We had the privilege to host the one and only FC BARCELONA as they visited Los Angeles during their preseason US Tour. The Venice Rec Center was turned into a mini stadium to host competitions and clinics by some of FC Barcelona's academy coaches for VBFC Youth. Though there was competitions taking place such as LAFC vs. Barca Academy and VBFC First Team vs. The Barca WOmen's teams, The day had vibes more of a celebration of FC Barcelona taking over Dogtown than anything else. With a busy crowd the whole day of true Barca faithful, fans took any chance they could to grab a photo and autograph from legendary FCB & Spanish midfielder LUIS Garcia, who was on hand the whole day coaching and playing.
Another Legend on hand was Venice's very own Stu Holden. Fresh off a plane from Russia commentating for the FIFA World Cup all summer, the former US national team player showed why he was feared by opposition in the English premier league. With a crowd of Barca fans and the VBFC community on hand, Stu lit the mini turf field up with nutmegs and precise passing, as VBFC Venice youth watched on to take in each touch.
Local legends were not limited to those on the field. Venice artist Gustavo Zemenjo Jr. created a masterpiece with his painting of the contrasting stadiums of the Estadio De Dogtown and the Camp Nou, Barcelona's home ground. Even FC Barcelona's Club Vice President Jordi Cardoner enjoyed the artwork and events on the day. This was truly a special day for the local community, and we look forward to FCB returning to the US in 2020.
VBFC DOGTOWN SESSIONS: FEATURING LEE NGUYEN
Estadio De Dogtown
Venice Youth take over the New Nike Just Do It HQ in Hollywood
On June 21st, Nike invited VBFC youth players to their new home base for training - the Nike Just do it hq - In Hollywood. Nike were kind enough to send a bus over to Deuce Gym - our own gym in Venice - to pick up the whole squad to head down to the state of the art facility. We packed in 25 youth players and headed east to the Nike's newest training spot.
Upon arrival players were quickly given nike training gear and a run down of the workout ahead. Just do It HQ is a state of the art training center designed for nike's world class athletes to train, fuel, recover and work with some of the world's top fitness professionals.
The huge compound has a world class gym, recovery center, and nutritional cafe all on site. It was an eye-opening experience for young athletes to witness how professionals train and spend just as much time on recovery and nutrition to continually maximize their athletic potential & performance.
Spurs Visit the Estadio
Tottenham Hotspurs were in town during their preseason tour of the US. The boys from north London played FC Barcelona on July 28th & decided in between training sessions to pay a visit to the world famous Estadio de Dogtown and kick it with some of Venice's Finest. England U20 international Kyle Walker-Pieters and Brazilian international Lucas Moura shopped for Sunglasses, while Victor Wanyama and GK Paulo Gazzaniga decided to stop by Muscle Beach to check out some of the regulars.
Lee Nguyen is one of the most creative and impactful midfielders in the MLS - and he's been that way for the last 5 years. This year he was brought in to LAFC to pull the strings in the midfield and be the creative visionary amongst the abundance of attacking talent at the Banc of California Stadium. Lee took some time out of his schedule to visit the world-famous Estadio and work with some of the local youth, who one day aspire to be in his shoes.
After becoming the nation's top talent in high school, and leaving Indiana University after just one semester, Nguyen began his professional career by signing a three-and-half-year deal with Dutch Eredivisie team PSV Eindhoven in February 2006. Nguyen then signed with the Danish Superliga club Randers FC in 2008, before playing with two clubs in his family's native Vietnam
After a few years in Vietnam, Lee moved back stateside and signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps, and eventually the New England Revolution. in 2014, Nguyen led the Revolution with 18 goals and 5 assists - which is the most ever by a midfielder in an MLS season -and was again voted team MVP. For his contributions to the team—including 9 game-winning goals in the regular season—Nguyen was named as a finalist for the 2014 version of the Major League Soccer MVP Award along with Seattle Sounders forward Obafemi Martins and Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane. Nguyen's goal against the Houston Dynamo also made it to the final round of voting for the 2014 version of the MLS Goal of the Year Award.
