Minnesota Valkyerie quarterback Jocelyn Bendijo, left, and coach/manager Tony Nguyen, right.
By MARY TAN
AAP Staff Writer
When you think of football, most local fans think of the Minnesota Vikings or the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. But step aside, fellas, because there are some ladies ready to play some football.
The Minnesota Valkyrie is in their first season as an expansion team of the Lingerie Football League (LFL). The team is based in Minneapolis and plays all its home games at the Target Center.
“There is obviously a lot of momentum building behind LFL Football here in Minnesota and specifically Minneapolis. It’s an incredible opportunity to establish another franchise in the Midwest and build a new era of football in Minneapolis,” said Mitchell Mortaza, founder and chairman of the LFL.
One of the first things Mortaza did was hire Tony Nguyen, an Asian American from St Paul, who heard about the team through a mutual friend. The founder of the LFL noticed Nguyen’s passion for football and gave the Minnesotan the opportunity to start the team from the ground up. “I knew I had a chance to impact the team and it all just took off.”
One of the first players selected to be part of the team was Jocelyn Bendijo, a fellow Asian American from Minneapolis who is the team’s star quarterback. “I try not to notice the ethnicity of our players and am always rooting for our people, but in the end I am accountable to find the best players regardless of race. The best players make it and play.”
The selection process is very competitive, with more women trying out for the team than available spots. Nguyen notes a big factor in getting a spot on the team is earning the respect of the coaching staff and fellow players.
Nguyen recently announced former Vikings great Everett Lindsey is the new head coach of the team. The move allows Nguyen more time to focus on other aspects of running a football team, such as marketing and management duties.
While Minnesota Valkyrie coaches and team members take their sport seriously, they are aware of the criticism the LFL is demeaning towards women. The players wear uniforms of lingerie and clear helmets.
Nguyen vehemently disagrees.
“Go to a game, watch it on TV and see it for yourself,” said Nguyem. “We have athletes in numerous sports competing in other sports such as hockey, martial arts and rugby. We also have a 85 percent college graduation rate and a ton of people on the staff that care about making Minnesota the best LFL team in the league.”
The LFL does list their mission statement as the “ultimate fan driven live sports phenomenon, blending action, impact and beauty.”
So far the team is 1-1. The team won its first game against the Green Bay Chill but lost to the defending champions Los Angeles Temptations after leading at halftime. Nguyen says they “lost in the second half and struggled to find a rhythm.” But the team is learning from its mistakes. The team is known for being more physical than technical, with several members who are more than six feet tall.
The last home game is Saturday, November 19 at the Target Center against the Chicago Bliss. Tickets range from $23 to $55. If you email the sales and marketing team at [email protected] discounts are available by mentioning this article.
The last game for the Valkyrie will be January 6 against the Seattle Mist. The game will be nationally televised on MTV2 at 9 p.m.