Sal Rapaglia: “I intend to support her completely — with emails, telephone calls, the works.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Sal Rapaglia remains steadfast.
Nothing is going to change his mind.
Not only is the president of the Eastern New York State Soccer Association supporting Kathy Carter for U.S. Soccer Federation president, Rapaglia said that he plans to continue to campaign for the candidate, who is on leave from her position as Soccer United Marketing president.
In his first interview since the Dec. 22 Sports Illustrated story detailing a meeting at the Scaletta restaurant in Manhattan, Rapaglia talked about his support for Carter and U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.
On Dec. 19, Carter, Gulati met with Rapaglia, some members of the ENYSSA board, New Jersey Soccer Association president John Zangrilli and members of his board.
For the most part, Rapaglia wouldn’t talk about his interview with SI writer Grant Wahl or the story. Wahl wrote that Major League Soccer president Don Garber, who showed up at the meeting, and Gulati appeared to actively be campaigning for Carter in contrast to what they said about regarding support for the eight candidates in the race.
“It looks like she is an altogether person,” Rapaglia told FrontRowSoccer.com about Carter. “She was a soccer player, too. It would be nice to have a woman president. That’s the first, probably the first all over the world.”
Actually, there have been a few woman federation presidents in the world.
“We made up our mind to support Sunil from Day One,” he said over the recent holiday weekend. “So Sunil is not running. We spoke to this woman, Kathy Carter. She may be the right one. So, New Jersey, New York we will support this woman. I don’t know what the big fuss about. I don’t know what’s going on because I don’t follow the computer.”
So, Rapaglia did not know of most of the negative reaction on social media.
He did admit he had one regret: that he called Carter a girl in the SI story.
“My son, he said, ‘Dad, you said girl. It’s supposed to be a woman, Kathy Carter,’ ” Rapaglia said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t mean that. To me, a woman in the forties is a girl. I’m sorry. I’m sorry about the word.”
Carter is 47-years-old.
“Listen, I am not an Einstein about the English language,” Rapaglia said with a chuckle. “Maybe the Italian language I am pretty good.”
When told about the negative social media reaction to his girl comment, Rapaglia replied, “Do I deserve that? It makes no sense. It makes no sense. Out of a word to say girl, a woman? Give me a break. I support her. I will support her big time to the end. I said girl.”
Here is the link to Wahl’s story:
Between now and the election at the USSF’s Annual General Meeting in Orlando, Fla. Feb. 10, Rapaglia said he will push Carter for president with other state associations.
“I intend to support her completely — with emails, telephone calls, the works,” he said. “I hope she will be the winner. I don’t believe a young kid can be president at this stage of the game. He could be the smartest guy. Experience counts a lot. And it’s very important. I’m supporting her. We’re supporting her completely. We’re going to go on and try to get the votes. If some people have a different direction, it’s a free country.”
The other candidates include four former U.S. national team players — Eric Wynalda, Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino and Hope Solo, U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro, Boston attorney Steven Gans and New York lawyer Michael Winograd.
Rapaglia has been a big-time Gulati supporter for almost three decades. He said he was disappointed when he heard that the New York City resident decided not to seek a fourth term.
“I’m sorry that he won’t be running because if he would have run, he will win,” he said. “He will win. Do you believe a guy beats Sunil? There are a few rabble-rousers. They don’t realize the work done by the people. They don’t realize that. He has done a great job.
“I don’t like all this animosity toward Sunil. Sunil has been the biggest staple [for] this federation, that we could count on it — for free.”
The USSF president is a non-paying position, except for expenses.
“He’s doing a great job,” Rapaglia said. “Who could do something like it? Impossible. He has been in the game for years. I think it is impossible to equal Sunil. That you can put down on your notes.
“He took a federation that had $2 million and today there is a $150 million. The federation is respected. He is on the FIFA board. What more do we want? This guy, for his own reason, he [decided not to run] but he’s going to be there, anyway. Where is he going to go? He’s going to be there with the World Cup 2026 bid committee.”
Gulati is chairman of United Bid Committee, which is trying to acquire rights for the 2026 World Cup along with the United States, Mexico and Canada.
When asked to elaborate on his disappointment that Gulati wasn’t running, Rapaglia replied, “I’m upset. I’m upset on the criticism that has been leveled on him. It’s like a soccer player that misses a goal in an important game like for the World Cup. What are we going to do now? Shooting him because the guy missed a penalty or missed a goal? It’s the same thing that happened. We missed the World Cup and all the people that resented Sunil, they come out. Do you think it’s fair? I don’t think it’s fair. John Zangrilli said to me, ‘I can’t believe we’re going to have a federation without Sunil.’ And he’s right. I can’t believe we’re going to have it.”
Rapaglia wasn’t finished.
“Sunil has much more faith in himself than I,” he said. “He doesn’t deserve to be mistreated and criticized. … To criticize the president of the federation because we lost the World Cup, to me, makes no sense at all.”
At an age where many state association presidents have retired, the 76-year-old Rapaglia said that he plans to stay on for now. He has been ENYSSA president for all but two of the past 30 years.
“I’ll tell you, before my wife died, I told my wife, maybe it’s time,” he said. “What are you going to do about it? I don’t know.”
Rapaglia’s wife of 51 years, Ann, passed away in 2016.
“Listen, I’ve got a good board,” he said. “I’ve got good people around me that they respect me, and they inspire me. Let’s see. I don’t know. I don’t know. When it comes the moment, I will give my opinion on who should be the president. We’ll see when the moment comes, then I will talk.”