Smiles, handshakes and scarves with team logos were in abundance Wednesday afternoon as team officials for the South Georgia Tormenta FC announced the hire of head coach Borja Perez during a news conference at the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce.
A gathering of around 30 people, including state Sen. Jack Hill, watched as the Tormenta FC made its next big step.
Perez takes over the South Georgia Tormenta FC, a new Premier Development League minor league soccer team in Statesboro, with a background in coaching in Europe.
Darin Van Tassell, Tormenta FC’s owner and president, said Perez was the team’s top choice in a highly competitive field
“Borja’s background with everybody from ages 15 to 30 is very impressive. He brings a technical strength to our training,” Van Tassell said in an interview after the news conference. “It says a lot about who we are that Borja Perez would fly across the Atlantic Ocean, relocate and call Statesboro home because of the opportunity he sees. It’s an amazing reminder about how this is bigger than just us and folks are paying attention.”
Van Tassell said he received close to 40 applications once the announcement was made that South Georgia would be home to a PDL soccer team.
Perez couldn’t make Wednesday’s press conference, but he did send his thanks and gratitude to the Tormenta FC fans and ownership via video.
In the video, Perez said he was excited to start a career with the Tormenta.
“Anytime you do something for an inaugural season, you want to make a bit of a splash. I had more than 40 coaches from around the world, most of which out of the United States, apply. We targeted (Borja Perez) early,” Van Tassell said during the news conference.
Van Tassell stressed the importance of growing the market and fan base of the Tormenta beyond Statesboro, evident by the several sports and local leaders in attendance from Statesboro and Savannah.
During a brief speech addressing the media and audience members, Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore reaffirmed Van Tassell’s sentiment.
“I think this is a great opportunity to show that our two communities really do support each other,” Moore said. “As a region, we work well together, and we’ve accomplished great things for our residents.”
The news conference had a jovial atmosphere as many of the guest speakers received Tormenta FC scarves as a token of appreciation. During her speech, Moore even shot some playful jabs at Tormenta ownership.
Moore expressed her concern that Tormenta team officials didn’t name the squad after her first suggestion, the Statesboro “Stomp ’em to Pieces.”
The official team name was announced in October. Tormenta is Spanish for storm.
“I guess they chose a classier name, but just think for a second. If you’re a soccer team that’s going to play us and someone says, ‘Who are you playing?’ and they say, ‘Statesboro Stomp ’em to Pieces,’” said Moore, laughing, much to the delight of the crowd. “I guess I’ll let it go, but I had a rap written and everything.”
The Tormenta FC will begin play in May with the start of the 2016 PDL season. The club will play its inaugural season at Georgia Southern University. Van Tassell also announced during the news conference that the Tormenta FC would take on the Charleston Battery in an exhibition match in Savannah in 2016.