Former Cosmos Player and Current LIJSL Coach Tony Picciano Honored
Personality of the Month in Eastern New York
Imagine spending your 23rd birthday making your professional debut in a nationally-televised game and a sold-out stadium. One of the fans in the stadium is your own father and it’s Father’s Day. At to top it all off, your childhood hero, Pelé, has just come out of retirement and is your new teammate.
It sounds like a story out of Hollywood but that’s actually what happened to Tony Picciano on June 15, 1975 at Downing Stadium on Randalls Island. The result was a 2-2 tie vs. the Dallas Tornados and their American star, Kyle Rote Jr., and that game is remembered 40 years later for helping give a jolt to the American soccer boom.
Tony played for the Cosmos for one more year, in 1976, when their home games were in Yankee Stadium, the home of the MLS expansion franchise, New York City FC. He is being honored as the February Personality of the Month in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) because he continues to give back to the game today as a top youth soccer coach.
Tony was born and grew up in Buenos Aires and played for the youth teams of the famed Boca Juniors. At the age of 11, Tony and his parents and younger sister emigrated to the United States and he started playing for Palermo FC of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL). It was then on to LIU Brooklyn from 1971 to ‘75, where he was honored as All-State and All-Metropolitan for the Blackbirds and received the 1975 Dolly King Athlete-Excellence Award. The award is presented annually to the student-athlete who exemplifies leadership, sportsmanship and achievement that the late William “Dolly” King personified as a student-athlete, administrator and coach.
“Throughout my early career, I played offense and midfield and I was a scorer,” Tony said. “As a captain in my senior year at LIU, I was asked to help develop the incoming freshman in defense.”
While at LIU, Tony also played for Palermo FC’s first team which competed in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League (CSL). He also played for Calabria Roma of the Italian-American Soccer League (IASL). In the 1975 North American Soccer League (NASL) Draft, Tony was selected in the third round by the New York Cosmos. After the 1976 season, Tony was hired in passenger service for KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines and played for the KLM Blazing Bravos for the next decade.
“It was amazing traveling to different countries to play international games and representing KLM,” Tony commented.
He moved to Malverne, Long Island, where he has lived for the past 32 years, and became a youth soccer coach, eventually earning his NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and CPR/AED Certification. Tony coached his two sons playing for Merrick, Port Washington and Rockville Centre in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) and for the past 18 years, he has coached many of the LIJSL’s top players in the Player Development Program (PDP). He led the Boys-Under-16 and Girls-Under-16 PDP squads to undefeated trips through Europe in 2005 and 2006.
“Although the certifications and trophies are nice, let’s not forget that Tony has a great love of coaching youth soccer players,” commented ENYYSA President Richard Christiano.
“I don’t play soccer any longer, but I have committed to pass on all I learned for the love of the game by coaching,” Tony added.
Congratulations to Tony Picciano, the Personality of the Month in Eastern New York.
Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association: With over 100,000 youth soccer players–both boys and girls–and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators.
All levels of soccer are offered–from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association.