Bay Area Ambassadors Looks to Expand Its Fan Base

Amanda Zepeda

Bay Area Ambassadors Jasko Begovic (left) dribbles the ball down the field as Sonoma Sol defender Justin Ferreira blocks his path.

The Bay Area Ambassadors kicked off their 2011 season on Saturday night to begin a much-anticipated year.

Members of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), and reigning Region IV champions, The Ambassadors are coming off a successful 2010 season, which saw them qualify for the US Open Cup.

The professional squad began the new campaign against the Sonoma Sol with a head to head match up early on in the game that eventually saw Sonoma establish a lead and go on to defeat the Ambassadors 3-1.

Sonoma began the scoring late in the first half with a goal of the leg of Christopher Daily. The Ambassadors countered with a penalty kick score from Dylan Leslie within seconds of Sonoma’s goal. Minutes before the conclusion of the half however, Sonoma scored one more from Ben Languith sending the Ambassadors to the half with a 2-1 deficit.

The Ambassador’s efforts in the second half, however, were not enough to mount a comeback as Sonoma would go on to score their final goal and hand the Ambassadors their first loss of the season.

First year coach of the Ambassadors David Bond, looks at this game as an opportunity for the team to improve for the rest of the season.

“We need to change a few things about our game but I think if we change those things, we’ll come back and win some games this season,” said Bond

Bond is also the current San Joaquin Delta College Head Coach for the men’s team and had a successful career playing for then known Cal State Hayward in their nationally ranked soccer team (1986-89).

Despite the opening day loss, Bond is still very much optimistic about this team and the direction they are headed in.

“We have a really good group of guys,” said Bond.

“It’s a really solid organization that has really big aspirations and I’m excited to be here.”

The professional team will look to rebound with the leadership from goalkeeper and team captain, Sergio Valle.

Valle was an instrumental part in contributing to the team’s US Open Cup qualification and playoffs in the 2010 Region IV championship.

Opening his third season with the Ambassadors, he expresses his excitement for what is to come for the team this time around.

“This team is looking to grow and expand and move up on tiers as far as professionalism if concerned,” said Valle.

“We definitely desire the support from the community, we need support from the college and we need support all the way around. If there’s no fans then there’s no team.”

The professional soccer club is based in the East Bay, which plays all of their home games at Chabot Community College.

Former Nigerian International Tony Igewe and local businessman from Hayward, Arif Khan, founded the team in 2008 to give local players the platform and the opportunity to play professionally in the Bay Area.

Of those local players includes Zlatan Sahmanovic who is also assistant coach of the Cal State East Bay’s women’s soccer team.

A new face to the Ambassadors, Sahmanovic played his previous two seasons with the Sonoma Sol before moving to Castro Valley and joining the team.

The Serbian born soccer player has been playing soccer since the age of five.

“Holding assistant coaching duties at East Bay for the women’s team and helping out with the men’s team is a lot of fun,” said Sahmanovic.

“It’s great to give back to the game what it’s given me all these years. It’s good to pass on my knowledge.”

Sahmanovic along with the rest of the team, look to have a strong rest of the year.

The team has proven in the past to be contenders in the NPSL and they seek to do the same in 2011.

The Ambassadors’ next time out will be on April 2 at Chabot Community College where they will host The Sacramento Gold.