Interview Wolfgang Schwenke

“We Want to Play One-twos with the Glens”

Back from a two-week trip to their new partner, the San Francisco Glens, Wolfgang Schwenke, Commercial Manager at KSV Holstein, is very upbeat. In the interview, Schwenke talks about the outstanding opportunities that this partnership holds for both clubs, and he announced that the league team and numerous sponsors will be traveling to the US in the coming year to further bolster the relationship.

What was the purpose of the trip to San Francisco at the end of June?
The goal of our trip was to explore international avenues as a club and to see what the possibilities are on the growing soccer market that the US is. In the San Francisco Glens, we found a club who is as committed to this partnership as we are and who takes a similar approach to young talent. So we officially signed our agreement of cooperation with our new partner and got to know the club, the people in charge, and the club’s organizational structure.

Where did you visit? And for what reason?
As a club, Holstein Kiel aims to not only become more international, but also more digital. So it was important for us to forge new contacts with companies in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley to create our own network in the region. We had many interesting meetings, for example with Airbnb, the startup incubator Plug&Play, the Siemens subsidiary comfy, fitness startup Vasper, and DocuSign. It was fascinating for us to see the tremendous dynamism in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.

How did the partnership with the San Francisco Glens come about?
The groundwork was laid more than two years ago when the “The Bay Areas e.V.” club was founded with the aim of establishing a city partnership between Kiel and San Francisco on many different levels. The goal was to connect the people and organizations in these two cities and their regions. We loved the idea from the get-go, which eventually lead us to join the association ourselves. Supported by our partners Puma, Wacken Foundation, and Denker & Wulf, we took the opportunity to play one-twos with the Glens.

Why this club?
The Glens are not only the biggest soccer club in San Francisco, they are also burgeoning and expanding, particularly when it comes to youth players. Six years ago, they had just four youth teams, and today there are 70 teams with about 1,300 boys and girls in different age groups chasing goals for the club. The training and games take place on public fields, which means that the club has to pay high rents to the city to keep playing, thus making soccer almost an elite sport. Last year, the men’s team of the Glens was promoted to the USL League Two. Most of the active players are U23 players without a professional contract. They are generally college students. For the MLS, League Two is where all the talent is nurtured.

What is Holstein Kiel looking to gain from the cooperation?
Our visit to the San Francisco metropolitan area in California is only the beginning of a cooperation that is intended to yield mutual visits by youth players and trainers, exchange know-how and ideas, training for the Glen’s provided by Holstein Kiel instructors as part of soccer camps, as well as a training camp of our league team next year in the western US. The game with the Glen’s just got kicked off, and we’re looking to score many goals together.

Why is the US market interesting for Holstein Kiel?
The US is not only the world’s largest sports market and a major trendsetter, but particularly in terms of soccer the US offers massive growth opportunities. The number of fans and followers is constantly growing, and numerous American fan clubs for top European clubs are emerging. And California is particularly unique because of the high number of soccer-crazy Mexicans and South Americans. More and more kids are playing soccer instead of baseball. When we visited a baseball game of the San Francisco Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks on our trip, there were 35,000 visitors at the Oracle Park. At the Classico of the San Jose Earthquakes against the LA Galaxy on the other hand, 50,000 people were in the Stanford Stadium to partake in a thrilling party with huge fireworks. Soccer has enormous potential in the US – and Holstein Kiel wants to be part of it within the scope of our city partnership.

Is there a time limit to the cooperation?
We agreed to take stock at halftime of the partnership in five years. It would be a dream come true to have a player from California on our roster after that. But because we are part of a magnificent partnership of cities between Kiel and San Francisco, this is about much more than just sports. The idea here is to preserve and strengthen the friendship between Germans and Americans, also for the young generation of male and female soccer players.

How will this partnership be implemented in the future?
What matters is that we play successful one-twos, meaning that both partners will benefit. A distinction must be made between sports and business. We can most certainly help the Glens by providing them with know-how and trainers. No doubt American players have athleticism and speed, but there is plenty of potential when it comes to technique and tactics. Our youth academy has recently been certified by the DFB and DFL with three stars, which means that it is one of the best youth academies for soccer in Germany. It will surely be able to offer an idea or two. From an economical point of view, the Glens primarily want to strengthen the way they sell themselves, which is why they aim to expand their marketing and sales departments in the coming years. We can and will support the Glens in this regard, as well as in terms of their stadium infrastructure and the integration of public transport to the games.

Any plans for another visit to the US?
Yes. The plan is to take the team and our sponsors to the US next year. We will have a training camp for the Storks and play a few friendlies. We are inviting our sponsors to join the team and we have an exciting program waiting for them in our sister city San Francisco. In addition to the tourist highlights in the Californian metropolis and visiting the friendlies, we are planning on meeting with various companies in the Silicon Valley to make new contacts and facilitate economic cooperation

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