ENYYSA Hall of Fame chairperson Ken Gulmi, SIYSL president Bill Smith, Joe Licata, ENYYSA president Richard Christiano (Photo courtesy of ENYYSA)
Giuseppe “Joe” Licata was inducted into the Eastern New York Hall of Fame during the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association’s Holiday Party at Marina del Rey in the Bronx Dec. 17.
Licata developed a love of soccer early on in life in his hometown of Porte Empedocle in Agrigento, Sicily. He played everywhere he could, including the beach and the streets, when he wasn’t on the field. When he was 12, Licata began playing for Ragazzi dell’Empedoclina, a local youth them. At 18, he competed for Prima Divisione and impressed everyone with his technical and strategic skills plus goal-scoring ability. When not on the field, Licita found time to acquire his degree in Ragioniere & Perito Commerciale as a CPA.
He immigrated to America at 26. In Brooklyn, Licata played on the Italian-American Soccer League team Fiorentina. The highlight of his local playing experience was a game he played at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island in front of 40,000 fans. Pelé was featured in the second match as Licata remembered running up to the Brazilian legend and congratulating him after scoring a goal for Santos.
Licata and his family moved to Staten Island in 1974. At that time, soccer was virtually non-existent in the borough. In 1976, he founded the St. Patrick’s Soccer Club. Before that, the only soccer club on the island was Silver Lake of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League. Over the next decade, St. Patrick’s grew to unexpected proportions, and in 1979 consisted of 27 teams, 65 coaches, and 350 players.
St. Patricks’s became the first league to initiate an all-girls team. More than 800 supporters celebrated at the bi-yearly award dinners and often included American soccer celebrities as guest speakers and award presenters. Licata also was considered one of the founding fathers in 1978 of the Staten Island Youth Soccer League, which has more than 6,000 players.
The highlight of Licata’s soccer volunteering occurred in 2002 when he and wife Anne used their Wall Street contacts and fluency in Italian to fulfill an invitation by the Italian government for a Staten Island Boys Under-17 team to play in a tournament in Agrigento named “The World In Sicily.” The New York team finished in second place as Licata received a Humanitarian Award.
The Licatas have taken youth soccer teams to tournaments in Canada and across the United States.
They were the first husband-and-wife team to be inducted into the SIYSL Hall of Fame, with Joe getting the nod in 2008, Anne in 2010.
In 1997, Licata retired from his full-time position as a foreign exchange broker and was lured back to the soccer field as a referee and league consultant. He held ref certification badges for the New York State Public and Catholic Schools as well as for U.S. Soccer. During the summer, Licata taught youngsters in a soccer sponsored by the Police Athletic League of New York.