To quote from their website, “Prague Raptors is a unique amateur football club, making the world a better place whilst playing attractive high-intensity football.” In arguably one of the top cities in the world, Daz Moss, CEO and Founder of Mayalukas Digital, sought out to create a football club from scratch. But this is no ordinary project. Starting from the quirky, yet unusual name, the Raptors have players from 32 different nationalities. Prague itself is a melting pot of cultures, and the club fully represent that. It’s a long-term project, and the Raptors start in the ninth-tier this season. But with social media exposure and the intention to enjoy and play well, there is a lot to look forward to.
Rahul Warrier spoke with Moss, President of Prague Raptors, on the project and the diversity that defines it.
What was the reasoning behind choosing Prague for this project? It certainly makes sense, given the city is a melting pot of cultures.
I am from Leeds in the UK but spent the past 10 years or so in London, then Barcelona and now Prague. I moved here three years ago with my Czech wife and kids, Maya & Lukas, so it seemed like a good place to try. Prague is an amazing city with hugely diverse people, so starting a new club here, with the aims we wanted around opening football for more people seemed possible.
Prague is a city I love, and it was very easy to find people here with a similar passion for football and who at the same time want to help the game progress in terms of the perception it has in many places. I run a marketing company here, Mayalukas – they are the main sponsors of the Raptors too…so again it makes sense to have the club in the city that we are based.
I think as well Prague has some different potential to other cities, of course climbing the leagues in Czech Republic is probably not as expensive as doing so in England or Spain – at the same point we are learning all the time, and FACR (the Czech FA) and the Prague FA have both been very helpful in working with us to make sure we adhere to the rules they set-out. I am not sure all countries would be so easy for us to start-up in.
What was the reason behind the diversity and inclusivity that the club stands for?
I am also Deputy Chairman at the Yorkshire football team – which is part of CONIFA, and although we are only a young organisation it has helped me learn a lot about inclusivity in football and the great things that the sport can do to help people. It was a big driver in that decision.
Our aim though is, and never was to be purely for foreigners – first and foremost we want to be inclusive, so that includes Czech people too. My Wife, Petra, is the COO…our secretary Stepan is also Czech, as is our Media and Marketing Managers – plus a handful of players.
Having worked in several organisations with large mixes of cultures and backgrounds I always wanted to set up something similar, but at the same time we are building teams and we want to be successful – so if that means we end up with only Czech players then great. The key is that it should be open to everyone, no matter a person’s race, sexual orientation, etc. This goes further than just the players and staff, we really want more families and ladies to come watch our games too. In many parts of the world, including here, football is seen by many people as a sport for adult men only, which is certainly not true.
Do the numerous nationalities hinder growth or is the process much more important?
Honestly, I think it has helped us grow. Many of our players have tried to play in Czech teams but the language barrier was too much, so having English as our main language helps and most nationalities speak that. We even have Czech players who chose us because they want to improve their language skills. We have 32 nationalities now, and many of them from places you might not expect to get on with each other – but we can be picky in the people we choose, and make sure that they are people with similar values to us. Until now, we have not had any issues from this perspective and trust it will carry on.
Similarly, it is worth saying that, although we had warnings before starting the club, the Czech teams and associations we have encountered have also welcomed us. Obviously one person (on either side) can always spoil this but thus far we have had a very good first experience with the clubs we have met and played against.
Probably the biggest issue we have now is that many of our players live far away from the ground (in Prague many foreigners live on the other side of the river to the pitch we rent at FC Zlicin). In the future we hope to have our own home somewhere close to the centre – but in the meantime we have great facilities in Zlicin so we are happy to be there and for the hospitality they give us.
How did the recruitment of players and staff occur?
Most of the staff contacted us. For example, our Director of Football, Marco Martire, spotted an advert we ran on Instagram and contacted us. Marco is an Italian who did his MBA in Spain and worked with Real Madrid so has a huge passion for the game. It is similar with our coaches – many of them found us either via Facebook posts or when looking for ‘amateur football club in Prague’ on Google.
Finding coaches was a bit tougher, but we have a great team now with Jon (head men’s coach), Aurelio (assistant men’s coach), Luis (head ladies coach) & Simone (assistant ladies coach). Each have their own views, but we also agree on lots of things – such as respect for opponents and playing with passion above anything else. The fact our coaching team is from England, Portugal, Spain and Italy means we have a lot of different backgrounds to pull from which is great. Our Head Men’s Coach, Jon Davies, is actually a coach for the U13 team at Slavia Prague so finding him was very key for us as he is learning all the time from a great team there.
We are trying to act as professional as we can and that is helping – potential players and staff see things like our social posts, unique kits and player cards and it helps to show the club in a positive light.
We held trials for the men’s team just in March this year where 72 players from Prague came along. We initially chose around 20 players and have since had more come to training for try-outs and joining the team.
Finding players for the ladies’ team was tougher as the number of players is not so big here, but we have managed to pull together a well-sized squad (around 25 players) for the coming season. Originally our plan was to look into the ladies’ team for the 2019/20 season, but I was contacted by a very eager player, Sacha Vanderveken who convinced me and Marco to try this year. Sacha is our main striker, and many of the players around her are ones she helped us find.
Were there any specific reasons behind creating a club with this kind of social interest at the forefront?
I think the main reason is the need for it. If there was not a need we would not be successful but in a city of a so many people, it is not always easy to bump into someone with the same passion for football and desire to also impact some change in the world. For me, when you are in a privileged position you should always look to help others, that can be simple as building a team to give people the opportunity to play football, or some of the bigger things we want to do like become a larger partner for the charities we work with.
Was there any specific inspiration behind that impactful badge?
It’s very simple – my boy, Lukas, loves dinosaurs so when I asked him what we should be called he said Raptors and his favourite colour is blue. Some things don’t always need to take much time, if it makes a little boy happy then it is a good decision and I think it turned out that way – people who see us remember us, we could have had a normal name (Prague City etc…) but I think this helps our brand. It also fits well with our motto “Attack As One” which is also inspired by how our coaches like to play (a high intensity pressing game).
Thoughts on Sparta, Slavia and the various other teams based in Prague? Does that represent too much competition in one city?
I think the rivalry between those clubs at the top is great, and I don’t think there is too much competition, they all have their unique identities – that goes for the likes of Bohemians, Dukla & Zizkov too. For us, having those clubs means that there is a passion for football here, we don’t expect fans to stop supporting them and come to watch us – although that would be great – but I more think we might be able to attract some fans who previously not have watched football. As we are an amateur team our games are free, and hopefully the atmosphere we are creating will be welcome by families. That said, we need to start the season and win games for people to really want to watch us!
What’s the long-term goal for Prague Raptors, apart from making it to the top tier immediately?
Realistically, our aim for now is to start the season strongly – we feel our team is good, but we do not know really until we start playing – and we need to have respect for the teams we come up against. Our men’s team start in the ninth tier and ladies in the fourth tier – so both have some way to climb before we gain more recognition, but we feel we can do ok without external investment for a few years, then after that who knows? Football is all about dreaming – and for us we like to dream big, so let’s see where it takes us!
You can find more about the club and their project on their official site: https://www.pragueraptors.com. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the years to come.