David Villa’s life story is similar to many in Queens — he didn’t come from the richest neighborhood, and he never had the best resources at his disposal. His father was a miner, and a leg fracture at age 4 almost ended his soccer career before it even began. As his close friend Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) put it, “This individual was never supposed to make it into the professional soccer world.”
What Villa did have was unrivaled talent, and a desire to make it no matter what. That drive led him to become one of soccer’s best forwards and a World Cup and Union of European Football Associations Champions League champ. Now, he’s hoping to help thousands of Queens children get the leg up he never had.
Villa is a lead investor in Queensboro FC, the United Soccer League side that will begin play in 2021. Jonathan Krane, CEO of asset management firm KraneShares and the football club’s ownership leader, said it was Villa who drew him to Queens.
“He really just loves the area and I know he was very involved there when he was with New York City FC,” Krane told the Chronicle.
“I know what a special place Queens is,” Villa said in a statement. “I love the cultures, the food, the people and their passion for life and, of course, soccer. There is no other place like it in the world. It’s a dream to help build this football club in Queens and I couldn’t choose a better location.”
Queensboro FC’s games will be primarily played at a new stadium at York College in Jamaica, with select matches at Citi Field. But the club will be seen all throughout the borough, Krane said, through clinics hosted all over Queens. “We’re really looking forward to getting involved at the grassroots level,” Krane said.
About a month after announcing the club’s formation, Queensboro FC is keeping true to its word. It’s already met with a supporters’ group and participated in a turkey drive around Thanksgiving and a Christmas tree lighting in East Elmhurst. “We really want to be seen,” Krane said.
The club’s roots, in many ways, can be traced back to 2015 when Villa joined NYCFC, which plays its home games at Yankee Stadium. Villa teamed up with Moya — a longtime supporter of the soccer star’s former club, FC Barcelona — to host soccer clinics throughout western Queens. “You couldn’t ask just for a better person,” Moya said of Villa. “He has a great affinity for helping young kids.”
He also opened sports academies for children throughout the borough, including one in Astoria.
Such academies aren’t new to Queens, but they now take on a new significance. Now, area youngsters can participate in them and dream of one day playing for their hometown club: Queensboro FC. “Some kid playing in Flushing Meadows Corona Park right now is going to be able to wear his borough’s crest one day,” Moya said.
The United Soccer League is America’s second-tier league — Major League Soccer, which NYCFC plays in, is the first. Krane said he’s not worried about getting the club to the MLS, and that he’s happy with the USL. “They’ve been great in getting us started and helping us with whatever we need,” he said. “We’re happy with them.”
Besides, he added, he’s more concerned with integrating the club into Queens’ fabric. “We’re looking forward to being seen in Queens and becoming a part of the borough.”