Just call them the little team that could. Despite lacking the big bucks other local soccer teams have behind them, the Hotspurs always bring their Fishtown fierceness to every game they play — and they almost always win.
As the Fishtown Hotspurs prepared to face off about two months ago against an opposing suburban soccer team, the other team’s coach was so sure the scrappy Fishtowners would lose, he offered to throw the game.
That coach asked the Hotpsurs’ coach, local union laborer Bobby Mulvenna, “If I get up a bunch of goals, what do you want us to do? Play keep-away, or stop scoring?”
The Hotspurs were up five-nothing in the game’s first four minutes.
“The guy didn’t shake my hand at the end of the game,” Mulvenna said.
Thirteen lionhearted eight-year-olds make up the Fishtown Athletic Club’s Hotspurs, a team that might be best described as underfunded, underestimated, and unstoppable.
With an astonishing record of 57 wins, three losses and one tie in the past year, Mulvenna’s little guys have been regularly mopping the field with well-funded private school and academy soccer teams during a rousing season that keeps getting better.
This past Saturday and Sunday the team played in the top division of U9 — under the age of 9 players — at the Manhattan Kickoff Classic tournament in Tarrytown, N.Y. They had five wins and zero losses in the tournament, and won their final game 4-3.
This year they’re hoping to make it to 2013 Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup in Plymouth Meeting. The teams will be selected March 12.
That is, Mulvenna said, if they can afford to make it there.
“It’s about $750 a tournament. Our parents pay out of pocket,” Mulvenna said.
The team is also currently planning fundraisers to help pay for the team’s costs for the Dallas Premier SuperCopa tournament in June — that trip would include more costs for plane tickets, hotel rooms and meals.
“We’re a little club,” Mulvenna said at the Shissler Recreation Center, 1800 Blair St., where the Hotspurs play their home games. “We pay $80 a kid to get uniforms. I don’t have a paid trainer, I don’t have a paid coach.”
One advantage to being underfunded compared to private school teams is that the better-funded teams never see the Hotspurs coming.
And based on sportsmanship and teamwork, the Hotspurs story already has the makings of a local legend. Even though they’re an unfunded team from Fishtown, they are the indoor soccer state champions of New Jersey after winning the New Jersey Indoor State Cup in February, and they were undefeated in the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer indoor championships until the final round.
After that final round game, Mulvenna recalled, “The coach of the winning team said to the kids, when they were all crying because they had lost, ‘The better team didn’t win tonight.’ He knew they were the better team.”
Some members of the Hotspurs came together as early as age 3 and 4, when they first signed up for soccer at the Fishtown Athletic Club. As the kids got older, they kept coming back to play.
The team isn’t made up of only Fishtown kids, but represents other River Wards like Bridesburg and Kensington, as well as Juniata. Mulvenna’s son, Bobby Jr., plays goalie.
Mulvenna is proud of his Hotspurs, and hopes to keep them competing.
“When I saw how much talent I had [on the team],” he said, “I couldn’t waste this talent.”
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.