Overhead stadium lights illuminate the action on the field while thumping music energizes fans and players. Cleats tear across the grass as the ball sails into the net to the sound of cheers and groans. This is Cinco Soccer: Tampa's only outdoor five-a-side soccer complex. Here, the love of the game breaks down cultural and language barriers between a diverse group of sports fans and athletes.
Keith and Anna Rados own the soccer field and bar off of North 56th Street and Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. Soccer has always been a way of life for the couple. "We've been to stadiums on every vacation. We went to Berlin in the dead of winter just to watch soccer. It's been crazy, always," says Anna Rados.
It was only a matter of time before it was their bread and butter as well. A former real estate appraiser, Keith Rados created Cinco Soccer
when the housing market dried up.
"I wanted to create an atmosphere where guys would come and hang out and argue about the World Cup
," says Rados. "At first, people didn't get the concept of the place. They kept thinking I was trying to build a stadium. I told them basically I wanted to build a bar with two great fields attached to it."
The mood inside the bar is reminiscent of having a pint in an Old World pub across the pond. Colorful jerseys are pinned on every square inch of wall space and flat screen TVs broadcast games.
On any given day the diversity of Tampa is well represented. Gathered underneath the multicultural flags are players as varied as the selection of imported beer.
Sounds Of The World
A blend of languages and accents, including Spanish and a lilting Scottish brogue, can be heard discussing penalty kicks and red cards. Colombians, Bosnians, Mexicans and Guatemalan players create their own microcosm where fights are few; the rules of the game are the only necessary governance here.
The welcoming atmosphere is one of the reasons spouses and kids come along to watch the games. Josie Cortes sits on the bleachers and keeps an eye on husband Dennis on the field. "I come to relax. It's my free time. It's something extra curricular for adults while the kids can run around."
Player Kenyon Rice is gearing up for his turn on the field and seems just as eager to enjoy the camaraderie after. "The beverages are right inside. So it doesn't matter if you win or lose."
"We played about as good as Italy did," says Mike Hernandez, a long-time soccer fan, in comparing his team's defeat with Italy's World Cup loss to Slovakia. But there's a smile on his face as he praises the "smaller, quicker fields" and the effort the owners have put into creating this soccer community. "We all have respect for the way Keith has set this up. He nailed it. It's a soccer player's dream."
This is also a dream come true for Rados. After the economic downturn forced him to pursue another career path, the small business owner is thrilled to be fulfilling another life goal. "We jumped in all the way when we decided to do this. But I never envisioned it would be so popular."
Cinco Soccer is centrally located to more than a million people -- from Plant City to St. Petersburg. Because of its easy access, the turnout has been better than imagined. "We gave these soccer orphans a home."
According to Rados, "They had no place to play and we found a niche to fulfill."Fans Say: Bring On The World Cup!
Interest in soccer in the Tampa Bay region is definitely growing. From the re-instated Tampa Bay Rowdies
, a Division Two Pro League that plays in George Steinbrenner Stadium, to the World Cup fever, the game is catching on in a big way.
The local interest in the World Cup games brought jersey-wearing zealots to the bar to cheer on their teams. The Rados are excitedly looking ahead to the 2018 World Cup, when Tampa is a contender to be the host city.
"We all signed the FIFA petition,'' she says. "I think we have a good chance."
Tampa is one of 18 U.S. cities that submitted a bid to welcome the games. Anyone can vote online by visiting the Go USA bid website.
A decision is expected at the end of the year.
With an organized playoff system for leagues and two fields open every night of the week all year long, Cinco Soccer is the only game in town for serious soccer players.
Loyal fans have been crowding the fields since it opened for business a year ago. Word of mouth is key in this tight-knit community. "If you play soccer, you know about this place," says long time soccer player Mike Hernandez.
If you've caught soccer fever and are considering joining a league, here is some information: Each league is made up of seven to 10 players for a total price of $480 per league for a seven-week session. Want to play but not sure about the commitment of joining a league? Mondays are Pay-to-Play evenings where anyone can join in. The cost is $7 for kids and adults.
Visit Cinco Soccer's website for directions and contact information. Karyn Amato is a freelance writer who considers a cup of cafe con
leche and a comfy porch chair required accoutrements when working from
home in Lutz. The Auburn University graduate can talk your ear off about
college football and loves living like a tourist in Tampa. Comments?