Tony DiCicco and Dan Gaspar in younger times. (Photos courtesy of Dan Gaspar)
Editor’s note: Dan Gaspar wrote an eloquent tribute to his long-time friend, former U.S. women’s coach Tony DiCicco, who passed last week, on his Facebook page. They worked together many years ago as the co-founders of SoccerPlus. FrontRowSoccer asked Gaspar, an assistant coach on the Iranian national team that recently qualified for the 2018 World Cup, if it could repost his story on the website and share it with its readers. This piece is used with permission.
By Dan Gaspar
Special to FrontRowSoccer.com
Your passing breaks my heart. Never did I Imagine I would be writing under these tragic circumstances. You left us much too early Tony. I was frozen by the news. It will be one of those moments in my life that will remain with me forever. I needed a few days to process this unexpected event while I was sitting alone in my hotel room in Tehran. I reflected on our past relationship.
Tony, do you remember when I shared my dream with you to open a soccer retail specialty shop, mail order catalog and goalkeeper camps business? You were working under the hood of a car at your dad’s Hartford City Radiator Shop. You looked at me as if I was insane, but I said, “Specialization eliminates competition” join me we can do this. You asked for sometime to think about it. I met with you and Diane and we decided to form our partnership.
In 1981 Soccer Plus culture was born and created. Despite all the expert opinions against the idea, we charged forward together working tirelessly chasing the dream by sprinting all over United States conducting countless clinics, many on a voluntary basis. We were the incredible and dynamic duo. In those days, no one had a clue who we were.
I have so many wonderful memories together during that period that will last a lifetime. I believed you had so much to give to the world of soccer. Why did I share my dream with you and not others? I admired your leadership, discipline, organizational abilities and goalkeeper talents. I remember standing behind your goal at Colts Park, Hartford, Conn. to get a close-up view of your skills. You were a master of the art of goalkeeping.
As with many business relationships, ours respectively came to an end and since we parted ways, we both found the courage to pursue our passion.
Our time together taught me much because growth is rarely painless. I learned even more about friendships, partnerships, and families, when we split. I took of those experiences and did my very best to apply what I had learned to my future endeavors. Tony, it’s important for me that you understand that you were part of my accomplishments.
As time passed, we began to reconnect. Your passing so young is painful and frustrating. There was so much more I wanted to share with you. We always think that life offers us unlimited time. Your death is a stark reminder that our time is short. Your death ought to teach us that our time on this planet is precious. We tend to put off things that matter because we think that there will always be enough time: time to make that phone call, time to write that email, time to say the things that we want to say, time to reconnect.
I attended your father’s funeral and you reciprocated by attending my father’s funeral. I remember you said to me, “I am sure your father is very proud of you.” Your words were very special for me and still resonate with me. Thank you for providing that moment of peace for me.
I admired your core values, particularly your love of family. You balanced perfectly your work obligations with your family ones, no easy task these days! You were one of the few who walked the walk, never compromising the strength of your convictions. It is there that your legacy lies, in the strength of your character, and how you shaped so many of the lives that you touched. It will forever be true that you moved the game in this country forward in a momentous way.
You will be remembered for your successes, for your victories, and for your championship ways. But even more, you will be remembered for being a great man, a great husband, and a great father. You were a role model for a whole generation. World Class Coach – World Class Man. That will be your legacy Tony.
I was the dreamer Tony and you were the pragmatist. Our differences made us great together!
My respectful and sincere condolences to Diane, the boys and your brother Bob.