Tropics bring skills to Jogo Bonito Soccer Camp that serves youngsters all over county

by Brian Ackley

The Tropics are passionate about two things mainly: Soccer, of course, and the communities that support them.

So it comes as no surprise that the local side was one of the title sponsors of the recent Jogo Bonito Soccer Camp, a free week-long event that brought more than 135 youngsters and over 50 volunteers from all around Polk County to Crystal Lake Middle School for a little soccer, spirituality and sociability.

 In addition to helping the camp happen for its third year, the team also provided players to help with the instruction, and not just any players. Captain and leading scorer Ricardo Diegues, along with midfielder Gustavo Rodrigues and Pedro Ivo Dias were on hand in the 100-plus degree heat index to show how to correctly kick and pass a soccer ball among other skills.

Even team General Manager Andrew Ross, a pretty fair ball striker in his own right, was on hand to make sure all the participants went home with a better understanding of the game.

“That’s a big part of our mission, is to spread the knowledge and love of the game throughout Lakeland, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Bartow, Lake Wales and everywhere in between,” Ross noted. “It’s a commitment our owner Dr. Panos Iakovidis has made very strongly through the years being involved in amateur soccer in the county, and he’s brought every bit of that commitment to the Tropics, to all our players and our staff.”

Kidane Henry, a teacher at Crystal Lake Middle School and Vince Strawbridge, a local builder, cofounded the camp three years ago as a way to not only spread their love of soccer to youngsters who might not otherwise have a chance to learn about the game, but partnered with the Lakeland branch of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes under the direction of Terry Green to make sure the right message – along with a nightly meal, a soccer ball and t-shirt that each camper took home with them – was being delivered.

 “Normally when you see a camp, it’s all one demographic,” Henry said. “I call our camp a slice of heaven because you see different racial groups together having fun, all different strata of economic backgrounds, all under one banner, soccer. It’s all about soccer and serving others.”

In addition to the Tropics, Jogo Bonito Soccer Camp has received support for the 2017 camp from Life Source Community Church, Christ Presbyterian Community Church, 2Infinity, J.A.B. Me Apparel, Pizza Hut, Jet’s Pizza, Little Ceasar, Chick Fil-A,, Mckeel Boys Soccer, Rino's Trophies, Reel Plumbers, Brock McCean , and 1 v 1 Training.

For more information about the camp please visit or their Facebook page.

The Lakeland Tropics recently completed their first-season in the Premier Development League with a 9-3-2 record, which was good for the 14th most points in the 72-team national league. The team is very hopeful that the strong showing might result in an invitation to the prestigious 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open cup, the nation's oldest knockout soccer tournament that features teams from Major League Soccer, North American Soccer League, United Soccer League, PDL and more.

The Florida Tropics will kick off their second season in the Major Arena Soccer League later this fall. Their home opener is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:05 p.m. at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland (formerly the Lakeland Center).