Association Football Club Ann Arbor (AFC Ann Arbor) was founded in 2014 with the goal of creating a community based club that would promote the game on a larger scale. In November 2021, AFCAA moved to the USLW league, bringing the men’s and women’s teams under the same organizational umbrella at the league level. After not playing in the 2020 or 2021 season due to the Covid pandemic, both teams returned to the field for the 2022 season. Eric Rudland has moved into the role of Sporting Director, overseeing both teams from a technical and personnel level. Rod Asllani was promoted from Eric’s staff to the position of men’s head coach. Boyzzz Khumal will coach the women’s team.
The following is a WLAA Q&A with Ryan Makuch, Director of Media for AFC Ann Arbor. This is the first in a series of stories spotlighting AFC Ann Arbor.
Q: Where are you from originally and how did you end up in Ann Arbor?
A: I was born and raised in Wyandotte and attended Riverview Gabriel Richard High School. While I never played soccer outside of a couple of years, I got really into it with the 2014 World Cup while I was in high school. I currently call Ann Arbor home, and I have lived here on and off since I moved here to attend the University of Michigan in 2017.
Q: When and how did you first become involved with the AFC Ann Arbor?
A: After I completed my freshman year at U-M, I began to write casually with a blog of my own talking about pro soccer and college basketball. I decided to pick up a local soccer team to write about and support, and I was drawn almost instantly to AFC Ann Arbor. At the time, I was a summer intern at Eastern Michigan University with their athletic media relations department, and they played two games at EMU. I went to the first of the two as my first AFCAA game, and I was hooked. By midseason, I had met most of the ownership group and primary supporters of the club, and by the end of the season, I knew that my passion was to help push forward the message that AFCAA has as a soccer club, which is that soccer is for everyone and no one should be excluded.
Q: After missing an entire season, how do you see the club coming out of Covid both on and off the field?
A: I think a lot of people are thinking that this is ‘Year One: Round Two’ for the club. With both the men’s and women’s teams in the USL family of leagues, the ability to attract quality talent has never been higher. Our two first-year coaches, Boyzzz Khumalo for the women and Rod Asllani for the men, are some of the brightest soccer minds I know and both spent years at AFCAA working alongside the club’s Sporting Director Eric Rudland. They understand the club, and the players they have brought in are exciting and full of potential.
Q: What are the goals for this year – on and off the field?
A: On the field, it’s pretty simple: to win as many games as possible. The club has always taken pride in its on-field results, and, having been the only club in NPSL league history to make four straight postseasons in the first four seasons in the league, there is definitely an environment about the club that emphasizes professionalism and results on the pitch.
Off the field, the club has constantly been making strides in so many areas that are of great importance to our community and our sport. The work being done with the Anti-Racist Soccer Club, Community Kicks, and the CLR Academy summer program are just three extremely important projects that the club is right at the heart of. There is an emphasis on bringing in not just good players but good people into the club’s fold, and that is always on display when you see the men’s and women’s players aiding in the community and making a massive impact within the community.
Q: What are you excited most about this year’s teams and the direction of the club overall?
A: The buzz is palpable – it’s never felt like this before. To be quite honest, I think AFC Ann Arbor’s club model is the way of the future for the sport. Support for marginalized communities that are excluded from sports needs to come from the top down. It starts with clubs and leagues and youth soccer programs, and on the club level, we feel very strongly that taking firm stances against hate and supporting the people that need it most is what we need to do as a club and as a good neighbor in our community.
For more information on the club and a complete schedule, log onto https://www.afcannarbor.com/