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.

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66 Responses to The SBI View: The passing of a special coach

  1. alexandria says:

    Wow, what terrible news.

  2. Steve says:

    Should’ve made a run at being the National team coach, maybe we’d be perennial WC semi-finalists now…

  3. Steve says:

    News is terrible, too, my condolences to his family and all those mourning.

  4. john says:

    I’d like to hear more about Rossi and his coaching style and the players he influenced.

  5. JDavids says:

    Great post. Respect!

  6. JavaLavaJoe says:

    Heaven is blessed to have Rossi amongst them.

  7. HE from NJ says:

    this is really sad, i’m sure his son is very sad. thanks for bringing us closer to this family SBI. My prayers are with them.

  8. AngelUSAfan says:

    I’m too would like to know who did he coach and who he influenced.

  9. Jerome says:

    Wow, Sad for the loss. Best Wishes for the Rossi family.

  10. kpugs says:

    This will easily be the best obit for Fernando, hands down. Well said Ives.

    And a nice steamy hot middle finger to anyone who gave him grief for Giuseppe following his own dream. You are all morons.

    Fernando will be missed here in north Jersey.

  11. The King of Norway says:

    Beautiful obituary, Ives. Now can we reconsider the decision to bar the younger Rossi from “Americans Abroad” updates?

  12. Sackosauras says:

    So that is the guy that pushed his kid to turn his back on the USA for Italy? He will be missed.

  13. Lazer says:

    As a former player that had the oppotunity to play his teams and attend his camps – he was truly a legend in the North Jersey area.

    He will be truly missed.

    Bravo Ives for covering this…we need more of these types of people involved in Development.


  14. Felix says:

    Excellent post Ives. You are correct in that some American fans would possibly be upset at Fernando Rossi for “steering” his son away to play for Italy – but his service to soccer in this country goes beyond his son Guiseppe.

    Good post.

  15. John1 says:

    Condolences to the Rossi family.

  16. ScooFutbol says:

    Well said Ives. Hope there will be many more like him.

    …that said I’m still a little mad at Giuseppe but hey, can’t blame the kid for following his dream.

  17. Brian says:

    Condolences to the Rossi family. But Giuseppe doesn’t represent the US, so that makes him Italian as far as soccer is concerned.

  18. Phil says:

    That was the most passionate thing I’ve ever read on this blog. Cheers to you for taking a stand…and my condolences to the Rossi family.

    I don’t have to like Giuseppe, but I do respect him.

  19. ZacIndy says:

    I got to admit I’m a little conflicted on this. Though I don’t view his death as an ultimate comeupance for the decesions his son made, I have to wonder why it was that America was good enough for him to find a job as a teacher and coach, raise his family, and establish roots, but when it came to choosing a national team his son turns his back on the country that helped make his family’s dreams come true. Again, I sympathize with the family, a patriarch’s death is never easy to deal with. He obviously had a profound effect on Ives and I respect that.

  20. angela says:

    The saddest part of this is that he was so close to fulfilling what must have been his dream – seeing his son wear the shirt of Italy in a World Cup. If there’s a God he’ll be watching from above. Sort of pulling for Rossi now.

  21. smokeminside says:

    fischy, come on…..

  22. Jamie Z. says:

    I was waiting for the first bonehead to post something like this. Nice job. You win.

    When someone passes, it should be a time to put petty grievances aside and show some respect.

  23. ETJ says:

    as someone who played youth soccer in Northern New Jersey, Rossi was a name I heard a lot and it was always said with respect and in some cases, reverence.

    Rossi, you will be missed thank you

  24. jessie says:

    He had a positive effect on Clifton NJ community soccer and thus soccer in America. He had a negative effect on American soccer in the context of world soccer at least in the short term.
    His choice and the positive shouldn’t be forgotten, but I don’t have any problem seeing why the later would cause people to lose sight of the former.

  25. Zoolander says:

    Ives, you would be a great eugoogoolizer

  26. Judging Amy says:

    Great article Ives. Respect to Mr. Rossi and his family.

