The Tampa Bay Rowdies retired the number 12 jersey of Technical Director and Rowdies great Perry Van Der Beck in 2010. 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.
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. To purchase tickets for the home opener on August 10 against the New York Cosmos, call (813) 287-1539 or click here.