By Jacob Born | January 29, 2021
In 1993, Hassan Nazari was looking for a place for his kids to play soccer. He had started playing soccer himself at the age of four, picking up a soccer ball on the sidelines of his brother’s games. At first, it was just pick up games, but then by the age of 12, he joined the club ranks – and he never lost his love for the game. Now, he wanted the same for his kids. The problem was, nothing felt quite right.
So rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, Nazari had a different plan.
He decided to start his own club, and thus the Dallas Texans were born.
“I started Texans because my own kids started to play the game,” Nazari said. “They were good at it and fell in love with it. And they were just trying to play. And I tried to create an environment that was a little bit closer to what I knew. I didn’t grow up playing soccer in the United States. I played professionally and the clubs were very different there than over here. And I tried to create an environment for my club to resemble what’s being done in Europe.”
What Nazari saw was disconnection. Of the clubs in the area at that time, he felt that most were only connected by a name, while philosophically, the teams were all different. To Nazari, that wasn’t how he wanted a club to be. He had a different vision. When starting Dallas Texans, Nazari wanted to replicate the environment that he grew up in.
“I wanted to create a club that, number one, had its own facility,” Nazari said. “I wanted all the players to come to one place. The younger ones to see the older ones practicing together as a family. So they can spend time together and be together. So I wanted to create more of a family, club-oriented environment.”
In its first season, the Texans only had three teams and approximately 50 players. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and that number has increased to more than 200 teams across the Dallas area.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t expecting for the club to grow the way it is today,” Nazari said “That was not my intention. My intention was to create something different than any other club, something they couldn’t find anywhere else. Then slowly, people from other clubs started to take notice and join. The parents were attracted to the Texans because they felt we were creating something different. And then it grew from three teams to eight teams. And after that to 20 teams, 30 teams, and now 200 teams alone in Dallas. I think of our development, I think of our club culture, we have created it because most of our teams practice at the same place. And a lot of our players and families know each other. We have created a family environment club. So that has been part of attracting players to our club.”
The Dallas Texans have become one of the most iconic brands in youth soccer, one Nazari is understandably very proud of. Throughout his time leading the club, the organization has seen success after success, including seeing professional stars like Clint Dempsey, Lee Nguyen, Omar Gonzalez and others wear the Texan shirt as youth players. This season, the Texans saw three players selected in the MLS SuperDraft and another in the NWSL Draft – evidence that the Texans’ pipeline to the pros is alive and well.
Those alumni help bring in new talent, while also giving current players the vision that their dreams can come true. But it’s all part of the culture Nazari has instilled at Dallas Texans: that success breeds success.
“It’s a sort of motto for us, that success breeds success,” Nazari said. “Early on, our teams were successful, and our players individually were successful. They were part of the state team, regional team, national teams. So they attracted other players to our club.”
For Nazari, success can be found in a number of ways. But there are two major keys to building and maintaining success: training sessions, and the players themselves.
“The most important aspect of our system is our training session,” Nazari said. “Finding the good players, attracting the good talented players to your club, that’s important, but if you are not able to provide the services to their caliber, then you’ll only keep them for several years, before they leave your club. We have a club culture, we try to select the players that fit our culture, that fit our system. We look at these players first as a person, second as a soccer player. So to us, we’re still looking at him as a person who loves to play the game, who loves to play soccer. So to us, they are first, a person, second a soccer player.”
It also helps when the person leading your club has also seen that success personally.
Once Nazari started playing club soccer, coaches started telling him he had some real talent. And while he continued to play the game for fun, he started realizing he could maybe turn it into a profession.
Nazari kept climbing the ranks, and he parlayed picking up a soccer ball on the sidelines of his brother’s games into a 12-year professional career, including suiting up in the 1976 Olympics and 1978 World Cup for Iran.
“When you’re a little bit younger, you play to enjoy the game, you’re having fun playing the game. Then when I got a little bit older, I decided to dream a little bit bigger. As an athlete, the stage which is exalted is the World Cup; it’s basically heaven. I was very fortunate to do that for my country. It is a privilege to represent your country in any sport, it’s something that you will never ever forget.”
It was that professional career that brought Nazari to the United States in the first place, as he finished his career with the Dallas Americans of the American Soccer League. But when that league folded, Nazari stayed in the United States, becoming a coach before eventually founding the Dallas Texans. His experience gave him the credibility to establish his vision for a club and follow through with that vision. And he ensures that every single player who has played for Texans leaves with that same vision in mind.
“I want people, whether they were part of the Texans, or outside of the organization, to remember that the Texans was an environment good for every kid and that they had every opportunity to have a place to play. For those who played for the Texans, I want them to have a great experience whether you played for a day or for 10 years. I want them to remember the Dallas Texans as a place that provided an opportunity for every kid to reach their full potential, and ultimately, to be a good person after it’s all done with soccer to develop a good person.”
Nazari also said that the ECNL has played a hand in every aspect of the culture he has created at his club. The league continues to push his own players, pitting them against the very best talent across the country. It also helps his players become the best they can be not just on the field, but off the field. It’s made him very proud to be a partner in a league that fosters and builds the best for every person.
“The ECNL plays a big role to develop the girl’s, women’s and men’s game in this country, not only developing them as a player but also through all different resources that they provide for the clubs and players,” Nazari said. “They develop them to be a good person. So I think ECNL, they play a huge role in who we are and who these players, young women and men are going to be.”
And for Nazari, that’s truly why he does what he does. Soccer has been an integral part of his life. He built an entire club so that his children can play the sport he loves. He’s created a family environment so he can share that love with others.
Nazari started playing the game at four years old. And now at 64, he still loves it just as much 60 years later.
“As a person, I’m very, very pleased that I have this,” Nazari said. “I have had the opportunity to be around families who put their trust into the Texans organization and myself, and to create an environment for the kids to fulfill their dream, whatever it is. So I’m very honored to have that opportunity to provide that for the kids who love to play the game here in Dallas.”
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