  27. Judging Amy says:


  28. dhawk says:

    Nice article here with more info:link to

  29. wtfbbq says:

    sounds like he did a lot for the game, mad respect to the good he did for the game in the states.

    although we might never know just how far his influence over his son held our potential back. Our weakest position on the field, and a gem was almost ours.

    when Rossi didnt celebrate those goals he scored against his nation of birth, I was like, “wow, they raised that kid right”


  30. ThaDeuce says:

    RIP Coach Rossi

  31. smokeminside says:

    more like sackamerde

  32. Seriously? says:

    I was wondering if anyone would go there when I saw this news. While I am not happy his son chose to play for Italy, does that really need to be brought up here? I know you said you sympathize and all, but starting off saying saying you’re conflicted seems to say that you’re not sure if this is a bad thing or not. Let’s just leave that talk for other threads.

  33. Tim M. says:

    too bad he didn’t put much effort into trying to influence his son concerning which national team to play for. Guess he never really put into perspective what government paid for the toilet paper with which Giuseppe whiped his ass with.

    LOL, no i dont care!

  34. Rory says:

    You have a fragment there, Fischy. Moreover, you should really use quotation marks when quoting someone.

  35. Rory says:

    Actually, I think his father DID have an influence on what team to join.

  36. Rory says:

    I’m not one to pretend someone was a saint just because they died. However, it sounds like Mr. Rossi was in fact a dedicated teacher and coach and for that he deserves respect. Lord knows teachers don’t get enough respect in America nowadays.

    Any other problems we might have with his son’s choices should be saved for another time.

  37. Rory says:

    I think I have to admit that if I got a great job offer in England or Canada or whatever and I took it, I’d probably nudge my son to play for the USA instead of those places. I guess I’m as bad as Rossi.

  38. Rory says:

    He’d also be a great Eulogizer too!

  39. mwc says:

    Dude — The post was from “Zoolander” — do you really not get it?

  40. smokeminside says:

    I was referring to sackosaurus, not Rossi…sorry I wasn’t more clear. I would never bash anyone for a choice like the one Rossi made….I’m sure the situation is/was far more complicated than we will ever know, and the family, at this time, deserves nothing but the deepest condolences, regardless of how one feels about the choices made.

  41. HoneyHell says:

    A man who spends 20 years of his life Teaching young people both Academics and Sport, a sport we posters on SBI Love, should be receive a tribute upon their passing. Thank you Ives for sharing.

    To the Rossi family and their friends, my condolances on the loss and apologies for those who have shown disrespect at your loss.

  42. Sackazilla says:

    Why? I never knew him, all i know is he was instrumental in pushing his son to reject the ovetures of the USSF to play for the country of his birth and instead pushed him to play for Italy.

    He died, that sucks…for his family and people that cared about him. I’m not a part of that subset.

  43. zomgwarn says:

    how did he die? does anyone know.

    was it a rage driven nat’s fan? or lupus maybe?

  44. SackySack says:

    Seriously? This is a soccer web blog where soccer fans talk about soccer and not any medium that their family i pouring over looking for emotional support…and you think someone mentioning the most documented soccer thing in the man’s life is not relevant?

  45. Benny A. says:

    Yeah, too bad he didn’t see that.

  46. jackson says:

    answer to r question:


    My deepest condolences to Giuseppe Rossi and his famly. His father was a great man and legendary coach in NJ soccer who helped kids like me.

    r.i.p. f.rossi

  47. jackie says:

    ^ what terrible thing 2 say

  48. jackie says:

    2 g.rossi & family. my sincere condolences on loss & my prayers.

    2 ives. u & did a very good tribute 2 the legnadery clifton hs coach,so much thanks

  49. jackie says:

    thanks for the tribute ives, and r.i.p. mr. f. rossi

  50. Jamie Z. says:

    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.

  51. ga-gone says:

    He was a hero.

  52. Matt Y says:

    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.

  53. smokeminside says:

    What’s he supposed to do, apologize?

  54. Perspective says:

    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.

  55. Haha says:


  56. Haha says:

    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.

  57. Javier says:

    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.

  58. ceegee says:

    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.

  59. Jama_33 says:

    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!!!!…..

  60. John says:

    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………

  61. Jesse says:

    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.

  62. John says:

    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????

  63. Jesse says:

    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.

  64. Jesse says:

    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?

  65. John says:

    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.