Creative Soccer Culture

Catching Up With VBFC Founders At Pantofola D’Oro Launch Event

A fusion of like minds saw premium Italian craft masters Pantofola D’Oro link up with Venice Beach FC recently for a collaboration of laid back cool, and we hooked up with VBFC founders Tim Walsh & Dillon Chapman at the launch event to get the inside scoop.

If any two entities know how to throw a launch party it would surely be Pantofola D’Oro and Venice Beach FC. Gathering at Estadio De Dogtown, Venice Beach in Los Angeles, a concrete kick about anchored on a patch of sun-bleached concrete, between the Pacific Ocean and the Venice Beach Boardwalk, festivities centred around the pair’s new collection. And we were on hand to speak with VBFC Founders Tim Walsh & Dillon Chapman about all things Venice Beach FC, from their origin to famous visitors and of course, touching on this latest collaboration.

Let’s go way back to the beginning – when did Venice Beach FC form? Can you remember the moment?

Dillon: It came together towards the end of 2016. I had been in Venice for a few years at that point, and Tim and I were playing together on a local team. We’d see each other a lot in the area, and began hanging out and conceptualising how to build something special within football for the neighbourhood. We hadn’t seen any representation for football here, youth or adult, despite nearly all other sports having a place here.

Tim: Venice Beach Football Club started back in 2016. It was an idea and fantasy of what could be, until it felt like something we had to do. There was no soccer club that was representing the neighbourhood which we called home. There was a moment when we were on the boardwalk standing on the back wall between the court and the bike path looking over an empty handball court and realised that was going to be our home stadium, the Estadio.

What was the mantra and ethos back then and what is it now?

Dillon: Our mantra at the time was about building something for our neighbourhood and using the power and beauty of community to build a football club. We wanted to tell stories, and create a lifestyle and meaning behind being a VBFC player or supporter. That is still a guiding principle. The club is for Venice, and footballers from all walks of life. What we had seen in our own journeys in football, the role football clubs play in the lives of their supporters and within the community was something we wanted to achieve.

Tim: The mantra was to build a club we wish we always had as kids and use football to positively impact others. When we started VBFC, we were at the end of our own playing careers. It was a time where we were reflecting on our own personal journeys in football.  The relationships, lessons, and communities were massive and that’s something we wanted to develop here. For example, having friends from every type of background/culture or ethnicity, role models, mentors, community, was something that seemed way more impactful/memorable rather than winning championships or the accolades collected. We wanted to use football and the power of community to make an impact on local players, while reflecting the unique local history and culture of Venice, California. 

vbfc 23-min.jpg
vbfc 22-min.jpg

The evolution over time, it’s become a must visit for anyone connected to the game, who goes to LA – you’ve got to be proud of that?

Dillon: Eventually, we started  to see the Estadio as a Footballer’s Paradise, and from there it sort of became a globally recognised destination. The players and figures within the sport that have come to the Estadio are a big source of gratitude. We’re grateful for how some of these players of generated inspiration not only for the next generation of players here locally, but for us as well.

Tim: It’s been incredible to see a pickup game turn into a football destination. I think what happens every Sunday at the Estadio is something special, and something every footballer wished they had growing up.

What moments really stand out as particularly proud moments?

Dillon: Obviously when big time players come by its very exciting for everyone, but a couple of marquee moments that I look back on most fondly are the friendly we hosted against LAFC’s Academy at the Estadio to play against a local group of VBFC players we had been working with was super special. Next to that was working with EA Sports to get some of the club’s and neighbourhood's most influential players on one of the biggest mural spaces on the boardwalk. But every Sunday, you’ll get one of the younger kids in the neighbourhood who show the courage to step on the court. When those kids score a goal, the entire crowd shows them love and you can see how much it means to them.

Tim: A few moments stand out for sure. The moment Mbappe came and played was something out of a movie script. The crowd and energy of that was incredible, and for the local kid to score the goal in front of his family and be assisted by Kylian was too good. LAFC academy vs VBFC academy was great because not often would an MLS Academy bring their top talent to play a community club on some rigid concrete like we have. Weston McKennie was iconic, the guy is a charismatic superstar. FIFA 21 and 22 was a crazy dream we didn’t even think was possible until it happened. Making our own boots with Pantofola and being able to design them from the start to finish is also a huge moment as well being that we wore them as a kids. There’s too many at this point to really make a top 3, its been one big fairytale.

vbfc 25-min.jpg
vbfc 24-min.jpg

What’s it like locally – you must have so many people that want to get involved…

Dillon: We get a lot of messages of support and people who want to give back and contribute. It's always nice to get that love and feel supported, as we grow we are working to keep building a solid team of people who can help push the mission forward. All the people in and around the club really help make everything tick.

