Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions celebrate combined cultures on the field
On the field in North Fort Myers, multiple countries combine to form the Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions soccer team.
They’re part of the largest women’s soccer league in the world and are proud to represent SWFL.
Growing up in Europe, striker Yvonne Ploeg says Florida is a long way from home. She recalls learning to play soccer before she even learned to read.
“I’m playing for a really long time. I mean, I’m from the Netherlands so we start we are young, I think I was five, six years old,” Ploeg said.
The Women’s Premier Soccer League was founded in 1997, later becoming the largest in the world, and is now made up of 108 teams.
23-year-old captain Ploeg says her team is a great combination of old and young with various levels of experience.
“It’s a combination of older people and younger people and it’s a good combination this year. Excited to be here,” she said. “The orange family is crazy, we all play together really well.”
And they also play under the leadership of another international athlete.
Head Coach Vincent DeWegner gets to share his lifelong love for the sport with his team.
“I started when I was five. In Europe, because I’m from the Netherlands, I played all the way until I was 25, but since i’m 40 I’m coaching,” he said.
And they all seem to share a pride for representing Florida’s Gulf coast.
“Florida is always one of the better areas, and to be the head coach of them is something to be proud of,” DeWegner said.
Playing in the league is also providing these teammates the opportunity to come together and share their different backgrounds and experience.
“I like all the relationships I get to form through this sport,” added player Kianna Magner. “I’ve met some of my closet friends through soccer.”