“We’re blessed to be officially adding a group of people to our project who collectively possess a very impressive and diverse background in sport, business, social impact and of course, Oakland. These are folks who have actually been privately involved with the project for quite some time but as we inch closer to our public launch, we wanted to get these names out into the public domain as official Roots members.”
Benno Nagel, Co-founder, Club President and Director of Soccer
Leading the club will be Oakland Roots Co-founder Benno Nagel, who will serve as Club President and Director of Soccer. Nagel is an Oakland native and former professional soccer coach, having worked with Dutch Eredivisie club FC Twente, Croatian giants GNK Dinamo Zagreb and most recently with Rayo OKC of the NASL. Following his time with Rayo OKC, Nagel moved back to Oakland to form Oakland Pro Soccer, the entity which now operates Oakland Roots Sports Club. At the onset of the formation of Oakland Pro Soccer, Nagel had been inspired by the concept of creating a professional soccer team in Oakland who was as committed to social improvement and impact as it was with providing local soccer fans with an entertaining brand of soccer. Fueled by that vision and mission, Nagel and his partners progressed Oakland Pro Soccer to extensive conversations with Major League Soccer (MLS), the United Soccer League (USL), the North American Soccer League (NASL) and the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). Benno attained his BA from San Francisco State University, where he also played collegiate soccer, and his MPA from CSU East Bay with a focus on Public Policy.
As Club President, Nagel will oversee all aspects of the day to day demands of the Front Office, as well as serve as an ever present participant in the overall Oakland community and social impact space. Expanding upon his overall duties, Nagel will double as Director of Soccer, coordinating all technical aspects regarding team operation and management for Oakland Roots.
Edreece Arghandiwal, Co-founder, Creative Director
Co-founder Edreece Arghandiwal will serve as an advisor of Brand Development and Marketing. Arghandiwal is a creative entrepreneur and branding professional who blends big ideas with social impact. He studied Biological Sciences and Economics at the University of California, Davis and has an MBA from the #1 ranked entrepreneurial program in the nation, Babson College. Edreece spent time at Apple Inc. where he managed a team of 80+ employees with several thousand customers per day. Most recently Edreece is the co-founder of Jurni, a mobile application focused on reinventing journaling; allowing greater connectivity with people who are going through similar experiences and emotions. Edreece also serves as the Creative Director of Zam Zam Water, a 501(c)3 humanitarian organization devoted to playing a vital role in eradicating poverty by providing clean, sustainable water and resources to villages across the globe. Edreece was born in Oakland, CA and raised in Alameda, CA.
J. Ramon Estevez, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating
A native of San Francisco, Estevez played collegiate soccer at UC Davis, earning a degree in Exercise Science / Sports Psychology, before turning pro in 1996 with the Sacramento Scorpions of the USISL (a precursor league to the present day USL). After hanging up his cleats professionally, and spending several years coaching at the collegiate level, his passion for the game took him beyond the playing field.
In 2004, he was tasked with leading Major League Soccer’s national soccer tournament series, “MLS Futbolito”, before moving on to other MLS and Soccer United Marketing projects, among them, national tours featuring Barcelona, Chivas de Guadalajara, and the Mexican National Team.
Locally, Estevez has served as Sr. Director of Operations for the San Jose Earthquakes and led the successful launch of United Soccer League sides SF City FC and San Francisco Glens, where he served, for the latter, as President and General Manager.
“I truly believe that Oakland is poised to become one of the next great soccer cities in this country and I’m excited to be joining a group that has the potential to inspire and unite this city and its surrounding communities under the Oakland Roots banner.”, said new Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer J. Ramon Estevez.
Zach Cohen, Director of Social Equity and Community Partnerships
In his role with Oakland Roots, Cohen will serve the club, overseeing the clubs engagements with local government, community stakeholders, and local residents. In his role Cohen will work alongside Senior VP of Impact and Social Enterprise, Mike Geddes, to implement the Roots’ community benefit model, which is rooted in delivering a soccer platform capable of economically driving social impact for the Oakland community.
A Berkeley High School graduate, Cohen brings with him an extensive background leading professional sports organizations in their community based efforts and programming. Cohen has served in numerous positions centered on community engagement and public benefit, including sitting on the boards of several highly respected Oakland based nonprofits and community based foundations. Most recently, he worked as the Executive Director of the Oakland A’s Community Fund where he played a pivotal role in implementing the “Rooted in Oakland” campaign spearheaded by numerous community based initiatives. Prior to the Athletics, Cohen spent a combined 10 years working with the Golden State Warriors, including a combined two and half years as the Program Manager and as the Interim Executive Director of their Community Foundation. He also sits on the board of the Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation, St. Vincent's Day Home, Playworks-East Bay, and the Seneca Family of Agencies- Bay Area.
