Our American Dream: Arnie Ramirez Builds Community Through Soccer

Many successful coaches have trophies in their office or in a special trophy case that define or highlight their coaching career and success.

Arnie Ramírez's trophies are not inanimate objects. They are the living and breathing human beings -- players and the various people he has touched in almost half a century of soccer, most of it in coaching.

The Costa Rican-born Ramírez was a pioneer a a Latino who was given the opportunity to attend college and be successful. He then paid it back a hundredfold or so, helping to open the door for so many other Latino players, whether they have come from the inner city or immigrants.

I was born there. I love Costa Rica. The United States gave me the opportunity to become what I needed to be -- a good educator. I was able to coach here and help other Latinos.

— Arnie Ramirez

"I may not be a millionaire, but I have so many friends in soccer," he said.

Born in Costa Rica, Ramírez immigrated with his parents to the United States -- specifically New York -- quite specifically washington Heights in Manhattan. In fact, he remembers the exact date he came to the USA -- July 26, 1955.

"Well, it was a big day for us," Ramírez said.

He is a proud citizen of both countries and visits his Central American home on a regular basis.

"Costa Rica gave me the love for the game," Ramírez said. "I was born there. I love Costa Rica. The United States gave me the opportunity to become what I needed to be -- a good educator. I was able to coach here and help other Latinos."

The players and men he has inspired has ranged from Giovanni Savarese, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars scoring legend who is the New York Cosmos Academy director and Jorge Acosta, Maicol Antelo, Roger Chavez, Mickey Kydes, Walter Bustamante, Richard Chinapoo and Martin Alvarez, among others who went on to play professionally in the United States or abroad.

"A lot of the kids were from the city like me -- with a scholarship," Ramírez said. "They were able to do something with their lives or it would not have happened."

Because LIU is an inner-city college in Brooklyn, it wasn't easy convincing American-born players to attend the school.

"I had to get kids from other countries," Ramírez said. "The really good players didn't want to go to LIU or Brooklyn."

Which made LIU a unique school well before it’s time.

"Most teams didn't have Latino players," he added. "They thought they were undisciplined. I gave them a chance."

A chance for an education and to play a game they all loved.

Ramírez was an offensive-minded coach.

"I told my players, 'When I'm on the bench, I want to enjoy myself. I want to watch beautiful soccer,' " he said.

Ramírez said he did not care about the size of the player, "as long as they were comfortable with the ball. We had a lot of midgets. We had a lot of little guys."

And the Blackbirds wound up with a lot of wins.

Ramírez has lived a life most coaches would love to boast on his resume. He either has played, coached or administered at every level -- from youth to high school to college to amateur to professional to international.

Name a role and he has done it.

Ramírez is best known as the Long Island University men's coach for 19 years. He certainly left his mark, helping Latinos home and abroad get an education and have a better life. For the record, Ramírez accrued a 214-145-25 record and four NCAA Division I tournament appearances. He has more than 300 career wins. In 2006, Ramírez was inducted into the LIU Sports Hall of Fame.

But that was only part of the equation. He was the technical director and coach of the Puerto National Team during qualifying for the 1994 World Cup.

He was the liaison for the Bolivian team during that competition in the United States

He was liaison for the Mexico team during the 1996 Summer Olympics in the USA.

He also was director of Pele Soccer Camps, coach of Inka S.C., an amateur soccer team based in New York City, most recently the women's soccer coach at Ramapo State and the coach of various youth soccer teams and clubs in the metropolitan area.

What a soccer life.

"I was fortunate," Ramírez said. "I did something I loved for more than 40 years. It was a dream. I am so proud my players did so well."

With Ramírez, it was never about him. It always comes back to his players.

Michael Lewis, who has covered international soccer for more than three decades, writes a regular weekend roundup of the leading Latino players in Europe for FoxNewsLatino.com every Monday. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.

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