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The SBI View: The passing of a special coach

Fernando Rossi loved the game of soccer.

From his playing days to his decades of service as a high school soccer coach, to his years as the father who molded his son into an international caliber talent, Rossi embraced the beautiful game throughout his life and countless people are better off because of it.

Rossi passed away on Tuesday and he should be remembered for the life he led and the legacy he leaves behind. He was more than just the father of Italian national team star Giuseppe Rossi. He was a man who truly made a difference for soccer in this country, a difference that is too easily ignored. A difference that should not be overlooked.

For more than two decades he ran the Clifton High School boy's soccer program in a way American fans could only dream that all high school programs could be run in this country. His teams played beautiful attacking soccer, showed incredible discipline and blended the styles of Americans and immigrants alike. While many other high school teams stuck with simple Route 1 soccer, Clifton always tried to play the type of creative attacking soccer we all love watching.

Over two decades, hundreds of players passed through that system. Hundreds of players who learned what the game should really be about, several of whom took that knowledge into their own coaching careers. When you consider that, it isn't a stretch to say that Rossi's influence has touched thousands of American soccer players (not to mention the students he taught in his two decades as a high school teacher).

I got to know Fernando over the course of three years as a high school soccer reporter in New Jersey, my first years as a soccer writer. He was the first coach I really grew to know, the first coach who gave me a front row seat to some consistent quality soccer. Watching high school soccer games could be painfully boring at times, particularly after covering professional and international matches, but that wasn't the case with Clifton games.

Considering the awful 1999 MetroStars were the first team I covered as a pro soccer beat writer perhaps I should thank Fernando for helping keep me from changing professions. Maybe that's why I felt compelled to write about his passing. 

Actually, a reason I felt compelled to write about his passing today was because I think it was unfair for some American fans to hate him or criticize him because his son chose not to play for the United States, as if the decades of service he gave to soccer in this country suddenly meant nothing. Coaches like Fernando Rossi don't often get the credit and recognition they deserve, but without coaches like him, the sport in this country would not be where it is today.

Fernando Rossi loved soccer and soccer in this country is better for it.


  1. Hey Jesse,

    Calling Italy Sh-ltlay sounds pretty racist to me.

    And I am a full blooded American born here who believes our fore fathers fought for our right of freedom of choice, Fifa makes the reisdency rules on where you can play, The Rossi’s did nothing wrong except CHOOSE the team they thought was a better choice for Guiseppe. Freedom by the US freedom by Fifa I support all US teams not just the US soccer team I am proud to be an American and I will fight for the right of Freedom of Choice. That’s what makes this country great We do not have a Fidel Castro telling his country you can only play baseball in Cuba . In the US you have a right to choose, Just like the other players who choose not to play for the MLS because for whatever reason it was a better situation for them. And a father influening his son is not a bad thing, I am a better person today because of the influence my dad had over me.

  2. You know what John, your probably some other American born from _____ (fill in the blank) descent, that doesn’t support the US National team.

    Are you racist against Americans, John?

  3. I said playing for Italy, not playing overseas. HIS NATIONAL TEAM THAT HE PLAYS FOR IS ITALY. Not the US, which his father had an influence over.

    in fact, he plays club football in Spain.

    Racist? HAHAHAHAH. please. where did you come up with that assumption? Oh, I forgot. It’s 2010, and it’s the cool politically correct statement to call somebody.
    Please, I would really like to know where you came up with the racist thing. Enlighten me.

  4. Hey Jesse,

    Is Brad Friedel or any other American a jerk for playing overseas over the MLS? Can you please explain your reason? It sounds like you have racist issues????

  5. he’s still a twat for (more than likely) influencing his son to play for sh-Itlay over the US.

    this is a football page, not a page for Eulogies.

    Their is football, and everything else. That is why they should be kept seperate.

    Point in had to my first statement. Michael Jackson. Great artist. Still a child molester. Still a twat…even after death.

  6. If you had 2 job offers and 1 was overseas for more money and you took the 1 overseas for more money would i have the right to say to you you are not welcome in this country.

    Our forefathers fought for the right for us to choose, it is a free country, Guiseppe was born in this country he is an American citizen he has a right to choose whatever team he wants to, Fifa makes the rules on who he can play for and he was able to play for either team and choose the Italian team

    Waaaah to all you soreheads If you do not believe he had the right to freedom of choice them maybe you should be the one who is not welcome in this country………

  7. If you had the choice to play with the Yankkees or the Newark Bears which team would you choose? Or drive a Mercedez Benz or a Kia ? In any sport you get better by playing with better players or playing with older kids when your younger. While I think nationality had a little to do with it unfortunatley the US soccer team is not at the same level as the Italian team I hope they get there sooner than later but at this time like a job or anything in life picking the best for you is what most people are going to do. Did the country of Japan Curse

    Hideki Matsui for leaving Japan for the Yankees, No because he choose a better team the Yankees. Oh Tim M where can I get some of that government paid toilet paper? His mom and dad both worked for a better life Both worked unlike some people who come to this country and get free Toilet Paper!!!!…..

  8. I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Rossi in high school and I can tell you…he was a wonderful man, teacher, and coach. He always made time for everyone and loved to tell stories. A bunch of the guys I went to school with went on to play college soccer and a few I believe played semi-pro. One now coaches girls soccer at our old high school. Teachers and coaches who care and believe in their students is a rare thing. Nevermind what he did or didn’t do with his son in regards to who he played for. I, and many others in our hometown will remember him for the wonderful man he was.

  9. Very well written, and for those of us who have followed Ives over the years, it’s never been a secret that Ives had a deep affection for Fernando, and justifiably so.

    In turn, I found it not only very appropriate, but touching, for Ives to write at length about Fernando Rossi’s impact, in light of his passing away.

    What I did not find appropriate, was the penultimate paragraph, where Ives discussed the criticism the Rossis have faced over Giuseppe. 95% of the time, I usually find myself agreeing with Ives, but I had a feeling he just wouldn’t be able to help himself from bringing that aspect of it up. I fully expected the comments section here to turn into a Giuseppe rage fest, but for once, I wish Ives had risen above it and not felt the need to defend the Rossis, or even provoke the discussion.

    Ives, Fernado’s impact on you and the lives of others, in and out of the soccer community, was more than enough reason to compel anyone to write this heartfelt piece. Don’t let the opinions of some of us overshadow that, and maybe it’s even time to let it go, so that the rest of us can let it go too.

  10. Haha… I mean agreed with the latter. The celebration was akin to scoring the winner in the World Cup Final. Something very wrong about it and speaks to this kid’s character.

  11. Thanks, Ives. It was really interesting learning about this man whom I never knew much about. Appreciative of what Rossi senior did for the US youth. My condolences to his wife and daughter here in New Jersey.

    However, Guiseppi is still not welcome here in the U.S.

  12. As a father who has kids that love to play skillful, attacking soccer….and is trying to steer his kids away from the old school English kickball disciples that have infected the US Youth soccer coaching ranks…I mourn the passing of a man that taught his kids to play correctly.

    Yes…his son dissed the USA, but the affect that his coaching philosophies will have on our future players (as his former players become coaches) is good enough with me.

  13. So it’s okay to air your petty grievances in a public forum announcing his passing? Really? Alright, so I suppose it would be fine for someone to show up at your funeral and say, “Hey, I’ve known Sackazilla for 25-years and he was always an insufferable douchbag. Where are the re4freshments?” Whether or not that is in fact the case is beside the point. The simple fact of the matter is that your post was tactless and classless. End of story.


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