ROWDIES TO RETIRE DEFENDER MIKE CONNELL’S #6
TAMPA, Fla. (July 17, 2013) — They will add another former great Rowdies player to that list, as they will honor Mike Connell by retiring his number 6 at the home opener of the NASL Fall Season on Saturday, August 10 at Al Lang Stadium against the New York Cosmos.
Currently Rowdies rookie defender Jordan Gafa has been wearing the #6 jersey that is being retired on August 10th. In honor of the former Rowdies defender, Gafa will be switching from #6 to #17 at the start of the 2013 NASL Fall Season.
The former Rowdies defender was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, while beginning his professional career at Rangers Johannesburg. His debut came in 1972 at the age of 16 against Durban City and after being scouted by Rowdies head coach Eddie Firmani, he would join Tampa Bay for the 1975 season.
Connell wore #6 in his nine seasons with the Rowdies, playing also indoors for Tampa Bay. The defender enjoyed almost 350 games with Tampa Bay between indoor and outdoor competitions, the most by any player that has worn the Tampa Bay uniform. In his time with the Rowdies, “Iron Mike” scored eight goals and added 36 assists in over 20,000 minutes played.
“Mike was with the Rowdies for its entire original NASL history and he embodied the passion, skill, and determination the Rowdies have always been known for,” said CEO and General Manager Andrew Nestor. “His commitment to excellence is forever remembered through the 1975 Soccer Bowl Championship victory and subsequent success that made the Rowdies an iconic American soccer brand. But the Rowdies are about more than just the playing field. After his days playing for the Rowdies, Mike became an integral part in the youth soccer explosion in Tampa Bay and continues teaching the game today. I’m pleased that on August 10, a special night when the Rowdies host the New York Cosmos for the first time since Mike’s last season in 1984, the club gets to celebrate Mike Connell with the ultimate recognition – the retirement of his #6 jersey.”
In his first season with the Rowdies, Connell would help the club win the 1975 NASL Soccer Bowl in their inaugural season. Connell was a key member of the Rowdies organization that helped them become one of the premier soccer brands in North America both on and off the field. In 1978 and 1979, the Rowdies would come up just short of winning the NASL Soccer Bowl, falling in two consecutive finals. Connell would also be successful with the club in the NASL indoor league, winning the 1979-80 championship and coming in second in 1981-82.
Like so many former Rowdies, Connell has continued to reside in Tampa Bay with his wife Kim and their two children, daughter Ashton and son Michael. Even after he concluded his playing career, Connell has continued to be a soccer ambassador for the Tampa Bay community as he has coached both high school and youth soccer. Currently, he is the Director of Lutz Rangers Soccer Club.
On Thursday, August 8, the Rowdies will host the 2013 Soccer Summit at The Birchwood Inn in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rowdies defender Mike Connell will join his former head coach Eddie Firmani as a distinguished guest of the event.
Source: Tampa Bay Rowdies