When California soccer, celebrates the one’s that give so much to it!
The greatest improvement in all fields, soccer fields too, are always
achieved by singles, and not by the whole movement, who dedicate their
lives to developing an activity that touches the lives of other thousands.
Very often, unfortunately, they work in the shade and almost all of us, not
only don’t know what they have done, but no one say thanks to them!
Fortunately, not always. The SOCCER OLD TIME ORGANIZATION OF CALIFORNIA, in the last 21 years, has recognized the great work and
sport achievements of many soccer lovers in California.
This time, it was BARBARA ELLIOT, JOHN MICKLEWRIGHT and STEVE VERECZKEY’S turns to be honored at the Basque Cultural Center in
South San Francisco.
Before underlining their achievements, I’d like to say something about
the night and the people that were there.
More then 120 guests crowded the hall, and the atmosphere was great.
I was there with my wife, who through the years has accepted what it
means to be a ’coach’s wife’, and I didn’t know in what direction to look
and say hi, being surrounded by the ’living legends’ of California Soccer.
In 8 years, I’ve gone dozens of times to Negoesco Field at the
University of San Francisco, but what a dream come true it was to have
the honor of introducing myself to Steve Negoesco, talk with him for a
while and find out that, besides his great availability and kindness, he
speaks fluent Italian and loves Italy very much!
At our table, we had the honor to sit beside another living legend.
Ernst M. Feibusch. What unbelievable conversation in which the youth
soccer history of the last few decades, passed in front of our eyes during
the banquet. Dozens of episodes about the way of playing soccer a long
time ago, many of which were the same as mine, just a little more
recently, and the way that he and Negoesco, developed youth soccer
after World War II.
Unforgettable. I begged Mr. Feibusch to write something to me for the
news letter, about all these topics. He is very busy but promised to
write something. I’ll publish it when I have it.
So, here are the 2006 HONOREES.
She and her twin sister Francis, were born in Hackney England June 8,
They left school at the age of 15, the average age at the time, and began
to play football (soccer) in the street and on the green outside their front
door. At the time girls were not allowed to play football but Barbara’s
sister was so good that the boys allowed her and wanted her to play
Her sister was so keen on having a girl’s side that she said that she
would like to form a girl’s football team. Barbara remembers telling
her:” Francine, how unladylike for girls to be running around with the
big boots on the end of their feet”.
In 1973 she met her future husband. 2 days after having married him,
they found themselves in an airplane headed for San Francisco!
In 1985, a friend, John Randle, asked Barbara and her friend Irene,
if they knew any women who would like to join a football team. 1987
found Barbara attending her first Golden Gate Women Soccer League
meeting presided over by Jan Muller. She held the position of Secretary
for 11 hears, missing only one monthly meeting!
She continued to play, and through time become Vice President of New
Players and Teams. She inaugurated the first communication system for interested players to join teams in need of players, much before the
possibility that the Internet offers today. She was great!
In 1992, after the devastation for the loss of her twin sister, she started another chapter of her life. Feeling that her playing career was not over
just because of her being a few years older than the new players in the
league, Barbara set out to found an over 40 Division. Fourteen young
women showed up to that first practice, mostly novices. It was at this
time that Barbara asked Toby Rappolt (great coach and great friend of
mine that obviously was there at the ceremony and introduced Barbara)
to lend a hand and conduct some practices and give some primary
training classes. In a couple years they had great results in tournaments
and decided to lower the age to 35, to attract more players.
Thanks to Barbara’s effort, in 2007, a good 9 teams will be put on the
field in the Division over 35.
Barbara’s football career ended in 2001. Knowing that in 2005 she had
to stay a long time in a wheel chair for recuperating from two ruptured
Achilles Heels tendons, it seemed unbelievable for me to see her, the
night of the ceremony, going around from table to table, like a girl, to
say hi to her beloved soccer friends or bend down on her knees for
the picture taking, like all the soccer players!
Soccer has been Barbara’s passion for over 21 years. Who knows
what she will reserve for us in the next 21!
Incidentally, I have the honor of having in my soccer classes, many
‘girl’ players of this category, who like to constantly get better in their fundamental soccer skills. And they work very hard. Of course!
He was born in Rakamaz, Hungary, in 1937.
As a youth in school he was always involved in sports, but gave is
attention to soccer after he immigrated to the U.S. in 1957.
I believe that he is something unique! A European, a Hungarian, that
didn’t play soccer there and started playing in the USA!!!!! Probably
this explains why he become the great referee, that he is!!!
Besides playing soccer, he became a coach in the usual American way.
