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Celebrity-owned Wrexham AFC gains promotion to League 2 in English soccer

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

When North American actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought a fifth division soccer team in Wales two years ago, its fans were hoping for a Hollywood moment. After the team won on Saturday, they got one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Wrex sure are promoted. They have their storybook ending.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

That's right - the club Wrexham secured promotion to a higher league of English soccer. Next season, they'll play in the fourth division for the first time in 15 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing, inaudible).

BLOCK: Here's McElhenney after the match.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROB MCELHENNEY: Well, I think we can hear how it feels to the town, and that's what's most important to us. I think this is a moment of catharsis for them and celebration. And for us to be welcomed into their community and to be welcomed into this experience, has been the honor of my life.

CHANG: In 2021, the actor known for the TV show "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" paired with Ryan Reynolds to acquire one of the oldest soccer clubs in the U.K. They filmed their journey in the docuseries "Welcome To Wrexham." McElhenney described it to NPR's Michel Martin last year.

MCELHENNEY: I just felt a kindred spirit to them. And I thought, man, if I could tell their story correctly and honor and respect them, I think I could get people to watch it all over the world. And that seems to be the case.

BLOCK: In order to bring their team up from the depths of English soccer, the new owners needed to upgrade the roster. Among the players they brought in was a previously retired, top-level goalkeeper-turned-media personality named Ben Foster.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN FOSTER: You don't get many of these moments. I think this is my third promotion in my whole 20-year career, and it feels so damn good. At the age of 40, the ripe old age of 40, that was about as good as it gets. Genuinely, that means so much to me.

CHANG: This may only be the start for Wrexham's new owners. They hope to eventually be promoted three more divisions all the way up to the Premier League.

BLOCK: Now that would be a Hollywood ending.

CHANG: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WHITE STRIPES SONG, "SEVEN NATION ARMY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Gus Contreras
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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