The Tampa Bay Rowdies awarded a contract to a very special Rowdies fan this week, signing 12-year old midfielder Cole Eicher to his first professional contract.
Eicher, a member of the St. Pete Raiders Youth Soccer Club, has been sidelined since February while undergoing a removal of a brain tumor and radiation treatments in his courageous battle against cancer.
Tampa Bay Rowdies General Manager Perry Van Der Beck, along with players Georgi Hristov and Shane Hill, surprised Eicher with his contract Tuesday night at Puryear Park. Surrounded by friends, teammates and family, Eicher signed the contract below an ear-to-ear smile, fulfilling his dream to be a professional soccer player.
“We’ve heard so many lovely things about how the Rowdies support the community, and this of course shows that something so small in a community situation can mean so much to a child,” Laura Eicher, Cole’s mother said. “We appreciate that.”
Cole had not been to the Raiders’ practice fields since February 2, so even getting to see the familiar surroundings was important for him.
“Everybody looks forward to very small milestones and this is something he was definitely looking forward to,” Laura Eicher said. “We didn’t tell him what was going on. We just told him his team was out here with a couple Rowdies players that wanted to come meet the team. This is really a huge surprise for him.”
As with every player signed by the Rowdies, Eicher was outfitted with a jersey, game shorts, training tops, polo shirt, jacket and rain coat. After the contract signing, players Hill and Hristov, on behalf of the Rowdies, invited Cole to serve as the team’s honorary captain on opening night.
Cole will take his place on the team bench when the Rowdies take on FC Edmonton at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 12 at Al Lang Stadium.