The international sport of football, known in the United States as soccer, can have an enormous impact on Memphis. At least Seamus Loftus, owner of the Brass Door, thinks so.
Seamus has started a local football club called Liberty Football Club to engage younger Memphians in the globally loved sport. He believes the sport can make better citizens and a better Memphis. I had the opportunity to talk with Seamus about Liberty Football Club and citizen footballers.
C901: How and why did Liberty Football Club start?
Seamus: “Three years ago we got back into football and at the time we were based in Midtown at the Liberty Bowl, we have a field up there. We just wanted to coach kids. Both of us had been involved with football at the select level, which is travel squad. We wanted to make the game available. That was the real goal. Our real goal was to create availability to allow kids to come and join in and get some decent coaching.
“So we started out coaching and we got all kinds of kids. The sessions were free on Saturday mornings and are free on Saturday mornings. We then began to discover a little bit about the things that are great about Memphis is that it wasn’t just kids from the suburbs. It was black kids and Irish kids and this universal mishmash with boys and girls who actually had, quite gloriously, no agenda and just wanted to turn out, have fun, and be part of football.”
C901: How will Liberty Football help Memphis?
Seamus: “Being part of that football club gave me responsibility for your equipment the stuff that you own, being responsible to the club, being part of a group, listening to your coaches, all of these life lessons that we now have the opportunity to provide to this city and people not just in midtown. We have no ambitions to take over the world, to be a semi-pro football club. We just want to be a little club that teaches this beautiful game that’s universal to the kids in this town. Thankfully the city of Memphis has been very gracious and allowed us to rent some space from them.
“I always think that people in Memphis don’t even know. It’s like they’re in the greatest town in the world and they don’t get it. You’ve got a magnificent riverfront, you’re world-famous, there’s no music in this world without Memphis. We’ve got a great population, a great climate, and we’ve got great kids.”
C901: What do you hope to accomplish with Liberty Football?
Seamus: “We have a wonderful opportunity and that’s all we’re looking for is a chance. We’re not a club dedicated to traveling because that’s unfair. The reality is that some families can’t travel. Some families don’t have the money. Some are single parent families. Or you’ve got three kids and you’re trying to educate them and you’re working two jobs. Our mission, Liberty Football Club’s mission is to create ‘citizen footballers.’ Professional football players or college players will come from somewhere and maybe some will come through what we’re doing. But, I just want to be part of creating good Memphians. Guys who 25 years from now or 30 years from now come back and say ‘Ah he’s a writer now’ or ‘he owns a bar and a restaurant.’ Citizen footballers: guys and girls who do more good than bad and move the needle for our city because it’s such a tremendous town.
“I’ve been coaching in the states for 22 years. I’ve got kids who played for me who graduated colleges as D1 athletes, I’ve got kids who never went near college. But, they’re all decent human beings that have something universal in this game. Something very beautiful and universal is that willingness to work together, that comradeship, that willingness to accept your place in the unit, and to make the unit better. And that guy is a citizen football player. You can look at him for a lifetime.
I’m a coach and I’ve got guys calling me now saying ‘Hey coach, I’m getting married can you come to the wedding,’ or ‘My third baby’s coming,’ or whatever it is. You get that beautiful moment of being able to look back at these people and go ‘Man, even when he was 10 he was right on,’ or ‘When she was 10, she was tearing up with a smile on her face and worked hard.’ We didn’t create that we just sponsored that. We just said, ’Yeah, that’s good work and keep doing good work,’ then they took that good work and they became good students, good plumbers, good carpenters, good people. That’s the mission of Liberty Football Club, to create citizen footballers to build community through football. The focus of this club is to belong to the city and for the city to belong to us and to make this beautiful game available, that’s it.”
C901: What’s the idea behind “citizen footballers?”
Seamus: “I meet all kinds of kids black, white, blue, green, yellow, Irish, everything else. And inside the rectangle, this is crucial, inside the rectangle you can tell the character of any human. Inside the rectangle, they’re collaborative, courageous, brave, inventive, artistic, loyal, and true. Inside the rectangle, your character will be revealed. We can take the best of you from inside this rectangle and turn it into a great citizen. We can take your little flaws and correct them. We can make a better citizen inside that rectangle. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
“Inside the rectangle is your character. Because you’ll work for a guy, maybe he’s not the best player and you’re the best player, and I miss a tackle and you’ll make a fumble or maybe you’ll ask me to do something and find that I was willing. Bravery is overused. Not brave, but that I was willing. He says, ’I need this, want to try.’ That says something about a kid. That they want to do better. You know sometimes it’s that moment where there’s no praise. There’s praise for the goal scorers, but there’s no praise for the guy who makes a tackle at right back. But, without him, there’s nothing. There’s room to promote all of those great things that are part of people and to make them own them like little kids who make a tackle and think, ‘Hey, that was great.’ You can get to good citizenship through doing this little thing. That’s our total goal. Our total aim is to promote community through football and citizenship through football.”
C901: Why is football important to Memphis?
Seamus: “Great football players come from another universe. They’re from outer space because they can do things that your average human being can’t do. They have balance that’s ungodly. They have strength and the ball comes out of their feet in a more powerful, explosive way. On the way in God says, ‘Here, you’re a great football player.’ But, he doesn’t say that to everybody. To the rest of us he says, ‘You’re not a bad football player, but you can be part of it.’ If you come here to the Brass Door or specifically we’re building a sports pub right here, if you come in here on a Sunday morning to watch Arsenal play or to watch anybody play, there’s guys who’ve never played football, who’re great at football and their lives are involved in it, sons, mothers, daughters, and they’re connected by this thing that gives you belonging.
It’s a community, it’s a global community, in order for Memphis to be a great city we truly have to be part of the global community.
We just want it to be something that someday some of the kids will be able to take Memphis elsewhere and be able to recommend Memphis and say, ‘You know you think I’m good, but you know where I learned it? I learned it in Memphis from an Irishman’ that’s important, that’s global.”