Tim: We do have a lot of interest from fellow players, fans, and coaches. There is a handful of people who help make VBFC what it is. We scout and recruit all of our youth coaches out of our pickup games that happen on Sundays. The best talent on Sundays become role models on and off the court and help coach the academy/youth league throughout the week. There is so much talent and diversity within the club, that everyone adds to it in their own way.

How has it been to manage?

Dillon: It can be hectic and difficult at times, especially when we have a big event or opportunity that we need to be all hands on deck for, but we have a really solid team of people that make it all possible, and we do our best to balance the different parts of the club and business that we have to manage. There have definitely been growing pains at times, but those have generally been good problems.

Tim: We have to follow our intuitions to help navigate and manage the opportunities that come our way. VBFC is a home for many different levels and ages of players, and sometimes that gets difficult to satisfy in one game/court/event/club. However, most people understand that everyone there is coming together to create something bigger than just themselves and it creates a very unique inclusive and positive environment.

vbfc 26-min.jpg
vbfc 21-min.jpg

Can you tell us about some of the first players to join?

Dillon: From the jump we had a lot of our peers and teammates from over the years, but soon thereafter started to attract a lot of tourists, locals, we actually had a good handful of the unhoused that live around the area at the beginning playing with us, folks who worked in the boardwalk shops. It was dope, the ball just brought together a lot of unique people locally, and since we were playing with teams in the area we would invite out teammates and just try to get a good run in together. The main thing was we just wanted it to be a ritual - every Sunday you knew where to go in Venice to get a game in.

Tim: The first handful of players to join were mostly local boardwalk shop workers and the kids in the area. The first pickup games for a few months were just a handful of people that were working in the boardwalk shops or foreign tourists passing by. One that stands out is a tattoo artist named Tohid from Iran who played professionally for a year or two in Turkey before giving up football and becoming a tattoo artist and eded up at a shop on the boardwalk. Just bringing a ball out and allowing others to join in started to reveal how many footballers were actually in the neighbourhood we never knew about. Back then, we had homeless people, basketball players, tourists, kids, and whoever we could recruit jump in to make sure we had enough to play 4v4. The level wasn’t always great, but eventually word got out, and top local players started to become the regulars.

What about where it’s at now, what kind of characters play down there?

Dillon: We still get an amazing, eclectic mix of people every weekend. You really never know who is going to show up. Last week, we had a new transient who was actually an incredible footballer - but more than that, he was super kind and helped us pack up everything after the session. The week before that we had Douglas Costa. It is a very wide spectrum and that's what makes it special for us. The usual cast of players include some of LA’s best players, former and current pros, and guys and girls, and kids in the neighbourhood that want to enjoy their Sunday around the game. It’s like a little slice of paradise.

Tim:  Nowadays, you get a mix of everything. We got every crayon in the colouring box on this court. You’ll have some of LA’s finest talent (past /present / and future) of all ages on any given Sunday. We’ve seen literally everything from the world’s top players with World Cup medals like Mbappe, to randoms with ankle monitors strapped on to keep them under the eye of law enforcement. That's some of the beauty about it. You never know who’s who there or who is going to be walking by. You can usually hear a few different languages being spoken.

vbfc 20-min.jpg
vbfc 19-min.jpg

What were the initial milestones and goals you wanted to hit with it?

Dillon: One of the first goals was to create the Rucker Park of pickup soccer in America. This is always a continued goal and we’re always trying to create the best playing environment possible, but we feel we’ve found a niche in building a bucket list, destination game that everyone has to stop by and see. We’ve hit a number of short and medium term goals within apparel, youth, events, and collaborations but there are still so many things we want to do. In a weird way, it always feels like we’re just getting started.

