In late 2010, Flight 19 formed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to support the return of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to the North American Soccer League. The South Florida team became famous in the 70s and early 80s for fielding stars like George Best, Gerd Müller, Teófilo Cubillas, and Gordon Banks. In recent years, substandard ownership of the club caused the Strikers to fold in 2017, and now Flight 19 supports the local amateur team Himmarshee Football Club.
Derek Reese is the president of Flight 19 and shared the history and culture of his group by filling out our survey.
What’s the story behind your group’s name? We are named after the famous “Lost Squadron:” the flight of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle after leaving from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale in December 1945.
What makes Flight 19 unique? Well, the most unique thing about us now is that we’ve started our own, supporter-owned non-profit amateur club, Himmarshee F.C., in the wake of the Strikers collapsing. The new club is named for the original native Seminole word for the New River, which runs through the heart of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.
We’ve also always been staunchly club over league, always supporting the Strikers and our city, and disregarding the embarrassingly long, stupid quest for an MLS team in Miami. We’ve also always been pretty well regarded in the tifo department, we fancy ourselves as having been one of the best tifo producers in the lower divisions from 2011-2016.
Does Flight 19 have any rivalries with other SGs or teams? Ralph’s Mob from the Tampa Bay Rowdies is our biggest and longest-lasting rivalry. Obviously not as big now since they moved to the United Soccer League and our club folded (and their owner now owns the Strikers trademark thanks to recent incompetent ownership of the club).
The rivalries with Jacksonville Armada and Miami F.C. (both NASL) were unfortunately short-lived. And I suppose, if you can have a rivalry with something that doesn’t exist, we’ve never been fans of the Southern Legion, who have been supporting a non-existent Beckham F.C. instead of their local amateur or pro teams for years now.
What is the most memorable moment in your Flight 19’s history?
That would probably have to be the U.S. Open Cup win in Orlando in 2016. Nothing but smack talk from Orlando City S.C. fans leading up to the match, then hardly any fans from Orlando were there, and they got beat by our team who at the time were being paid late constantly by bad ownership.
For non-positive reasons, it surely would be the infamous road trip to Tampa Bay in May 2014. Having blown a lead at the end of the game and losing in St. Petersburg, Florida (again – at that point we’d never won or even drawn there), our bus began smoking just minutes after leaving the stadium. The driver claimed it was OK, we continued on, but then it [the bus] broke down on the side of the Skyway bridge. Knowing the team hadn’t left yet, we called up one of the coaches and they picked us up. We crammed into the team’s much nicer bus, great story, team rescues supporters. But as we made it to the other side of the bridge, this bus stops. The driver gets out. The engine in the back is on fire. So, we and the entire team scramble out onto the side of I-75, the bus is shot. Meanwhile, the first bus drives up, and the gamble is made to get everyone onto that one and try to get home. A long 5-hour ride with the windows propped open and exhaust fumes drifting through the bus followed capping off the most legendarily bad trip we ever had. We’d be hit with a rainout in St. Pete for the second match there later in the year (of course when we had our biggest contingent ever with us), but it worked out as we took the makeup game and won the Coastal Cup for the first time that year.
Anything else you would like to share about Flight 19?
Our badge is based on the Bermuda Triangle, and the old Air Force roundel featuring the classic NASL-style ball from the original Strikers era.
One of our biggest claims to fame has been our tailgates, which often featured kiddie pools full of beer, ice luges, four home-brew competitions and on two occasions an actual above ground swimming pool and belly flop contests.
How can people contact Flight 19?
We’re on Twitter and Instagram @Flight_19, @flight19ftl on Facebook. Our website is now part of www.himmarsheefc.org, and you can follow our fan-owned club across the board @HimmarsheeFC. The Tailgate Show (@TheTailgateShow on Twitter) is a podcast started in 2012 by F19 members and is still going strong.