By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
From nothing, came everything.
Moving into the southwest Florida region, Vicente Sandoval and Veronica Docio co-founded Naples United FC in 2017. The four-year-old NPSL club sprouted out of nothing into a market that needed a team.
“Nothing happens from one day to the other; everything takes a little bit of time,” said Naples United FC Vice President and Co-Founder Veronica Docio. “But if you’re consistent, persistent in what you believe in what you’re doing, rewards will follow.”
Naples United FC started from the ground up, having no previous base. This included fielding a team, hiring coaches and creating the crest, among many other things. Being built from scratch, the club has taken on multiple challenges over the past four years.
Docio noted that in Naples, Florida, the sport of soccer isn’t the first choice of its residents. She said that meeting with city leaders presents an upward climb in order to best share the club’s vision and potential impact.
One specific impact within the greater vision is that of youth development. Naples United FC strives to develop young players into great athletes and even better people. Both Sandoval and Docio recognized the ever-growing market of youth soccer in the city; Naples has long been typically known as a retirement community.
“This is a city that is growing substantially in population, and it was originally a retirement community, but in the past decade, that has been changing,” said Docio. “We have a lot of new families moving into the city. We saw that, we saw the demographics were changing and that there was nothing here soccer related.”
Naples United FC prides itself on being a soccer pioneer in that part of southwest Florida, establishing an accessible club while achieving growth and success in a short amount of time. Notably for the club, it is also a pioneer when it comes to women in sport.
“It means a lot. I go to AOM meetings and I’m maybe one of three women in those meetings,” said Docio about the importance of being a woman owner in soccer. “By being a psychologist and a businesswoman, I am used to being around and working with a lot of men.”
Holding an ownership position gives Docio the ability to make a greater impact in all aspects of life, with sport being just one element of it. She has seen first hand that the consequences of a strong work ethic and persistence are a gained respect and honor within the sport she loves being a part of.
“[Women] can do anything if we really want to and it is our passion and we work hard,” said Docio. “It’s doable.”
Docio and Sandoval, who are a married couple, have worked on this project of founding and running a successful soccer club. Docio brings the business and psychology, while Sandoval brings the tactics and technical side of the sport, combining to continually grow the game in Naples.
Sandoval’s experience ranges from professional soccer in Argentina, where he played for 15 years, to coaching in several cities throughout the United States. From Miami, he and Docio moved to Naples to continue their pursuit of creating a club that provides a pathway to the highest level of the sport.
“The people in Naples were looking for another level [of soccer],” said Naples United FC CEO Vicente Sandoval. “This is a reason that we came to Naples and founded the soccer team, to prepare people for the next level. [In Naples] we’re growing.”
Along with goals of winning NPSL national championships and seeing the general growth of the club, Naples United FC also takes pride in its not-for-profit aspect, where it aims to provide soccer playing opportunities for at-risk and low socioeconomic families in the area. Both Sandoval and Docio said they come from places in the world where soccer is free to play for everyone, and that’s an aspect they desire to bring to southwest Florida.
Both know the true importance of sport, specifically soccer, in many ways, including physical health and development, mental strength and wellbeing along with general discipline ethic; all these elements help youth and young adults for later on in their lives.
“That is something we want to bring to our community and something that we want to be pioneers of, and also provide opportunities for kids through the sport,” said Docio. “All aspects of child development can be positively impacted through sport, so that’s something we are trying to bring to Naples.”
Photo Credit: Carlos Antonio Vasquez