We can all agree that we quite like an underdog story. We especially like an underdog story that involves bucking corporate, for-profit entities with no regard for a community, and a starting-from-the-bottom hero’s journey fueled largely by a group of individuals coming together to make a difference — both for the community, and people around the world.
And just like the Richmond Greyhounds of Ted Lasso fame — this one’s got us believing.
In early February, AFC Wimbledon Women announced a new team sponsor: Partners In Health
AFC Wimbledon Women is the women’s and girls’ teams for the AFC Wimbledon club, which has a storied history — one that quite poetically aligns with the story of nonprofit Partners In Health. And one that John Green is quite the fan of.
Green is a longtime supporter and sponsor of AFC Wimbledon
Green is a longtime sponsor of the AFC Wimbledon men’s team, which is one of the few professional soccer teams (and professional sports teams in general) in the world owned by its fans.
And to understand how Green became a sponsor of the women’s team, we need to take a brief journey into history.
In 2002, league officials relocated the team, then called Wimbledon F.C. about 70 miles north to an entirely new town. It’s a familiar occurrence in the U.S., where teams change cities relatively frequently — not so in England, and especially not for soccer. It did not go over well with fans.
Instead of accepting their football club-less fate, Wimbledon fans took matters into their own hands and established their own — renaming it AFC Wimbledon. And they did something a little different to ensure this “new” team wouldn’t ever again be, in their words, “at the mercy of private owners with their own egotistical agendas.”
The team is now owned entirely by its supporters through The Dons Trust and overseen by an executive board elected by the fans.
Green (a storyteller in his own right) was drawn to this story, and in a segment on VICE Sports, told fans their support was “a testament to the power of individuals over corporations, over wealthy people, over greed… of individuals who care about something, who care about an institution” to make this team a reality.
A new start for AFC Wimbledon also meant starting from the very bottom of the league. The team went on to get promoted six times in 13 seasons, going from the ninth level of the league to the third.
Here’s the deal: Once you make it to the fourth level in the Football League, teams need more money and sponsors in order to compete. The fans showed up yet again — including one across the pond that even the players hadn’t heard of (yet): John Green.
John and his brother Hank had already been creating YouTube videos for Crash Course and vlogbrothers at this point, but Hank also started a YouTube channel called “hankgames” to upload gaming videos where he’d play and generate ad revenue from people watching.
Well, John started uploading videos of himself playing FIFA, representing which team? You guessed it: AFC Wimbledon. Despite being a “quite terrible” FIFA player (sorry John, but the internet agrees), the videos got millions of views. (They likely tune in less for John’s playing skills and more for the story he created around “his” AFC Wimbledon FIFA team — including two forwards named “John Green” and “other John Green.”)
Green’s videos started making quite a bit of money from ad revenue, so he called AFC Wimbledon and asked if he could support the team by giving them the money as a sponsor.
After a bit of confusion and a lot of “but why?” from the team, they of course agreed. The team’s kits (that’s British for uniforms) were soon emblazoned with a “DFTBA: Nerdfighteria” crest on the shorts. At one point, they even named an entire section of the stadium the “John Green seats.”
Partners in Health becomes a sponsor of AFC Wimbledon Women
A year after AFC Wimbledon was formed, they also established both women’s and girls’ teams — AFC Wimbledon Women. Despite some ups and downs over the years, the team played in front of a record crowd at the club’s home stadium, Plough Lane last season.
This brings us to today, with John Green once again putting his support behind the inspiring club alongside producing partner, British writer, video blogger, social media manager, and online personality Rosianna Halse Rojas.
And this time, they’re supporting the women’s team and an incredible organization doing lifesaving work for women and girls’ health around the world.
Starting this season, thanks to John and Rosianna, AFC Wimbledon Women will wear the Partners In Health logo on the back of their jerseys — raising awareness for the organization during every match of the season.
“We are both very excited to sponsor AFC Wimbledon Women and join the many supporters of this fantastic club. The team is going from strength to strength with a brilliant squad and relentless support behind the scenes,” said John and Rosianna in a joint statement.
“It’s clear how much everyone has poured into this community and how much care has been at the heart of it all. We’re so grateful to everyone at AFC Wimbledon Women for the warm welcome and we can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings.”
Partners In Health is a global health and social justice organization responding to the “moral imperative to provide high-quality health care globally to those who need it most.”
Working in 12 countries, Partners In Health operates within the belief that injustices lead to poverty and sickness, and that health is a human right — and no human is less deserving of that right than another.
You might also like: The best quotes from Partners In Health founder Dr. Paul Farmer
And just like John has been a longtime supporter of the Dons, the Green brothers have been longtime supporters of Partners in Health. Currently, they are working together to combat the maternal and child mortality crisis in Sierra Leone by raising $25 million over five years to build a teaching hospital for maternal health in the country.
And now: through the sponsorship of a team who knows a bit about coming together to make a change, overcoming “the powers that be,” and fighting through even the grimmest of circumstances.