David Beckham may not have a soccer team in South Florida yet, but another international superstar does. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers announced Thursday that Brazilian legend Ronaldo is joining the club as a part-owner.
The Strikers play in the NASL and reached the league championship game this season. They were recently purchased by a Brazilian ownership group that hopes to raise the profile of the team and make it a household name like it was in the 1970s and early 80’s. The NASL is a Division II professional league, behind Major League Soccer, and the Strikers drew an average crowd of about 4,000 to their games at Lockhart Stadium.
Ronaldo, who played in four World Cups and is No. 2 on Brazil’s all-time scoring list behind Pelé, said he will take an active role in the front office.
“I will be very involved with the management of the team and have already started to make introductions that will certainly help us to turn the Strikers into a global powerhouse,” Ronaldo said in a release. “There are no doubts that the beautiful game is growing exponentially in the U.S., and I guarantee you that the NASL will play a key role in the rise of professional soccer here.”
Ronaldo played for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven and Brazilian clubs Corinthians and Cruzeiro.
“I can’t overstate what an honor and pleasure is to have ‘The Phenomenon’ as a partner of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers,” said Strikers managing partner Ricardo Geromel. “Not only is he widely regarded as the ultimate striker and the best number 9 ever, but he also sees where the world’s most global sport is heading with astonishing clarity. Ronaldo will play a pivotal role in making sure the future arrives first at the Strikers. History will be made here in South Florida.”
Geromel’s ownership group has already made major changes in the administration, choosing not to retain team president Tom Mulroy, a popular fixture in the South Florida soccer community, or coach Gunther Kronsteiner, who led the team from last place to NASL runner-up. Player contracts are still being negotiated.
“We are grateful for everything they did, but changes in the administration had to happen,” Geromel said. “We are going in a different direction and want the team to have a more professional feeling.”