By Ridge Mahoney
Before we move full-bore into a very busy 2013, here’s a final chance to look back at those closely connected to the game who passed away in 2012.
We present these 10 significant individuals in alphabetical order, while acknowledging that many other personalities, including former Liverpool defender Gary Ablett and ex-Chelsea manager Dave Sexton, died last year. We also remember the 74 fans of Egyptian club Al-Ahly killed nearly a year ago when they were attacked by rival fans during a league match.
ARIANNA ALIOTO (Feb. 6, 1994-Nov. 30, 2012; age: 18). A freshman at Northern Michigan University, Alioto drowned alone in the pool at the school’s Physical Education facility after the soccer team had concluded a workout session. Paramedics responded to an emergency call after a student working out in a nearby area spotted Alioto in the pool and were unable to revive her.
The official cause of death has not been released and autopsy results are due to be released this month. Alioto suffered from epilepsy, for which she took medication.
MIGUEL CALERO (April 14, 1971-Dec. 4, 2012; age: 41). The 6-foot-3 Colombian goalkeeper tended the nets for more than a decade in Mexico with Pachuca, which he helped win four league titles and three Concacaf crowns. Usually wearing either a baseball cap or bandana, his dynamic, exuberant play included seven appearances against Houston in Concacaf and SuperLiga matches.
He retired as a player last October and a month later suffered a cerebral thrombosis, a very severe form of stroke. A second thrombosis left him in a coma and he was pronounced brain dead a few days after Houston lost to the Galaxy, 3-1, in MLS Cup 2012. At the Dynamo’s season-ending press conference, Coach Dominic Kinnear – who always praised Pachuca for its quality and style of play – took a few moments to commemorate the keeper who had stymied his teams numerous times.
“He was a key figure for Pachuca during those games,” said Kinnear, whose own playing career included a stint in Mexico with Necaxa. “When I read that story this morning it was very sad because I have great memories of playing against him and I'm definitely thinking about his family during this time."
GIORGIO CHINAGLIA (Jan. 24, 1974-April 1, 2012; age: 65). No larger-than-life figure lived it up more than Chinaglia, a native of Italy who grew up in Wales and after scoring 98 goals for Lazio came to America and simply terrorized opponents of the original New York Cosmos.
From 1976 to 1983 he scored 193 goals in 213 games for the glamorous Cosmos, with which he won four league titles and lived the goalscorer lifestyle to the fullest. Cigars, full-length fur coats, and bottomless bottles of Chivas Regal were standard issue for Chinaglia, who ended his career playing indoors for the Cosmos in 1985. He died after suffering a heart attack last March that required surgery.
If anything about his performance in a match – his work rate, his touch, his choice of shot – raised criticism he thought unfair, his retort would often begin with, “I AM KEEE-NALIA!” Whatever followed justified those first three words and his amazing prowess in front of goal.
HELMUT HALLER (July 21, 1939-Oct. 11, 2012; age: 73). West Germany’s No. 8 scored the first goal of the 1966 World Cup final, the same-day U.S. telecast of which played a major role into launching two American professional leagues the following year. Haller’s career preceded the German Bundesliga startup in 1963 and he was also one of the first German players to play in Serie A. He represented West Germany as a Bologna player at the World Cup, where he played in each game leading up to the final and scored its opening goal in the 12th minute.
Reached by telephone in a hotel room the day after England’s 4-2 overtime win, the late Lamar Hunt was asked to invest in a pro U.S. soccer league.
Hunt’s response: “In a moment of weakness, I said yes.”
HARRY KEOUGH (Nov. 15, 1927-Feb. 7, 2012; age: 84). He’s best-known for playing on the USA team that stunned England, 1-0, in the 1950 World Cup, yet Keough also played semipro soccer for more than a decade and coached five national championship teams at St. Louis University.