By coaching his son Erik.
Although Steve was a fine player, he quickly discovered that his skill
and knowledge of the game could only take him so far as a coach so
he become a student of the game trying to learn and absorb everything
he could about the game. His studies led to taking the CSAN referee
course, which he passed. His love of the game and desire to excel kept
him involved and constantly trying to improve his performance and his
level as a referee.
In 1981 he earned his “National Badge”, a level he was to hold for 10
years. Upon his retiring as a National he continued to referee as a
“ National Emeritus” for another four years. He was elected President
of the local Referee Chapter in 1985. As a National Referee was chosen
to act as a linesman in the budding North America Soccer League.
Out of 130 thousand referees in the U.S., just a few have reached his
I left John for last, because he is a great friend. I had the honor to be
part of his coaching staff at Urban School for a while, and we had a
good time together. (apart from the fact that sometimes, we liked to
‘suffer’ together in watching Champions League and International games.
Often with Deejae Johnson, another great coach and soccer addict like
He was born in Hornchurch, Essex England in 1943. Like all other boys
in England, but we can say in Europe, football was his constant activity.
He was the captain of his school team, St. Joseph’s, represented his town
on the Barking Boys town team as a schoolboy and the captain of his
country’s schoolboy team.
For the same team, as a young adult he played in the top English senior amateur League, the Isthmian League.
He emigrate to the United States in 1967 and ended up in San Francisco
in the same year. Something tells me that my dear friend was a genuine
He was immediately recruited by the Greek American team in 1967 and
for the SF Italian American Club, and the A.A.C. Teutonian. All these
teams clearly being ethnic, Greeks, Italians and Teutonians, engaged him.
He being from England, I can clearly see why! The only explanation is
that he was outstanding!
Having greatly succeeded on those teams, he was recruited to play on
the first San Francisco professional soccer team, the Buccaneers in 1970.
In 1971 he was offered a scholarship to the University of San Francisco
where he, of course, was selected as captain.
The same year he was picked as a member of West Coast All-American
team. The San Antonio Thunder selected him in the fist “draft” of
professional players in 1974.
Besides playing soccer, John has had and still has a coaching carrier too.
He coached several youth teams. The SF Knights U8 and U16, plus the Freshman boys at St. Ignatius. He has been, and still is, the varsity
coach of Urban School, since 2002. He also coached at the amateur
level in Marin and San Francisco.
Beside this, he’s still playing soccer in the over 50 league in Marin
County. Maybe he’s not quick as he was but, as we say in Italy, talent
is not water so, the kid that played on the street in England, is still there
and shows his endless magic!
O captain, my captain!
I’d like to end by publishing John’s speech, because I find it very inspiring
for me and for the new generations of soccer players.
I came to SF in 1967. The Summer of Love. And certainly fell in love
I had been traveling for a few years, traveling that had been very
interesting to me, and one of the joys I had playing football in SF at
that time was the chance to play against many traveling professional
teams from Europe, and Central and S. America.
But the biggest kick of all was the sheer internationality of the game
right here. At that time, there were two German teams, two Italian
teams, two Greek teams, the Scots, the Glens, Hakoah, and of course
many Latino teams, Guadalajara, El Salvador, Mexico. And that was
just in the premier.
There were many American players in those teams, of course, but
generally very ethnic. And I loved all that. It produced a little extra
intensity at times but football is an intense game. One of the reasons
we love it. And I am pleased to say I was able to move around amongst
some of those teams.
I played for Teutonia, then the Greeks, then SFIAC, the Italian-American
club, back to the Greeks, later played in the Pappy league with all Latino players and later still a very interesting and mixed group in the Marin
league. Some very good times. And some very good football. So you
see I was able to continue my travels, right here in this wonderfully
diverse city, by playing football.
Is that the good life or not!
So I should be thanking all of you. And I do. But I do accept this
recognition too because it also honors a game that has been very
important to me.
Football has been such a source of spirit and personal development
and challenge and friendship and art and excitement...as well as
cultural anthropology...that it has been a molding influence in my life.
And I am very pleased to be able to still participate in playing and
coaching and hopefully passing onto younger people my enthusiasm
for this wonderful world game.
So thank you for this honor. And thank you and SF for all the
And I don’t want this to sound like the Oscars but I do also want to
my wife. Over the years, Alice has not only tolerated the many
occasions missed ‘because I had a game’ but has been truly
supportive and has genuinely enjoyed my enjoyment.
So, thanks to you, too, Alice...and thank you all for this recognition.
Posted on 07 Dec 2006 by coachgianni