We got a chance to speak to Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer today about the reports that Sounders FC has purchased or is about to purchase African Lyon of Tanzania.
Bottom line: No purchase yet, but the Sounders are investigating whether the relatively small investment in East African soccer might pay off as a player pipeline down the road.
Hanauer gave this back ground: "Four or five years ago I took the USL team to Dar Es Salaam as a thank-you for the team following a championship. … Had a great experience, met a lot of people and had always continued to communicate and have some level of interest and intrigue in East Africa soccer. (Partly because West Africa is already so well-populated by European soccer interests.) So I’ve been curious about East Africa. Less players come out of East Africa, but there is less competition there. So, I continued to keep conversations alive, and there is this team – African Lyon – who a contact of ours currently owns and controls, and we’ve talked about partnering in some way. We sent Kurt Schmid over there to kick the tires and look under the hood a little bit and try to get a sense of the level and infrastructure and facilities, professionalism, coaching staff, so on and so forth. And he’ll come back and we’ll sit down and discuss whether a relationship makes sense. But that is absolutely all there is to it."
He said that Paul Allen has traveled to East Africa in the past, but certainly isn't there scouting the club or attending games. However, he said if there is a purchase, it would likely be Sounders FC -- the club -- doing the purchasing, rather that Hanauer as an individual.
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"This is a very small budget line item relative to what we’ve got here," he said. "It’s relatively insignificant from an investment standpoint, and it’s not likely to pay massively valuable dividends, otherwise it’ wouldn’t be a small line item on the expense side."
We asked what the benefit might be to the Sounders and their fans:
"That’s what we’re looking into: Is there a pipeline potentially of good young East African players," he said. "Certainly there are many African players playing in top leagues around the world. My hunch is there will be East African players, whether from Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda, there will be players that develop. It’s a small investment to potentially create that pipeline. But just like with our academy system, (fans) shouldn’t expect immediate or highly impactful returns in the short term."