By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Hoover native Galen Curry sells software; Homewood resident Ryan Hepp teaches high school math; and Hoover’s Brett Feringa works for a Liberty Park real estate investment company.
And each has a side job that he absolutely loves. Each plays for the semipro FC Birmingham soccer team. Commercial business banker Doug Walk is the owner of the team that gives young adult soccer players a chance to continue to play and, perhaps, keep alive their dream of playing at a higher level.
Retired Birmingham-Southern College soccer coach Preston Goldfarb has a number of his former Panthers on the squad. Goldfarb, who lives in Mountain Brook, was idle after having written a book – “Tenacity of Purpose: Coach Preston Goldfarb’s Journey through life, loves and soccer” – with Scott Adamson.
“I was kind of bored,” the coach said. “I said, I don’t miss the games. I miss teaching the game. I miss being on the field, teaching soccer the way I think it should be played.”
Goldfarb wasn’t the only one who missed soccer. So, too, did the young men who played on their college squad.
“I couldn’t fill the void,” said Curry, who lives in Crestwood. “I had about a year off. I tried a bunch of different things, but nothing can fill that void that soccer has.”
Louisiana native Brett Feringa of Hoover said he always knew he wanted to get back on the pitch.
“I just couldn’t find a reason for it,” he said. “Then coach Goldfarb reached out and I thought it was a perfect opportunity. I get to play with some BSC guys again and meet some new people, get something to do, so.”
Hepp, who works at Homewood High School, said some might think a side gig as a semipro soccer player might not add up.
“But I make it work,” he said. “It’s definitely worth it. I played in some men’s leagues and with some friends, but to be able to play at this level, I really couldn’t say no to that.”
Crestline native Brother Swagler is another Crestwood resident on the team. He said Goldfarb helped him land a playing opportunity in Germany for a season after college.
“That was two years ago and I haven’t played in two years,” he said. “Then I joined this team when he started it and became the coach this year.
“I get to hang out with my friends every day,” Swagler said. “It’s something I’ve done for a long time, and I feel like I’ve gotten somewhat good at. I just want to keep doing it while I can. Eventually everything will give out. My knees and my ankles, they just won’t work that way anymore.”
Curry said he and teammates aspire to move on to playing truly professional soccer.
“At the same time, I’m very, very happy to be in the position I’m in right now,” he said. “I’m very lucky to be able to still have a full-time job but get to play it at a level that’s this high and for a coach like him.”
Playing at a High Level
Goldfarb said Walk’s hope is take the semipro team to the professional level, perhaps playing in the National independent Soccer Association.
“There’s a lot of good teams in there,” he said. “They’re equal to the USL, where the Birmingham Legion plays.”
Walk, a Fairfield native living in Fultondale, had been a baseball player before being introduced to soccer. As an adult, he began to follow local men’s league play and saw potential.
“Some of those players are amazing,” he said. “They really could have a chance to maybe, hopefully, someday sign a pro contract with somebody, even if it’s on a training team or reserve team. They’re still getting paid to do what they love to do.
“We wanted to hold them to a different standard,” Walk said. “We want to treat them as professionals.”
Beyond the semipro squad, the FC Birmingham operation also includes youth teams that are designed to give youngsters a chance to move up in the sport.
The semipro team generally practices at Birmingham’s Carver High School or in Pleasant Grove, with home games at Lawson Field near Crestwood.