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JUST FOR KICKS: New Memphis soccer era kicking in with eclectic vibe

by Brian Clay, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Fred Jones and United Soccer League star Tim Howard were on hand to welcome the latest addition to the Memphis sports scene: Memphis 901 FC. (Courtesy photo)

The Memphis 901 FC — the funky name of the new United Soccer League franchise — has an eclectic vibe suitable for the “Home of the Blues.”

Yes, Memphis, the “world’s game” has finally come back to Memphis and debuted in a way that is totally unique to the city of Memphis.

That’s how team president Craig Unger described the decision behind the name of the city’s new pro soccer team. Unger, who is also the general manager, president and minority owner of the Memphis Redbirds AAA baseball team, said there was a conscious move to develop a soccer team that complemented the Redbirds yet stood on its own.

The crest of the Memphis 901 FC franchise is a mix of soulful colors, highlighting the “M,” almost like a king’s crown saluting the “King of Blues” B.B. King and “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Elvis Presley.

“Whether it is the home of the blues or the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll,” Unger said, “tying in the music and what really makes Memphis was a big part of it.”

The inaugural season won’t begin until 2019 but merchandise went on sale Saturday at the team store in AutoZone Park. Later that day, a sold-out crowd of almost 9,000 watched the “Soccer Showdown” exhibition match at the ballpark — featuring the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the USL Tulsa Roughnecks FC.

LeMoyne-Owen College senior Fred Jones was a part of the 901 Day activities at the stadium that day. “It was such an exhilarating experience to be a part of the birth of the Memphis 901 FC franchise,” said Jones, who is Mr. LeMoyne-Owen College and a correspondent for Greater Memphis Media, Inc.

“The high point of the day was when I met Tim Howard and took a picture with the international soccer star and goalie for the MLS Colorado Rapids.”

Howard, who has played all over the world, is an African-American who has been championing and promoting the new franchise in Memphis.

“Soccer is the world’s game and as young African American, I see Memphis 901 FC as my team,” Jones said.

(Brian Clay, founder/executive director of Greater Memphis Media, Inc., is the creator/executive producer/host of “The Brian Clay Chronicles.”)

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