The Rowdies are back. After a 19-year absence, Tampa’s beloved soccer team returned to the Bay area with a home opener versus NASL opponent FC Edmonton on April 14. (The team and their spirited fans actually returned as the eerily-similar green and gold FC Tampa Bay two seasons ago while licensing to the Rowdies name was negotiated.) I’ve worked as the franchise’s team photographer for the past two years, photographing game days, headshots and press conferences. But with new Rowdies uniforms, apparel and gear there was some extra shooting involved this offseason. I photographed Rowdies players and models in my Tampa photo studio for the team’s latest merchandising materials. The Rowdies players are a bunch of laid-back guys who clearly love what they do and are super easy to work with.The home opener at St. Petersburg’s waterfront Al Lang Field was one heck of a party. Massive tailgates four hours before the game, giant banners passing through the stands, smoke bombs, singing, chanting – it was a classic Rowdies atmosphere. The boys on the pitch defeated FC Edmonton 1-0 on a goal by 37-year-old Japanese midfielder (and amateur photographer) Takuya Yamada to avenge last year’s season-ending playoff loss to Edmonton and finish the night off right.
It was great to be a part of the team’s first night back as the Rowdies. I left Al Lang Field that night feeling so incredibly lucky. As a kid watching the Rowdies and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play in old Tampa Stadium I never would of thought I would have the opportunity to work as the team photographer for the two sports teams I grew up cheering for. Perhaps a small reward from the sports gods for some brand loyalty though those lean Tampa sports decades of the 80’s and 90’s? Who knows. But man is it cool to walk into a stadium and see a bunch of 6 and 7 year-old kids wearing that classic Rowdies logo on their shirts. I know just what that feels like.
Visit Rowdiessoccer.com for schedule, tickets, photo galleries and more info about the team.