Tim: We would like to see more pitches and fields in the neighbourhood for people to have access and play. Soon hopefully we can create our own full time pitch. We’re working on The VBFC Clubhouse /  community centre / club shop  trying to bring that to life day where we can sell the clothes we want to make while doing other good things. We want to continue to create stories and spaces for fans people to enjoy. We’d love to see our local youth players stay out of trouble and play professionally one day representing Venice football on the world stage, while we document and share the stories of it on the internet.

What about the growth and expansion of it all – is it something that you’d like to evolve and grow even more? What are the aspirations now?

Dillon: We want our own court, our own clubhouse/shop, and to continue to build a team together that feels like a family. We want to continue to make waves within global soccer as well through youth development and recruitment to professional teams, and we are building the resources to achieve that. I’d like to see our jerseys and apparel be worn around the world. But building an apparel brand around these stories, and the community we represent and that represent us, is a really exciting and enjoyable part of what we have created.

vbfc 18-min.jpg
vbfc 17-min.jpg

All kinds of brands, clubs and players have dropped in to the space for a pick up game – what makes Pantofola d’Oro such a good fit for you guys?

Dillon: I think the authenticity of P’dO stands out to me. They are boutique in a way, but obviously have a very rich history and are well known across the world. We liked how organic the collaboration felt and we were involved in the planning and execution of all creative elements. Kim and everyone at the company have been super down to earth and great to work with. On a personal note, I had a romantic feeling about it being an Italian brand. I thought about “Venice of America” - how Venice, CA was built to model Venice, Italy, and connecting Italy to Venice, CA felt special in that way.

Tim: Pantofola D’Oro has been one of my top 3 favourite football brands since I was a kid. I had a pair when I was 11 or 12 years old. They were a rare gem back then, because it was before the internet. If you found Pantofola in a football shop (which was also rare), it was like uncovering an Italian treasure.  Even this last year, I was playing with them at the Estadio well before they reached out to us. It was a no-brainer and easily one of the top brands in football boots we’d have loved to work with. Between the history of the brand, the iconic players that wore them, and the Italian craftsmanship of the boots, it made perfect sense to work on this project with them. To me, they represent an elegant and romantic side of football that is tough to find in boots these days.

Can you tell us about the collaboration and what you wanted to achieve with it?

Dillon: We wanted to create something timeless and essential, but unique in its own way as well. We wanted to achieve this not only through the styles in the items we created but also through the story telling of the coming together of our two brands.

Tim:. We wanted to create a shoe and boot that reflected the needs and lifestyle of the local boardwalk footballer. Something made with quality, durability, yet timeless and classic.  We wanted to recognise the quality and luxury of the Pantofola D’Oro traditions but give it our own local details and style. The shoe has to be something you could wear all day, be able to skateboard, and perform with on the unforgiving Estadio concrete pitch. The goal was to create a shoe that could be worn with a suit, score golazos on the court, shred on the board all in one.

vbfc 16-min.jpg
vbfc 15-min.jpg

Putting out a capsule like this, what does it mean to you guys?

Dillon: Being able to collaborate with a really unique and iconic brand like P’dO has been super rad, and launching it amongst our community, players and supporters was one of the best parts. We’re looking forward to throwing more parties here around different collaborations that are meaningful to us and the club.

Tim: it’s a dream come true. It’s incredible to think that VBFC which is very new in the big scheme of things is able to create a project with such a historic iconic football brand.

What are the details and finer touches that you guys love most about the product itself?

Dillon: P’dO has their signature gold embossed logo hits and it was really fun to use that style with our collaborative logo and our own logo hits on the boots and shoes.

Tim: The comfort and quality of the shoes is incredible. Even the boots came out far better than we imagined. They have this classic old school design while also completely lightweight and ideal for a modern player. The champagne leather exterior with the brown leather inside, the gold eyelids, and the clear black Pantofola stars and signature on the bottom outsole goes hard.

vbfc 14-min.jpg
vbfc 13-min.jpg

It must whet the appetite for more – is this something you’d like to develop and explore more of?

Dillon: For sure. We’re going to put together a handful of collections with them and we’re excited to make each one unique in its own way.

Tim: The process working with Kim and Pantofola was incredible the entire way and they gave us the full ability to completely create anything we wanted from the start. Hopefully soon we can go get to Italy and explore the facilities and dream up the next collaboration with them.

Shop the Pantofola d'Oro x VBFC collection at

Daniel Jones

The Creative Soccer Culture Brief

Sign up to our newsletter and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the world of Creative Soccer Culture.