There are few things that Serbians love more than soccer. Even if family, religion, tradition, and nation come first, for Serbians, soccer can bind them all together. It is that love for Soccer that prompted several Serbian immigrants in Akron, OH to start a soccer team in 1998. Most of them were refugees fleeing war-torn Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, seeking sanctuary from the terrible conflict that afflicted the Balkans in the 1990s. It was soccer, along with family and church, which helped these refugees rebuild their lives in the United States.
And what better way to connect their lives in America to their homeland than name their soccer team after their national hero Gavrilo Princip, venerated by Serbians as a freedom fighter who fought to liberate all Balkan peoples from colonial rule. For Serbian Americans, Gavrilo represents the fight for survival after the war, and the pursuit of happiness in America. That is the spirit with which Danijel Trifkovic puts on his captain armband and leads FK Gavrilo Princip to the field. That is the spirit that makes them a tough team to beat and that led them to win the 2020 Akron Premier League Championship.
Honduras has always had a strong representation in Akron. And soccer, of course, is no exception to this rule. So it was only a matter of time before a team from Honduras would make an impact in Akron’s leagues. That’s what Wilmer Torres saw in 2019, as he was playing in Jaguares: there were a lot of Honduran ingredients in the league, but no Honduran main course.
So Wilmer set his sights on gathering a Honduran contingent and bringing home players scattered around the league – a sort of “come home” invitation. And so it was that a true Honduran team was on its way. Wilmer relied heavily on players like Wilmer Amaya, Cristian Damas, Carlos Ramos, Dago Ramos, Roberto and Denis Lemus. And then came Ronald Hernandez, half Honduran, half Salvadorian, the captain and heart of the team, and Wilmer’s right hand man. That was the core of Honduras FC when they started in 2019. Of course they weren’t the only ones making an impact. Zurdo Castillo, Roland Palacios, Deinor Batiz, Henri Figueroa also made strong contributions, and the team, just as Wilmer envisioned, was strong, competitive, and passionate, eager to honor their Honduras roots together. Honduras FC reached the semifinals in their first season.
The team knew they could do better, so they pushed ahead in 2020 with new signings. Eduardo Landaverde, Jymi Murillo, Ronald and Melvin Cavarria, Geyson Martines, Erik Aguilar, Camilo Martinez, and Milton Barahona helped keep the team competitive. Jayson Amaya was signed as goalkeeper, a top competitor who added security between the posts. Ludwin Hernandez, “El Guero”, transferring from Latinos FC, brought in the goals: he finished top scorer in 2020, and propelled Honduras to the final, where they narrowly lost against FK Gavrilo Princip.
Building on the progress achieved in its first two seasons, the Honduras FC engine would run at full speed in 2021, winning it all in a tight final against Leones FC. Ludwin “El Guero” again finished top scorer, and Ronald won MVP – all the potential Wilmer saw from the beginning was finally realized. Honduras FC was a team not just to be feared, but a winning team. And how could they not, when friends and family not just from Akron, but even coming all the way from Canton and Cleveland come in mass to support their team. When you play against Honduras FC, you are always sure to encounter their supporting contingent, full of noise, food, and passion.
That is Honduras FC – a Honduran community. Even rival teams join them after the game, partaking in the usual post-game camaraderie, building a stronger soccer culture in Akron, and always honoring their country of origin. 2022 would fall short of the team’s goals, as the team failed to make it past the playoffs, but Honduras FC will be back strong. A team that has never been out of playoffs in all its 4 seasons of existence can never be counted out – not when they bring skill, passion, community, and always a winning spirit.