Fishtown Hotspurs score another tournament win

The Fishtown Hot­spurs, after win­ning the New Jer­sey In­door State Cup (U-9 di­vi­sion), in their win­ners’ T-shirts, with coach Bobby Mul­venna (back right) and as­sist­ant coach Joe Rete­neller. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF FISHTOWN HOT­SPURS

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 sne­w­

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