Jerry Zanelli Changed Women’s Soccer Forever
A man of amazing willpower, focused dedication and influence, Jerry Zanelli called me today. I knew his health was failing and I was so happy to hear his voice. He told me that he was not sure what was going to get him first, his kidneys or his heart. He shared with me there were moments when he felt energized and wanted to chat about his lasting legacy.
Jerry Zanelli was the longtime commission of the WPSL, the largest women’s soccer league in the world and always is a champion of women’s soccer. Always focused on making a difference in the women’s game and giving back, Jerry Zanelli is an unparalleled leader.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you want to be remembered for most?
Jerry Zanelli: That I fought for women’s rights in soccer — by desire and necessity.
The WPSL is a leader in that respect.
I know the fight for equality will be continued by so many.
It is important that the Federation, the USASA and United Soccer Coaches — that all three see the need for an equal women’s division, so women have equality with men.
Everyone has talked for years about wanting the women’s game to grow but have shown no inclination towards making that happen.
The suppression of women, and not only in soccer, has been the trademark of Western Civilization.
It is time, f—ing time, to step up and continue the battle.
The only legacy that I want to leave is that women get equal recognition for what they deserve.
I want people to get off their lazy asses and do something every day for the women’s game. This is more of a ‘please’ than a ‘demand’.
Diane, I have cherished our friendship — it is one of the things that makes me feel good about life. Please embellish, as only you can do — you have the editorial license.
Jerry, there was nothing to embellish. I just can’t stop crying while I publish this. You are so special to so many people.
This is a man I met outside the halls of the Women’s Draft in 2012. I was new to soccer, only having covered the beloved sport for a year or so and was trying to reckon with the tumultuous nature of the women’s game. After attending the MLS SuperDraft the day before, I was horrified that the Women’s Professional Soccer had just lost internet and was having serious technical difficulties in the middle of their draft.
Jerry struck up a conversation with me as I was sputtering about the discrepancy between the men’s and women’s draft and my genuine horror — and, in his inevitably charming way, he got me involved with the WPSL Elite League which served as the highest women’s soccer league the year in between the WPS and NWSL.
Jerry is a man who brings out the best in the people around him, even if he angers them for a moment.
Jerry makes people think, which is a gift rarely found or given.
What I have always loved most about Jerry is his straightforward, opinionated honesty — and his endless willingness to put in the effort to champion his commitment to women’s soccer.
A singular, unequaled force, and an unprecedented steward of women’s soccer, Jerry Zanelli legacy will always be remembered but hopefully, this long fight for gender equality will be won in the near future.
Top Photo of Jerry Zanelli: Patricia Giobelli