After the 1950 World Cup he captained the U.S. teams at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, and for several decades served as an unofficial soccer ambassador, accompanying U.S. youth teams on international trips. He also won numerous medals in track & field and swimming at the Senior Olympics before age and Alzheimer’s disease caught up with him. His death from natural causes prompted tributes like this one from U.S. Soccer secretary-general Dan Flynn, who played for Keough at SLU:
“What I really remember is his willingness to help other players, other coaches,” said Flynn to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That's a tremendous attribute. That's what stands out. He was a true gentleman.”
PIERMARIO MOROSINI (July 5, 1986-April 14, 2012; age: 25). Playing on loan with Livorno in an Italian Serie B match, Morosini collapsed during a match at Pescara and could not be revived. Orphaned as a teenager by the deaths of his parents, Morosini had joined Udinese and been loaned out to several clubs in the years leading up to his death.
Several such incidents have occurred in recent years, including the deaths of Cameroon’s Marc-Vivien Foe at the 2003 Confederations Cup and Antonio Puerta of Sevilla in 2007, which has prompted calls for more stringent cardiac examinations and tests of players at regular intervals.
Morosini was stricken less than a month after Bolton midfield Fabrice Muamba collapsed during a game and needed 75 minutes of artificial heart stimulation to survive a trip to the hospital. He recovered and though will not again play competitively can lead a somewhat normal life. But the search for answers of how healthy, high-level athletes can be victimized by such tragedies continues.
ALKIS PANAGOULIAS (May 30, 1934-June 18, 2012). The colorful, quotable Panagoulias attained notable success with his native Greece – he coached the Greeks in their first European Championship (1980) and first World Cup (1994) – but couldn’t translate that success to the USA national team.
He coached Team America during its ill-fated entry into the NASL during the 1983 season, failed to steer the U.S. Oympic team out of group play the following year, and in 1985 couldn’t get past the semifinal phase of qualifying for the 1986 World Cup. Yet after arriving in the USA -- he was born in Thessaloniki -- he won three straight U.S. Open Cup titles in the 1960s with the New York-based Greek-Americans, and also coached successfully with several first-division clubs in his native country.
I attended Panagoulias’ last game as U.S. national team coach following a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica that knocked it out of World Cup contention. At the Los Angeles Coliseum on Father’s Day England thumped the Americans, 5-0. Said Alkis with a resigned grin, “I think they were better than us today.”
To honor Panagoulias, Greece’s players wore black armbands during its Euro 2012 quarterfinal match against Germany.
JACK REYNA (April 9, 1999-July 19, 2012; age: 13). The oldest son of former U.S. international Claudio Reyna and wife, Danielle, died after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
JOHN “CLARKIE” SOUZA (July 12, 1920-March 11, 2012; age: 91). A tricky forward and deceptive dribbler, Souza played only 14 matches for the USA but one of them was that win over England at the 1950 World Cup.
The native of Fall River, Mass., won National Challenge Cups and National Amateur Cups during his playing career and teammates raved about his ability to beat opponents and keep the ball. In that famous defeat of England he took off on a mazy dribble that kept the ball and killed some clock while the Americans were gasping.
“John was a very talented player with better ball skills than most of the players I played with or against,” said former teammate Walter Bahr to veteran soccer writer Michael Lewis. “He was a dribbler. He liked to hold the ball. He could make things happen.”
(Another member of the USA team from that era, Benny McLaughlin, died Dec. 27 at the age of 84. He played in the 1948 Olympic Games but could not get time off from work to represent the USA at the 1950 World Cup.)
KIRK URSO (March 6, 1990-Aug. 5, 2012; age: 22). A genetic heart defect was determined as the cause of death for the former Crew midfielder who collapsed at a downtown Columbus restaurant and never regained consciousness. An autopsy revealed he died from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, which in 30 to 50 percent of cases is inherited.
Columbus drafted him in the first round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft after he’d helped North Carolina win the NCAA Division I title a month before. He played six games for the Crew and was recovering from abdominal surgery when he died.