For the serious soccer fan nothing compares to the excitement of the World Cup, but that event occurs only once every four years. Fans who now find themselves in withdrawal after France's victory will be relieved to know that South Florida is fast becoming a soccer mecca. Broward has the major-league Fusion; we have the Miami Breakers.
The brainchild of Paolo Doino, an owner of South Beach's Sport Cafe, the Breakers were born in 1996 when he purchased the existing Miami Tango team and rechristened it in honor of a local rarity -- crashing waves. Part of the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues, the Breakers are members of the 39-team, Division III Pro League, one step below the USISL A-League and two steps below the major league.
Doino, who played soccer in semipro leagues in his native Rome, intended to start a youth league with the City of Miami Beach in 1993. A newcomer to town back then, he had little credibility and the city was reluctant to cooperate. So Doino bought a professional team in order to prove himself and to establish his youth programs.
"Soccer is an important game for kids. They get to use their entire body -- their head, their feet, everything," explains Doino, who for the past two years has sponsored six teams for kids ages six to sixteen. He provides coaches, uniforms, and balls, hoping one day some of those youngsters will grow up and become Breakers.
The Breakers, who hold first place in the USISL southeast division, are completing their second 22-game season, which begins in early April and runs through late August. The 22 players (many of whom were once pros in their native countries) range in age from 20 to 34 and hail from places such as Argentina and Uruguay.
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Lest women feel slighted, last year Doino created the Miami Gliders, the first female soccer team in South Florida to be part of a national league. Off the field, Doino's wife Graziella covers, in her words, "the front, back, and middle office," overseeing international clearance for foreign players, tending to paperwork, and helping to organize the upcoming USISL women's playoffs to be held in Miami next month.
Although game attendance is hovering near the paltry 100 mark, the owners are optimistic they'll be drawing up to 1000 fans soon. But they are baffled: Why is the most democratic of games not very popular here in the United States, bastion of democracy? "Everybody can play soccer," Doino points out. "You can be fat, short, tall. It's not like football, where you have to big, or basketball, where you have to be very tall. It's a team effort." !Ole!
-- By Nina Korman
The Miami Breakers meet the Orlando Nighthawks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18, at Flamingo Park Memorial Stadium, Michigan Avenue and Twelfth Street, Miami Beach. Tickets cost five dollars. Children under sixteen are admitted free. Call 305-532-5080.