Shane McFaul’s soccer future was uncertain when his 2017 club, DSK Shivajians of India, had to fold due to financial issues at an inopportune time for the former Republic of Ireland youth international.
And then the National Premier Soccer League and Atlantic City FC made him the perfect offer.
A chance to play in a country he’s missed since 2006. A summer’s stay at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. An opportunity to intern with a partnered eSports organization. And a fully-loaded expansion club roster that even includes three fellow Dublin natives.
Atlantic City FC president Andrew Weilgus reached out to McFaul in January. The Irishman had done his homework on the club beforehand through Twitter and a mutual friend and was impressed. The feeling was mutual.
“It’s something that I want to be a part of,” McFaul said. “It’s like part of making history there, really. [Weilgus] wants to build the club the right way and it seems like they have all the tools in place. I’d like to bring my experience there to help it along. It’s a challenge and it’s something new and it’s fresh and exciting.”
The 31-year-old McFaul’s career has seen stops across Europe including time at Notts County FC and with Finnish and Irish clubs. He even spent a brief period at Virginia Beach Mariners in the U.S. in 2006. The United Soccer League club has since folded, but McFaul is back.
“It was so enjoyable and ever since I went back to Ireland, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that if I got an opportunity to come back and play in America, I’d take it,” McFaul said. “To come back now, I’m so happy.”
The three Irish teammates that will join McFaul on a diverse and talented Atlantic City FC roster include Sean Russell, Brandon Payne and Matt Moody. McFaul recalls meeting a 12 or 13-year-old Russell on a soccer pitch in Ireland when he himself was already a professional. Payne has logged time for Scottish giant Celtic FC.
McFaul may not know the 18-year-old Moody very well due to the age gap of the two, but it makes no difference. He’s ecstatic to have his countrymen around.
“It’s always great to have Irish people with you, you know?” McFaul said. “I think for the last couple of clubs I’ve played with, I’ve not had any Irish players playing with me when I’ve played in Finland or India. It’ll be nice to have a couple of Irish lads, especially Dublin lads, with us.”
A playing career that began as a center defender saw McFaul evolve into a playmaking midfielder. Each ball that finds the Irishman’s feet is going to be directed forward. He’s excited to work with some of the quicker players that ACFC has brought in. He’s watched the highlight videos of almost all of his new teammates, a scouting technique he refers to as “background checks.”
The midfielder will make his way to the states near the beginning of April, earlier than his teammates. This is due to McFaul’s secondary passion, the video gaming world. Thanks to Weilgus, McFaul will be assisting in an eSports organization that ACFC partners with. This starts with the PAX gaming convention in Boston on April 5.
McFaul has memories of taking a portable gaming system on road trips in his soccer career. His manager would even let him play on the way to matches, if his form had been on point recently. McFaul is now involved with Twitch streaming. He has hopes of a career in the gaming industry after his playing days.
“It’s just one of my passions that I’ve grown up liking my whole life,” McFaul said. “My whole family, my two brothers just playing football and computer games all the time. It’ll just be amazing to be able to go to all these gaming events that I would never have dreamed I’d be able to even go to.”
Just for good measure, McFaul is also an actor. Or at least, he jokingly refers to himself as one. He once made a brief appearance in a Finnish western movie (called Guns of Silence, if you’re wondering) that a teammate was producing. He played an Irish cowboy in a jail scene that required subtitles. He received rave reviews for his performance from his family.
While acting may not be McFaul’s choice for a third career, he does, of course, have another passion. He enjoys coaching and hopes to have his own academy someday. The NPSL and a new club in Atlantic City FC puts him in the perfect position for that experience. This is his chance to pursue all that he loves in life, while helping others do the same.
“It’s exciting to be able to start with a club and build a club. It will mean so much more in a couple years that we started it and hopefully we’ll be able to build something huge,” McFaul said. “Because the potential is there.”