Players PromiseMar 12, 2019

Accessibility and Entrepreneurship: Jozy Altidore and Footy Market

As he starts the 13th season of his professional career, Jozy Altidore certainly has no shortage of accomplishments to look back on. 

After being drafted 17th overall in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, Altidore spent three seasons with the New York Red Bulls, making his debut with the club at just 16. While with the Red Bulls, he became the youngest player in MLS history to both start and score in the MLS playoffs. 

With several successful MLS seasons under his belt, Altidore went abroad in 2008. Over the next several years, he would spend time in La Liga, where he became the first American international to score in the league, the Premiere League, the Turkish Süper Lig and Dutch Eredivisi. 

Altidore ultimately returned stateside in 2015, signing with Toronto FC. He helped lead The Reds to consecutive MLS Cup Finals, and scored the game- winning goal to capture the Championship and the game's MVP distinction in 2017.

Meanwhile, on the international stage, Altidore was on his way to becoming one of the most decorated players in U.S. men's national team history. A member of both the 2010 and 2014 World Cup teams, he became the second-youngest national team player to earn 100 caps and the third to score more than 40 goals (41). 

Now, he is hoping to accomplish something even bigger off the field with Footy Market.  Altidore has always had an interest in entrepreneurship and strived to give back to the communities that he plays in. Together with longtime partner Bejan Esmail, he has found a way to unite his business and charitable interests in the form of an online community focused on making the beautiful game more accessible to all. At its core, Footy Market serves as a marketplace for players and coaches to buy, sell, or donate their equipment in the hope of increasing affordable options for players and opening the door for individuals at all income levels to play the sport. 

Q: What is Footy Market and why is it a compelling idea in the current soccer climate?

Simplistically, Footy Market is an online platform created to provide affordable cost options for soccer families. We encourage players and coaches to recycle their pre-owned soccer gear by selling or donating what they're not using. This allows others to have an equal opportunity to access the equipment needed to play. We want to create a level playing field for all, especially low income families that need it the most and tend to fall through the cracks.

Q: How did you first get involved with the project?

My partner Bejan and I have known each other since I was 15 years old, and over the years we have spoken consistently about  soccer, business, race and opportunities for us to make a difference. About a year ago, we sat down to discuss the evolution of soccer in this country and what we could do to create a positive impact in the changing landscape.  We wanted to contribute in a way that could grow steadily and organically and help those who need it most.

I have endorsed many businesses in the past, but this is the first time where I actually helped start everything from the concept up. My contribution is ongoing and it stems from my desire to help people in the soccer community that is so dear to me. I participate in most aspects of Footy Market, from meeting with strategic partners to decision making on the evolution of the platform. We are launching commercials soon that will share my narrative with the soccer community and resonates on our objectives.

Q: What problems does Footy Market hope to solve and who benefits from the service?

We feel that Footy Market will help to offset and solve some of the rising "pay-to-play" costs associated with soccer participation these days. We also hope that by reusing the gear, we will help the environment by keeping things out of a landfill and extending the item’s playable life. Our goal is that the soccer community collectively will benefit as more players, coaches and clubs start to participate.

Soccer is the "beautiful game" and should be shared by all, no matter what race, background, or financial capacity.  The donation component is crucial because every single player is entitled to have equal opportunity to accessing gear to play.  So we are encouraging people to share with others and are hoping to connect those who have with those who need. This process is a win-win for all.

Q: How do you envision Footy Market growing?

The long term goal is to create a soccer "hub" that is made by soccer people, for soccer people. In this space members will be able to interact, exchange gear and share content related to the game.

We have outlined strategic soccer partners who are aligned with us and want to share this platform with their soccer families, coaches and clubs. As a result, this year we collaborated with the United Soccer Coaches to create a scholarship that raised over $100,000 for coaching education to fund those who need it most and can't afford it.

Even though this is a business, its purpose is to make a change in the soccer landscape. The more the strategic partners align, the more benefit everyone gets. Even though we have been offered investment capital to grow exponentially, we are waiting for the optimal strategic partner who shares our goals.

"I want to be an advocate to give back to those who need it the most because they deserve it and I understand them."

Q: Why was it important to you to get involved with something like this while you are still playing and how do you balance it all?

My priority will always be my job as a player and my commitment to the game is 100%, period. With that being said, sharing my journey while also playing and having success in my career provides me a stepping stone to implement my ideas, motivate others and have a voice that impacts change and movement. 

I have received so much from this game my entire life and had so much support on this journey from so many people, so it's only fitting that I want to be an advocate to give back to those who need it the most because they deserve it and I understand them.

Q: What advice do you have for players interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial idea while they are still playing?

I'm currently getting my masters degree in business, so the opportunity to learn and self-empower is priceless. I have spoken to other players about joining us with Footy Market and the response is incredible. I would definitely encourage them while they're playing to use and leverage their platform as an athlete to help make a difference while they have the opportunity.

Follow Jozy on Twitter and Instagram, and learn more about Footy Market on their website