The Austin Chronicle

Artist Fabian Rey Drums Up Support for Austin FC

Painted bombo drum makes for a new Verde tradition

By Hannah Williford, August 6, 2021, Arts

Fabian Rey grew up with soccer in his blood, but found as he got older that his talent for playing the game skipped a generation. This year, Rey made his contribution to the sport through his own medium: art.

That contribution, custom-painted, took the field July 1 to celebrate Austin FC's first home win. Alex Ring, that game's MVP, played the drum as a thank you to fans. The drum will continue as a tradition for future victories.

Austin FC supporter group Los Verdes commissioned the piece from Rey, who painted the drum in a week with the help of his son, Gael, drawing inspiration from the city of Austin's "weird" reputation and soccer legends of the past.

"It sounds weird, but it's kind of putting a little bit of my vibe with a little bit of the Austin vibe with a little bit of a soccer vibe," Rey says – a "perfect" amalgam of cultures.

Rey, who was born in Puerto Rico, says soccer has always been a part of his life and family. His father Ricardo grew up playing the sport in Argentina and later became a superfan, never missing a game on TV.

"I was so happy to tell my dad I was doing this," Rey says. "It was a full circle kind of thing."

Rey moved to Austin in 2015 and joined Something Cool Studios, based in an old house in East Austin, which converted rooms into studio spaces for artists. Rey was hardly intimidated by working on a drum: He has previously created unconventional pieces on traffic cones and beer cans. Recently, he painted a mural in South Congress inspired by Australian band AC/DC; it reads: "For those about to rock, Austin salutes you."

Rey channeled his love for the city of Austin into the bombo as well, and combined it with moments representing the history of soccer.

The inside of the drum depicts a player modeled after "The Matador" – aka Luis Hernández, the soccer star from Mexico. Rey says in his mind, he is the ultimate "man of the match," or MVP.

A hand over the player's head reads "Mano de Dios," or hand of God; that's in reference to the 1986 soccer match in which Argentina triumphed over Britain through a goal that seemed to bounce off soccer player Diego Maradona's hand into the net. With the infraction unseen by the refs, the point was counted.

"It's like [saying], 'We will thrive,'" Rey explains. "It doesn't matter what we do on the court, we will win. ... We've got God on our side."

Rey says he featured a variety of popular Spanish phrases on the drum to celebrate the Mexican influence in Austin and the region's importance to the game of soccer. While Rey fears some of Austin has become too corporate, he still finds hope in the city's culture and community. "I believe that Mexico makes this place even better," Rey says. "Spanish speaking people make Texas even cooler."

Rey finished off the outside of the drum with the phrase "Pa'lante Austin." Rey says the phrase is Puerto Rican slang: "When things are bad, you have to look forward. You cannot look back."

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