Waza Flo players work regular jobs to support themselves, and practice and play on their own time. (Daniel Mears/Detroit News)
Tino Scicluna is on his way to the doctor's office as he makes his way through traffic in Oakland County.
He's worried his recent abdominal pain might be something serious and prevent him from playing soccer.
"I'd really be bummed if I could not play," he said.
This isn't just any soccer match.
Scicluna is part owner and a midfielder for Waza Flo, Detroit's forgotten pro soccer team, which has worked its way into the final stages of two of the biggest indoor tournaments in the nation — the U.S. Open Cup and the Ron Newman Cup.
First up is the U.S. Open Cup final this weekend.
And the opponent is only the best team — the San Diego Sockers, who have won 13 national titles and are the favorites to win again. The match starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Melvindale Ice Arena.
"We can play with all the best teams in the country," said Scicluna, 36. "Last year, the national tournament was about us seeing what San Diego brings to the table. We not only had to get familiar with their team, but with their crowd, stadium and environment.
"We are totally mentally prepared (this year)."
After this weekend's match, the Waza Flo heads to San Diego for the Newman Cup semifinals March 10 against the winner of the Dallas Sidekicks/Rio Grande Valley Flash match. San Diego plays the Las Vegas Legends in the other semifinal. The final is March 11
Labor of love
The Waza Flo is made up of regular guys who work 9-to-5 jobs and hustle each week.
But mostly, the players are area coaches. They coach high school, college and at three of the top local club teams — Waza, Plymouth and the Rush.
Players are typically paid $100 a game, and sometimes a little more, depending on skill.
But nobody is getting rich here. It's about soccer.
One of the goals is to grow the sport in Detroit.
Sure, soccer is not a big deal in Detroit, but this game is different.
You see, the Waza Flo play in the Professional Arena Soccer League. Games are played on an ice rink covered with turf.
You see checking and bumping — and tempers flare. Think Red Wings-Avalanche, and you've got PASL soccer.
This sport is a labor of love.
And all the pain? Well, it's worth it.
Just ask Scicluna, who isn't optimistic about playing this weekend.
"I am not feeling good about it," he said. "This is the price of getting old, I guess."
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