Mike Geddes, Founding Partner, Senior Vice President of Impact and Social Enterprise
Oakland Roots, which is founded upon the principal of soccer as a force for social good has additionally added, Mike Geddes, Managing Director of Streetfootballworld USA. Mike is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of ‘soccer for social change’. A former soccer reporter with the BBC, he began his career in the game covering major sporting events like the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games and producing documentaries on topics such as hooliganism, racism and corruption. Whilst working in Africa he was struck by the incredible power of soccer as a tool for social change in disadvantaged communities and went on to produce documentaries on the subject in South Africa, Kenya, Bosnia, India, Mozambique, China and many other places. He joined the global non-profit organization streetfootballworld in 2008, spending three years in South Africa working on the social legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and relocating to the USA in 2012 to lead the organizations US entity. A serial entrepreneur, Mike has designed and launched several ventures at the intersection of soccer and youth empowerment including a citizen journalism program for youth in underserved communities in Africa, a program using soccer and music to reach out to inner-city youth in the UK and a line of jerseys inspired by real stories of social impact. In 2016 he relocated to Oakland with his wife and son to launch the third half, an adventure soccer travel company with a social purpose. Mike has written on the topic of sport and social change for the BBC, Huffington Post, Sports Business Journal and Forbes and spoken on the topic at many top institutions including Harvard, Brown, NYU, abc Forum, SOCAP, the Center for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, the FIFA CIES Masters course and many more. In his spare time he works with an organization using soccer to help keep kids safe from landmines in conflict zones like Colombia and Iraq and volunteers for a number of urban soccer programs across the United States.
As SVP of Impact and Social Enterprise, Geddes will work with Club President Benno Nagel to devise mechanisms through which to integrate social enterprise into the Oakland Roots business model. Furthermore, Geddes will work to identify and collaborate with local and global nonprofit service providers in the soccer for social good space, with specific events to be hosted by Oakland Roots throughout the year to specifically benefit these organizational impact partners.
Benjamin Aziz, Founding Partner, Senior Advisor on Club Affairs
Benjamin Aziz is an executive, entrepreneur, consultant and editor with experience in both sports and the public sector. He is currently Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Sacramento Republic FC, helping manage the city and club’s efforts to land a Major League Soccer expansion award. In his previous role in Sacramento, Benjamin served as liaison between the city, corporate community, and Sacramento Kings NBA franchise in a highly publicized effort that won approval to keep the team in Sacramento and develop Golden 1 Center. Benjamin also led corporate partnership sales and activation at the New York Cosmos and began his career in sports with the Golden State Warriors. He recently founded Position Magazine, an independent publication that promotes design and purpose in sport, and is preparing for a 2019 launch. Benjamin earned a BA in Political Science from UC Berkeley and an MA in Sport Management from the University of San Francisco. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In his role with Roots, Aziz will advise the club on all aspects of Front office operations, including but not limited to Strategic sponsorships, Corporate sales and sponsorship and Investor relations. Aziz will also serve as an advisor on brand development, marketing and advertising and both governmental and community relations.
Tommy Hodul, Press Officer and Director of Fan Engagement
Tommy Hodul was born and raised in Oakland, California. He covers soccer for multiple outlets and is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Over the last 4 years, Tommy has become one of the leading experts on the Northern California Soccer scene, covering matches from the NPSL, UPSL, PDL, and the NCAA all the way up through MLS and the international game. He is well connected in the soccer journalism community and is also currently a scout and podcast host of Path2Pro Soccer, helping local players advance through the amateur ranks into the professional game. Before becoming a reporter and scout, he helped form the American Outlaws Oakland Chapter and the Oakland Toffees, an Everton supporters group connecting soccer fans throughout the city. Between covering the game and supporting the game, Tommy is involved just about everywhere in the game in the Oakland/East Bay Area.
In joining Roots, Hodul will serve as the clubs press officer, whose duties will include writing and editing Roots related press and media articles, covering the day to day activities of the men’s and women’s Oakland Roots teams. Hodul will also serve as a press liaison with both print and online publications as part of Roots’ overall media and marketing implementation strategy. As Director of Fan Engagement, Hodul will represent the club in the Oakland community, attending public events, both club hosted and not, to promote the Oakland Roots. Hodul will also serve as point of contact for any future supporters club or clubs which will independently form but work closely with Roots to ensure a thriving fan culture supporting professional soccer in Oakland.
