Alfonso Mondelo (middle) with LISFL president and ENYYSA 2nd vice president Xikis (left) and N.Y. Hota Bavarians president Dieter Emmerling. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
QUEENS, N.Y. — Talk about working your way up and paying your dues.
Alfonso Mondelo, the Major League Soccer technical director, started his soccer career in the states with the N.Y. Hota Bavarians and worked his way up.
He also played amateur soccer and wound up making an impact in youth soccer before guiding the Long Island Rough Riders to a national championship and the MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) and Tampa Bay Mutiny in MLS.
For his seemingly endless list of accomplishments, Mondelo was inducted into the Eastern New York State Soccer Association Hall of Fame at Verdi’s on Sunday, Dec. 1.
In his induction speech, Mondelo thanked ENYSSA president Sal Rapaglia and the Hall of Fame committee.
“The biggest reward I have is all the players, the 1,000s of players that I have dealt with throughout my life, being able to able to pass along my passion, my respect and love for the game and to see so many of them going into coaching,” he said.
Mondelo, who emigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1971 at the age of 13, discovered Hota and found a second home. After the first team head coach suffered a heart attack, he was named coach at the age of 23. He had to convince Hota president — then and current — Dieter Emmerling — that he was the man for the job. Mondelo had played in Spanish’s second division with A.D. Torrejon.
It was a decision Emmerling never regretted. During Mondelo’s tenure, Hota won four consecutive Cosmopolitan Soccer League titles, reached the U.S. Amateur Cup final four times and competed in one of the top leagues in the United States at the time, the Northeastern Super Soccer League.
“When you think of Hota, you think of a beautiful soccer field,” Mondelo said. “Hota is much more than that. Hota is the United Nations of soccer. There has been a player a from every country in the world at Hota. It always made you feel welcome. That’s what attracted me to that club, a club that was inclusive.”
Mondelo also took the NESSL select team to Italy and coached the Puerto Rican national team with colleague Arnie Ramirez.
In the meantime, Mondelo also worked his way up the youth coaching ladder, as a coach and then as director of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association ODP and eventually as a youth coach for Region I, among other responsibilities.
In 1994, the Rough Riders came calling and Mondelo jumped at the opportunity to coach a professional team. During his short run with the club, the Rough Riders reached the U.S. Interregional Soccer League final four three and won the championship in 1995. He eventually was named MetroStars assistant coach and took over in 1998 when Carlos Alberto Parreira was named Saudi Arabia head coach for the World Cup. Mondelo also coached Tampa Bay in 2001.
Mondelo also coached Project 40, a team of up-and-coming players who made their mark professionally. That included Carlos Bocanegra, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Nick Rimando and Nick Garcia, who played on the U.S. national team.
“Hopefully, we had something input in helping to develop those players,” he said.
He also helped developed coaches at Hota and the Rough Riders. Mondelo mentioned some of them, including Nassau Community College coach Dan Fisher, whose teams perennially have advanced deep in the junior college playoffs, North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley, whose teams have won three National Women’s Soccer League titles, Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas, Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese, former Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke, Jim Rooney and former U.S. international Tab Ramos, who recently was named Houston Dynamo head coach.
Mondelo’s current job is as MLS technical director. He works with former Rough Rider and MetroStars goalkeeper Paul Grafer and one-time U.S. international Jeff Agoos.
“My job, along with Jeff Agoos and Paul Grafer, is to be the caretakers of the game,” he said. “We look after the future of Major League Soccer. How do we keep the integrity of this sport? How do we keep our game developing so this league truly is, one of the great leagues of the world? It’s quite a challenge. It’s a labor of love, a labor of passion. None of that would not be possible without what happened here in Eastern New York.”
Among his other honors, Mondelo is a member of the Long Island Junior Soccer League Hall of Fame, an honoree of the NYC Soccer Gala and a recipient of the Distinguished Latino award sponsored by El Diario.
“Thank you for this humbling honor,” he said. “It’s a true honor to be part of the Eastern New York Hall of Fame. This doesn’t come easy. It comes at a price and those who have suffered probably the most is my personal family who have to endure being without holidays, without birthdays, missing because I was on the road somewhere. So, to them I thank them. To my immediate family, to my extended family, which is New York Hota, for their support, has always been there from the beginning. Mostly, I want to single out one person, whose steadfast and unwavering support has allowed me to grow old doing what I do, but never to grow up. So, thank you very much to my wife Donna.”