Frank Caricchio and the IASC, the 1963 Amateur Cup winners, were honored by the club 50 years later in 2013. ( Photo)

By Michael Lewis Editor

Frank Caricchio certainly did not play soccer to get rich.

He played the beautiful game because he loved it.

“It was not the money,” he said during a 2013 interview. “It passion. You got hooked. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but maybe it’s like you have a drink of wine and you like to have another drink. You play soccer and you play more and more. That’s what it was. You get hooked on the sport. Luckily for 99 percent of us, our families helped us out. They knew this is what we wanted to do. They really came together to us, followed us and we were appreciative of them.”

Caricchio, an original member of the Rochester Lancers, passed away Saturday. He was 78.

He loved the game so much that when he served in the Army at Fox Dix, N.J. in the early sixties, Caricchio was given a weekend pass so he could play for the Italian American Sport Club, which captured the 1963 U.S. Amateur Cup.

“It was very difficult,” he said. “I used to get a pass, Luckily. It was sent a pass to my CO. I would be in the office and they would go, ‘Here you go again, you’ve got another game.’ I would go on the weekends. I would go home and play. Mainly, it was the cup games. That was a big commitment for the club.

“At that time I was lucky because I was in the best shape of my life. We were always training.”

Born in Italy, Caricchio moved to the United States with his family in 1953.

Caricchio was an outstanding forward at Charlotte High School. As a senior, he was a unanimous selection to the 1956 Rochester Democrat & Chronicle’s All-Scholastic Soccer team, recording a season-best 33 points.

He played for the Italian American Sport Club for a decade, captaining the team and was a regular on the side that captured the 1963 national championship, which helped spark interest in pro soccer in Rochester. From there, the Lancers were born.

Usually a backline player for the ISAC, Caricchio turned attacker to help the team record a win over Patchogue in the 1966 Eastern Cup finals. He called it a highlight of his IASC career.

“We were losing 1-0,” he said. “The last 10 minutes I told the coach to move me up because in high school I was playing forward. The last two minutes of the game I scored the tying goal. It was very exciting and in overtime we won 4-1. We had lost to them before. As [an] amateur player for this club, it definitely was the highest.”

While the team was primarily composed Italians, from time to time, other nationalities also joined the team, including Brazilians, Ukrainians and even some players from Canada when the team was in a mode to make a serious cup run. Despite this mesh of nationalities, the players got along, for the most part.

“We had a mixture of different nationalities,” Caricchio said. “If you have all Italians, all English, you have the tendency to argue more. We had Germans. We had English. We had American born. So we had a mixture of a lot of people. We didn’t want to argue with one another. If there was something we could overlook, we did. If it was another Italian, we would have told him off. If it was an Italian to a German or an Italian to an England [player] you have a tendency to calm down and try to please or show the other person that your nationality was just as good as theirs. Plus, we were all good friends.”

Caricchio, who worked for Kodak, performed for the Lancers in the American Soccer League from 1967-69 and was the starting right back in their very first game at Aquinas Stadium, a 5-2 loss to Concordia of Germany on Memorial Day 1967.

He went on to coach the Greece Athena High School girls team, Mother of Sorrows, a Catholic school in Greece, Bishop Kearney H.S. boys team, and an Italian-American men’s team.

At Athena, Caricchio build a powerhouse program, reaching the Section V championship game five consecutive times, including winning the 1996 title and reaching the state semifinals.

In October 1995, Caricchio’s Athena team defeated previously undefeated Mercy and future U.S. women’s star Abby Wambach, 3-1.

“We knew defensively we would have to shut down Abby Wambach,” Caricchio told the D&C. “She had one chance today — I don’t think it was even a good chance, but a halfway chance — and she scored. She’s definitely the player we have to mark.”

In 1997, Caricchio was named the All-Greater Rochester girls coach of the year, the same year that Wambach was named girls player of the year. He stepped down after that season with a 99-21-2 record because he said it was “time to move on.”

In 2005, he was inducted into the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted the Lancers’ Wall of Fame last year.

Visiting hours will be held at Thomas Funeral Chapel in Rochester, Tuesday from 4-8 p.m. A funeral will be held at Mass Holy Cross Church Wednesday at 11 a.m. Interment will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

The Soccer Is a Kick in the Grass radio show will remember Caricchio on its Monday show on WYSL radio (1040 AM) at 6:30 p.m. Monday.