Rowdies name former player to franchise president and general manager

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The Tampa Bay Rowdies have named a former player the president and general manager of the St. Petersburg North American Soccer League franchise. Farrukh Quraishi was first drafted to play for the Rowdies in 1975 and now heads the team after years of off-the-field experience.

Quraishi was involved in the development of Major League Soccer and the establishment of the Tampa Bay Mutiny. He served as general manager for the MLS team during its inaugural and most successful season. In 1994 Quraishi served as venue executive director for the Orlando FIFA World Cup. He’s also held posts as chief operating officer for Massachusetts Professional Soccer, where he oversaw three United Soccer League clubs. He’s also been the Rowdies’ director of youth development.

“It’s a full-circle sort of day,” Quraishi said during a press conference Tuesday. “It almost feels like coming home.”

The Rowdies’ principal owner, Bill Edwards, made the announcement Tuesday from the Rowdies’ field as work crews dismantled old stadium seats and tackled other improvement projects. Edwards was recently awarded management of Al Lang Stadium by the City of St. Petersburg and is funding sweeping improvements to the space in an effort to restore the soccer franchise to professional relevance.

“We really had to fight to manage the stadium,” Edwards said, bundled in a jacket and a token green and yellow Rowdies scarf. “Now we’re fighting to win.”

Edwards says Quraishi shares his vision of what the Rowdies can be. Quraishi says his goal is to field an entertaining and winning team.

“[We will be] the envy of the league,” he said.

In addition to hiring Quraishi, the Rowdies also announced head coach Rickt Hill will not return for the 2015 season. The franchise is still searching for a replacement. Perry Van Der Beck will serve as assistant general manager and vice president of community relations. His duties will include managing partnerships with the Chargers Soccer Club U.S. Development Academy and the Camp Kikinthagrass youth program.

Lee Cohen has been promoted to vice president and chief operating officer. He will oversee the $1.5 million stadium renovations currently underway.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.