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Gafa Plays Integral Role in Rowdies Back Line


TAMPA -- Soccer has been omnipresent in Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa’s entire life. Gafa is the youngest child in his family, and all of his siblings played soccer. “None of them went to college to play soccer so I was the first to earn a scholarship and go to North Carolina so it brought a lot of attention to me”, the defender explained.

Gafa went on to win a National Championship with the Tar Heels in 2011, and was a vital member of that team. He thinks that this experience can help him bring the Rowdies to another title this season.

“Obviously coming from a National Championship in college, it was a big experience. What I can bring is my experience winning a championship and playing on a team of that caliber and bring it to the Rowdies”, said the former Tar Heel. “I think it’s shown when I’ve stepped in and played in quite a few games so far bringing that mentality and doing whatever I have to do to play my role on this team.”

Gafa was also exposed to quality soccer as a child thanks to family friend, and Rowdies captain, Frank Sanfilippo. The two have known each other since Gafa was just six years old. “It’s nice to have someone out here that you already know; he’s definitely been a mentor to me.”


The defender went on, “I’ve got to see him play at the college level and the professional level for ten years now. When he played for the RailHawks, I would try to get out there as much as I can. Later, any time he came to Carolina to play against the RailHawks I would make the trip. Now it’s awesome to play with him on this team.”

The newcomer has received nothing but high remarks since coming off the bench on April 27 against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. In his first professional match, he showed the confidence needed in a defender when playing a derby. Technical Director and Director of Player Development Perry Van Der Beck praised Gafa and how he has stepped up in the right back position.

“We knew he had a great collegiate career in North Carolina and that is why we brought him onboard,” explained Van Der Beck. “Having Frankie as a mentor throughout his career, we expected Jordan to perform well when he was called upon to play. As he gets more playing time, his confidence will only grow and it will benefit the team as a whole.”

Despite Gafa’s young age, he has the experience of winning a major championship against quality opposition. In addition to this, he has the talent and desire to help the Rowdies defense become a stalwart in the NASL.

After the upcoming bye, the Rowdies’ final match of the NASL Spring Season is the traditional Fourth of July matchup against league rivals Ft. Lauderdale. The Strikers and Rowdies will face off on Thursday, July 4 at 6:30 p.m. ET at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.

The Fourth of July match will be the first of two $1 Beer Nights presented by Budweiser during the 2013 season. The $1 beer special will be available from the time gates open until kickoff. Contact the front office at 813-287-1539 for more information about advanced discounted tickets.


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