Mike Fitzgerald (right): “Through soccer I have met many of my closest friends. We have traveled the world together. We have had a lot of wins, a lot of losses, a lot of laughter.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
QUEENS, N.Y. — You name the soccer field or venue in New York City and there’s a good chance that Mike Fitzgerald has played on it.
Fitzgerald, the president of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, has played the beautiful game since he was six-years-old and was a standout performer before becoming a coach and an administrator.
So, it should not come as a surprise that Fitzgerald was inducted into the Eastern New York State Soccer Hall of Fame at its annual Christmas party and Hall of Fame dinner at Verdi’s on Sunday, Dec. 1.
During his induction speech, Fitzgerald thanked the ENY hall of fame committee, state president Sal Rapaglia and former CSL president Peter Strumpf, whom he succeeded.
“His friendship and mentoring have been important to me all these years,” he said. “The CSL is a big part and I will continue to work for the organization for a long time to come. To my family and friends, and my teammates who have supported me and allowed me to reach this point in my career, I want to thank them, especially my parents who drove me to all the games, coached me and were my first fans. My dad would be very proud of me and so would my mom and my sister, who are now in California. ”
It should not be surprising that Fitzgerald fell in love with the game so young while playing on the streets with his Caribbean neighbors. He joined the AYSO at the age of seven and tended goal for the rest of his playing career.
That career included high school, the Western All-Select and the Empire State teams before receiving a full scholarship to attend St. John’s University. Fitzgerald captained the Red Storm in his senior year.
After graduating with an MBA, he continued to play in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park League.
Fitzgerald returned to his roots, playing in a Caribbean league after he moved to Manhattan. He also has competed in several other leagues, includes Metro Soccer, Urban Soccer, Gotham Soccer, the Bowery Leagues and at Chelsea Piers.
In 1995, he joined the Manhattan Kickers (CSL). He became player-manager and was a guiding force in helping to build the Kickers into a competitive side in the CSL First Division. In fact, the club became one of the most international and diverse teams in the league.
Kickers teams wound up traveling to more than 15 countries through Europe and South America.
“Through soccer I have met many of my closest friends,” Fitzgerald said. “We have traveled the world together. We have had a lot of wins, a lot of losses, a lot of laughter. I can certainly say the beer in all these countries tasted great, but none were better when we came home.”
In 2000, Fitzgerald joined the CSL board as treasurer and has helped expand the league through sponsorships and social media. He was elected league president in 2015.
Fitzgerald is an ENYSSA fourth vice president, a U.S. Soccer Federation alternate delegate from the state, chairman of the ENYSSA appeal committee and a member of several ad hoc committees.
“I’ve spent 45 plus years loving this game,” Fitzgerald said. “There have been many sacrifices along the way. Just ask [my wife], who has spent many nights and weekends without me around. Thank you for being a great fan of the game and supportive of my passion. I’m truly honored and humbled for this award. The greatest reward would be to continue my work and I look forward to the challenges ahead for the league, the state and the nation.”