HIDALGO — When Victor Fernandez heard that Gerardo Guerra Lozano, previous owner of the Professional Arena Soccer League’s RGV Flash, had left back home to Monterrey, he thought of his 6-year-old son, Maximillian.
Fernandez sees the Valley as home to hundreds of young kids lacking the avenues to further develop their soccer skills. As he stepped into the ownership role, that was his M.O., and as the franchise’s new name (La Fiera FC) and logo (black, white and gold colors identifying a paw print with ‘La Fiera FC’ and a lion ingrained) were introduced Tuesday morning, it’s clear that the one thing the new-look team will prioritize is community involvement.
“The first thing Victor told me is he wants to be involved with the community, not only here in Hidalgo but in the Valley,” Hidalgo mayor Martin Cepeda said. “That’s great; that’s what we want.”
“Flash” had been the moniker Lozano used after founding the Monterrey Flash in 2011 before moving the team to Texas last September. The new name brings the club back to its roots as a South Texas franchise.
Fernandez, who will also serve as team president, intends to coordinate a youth soccer tournament for ages 7-12 during the PASL season, with games played before every La Fiera FC home match at State Farm Arena.
“I see my son as a young child who wants and needs the opportunity to play soccer professionally, to develop those skills through a program like the one I am introducing,” said Fernandez, a native of Mexico City who grew up involved in professional soccer schools and was selected as a youth onto the reserve team of America before a leg injury ended his playing career. “He’s an example of so many young kids here who want that.”
Fernandez was indirectly involved with the previous ownership toward the final stages of Lozano’s stay. In the franchise’s first season in 2012 as the Flash, the team went 12-4 and finished as semifinalists. The response, as well as the notion to progress community involvement, inspired Fernandez and coach Mariano Bollella to seek other ways to keep the team in the Valley.
“When we all heard Gerardo didn’t want to do it anymore, we all thought, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do now,’” said Bollella, who never heard directly from Lozano that he was going back to Monterrey. “‘Let’s start looking for more opportunities.’ Victor is someone who lives here, loves the game and is excited to see it stick around.”
Cepeda said there was never a real chance the Flash would have folded.
“We (the city) never had to go out ourselves and start looking for another team,” Cepeda said. “They came to us. It was a simple transition. The old owner went out and Victor stepped right in. We saw a fan base that was starting to build up, and Victor gets to start over with his own team, his own name, his own logo.
“He knows what the Valley represents and how big soccer is here.”
Fernandez did not wish to go in-depth into what led to Lozano’s departure back home. As the new name and logo implicate, he sees this as a fresh start. Bollella said the lion identifies with his club better because of its “heart and never-say-never attitude.” Last season, the team lost four of its first eight games before winning eight in a row and finishing the season strong.
It’s a team, Fernandez emphasized, that is Hidalgo’s and the Valley’s.
“I’m not the owner; the community owns the team,” Fernandez said. “I love the development of children in sports, and this is a great opportunity.”
The 21-team PASL plays a 16-game season and runs from November to March. The league will enter its sixth season, and Laredo and Corpus Christi are expected to join RGV, Dallas and Beaumont as representatives from Texas for the 2013-2014 season.