South Bay Soccer Player Julian Kuhr Pursues His Soccer Ambitions Across the Pond

Just believe.

  • Category
  • Written & photographed by
    Kat Monk

“Oi, are you American?” This is just one of many heckles that Hermosa Beach’s Julian Kuhr, 17, hears while playing professional soccer for Gillingham Football Club (“the Gills”) in England. Without hesitation, Julian takes the noise in stride because he is living out his childhood dream—to become a professional soccer player.

And soccer in England is as serious and important as football in Texas. Ted Lasso, the hit show about an American soccer coach of an English football team, brilliantly showcases that national fervor. As his mom is English, dual citizenship has afforded Julian opportunities abroad, including spending his summers playing in England—a unique chance to be seen and noticed by the British soccer community.

Julian’s inspiration to play soccer came from watching his older brother Sebastian play the sport. “I would constantly get dragged around California to watch his tournaments and games,” he remembers. “Watching him play that much influenced me to want to play soccer like him.”

Soon Julian made it evident he not only wanted to play soccer, but he wanted to beat Sebastian. “When I was younger, everything he did I wanted to do—but better.”

He explains that both he and his brother were super competitive when it came to sports. “It got to the point where we couldn’t even play sports together because it would end in a fight between us. The fight would usually start from me being a bit too serious when we played.”

Confident it was his destiny to play professional soccer, Julian paid his dues by playing at every possible opportunity in both the United States and England. Often he begged his parents to let him stay on in England, but they were reluctant—desiring him to first finish his education in the United States.

When the pandemic roared through 2020, all U.S. sports came to a crashing halt. As school was moved online, Julian seized his opportunity to play soccer in England. He trialed and played a couple games with the Gills as a guest player. Soon they asked to have a meeting with him and his parents to discuss his next steps. Just like that, he had officially been recruited by the Gills with a two-year contract.

The Gills is a small club just outside London based in Kent. After some relegations and promotions, the Gills have consistently played in the third tier of the English football system called League One since 2013. Home matches are played at Priestfield Stadium with a capacity of about 12,000 fans.

As a defensive midfielder on the U18/19 team, he is currently in line to play on the first team if anyone gets ill or is injured. The Gills Football Club is similar to AFC Richmond, the fictitious team featured on Ted Lasso—not a premier team but a team with a lot of heart.

Julian lives with a host family while abroad, which was provided by the club, and his family visits as often as possible. “While he is completing his mandatory education that is supplied through the club with his contract, he also is finishing his U.S. high school education online,” says mom Samantha.

“The work itself isn’t super challenging; it is the amount of work I have to do that is quite tedious and time-consuming,” shares Julian. That being said, he would not change anything. As the character Dani Rojas in Ted Lasso says, “Fútbol is life.”