By Michael Lewis
Ibraim Silva, who scored one of the most important and dramatic goals in Rochester Lancers history, passed away on Saturday.
He was 65.
Silva passed away at his home in Vila Praia de Âncora, Portugal after a sudden illness. No details are known about his illness.
His son, Ibraim Verde Silva, announced the former midfielder-forward’s death on his Facebook page.
Silva’s passing stunned his former Lancers colleagues.
“I have a heavy heart because Ibrahim made life worth living,” said former Lancers trainer Joe Siriranni, co-host of the Soccer Is a Kick in the Grass show.
Charlie Schiano, the former chairman of the board of the Lancers, echoed similar sentiments.
“My heart is broken on this one,” he said on the show. “This is like when Stollie passed.”
Schiano was referring to Lancers all-time scorer Mike Stojanovic, who died in 2010.
“It was a very heart-wretching moment for me because Ibraim was just a good guy, a good kid, a great player.”
Added former Lancers head coach Don Popovic on the radio show: “It’s sad news, obviously. … Ibraim Silva was always smiling, always joking, a beautiful person.”
And one of the fastest players on the team and perhaps the league. And that was saying a lot because the Lancers boasted Stojanovic, who ran like the wind as well.
“His speed on the counterattack,” Popovic said of Silva. “He was the fastest player on our team, even faster than Mike Stojanovic. He was just lightning fast. His ball control was great.”
Silva joined the Lancers with three other countrymen — John Pedro and Vitor Moia for the 1976 North American Soccer League season. Pedro, whose career was cut short due to a heart ailment, died of a heart attack in a comeback attempt in 1980.
A five-year Lancers veteran, Silva distinguished himself during a four-day span in the 1977 playoffs.
During a wild scoreless draw with the defending champion Toronto Metros-Croatia, Silva scored twice during a shootout, the only man in history to do so, to boost Rochester to a 1-0 win in the first game of the quarterfinal series.
With the Lancers down to nine players due to a pair of first-half red cards, Silva tallied the game-winning goal at 78:35 in Toronto as Rochester recorded a stunning 1-0 triumph to clinch a spot in the NASL semifinals against the Cosmos.
Schiano also was the radio color commenator with Wayne Fuller for the game in Toronto.
“I can’t talk about great goals the Lancers have ever scored,” he said. “I now think of magic moments. Ibraim was a huge person in that magic moment.”
Down two players, Popovic used an ultra defensive formation.
“Popovic put Stojanovic on the top of the pyramid,” Schiano said, as two players were assigned to cover the striker.
Craig Reynolds took a throw-in to Silva, who bolted down the right flank.
“Stojanovic, being very smart, goes to the far post and he drags two defenders with him,” Schiano said. The goalie is 1 on 1. He just hestitates for a minute and Ibraim tips the ball, lifts it over his head. It was just a dream come true.”
“He was the best player on the field,” Popovic said.
In its next morning edition, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran the headline:
Hi-Ho Silva, Lancers ride again
After the match, Silva told the D&C: “Imagine, eight guys running against 10. That’s incredible. We knew we were going to win the game in regulation. We never thought about the shootout.”
Silva finished fifth all-time in Lancers points (51), sixth in goals (15) and third in assists (21). His best seasons came in 1977 (6 goals, 3 assists in 29 matches) and in 1979 (6 goals, 7 assists in 24 games). He competed in 100 regular-season contest for Rochester.
After he was waived by the Lancers during head coach Ray Klivecka’s short tenure with the club in 1980, Silva played with the San Jose Earthquakes for seven matches. He returned to the Lancers after Alex Perolli took over later that season.
Silva also played two games for the New York Arrows during the 1978-89 Major Indoor Soccer League season and for the Lancers during the 1976 NASL indoor tourney in which the team finished second.
Besides his American career, the lanky, 6-foot, 15-lb. Silva played for several clubs in his native land.
A member of Portugal’s Under-18 national team (four appearances), Silva performed for Vitória de Guimarães, Benfica, Anchor Praia FC, Varzim and Vianense.
After competing for the First Portuguese in Canada in 1981, Silva returned home and continued his career with Academic OAF from 1981-84. After a brief stint at Desportivo de Monção, Silva retired in 1984. In Portugal pro matches, Silva tallied 18 goals and 142 games.
He lived and worked in New York City for several years before returning to Portugal.
According to an obituary for www.radiovaledominho.com, a friend on social media called Silva “a great man, a great football athlete, a great businessman and a great friend of a friend.”
According to text from Silva’s son, the funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
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