Most football clubs represent their local region or community. Some even represent cultural minorities or political ideals. Flat Earth FC, however, represents a conspiracy theory.
Javi Poves was a promising young player. Having risen through the ranks at Sporting de Gijón, the Spanish defender made his LaLiga debut for the club in 2011 on the final day of the season. That summer, he retired after one appearance, aged just 23.
“What I've seen from within makes it clear: professional football is only money and corruption. It's capitalism, and capitalism is death,” Proves ranted to the press. “I don't want to be part of a system based on people earning money at the expense of the deaths of others in South America, Africa and Asia. To put it simply, my conscience will not let me continue with this.”
Disillusioned and resentful, Poves duly hung up his boots and decided instead to travel the world. He made a brief return to the game in 2014 with S.S. Reyes before eventually stumbling upon provincial side, Móstoles Balompié.
"I'm going to use Flat Earth FC as a tool to expand the idea behind this movement in the same way Real Madrid use their club's image to get to a certain position."
Javi Poves, Flat Earth FC President
Poves went on to become President of the club as they climbed Spain’s football pyramid, eventually securing promotion to the Spanish fourth division last season. With his side’s status on the rise, Poves decided to take the inconceivable decision to rebrand the club. It wasn’t just any rebrand, though: he renamed them Flat Earth FC.
Historically, football clubs have always served the purpose of representing local communities or areas within which they reside. Recent years have seen some clubs take on more bold messaging, such as Deportivo Palestino in Chile, who were founded by a group of Palastinian immigrants, or St. Pauli in Germany, who represent their politically left-leaning fanbase.
Flat Earth FC is the first professional football club that represents a conspiracy. "Football is the most popular sport and has the most impact worldwide, so creating a club dedicated to the flat earth movement is the best way to have a constant presence in the media,” Poves told Marca earlier this year.
"Flat Earth FC is the first football club whose followers are united by the most important thing, which is an idea." It’s an idea which has attracted new supporters to the club, too, who carry this shared belief.
"I identify with the club's concept, idea, purpose and philosophy."
Emilio, Flat Earth FC fan
The club’s crest is now a circular image of the earth, pressed flat onto all kits, and fans are encouraged to spark regular conversations in their pursuit of answers from the powers that be. The team mascot? An astronaut.
While one may imagine this drastic change would have divided the players and staff, most seem to be behind the club’s newfound image. “It’s really amazing to be part of this amazing movement,” current player, Mario Cardete tells COPA90. “I think it’s more than a club.”
‘More than a club’ is a familiar phrase in Spain given it is the adopted club motto of current LaLiga Champions, FC Barcelona. But as journalist Rodrigo Fáez explains, Flat Earth FC aim to go far beyond the Catalan club’s message.
“The rest of the clubs try to change something in people’s lives,” Fáez explains to COPA90. “He [Poves] tries to change everything in people’s minds.”
It’s a radical message that has certainly caused a stir in the lower echelons of Spainish football. However, as the club continues to rise, what started out as local controversy may soon become national debate. Who knows, in years to come we may well see Flat Earth FC lining up at the Camp Nou, as Més que un Club meet Més que un Planeta.
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