Ezra Gonzalez, Director of Sales and Sponsorship
Ezra Gonzalez is another Bay Area native who will join the Front Office staff. More recently, he comes from the private sector, where he dealt in complex selling environments. With a proven track record of supporting startups, Gonzalez appreciates the hustle of keeping a new organization healthy. In his role, Gonzalez will champion the value of the Oakland Roots brand, events and promotions. He brings with him a knack for sales, by which he will use creativity to develop unique and valuable programs to fans and partners. He, along with the rest of the team, are committed to extending the affinity of the Oakland Roots to all its fans and partners.
Gonzalez also comes from a soccer background, which includes having played in Division 1 youth and college programs, volunteering for NCAA Women's soccer teams and recently playing on NorCal Premier and NPSL teams. Charmed and inspired by the game since his youth, he is excited to give back to the community that brought him the game by serving the Oakland Roots.
Devante Dubose, Club Ambassador
Devante Dubose is an Oakland native and current professional soccer player for Pheonix Rising FC of the USL. Born and Raised in Oakland, Dubose attended Bishop O’Dowd High School where he led the O’Dowd Dragons to a #15 national ranking during his senior season. Dubose eventually made his way to NCAA Division 1 program Virginia Tech Hokies, where he earned the title “Fastest player in college soccer” and was later drafted in the MLS Supplemental draft by the San Jose Earthquakes. Dubose spent time in the Earthquakes PDL system, as well as with the PDL system of USL’s Oklahoma City Energy before signing his first professional contract with the Energy for the end of the 2016 season. After a brief time away from the game, Dubose was signed by Pheonix Rising FC of the USL and has grown into a regular starting role with the team at right back.
Dubose had this to say on his excitement to join the Oakland Roots family, “Being born and raised in Oakland it’s been a dream to not only see but to be involved with Oakland Pro Soccer (now Oakland Roots) and their efforts to bring professional soccer to Oakland. Oakland is a special place with a lot of promising talent and it’s time for the world to see that.”
In his role as club ambassador, Devante will represent Oakland Roots within both the US professional soccer community as well as within the local Oakland community. Dubose will periodically participate in Roots events, when visiting Oakland, and will serve as a role model for countless Oakland youth aspiring to one day play professional soccer.
Hailai Arghandiwal, Club Ambassador
Former captain of the Santa Clara Women’s Soccer Team and current member of the Afghan Women’s National Team, Hailai Arghandiwal is not only a professional soccer player, but is an advocate for the empowerment of women all around the world. When she’s not out in the world trying to change norms, Hailai heads up Social Media at Goal Five, a soccer brand that puts female first.
Khari Stephenson, Advisor on Sporting Affairs and Strategic Partnerships
Bay area soccer fans will likely recognize Stephenson’s name from his time playing with the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. During his time with the Earthquakes, Stephenson made 111 regular season appearances (not including postseason and US Open Cup). Stephenson’s career spanned across both the US and Europe, with time spent playing with Swedish giants AIK as well as in Norway’s top flight of professional soccer. In MLS, Stephenson began his professional career with the Kansas City Wizards (04-05) and had a one year stint with Real Salt Lake for the 2014 season in between his two stints with San Jose. As a member of the Jamaican National team, Stephenson earned 32 caps, while scoring 3 goals for the “Reggae Boyz”.
In his role with Roots, Stephenson will advise club leadership and the board of directors on Sporting Affairs and Strategic Partnerships, leveraging his diverse skillset across multiple club operational areas. After retiring in 2016, Khari moved on to the corporate world joining Adobe where he currently works today.
Matthew Wolff, Creative Advisor
As Oakland Roots SC prepares for its upcoming club launch, the team tasked with developing one of the most exciting projects in US soccer continues to grow. World renowned NIKE designer Matthew Wolff joins the Oakland Roots family bringing with him one of the most impressive resumes in the world of soccer design. In the buildup to World Cup 2018, Wolff grabbed international headlines with his design of the Nigeria World Cup kits, drafting what has now been dubbed as one of the most stylish soccer kits to ever hit the market. In addition to leading the design on the Nigeria collection, he designed the collection for eventual World Cup winners France.
Prior to his work with NIKE, Wolff served as the first ever graphic designer for New York City FC of Major League Soccer (MLS), where he worked on launching the club’s visual identity and worked regularly with Adidas and the club's sister company, Manchester City FC. Wolff was also charged with launching the visual identity of 2018 MLS expansion franchise Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), designing a brand that has taken LA by storm and quickly gained credible market share within what is a star-studded LA sports landscape.
In his role with Roots, Wolff will serve as a Creative Advisor, with initial work to begin through the design of the logo that will forever represent the club both in Oakland and the global soccer community. Beyond the scope of that initial work, Wolff will serve in an ongoing creative advisory role to help grow and expand the presence of Oakland Roots within the soccer world.