As the legend goes, the brave ibis is the last bird to take shelter in the face of an oncoming storm and the first to emerge from the ensuing damage.
So it seems only fitting that Tormenta FC — with its ibis crest dotting the chest plate of each jersey — will be the first organized sport to return to gameplay following a lengthy hiatus due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday morning, the USL League One Board of Governors voted to proceed with the season, which hasn’t yet featured a match in the 2020 season as the league went into a holding pattern just weeks before its scheduled late-March start.
“We are energized and motivated by the steps taken today,,” Tormenta FC co-owner Darin Van Tassell said in a press release. “We have a lot of work to do, including working with our state and local governments to resume play. There are still some unknowns, but this much is clear: Statesboro and South Georgia will be seeing pro soccer shortly. And we could all use the joy of sports in our country a little right now.”
The league opened up avenues for training in mid-May. Tormenta players - who had been isolating themselves and filling their time with everything from additional studies, to painting, to making masks to aid in the COVID-19 crisis - have been practicing in limited groups with minimal coaching and training supervision in order to abide by strict safety regulations.
Measures will be taken to work towards full-team practices and Friday’s vote identified a tentative target of July 18 for the first day of League One competition.
"This is great news for our club, our community, and most importantly, our players,” head coach John Miglarese said. “They have been tremendous over the last several months in their handling of a very difficult situation. I am excited that they will finally get a chance to showcase their ability."
As of Friday’s decision, there are still plenty of variables in the air. Tormenta’s statement mentioned looking forward to seeing its fans at Erk Russell Park, but nothing has been set in stone as to what - if any - restrictions will be in place regarding limitations on attendance. There is also no proposed schedule in place currently. With half of the planned season already lost, it seems unlikely that teams will be able to simply start up with games as originally scheduled.
As more information becomes available, the Herald and tormentafc.com will provide updates.
When play begins, it will mark the second professional season for Tormenta FC. The squad spent the first half of 2019 at the top of the League One standings before a rash of injuries caused them to miss out on the postseason, but more additions were made in the offseason and the squad has high hopes - global pandemic and lengthy holdover notwithstanding - for an even better showing in 2020.