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A heartfelt thank you Warren

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Warren Smith helped bring soccer to Sacramento, but in the process, gave our community so much more.

William Hodges/Indomitable City Soccer

Sacramento Republic FC announced yesterday that Warren Smith, co-founder of Republic FC, has transitioned into an advisory role with the club as part of a succession plan that began last year following the sale of the club to Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings led by Kevin Nagle. Smith had most recently been serving as president of the Republic.

In addition to continuing to serve in an advisory role with Republic FC, it was also announced that Warren will take on a new position as senior advisor with OKC Energy FC.

As much as I knew this day was going to eventually come, I got to say that it stings. Smith, along side co-founder Joe Wagoner (and current Executive Vice President), were the visionaries behind bringing professional soccer to Sacramento. They built this amazing club from the ground up and brought in so many brilliant minds from our region to create what can only be classified as a movement. I say movement in the sense that Warren brought us this beautiful game that united a community and forever changed the landscape of our great city.

Last year, I wrote an article for Indomitable City Soccer that went into great detail of how I felt Republic FC has united Sacramento. Below is an excerpt of that story:

The Republic are part of the fabric, identity, pride and culture of Sacramento. They are part of our future if you’re like me in believing Major League Soccer is coming to Sacramento soon. They tapped into something in our community that up until 2013, was untapped. The Republic dared us to dream, made us believe Sacramento could be more than what it was, and brought us together in ways we didn’t know was possible.

Our city is unequivocally better today because of the Republic, and while fans and local partners have certainly played a role in that, we are where we are today because of Warren.

Of course, he would tell you differently. If you know Warren, you know that he would deflect any credit for the Republic and its success, and instead shine the spotlight on the employees that do the day-to-day work, the fans, team partners and the community (all deserving by the way). That’s what great leaders do, but it’s also what great people do.

As a handful of you might know, before I joined Indomitable City Soccer, I wrote for a blog called Sports Glutton. In a nutshell, the vision behind our blog was to cover sports, food and libations.

During the 2015 season, with a season covering the Quails behind me, I had mustered up enough courage to ask for a one-on-one interview with Warren. Not only did he agree to do the interview, but he spent nearly 15 minutes with me answering questions. Did I mention I was writing for Sports Glutton? No care to Warren. He treated me as if I was a reporter from the New York Times covering his team.

I’ll never forget that moment. Of course, it provided me confidence that I could continue to chase down a dream of mine to cover sports, but more importantly, it gave me a glimpse into the high-quality person he was and a lesson on how to treat people.

And when I would see him thereafter, either at the matches or at the club’s headquarters, he would greet me with a firm handshake and smile, which again, for those that have met him, made you feel like you were the most important person in the room.

From what I’ve observed, his connection with the players was strong and personal. The picture that I decided to include as part of this story (Warren with Tommy Stewart) certainly illustrates that connection, but to further illustrate, I thought it was fitting to share an interaction between Smith and Cameron Iwasa in the off-season.

I was interviewing Iwasa at Republic FC headquarters shortly after he had signed, and during the session, Warren came out to greet Iwasa like he was his son. He asked him how he was doing, how his family was, and you could tell that Iwasa was equally excited to see him and catch up. In true Warren Smith fashion, he shook my hand as well and apologized for interrupting the interview. Who does that? Just incredible stuff.

I understand this all might come across as hyperbole, but I think it’s important to make the connection between the success of the Republic and the individual behind it. Taking nothing away from the current ownership group, which I have full confidence will continue to be good stewards of the club and take us to the next level (fingers crossed an MLS expansion bid), yesterday was without question a loss for the club and our community.

And yeah, I know he’s staying on as a senior advisor, but it will not be the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but this is a shift nonetheless.

So thank you Warren. Thank you for helping energize and bring life to our city through the beautiful game. Thank you for being such a gentleman and encouraging me to follow my passion. Thank you for being such a great ambassador for our city.

But most of all, thank you for giving us Sacramento Republic FC. A club that we love, and a club that will forever be synonymous with you.