July 6—Brad Boni grew up playing soccer in the Aiken area so it was a natural fit when he became director of Aiken Futbol Club.
Soccer was a burgeoning sport in the area in the 1990s when Boni was playing, but by the time he returned to the city, he said soccer had fallen on hard times. In hopes of turning the sport around, Aiken Futbol Club was formed in 2017. Since then, the number of club players has grown from about 100 to 330 and from around eight teams to 26, Boni said.
“It’s been pretty amazing, pretty gratifying to see this come to fruition,” Boni said. “It’s been a blessing, it’s been wonderful.”
Boni attributed the club’s expansion to the overall sport of soccer growing across the nation as the professional leagues MLS and NWSL have expanded, as the United States has fared well in the FIFA World Cup and as it has become easier to watch European professional soccer.
To accommodate the club’s growth, it took on the project of building a soccer complex at Citizens Park with the main goal of creating dedicated lighted fields.
“We don’t have any lights there at Citizens Park, which causes a good strain,” Boni said. “There’s been times where we’ve gone out there with people’s cars and put the lights on to try and provide some lighting.”
The club is in the process of raising funds for the new complex. The park is already leased out to the club from the city at the price of $1 a year but the club is currently on its own with the construction of the complex.
“Any development that goes on there at this point is going to be all from what the club can raise towards that,” Boni said.
The complex is still in its initial phases as the board just agreed to what engineering firm it will work with, but the club is still expanding in other ways. It just hired its first full-time paid employee, Tara Holtz, as the registrar to register all of the new players.
“It’s a very important position and she has been manning that for years now and it’s been fantastic,” Boni said.
Boni said he is thankful to everyone in the club who has helped his growth. All of the board members are volunteers. The coaches are paid, but Boni said their pay is nothing compared to the amount of time they work and travel with the club.
“It’s incredible what they’re doing out of their own time, their own sweat. It’s amazing to watch that,” Boni said.