Legendary Ref Gino D’Ippolito Honored as the Personality of the Month in Eastern New York
The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is very pleased to announce that Gino D’Ippolito is our Personality of the Month for April. Gino is the first person to be honored for his refereeing in the two years that Eastern New York has featured this award.
Gino officiated over 2,000 pro games and refereed international games in 29 countries. The world’s soccer stars in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, including the recently departed Johan Cruyff, all played in games refereed by Gino. The native of Colledimezzo, Italy has been a Yonkers resident since 1951 and he has always found the time to help Eastern New York and our Referee Program.
Gino explained how he became a ref. “I started refereeing in 1963 in Eastern New York. I was playing in a game and I was unhappy with the referee’s performance. After the game, I told the referee how I felt about his officiating. His response was, ‘If you think you could have done a better job, why don’t you become a referee yourself?’ So I did.”
Three months later, in November 1963, Gino was assigned as an assistant referee (then called linesman) for a local adult game. The referee and the other AR did not show up so Gino became the ref. His father and brother were both at that game yet he got scared and his father told him after the match that the players and fans called him all sorts of names. But Gino refereed the same two teams the following year and, this time, no one was complaining.
He fell in love with being a referee, and in the late 1960’s, he was assigned to the pros, with the old National Professional Soccer League (NPSL), a forerunner to the original North American Soccer League (NASL).
“There was a tryout for upcoming players. All the teams in the league were playing a pre-season tournament in a round-robin format all weekend long,” Gino said. “This was the place where the league could experiment with new referees. All the refs before me did 20 minutes on the line, 20 minutes as a referee, and so on. They told me to ref. After 20 minutes, they said, ‘Okay, your time is up, you’re done, thank you for coming.’ I thought, ‘Well, I gave it my best shot.’ ”
About a month later, Eddie Pearson called Gino to ref a pro game in Washington, DC. The rest is history as Gino advanced rapidly and made it onto the FIFA list in 1975.
Since then, he has refereed in virtually every soccer final the USA had to offer, including the NASL, American Soccer League (ASL) and Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL). One championship game he did not officiate was the NCAA final, although he was assigned to do it twice but could not accept as he was assigned a NASL game the same day, which took precedence.
“I was also chosen to referee in the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the USSR, but a boycott by the USA kept me from my dream of officiating in the Olympics,” Gino stated.
He was an official at Pelé’s first and last games as a New York Cosmos player. Pelé’s first game was on Randalls Island, New York in 1975 and Gino was assigned as an AR. He was the referee for his retirement game in 1977, which was played in Giants Stadium and televised worldwide.
The now 81-year-old was an official in over 600 NASL games from 1968 until the league’s final season in 1984. He has travelled to 29 nations to ref international games, as well as 15 World Cup qualifiers for the 1978, 1982, and 1986 World Cups.
Gino was also an official for over 1,500 pro indoor games from 1978 to 2001 and because of all these games and his enthusiasm, he became one of the most well-known personalities in the MISL. That league had several series of trading cards so of course there had to be a Gino D’Ippolito trading card.
With all these professional games and college games, Gino could also be found refereeing both adult and youth games in Eastern New York as well as high school games in an officiating career that has now spanned more than five decades.
As State Referee Administrator, Enrico Romano is in charge of the thousands of referees in Eastern New York and commented, “Gino is my idol. He demonstrates what a person can achieve if he works hard and has desire and passion in what he does.”
Gino has been a US Soccer National Assessor since 1985 and has become a fixture at the State Open Cup finals in LaGrange on the first weekend in June, giving pointers to Eastern New York’s up-and-coming refs. He has also been an inspector/assessor at every level from international matches to armed forces games and he is also a Major League Soccer (MLS) coach/mentor.
Please join us in congratulating Gino D’Ippolito, Eastern New York’s Personality of the Month for April.
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 Children With Special Needs. 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.