This week, Columbus Eagles FC learned of the passing of Jerry Zanelli, the founder of the Women’s Premier Soccer League. We offer our sincerest condolences to Jerry’s family during this time. Eagles’ owner/CEO Mark Wise offered these words on behalf of the club:
Jerry was zealous in his support for the women’s side of our sport. He worked very hard to make sure that many talented and gifted women had the opportunity to continue to play the game they love and to showcase their skills on the field. He will be sorely missed.
It was at a coaches convention over six years ago that I met Jerry. I came across the WPSL booth where he was promoting his women’s league. I stopped by and we got into a conversation about the state of women’s soccer in the USA and specifically in Columbus. I was complaining to him that professional women’s leagues had passed over Columbus twice (and subsequently a third time) in placing a professional women’s team here. It was his direct question to me that planted the seed that became the Columbus Eagles. When I complained that no one was making things happen in Columbus, his question to me was, “Why don’t you do it?”
I am sure that this scenario played out in more than one occasion across the U.S. as his league grew to more than 100 women’s teams and is projected to grow by 10-15 more in 2019. His willingness to start something new for women in 1998 has become the oldest and largest women’s soccer league in the world.
To Jerry: Thanks for the inspiration. Thanks for your dedication to the women’s game. We will do our best to carry on your dream and grow your legacy.
Rest in peace, Jerry.
Owner/CEO, Columbus Eagles FC