Having celebrated their 10th anniversary last year, there is no sign that the Chinatown Soccer Club will rest on the laurels. Having hosted the inaugural Chinatown Invitational over the weekend, I thought there was no better time to catch up with the “coach” Gerhard Stochl and discuss the finer elements of the Chinatown Soccer Club.
JAMES OLIVER / Its been just over a decade for the CHINATOWN SOCCER CLUB, what was the catalyst for starting the club?
GERHARD STOCHL / The Chinatown Soccer Club came together back in 2002, when Adidas invited a bunch of downtown Manhattan stores, crews, and personalities to take part in a soccer tournament to coincide with the World Cup in Korea and Japan. Inspired by the upcoming AdiCup and late-night marathons watching live matches from Asia, we started meeting a few mornings a week to sharpen our skills.
In the early days there was just a simple email list to call games but over time, the CSC started to grow, embracing friends and acquaintances from the downtown creative community. It’s definitely a group of strong personalities, but we always had a true sense of respect for each other and maintained a positive and inclusive atmosphere on the pitch, regardless of individual skill level or gender.
JAMES OLIVER / What and who is CSC?
GERHARD STOCHL / Since the club grew organically by accepting only friends of friends, there was a basic system in place that ensured a community of like-minded creative individuals who understood that our games aren’t about who could score the most goals or dribble from one end of the field to the other. The result is a really positive atmosphere on the pitch—and on the sidelines—with people encouraging each other and having a chat between games.
JAMES OLIVER /What is the philosophy for CSC?
GERHARD STOCHL / I think the idea behind the CSC—of creating a positive environment for a sport that all too often gets taken over by jocks and soccer moms—is something that echoes far beyond the borders of the five boroughs. Ever since we started to export our vision of soccer via our socials, publications, shirts, scarves, and collaborations with other companies, we have gotten encouraging feedback from creatives around the world who share our interpretation of the game. Some of them are forming similar clubs in places like London and Montreal, which is really amazing and helps grow a grassroots soccer movement outside the mainstream. Our focus is on putting forward a creative, positive and inclusive vision of the sport we all love.
JAMES OLIVER / Can anyone play for CSC?
GERHARD STOCHL / I would love to answer with an emphatic yes but in the real world that’s just not possible. We have a limited amount of space and time on the pitch that makes it hard for existing club members to get enough minutes of playing time. We occasional accept new recruits when somebody moves away but usually those come from within our own immediate universe. At the same time, we encourage people to start their own clubs and crews to help grow this movement.
JAMES OLIVER / CSC is much more than an occasional kick around, can you talk about some of the projects you have been involved in the past and how they represent your concept.
GERHARD STOCHL / Over time, the CSC has became a platform to express ourselves via self-published photo books, a haphazard clothing line, the mandatory batch of stickers and a limited run of soccer scarves. Along the way, we were lucky enough to get to customize our very own pair of Adidas Topsala sneakers and release a soccer-specific backpack with our friends at Incase. We have also had the opportunity to edit and design a special issue of Arkitip magazine to celebrate the World Cup in South Africa back in 2010 and have been the subject of a three-part documentary about our club made in collaboration with Adidas and VICE to help celebrate out tenth anniversary last year. In addition, we have been invited to build temporary clubhouse installations showcasing club paraphernalia, artwork and photos in Vienna, London and New York City over the past few years. All of this goes back to our idea of utilizing the creative energies in and around certain pockets of the global soccer community to make and produce things that echo our vision of the game.
JAMES OLIVER / What is your main goal and ambition for CSC for the future?
GERHARD STOCHL / First and foremost to keep playing and for our community to stay together. New York can be a very transient place so to have something that’s been a big part of all of our lives for over a decade is pretty amazing. As far as CSC the brand is concerned, we have a bunch of things in store for this year so stay tuned.
JAMES OLIVER / You recently had the inaugural Chinatown Invitational, can you please talk a bit about this.
GERHARD STOCHL / Competition has never been a big part of how we see the game. That being said, we traveled to London last year as part of the doc we worked on with Adidas and VICE and played a friendly against our local sister club, the Soho Warriors FC. That in turn inspired them to visit us in New York this month and when their plans had firmed up, I invited the Ringleaders FC from Montreal to come down as well. It just so happened that another team from London, Boundary Estate FC, was in New York on the same weekend so we included them too. It was very much a DIY event, with everybody traveling on their own dime, drinks at Max Fish the night before and the customary early-morning CSC kickoff. By far the most rewarding thing about the whole experience was seeing everybody have a good time, no aggro bullshit on the pitch and lots of laughter on the sidelines. The Soho Warriors (who have by far the youngest squad) ended up taking the famous Golden Pig trophy back to London but it’s only on loan until next year.
JAMES OLIVER / Taking the Chinatown Invitational forward, what are your plans?
GERHARD STOCHL / We would definitely like to make the Chinatown Invitational an annual thing. Maybe include a few more clubs from around the globe and invite them to enjoy a weekend of good vibes on the pitch.
JAMES OLIVER / Favourite team?
GERHARD STOCHL / Growing up in Vienna, Austria, I supported Rapid Wien. I then lived in Germany for a few years when I was a teenager and enjoyed going to Borussia Dortmund games. In the English Premier League, I lean towards that team which everyone hates, Manchester United. Mainly because of Sir Alex Ferguson. And the genius of Eric Cantona, of course. Seagulls following the trawler and all that.
JAMES OLIVER / Favourite player?
GERHARD STOCHL / That one is easy. Zinedine Zidane.
JAMES OLIVER / Final words of wisdom?
GERHARD STOCHL / Try and remember to have fun out there on the pitch. It’s cool to try and play well but none of us are ever gonna play in a Champions League final anymore so best to keep it positive with your friends and save the shouting for the stadium.