Los Angeles (AFP) – Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey is preparing for the first shots of what he says will be a “100-year war” when Austin F.C. make their much-anticipated Major League Soccer bow this weekend.
The Hollywood star is a minority owner in the MLS expansion side and is determined to help the club successfully embed itself in his hometown as the franchise’s “minister of culture”.
Speaking to reporters on a video-conference call on Tuesday, McConaughey said becoming involved with Austin F.C. marked the realisation of a lifelong ambition to help launch a sports franchise.
“I’m not interested in being a mascot,” the 51-year-old said. “I’ve always dreamed of being in at the ground level and helping to build a team.
“I’ve always studied and appreciated the great organisations that have succeeded and lasted — whether it’s the All Blacks in rugby or the New England Patriots in American football.”
Founded in 2018, Austin F.C. will make their home debut on June 19 at their newly constructed 20,500-seat Q2 Stadium.
The club has already sold out of its 15,500 season tickets, with a further 15,000 more fans on a waiting list.
McConaughey says the interest reflects a deep-rooted passion for soccer in what is the fastest growing big city in the United States according to Census figures released in March last year.
– ‘It was time’ –
“Austin was a soccer town already before Austin F.C,” McConaughey said.
“It’s a very diverse city. We have 150 people moving here a day. It’s a city on the come. Soccer is the world’s game and we’ve got people from all over the world in our city, that have never had a team to root for. It was time.”
McConaughey says he sees his role as “minister of culture” as helping to ensure the club reflects the culture of his hometown.
“For a team that’s going to represent the city of Austin, I need to be there as someone who knows Austin really well, that the two are mirror images of each other,” he said. “On any given night in the stadium, it should feel, smell and taste like the best of Austin, Texas.”
Austin open their MLS campaign with a trip to Los Angeles FC on Saturday, another expansion club who topped the Western Conference standings in only their second season in the league.
McConaughey says Austin will attempt to emulate LAFC’s success in fostering a vibrant fan culture around the team.
“You can plant the seed, but the culture is built by the supporters,” McConaughey said. “And what LAFC did with the supporters, how they empowered the supporters, is an example that we are learning from.”
McConaughey however is careful to damp down expectations around the new club.
“How much success can we have in year one? We’ll see,” he said. “But we didn’t build Austin FC in a day, and we’re not going to be a fad.
“This is the beginning. The seed has been planted and we want to be a big, strong oak. It’s a 100-year war. We have the long view.”
McConaughey also declined to be drawn on how a championship with Austin might compare to his big-screen accolades which included an Oscar for best actor at the 2014 Academy Awards for his performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”.
“Just let me go through some blood, sweat and tears first,” he said. “Let me go through a season or seasons. Losses. Wins. Ups. Downs. And then getting to the end and raising a trophy, then I can tell you how I feel.”