The Central New York Melting Pot of Soccer Continues to Grow
The United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) is the fastest growing soccer league in America and values diversity. Diversity is key for many teams and UPSL’s Krajisnik FC is an example of how it can lead to great success.
They say soccer is the world’s game.
A melting pot of different cultures, playing styles, languages and beliefs.
No team knows this better than Utica, New York’s Krajisnik FC – and while they may be diverse – they are brought together by one common theme – the world’s game.
While Krajisnik’s players represent different areas of the world, it’s not as if the team scouts had to go out and search the corners of the globe to find players. Almost the entire team is made up of players living right in Utica, New York. Utica is one of the more culturally diverse areas of New York State, with populations of Bosnians, Somalians, Eastern Europeans… the list goes on.
Club President Anel Pajazetovic, a Bosnian himself, preached that his team’s diversity is a cornerstone for the club.
“We have players from different backgrounds that help shape what our club is about.”Anel Pajazetovic, President Krajisnik FC
I still remember it like it was yesterday. After joining the team initially as the Director of Public Relations, I was invited for a team dinner the night before the first game. From the moment I stepped inside Two Brother’s Café, I knew this team had a family-first mentality. The smell of Bosnian and Italian cuisine filled the air. A room full of players, staff, all different languages and Nationalities, all enjoying a beautiful meal together, laughing and joking, having “family time” before the first Krajisnik game was to be played.
As for myself, the family-like atmosphere only seemed to grow as I continued to work with the team. I’ve witnessed family picnics, a day for the entire organization, youth to UPSL, to come out and enjoy each other’s company. I witnessed the purchase of a team travel van, which was made possible by the many fundraisers put on by the team.
I have seen Anel, who also serves as a coach in the youth academy, take entire youth teams out of state for a tournament, then make it back by that night in order to be present for the UPSL game that was taking place.
Krajisnik FC does not operate under an owner. The community-based team was founded as a 503c not-for-profit in 2017, though the club’s youth teams (u-6 to u-17) have officially been a part of the US Youth Soccer Organization since 2016. The club is run by a Board of Directors that oversees the day-to-day operations of both the UPSL team and the youth teams.
Between the youth-club teams and the UPSL team, Krajisnik sports players from Burkina Faso, Liberia, Nigeria, Liberia, Italy, Guinea, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Poland, Tanzania, Ukraine, Bosnia, Wales, Algeria, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Thailand, Iraq and the United States.
The youth movement serves multiple purposes for the Krajisnik organization, one being the opportunity to showcase to their community just how talented they are. “We are looking to develop our youth players to one day get into that high-level of play and show off the skills that their youth coaches have taught them,” said Pajazetovic.
“The long-term vision of Krajisnik F.C, will center around personal development, a philosophy that will build positive attitude, character and leadership skills – by training along coaches that will provide academic and athletic instruction.”
Another purpose of the youth clubs is to feed the UPSL team with the best youth talent. Anel cited players like Issak Somow and Ar Lum who are developing into nice players for the team.
“Issak has been playing with our club for a long time,” said Pajazetovic. “He came up through our youth system and worked his way up to the first team. Same goes for Ar. He started in our youth academy and worked his way up to the reserve team. He’s even made two appearances on the first team this fall at the age of 22.”
Like Somow and Lum, players are eligible to join the Krajisnik FC UPSL Youth Academy at the age of 17. Once the age of 21, players are then eligible to be promoted to Krajisnik’s UPSL Reserve and First Teams.
Currently, Krajisnik plays in the UPSL’s Northeast Conference – Empire Division I, a regionally based conference that currently features eight teams with another on the way. Home games are played on artificial turf at Wehrum Stadium on the gorgeous Herkimer County Community College Campus.
The team walks into the “Fox Den” to play Fox Sports Academy Pro in Warwick, NY and they are right in the heart of the city when they play Real New York FC in the Bronx on the beautiful SUNY Maritime campus. The boys have road trips to New England when they play the FC Bobcats out of New Hampshire, Lincoln Club Futebol out of Rhode Island, and Mass United FC & Jaguars United FC out of Massachusetts. The furthest south the team currently travels is for a throwdown with Philadelphia Lone Star in Pennsylvania.
As for the future of the club and the players, steady growth is inevitable. “As far as the players go, we have some that have played or are currently playing professional indoor soccer,” said Pajazetovic.
“We are looking to add more professionals to our roster in the near future in order to help the youth players out.”Anel Pajazetovic
Depending on the standings at the end of the season, Krajisnik may or may not be in the same division next season.
But that won’t stop the fans that travel from over 30 miles away from packing into HCCC’s Wehrum Stadium.
So, come grab a bite of Bosnian cuisine, wave the Krajisnik flag and be a part of the culture that is Krajisnik Futbol.