Lee spent the day answering questions, giving advice, and even playing games against the local VBFC Youth. the kids were awestruck to be on the same court as such a talent. There is massive excitement about one of the country's top attacking midfielders playing in LA, and the Venice youth will have another local role model for years to come.
VBFC regular and LA Galaxy talisman julian büscher is a true footballing talent who lives & breathes the game. Julian is also a regular at sunday pickup and is always there to get touches when the galaxy are off. when we asked if he would come by to give some inspiration to the kids and show them what a life dedicated to this game looks like, he didn't hesitate.
jUlian is dedicated not only to his professional career, but also to helping young players grow in their game -- and he knows how important it is to play wherever and whenever you get the chance. for the boys that day, he was able to show them that regardless of the surface or the elements, when you come to play, you need to show up to become a better player. Part of our mission is to give these young players role models and mentors. Julian embodies that role as a resource for any young local player to look up to.
Photos by Ben Green (@ben_green) / Joe Walsh (@tmesisfc)
VBFC Girls: Eunice Beckmann drops by the Estadio
Day one of Dogtown Youth sessions was a special beginning to the week. The youth girls had the opportunity to learn from two-time Bundesliga winner Eunice Beckmann. Eunice has played in our weekly pickup game several times, and it was evident shortly after her debut that she was a world-class player. her technique, flair, and the joy she has for the game shines through whenever she is on the ball. at the clinic, she showcased this to the young girls to show them what the future could look like for them with the right mindset.
Before hitting the court for estadio-style pickup, The girls were put through some technical and conditioning work on the beach to warm up and work on the physical side of their game.
Dedication to hard work: at the end of the session, Eunice was able to spend some time with the girls and breakdown what it took for her to get to the highest level of the women's professional game. one thing she was sure to get across to these girls: play every chance that you get and work hard when no one is looking. even in her off-season, Eunice made time to get out to Venice to join in on Sundays. Eunice has now opened the page to the next chapter in her career out in Spain, in a real Madrid affiliated women's side. we will be sure to keep updates on her journey.
The girls had some great take aways from the experience on day one and its safe to say everyone had fun spending time at the estadio playing Queen of the court until the sun began to set.
Photography by: Joe Walsh (@tmesisfc)
My journey as a soccer player started at Estadio from a young age. Passing the ball against the wall over 100 times to practice my first touch; running the stairs at muscle beach at night; juggling the ball the length of the boardwalk without dropping it. Those were my “practice sessions” after long days throughout middle and high school. It got me a soccer scholarship to play D2 soccer in San Francisco, though I would be recovering from reconstructive knee surgery after tearing my ACL and rupturing my MCL and meniscus, the entirety of my freshman year.
After two years of playing, with struggles on and off the field I came back to Venice. I was taking transfer courses and had two part time jobs, training on my own whenever I had time. At that point, there were only two consistent things for me soccer-wise: my ambition to go out and practice by myself, and Sunday pick up with VBFC. I was playing with VBFC almost every Sunday and was eventually invited to train with FC Golden State by one of the coaches I played against in a pick up game at Estadio.
On the morning of May 25th, after having trained and played with Golden State for about two months, I got a text at 10am in the middle of a training session with friends from Sunday pick up. At 10:30am I was at the UCLA club soccer field waiting for the arrival of the team we would be scrimmaging against. I saw Guillermo Ochoa walk off the bus, followed by Chicharito and others. Having the opportunity to be on the same field as, and playing against world class players like Hector Herrera and Marco Fabian was an incredible experience. I wasn’t nervous, I was just enjoying the moment; the opportunity that presented itself after 21 years of sacrifices for this sport. I felt inspired and motivated to take everything I could from the experience because I remembered all those nights where it was just me and my ball.
It’s humbling to think that my journey started at Estadio, and brought me to UCLA to play against the Mexican national team. More than anything, the whole experience serves as a reminder that every moment in life and soccer, good or bad, is just a step, not the whole staircase. "
- Nick Santhiago
Venice Beach FC Footballer/Artist/Coach