Arnie Ramirez: “Our style of play was impressive to watch. It was a Latin style, one that I was influenced by growing up in Costa Rica. But don’t you just take my word for it. Just ask world renowned soccer critic Paul Gardner.” (Michael Lewis Photo/FrontRowSoccer.com)
With former long-time soccer coach Arnie Ramirez celebrating another personal trip around the sun (his birthday), we’d figure we would honor the one-time LIU men’s coach and Ramapo women’s coach with a story about when he was inducted into the Blackbirds’ athletic Hall of Fame. This story was posted in BigAppleSoccer.com in February 2006.
By Michael Lewis
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Arnie Ramirez stole the show at the Long Island University’s Athletics Hall of Fame inductions Saturday night.
Yes, the former LIU men’s soccer coach thanked many people who played vital roles in his long and distinguished soccer career.
“Thank you to the Hall of Fame committee for inducting me into the class of 2006,” he said. “Perhaps it was my destiny to be selected here tonight with all of you, my family, my friends, former players to celebrate some of the most fulfilling years of my life and my career. You see, Long Island University and I have quite a history together.”
When he received his plaque and special LIU hall of fame blazer at halftime of the Blackbirds’ basketball game with St. Francis, Ramirez looked up toward some 20 former players who showed up for his induction and put his thumb up.
“I want to thank all of players,” he said later at the dinner. “I can’t mention just one guy or two guys. Every one of you, every one of you mean so much to me. I am so proud of you, of all your accomplishments.”
But even before he really got into his acceptance speech, Ramirez related the time he was arrested for “assaulting” a referee during his first year as LIU head coach.
We’ll let Ramirez tell the story because any other way would not do it any justice.
“Thank Dr. Clark. Thank you, Dr. Wolman. Thank you, Jerry Donner (another inductee), for getting me out of jail back in October 9, 1979,” Ramirez told an audience of 200 people.
“We were playing against the University of Rhode Island at the University of Rhode Island. Ten minutes into the game we’re playing, and Michael Hlushko commits a foul. The referee puts down the ball and gives it to the opponent. Michael Hlushko kicks the ball. Michael Hlushko gets a red card. I don’t say anything. The halftime score is 0-0. For 35 minutes we play with 10 men.
“At halftime of the game, I go over to the referee, Mitch Pietras, who was a baseball coach at the University of Connecticut. ‘Why did you take my player?’ ‘It was a delay of game,’ he said. “A delay of game? You gave him a verbal warning? You don’t give him a red card. Why did you give him a red card? Delay of game?’ ”
Then Ramirez took Pietras to task.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” he told the referee.
“The guy goes down,” said Ramirez, imitating a person falling to the ground. “I’ve been assaulted.”
The audience erupted into laughter.
“Minutes later, I am arrested,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t know what to do.
“They take me to jail. I called Jerry Donner. ‘Jerry I’m in jail.’ ”
What happened, Donner asked.
“I don’t know,” Ramirez replied. “I pointed to the referee and the referee said I assaulted him. Jerry calls Dr. Wolman. Dr. Wolman calls Dr. Clark. Dr. Clark had a friend of his who was a lawyer. Twelve o’clock at night.
“Before this, four players from the University of Rhode Island, two of them were Bolivians,” came to the police headquarters, Ramirez said.
“Our coach told us not to come here, but we are Christians we just want to say that coach Ramirez never, ever hit that man, the referee,” Ramirez related they said.
“That helped me. I got out at 12 o’clock at night. The bus was waiting there. We go home. The next day in the back page of the New York Post, with my picture: LIU coach assaults referee. Big article.
“I go back the following week. My lawyer and the senator from Rhode Island, they took me to lunch, and they excused themselves for what had happened.”
So, what exactly happened?
“It seems that the week before Mitch Pietras was refereeing was a game of Latinos vs. Jamaicans. He almost got killed. So . . . He [sees us] with Trinidadians and Jamaicans, he already was scared.
“Anyway, Jerry, thank you very much.”
Not surprisingly, Ramirez had a few other things to say as well:
On how he met his wife Julia while he was in the Army serving in Germany:
“I met her at one of the typical beer festivals. When I met her, I said I was going to marry her. She didn’t want to talk to me because I was an American guy from Costa Rica. We fell in love. . . . I spent two months in Spain [her native country]. Lucky for me my future father-in-law loved soccer and was a fan of Real Madrid and was a close friend of Miguel Munoz, who played and coached for Real Madrid.”
On when Alan Young became LIU coach in 1969:
“His credentials were that he played center forward for Brown and that he had international experience coaching. Marcelo Beck, one of our players, raised his hand. What was your international experience and where? Young responded: ‘I coached seventh graders in Canada.’ The season had not begun and I could tell it was already over for us.
“He had never coached city kids from different countries. He liked to substitute a lot like Brown University. I had nightmares almost every night from that stupid horn, substitution horn. The last game against Adelphi University with four minutes to go, I broke my tibia. I stayed on the field for an hour until the ambulance came because those were the rules in those days. Coach Young left with his team.”
On warning on how long his speech was going to be:
“I know it’s long but said it’s one minute for every year. I had 20 great years at LIU.”
On his great teams from the 1980’s:
“Our style of play was impressive to watch. It was a Latin style, one that I was influenced by growing up in Costa Rica. But don’t you just take my word for it. Just ask world renowned soccer critic Paul Gardner. In his book Soccer Talk on page 70 he writes: ‘So far in 1985 I have been seen 12 different teams. In my judgment, only one of them, Long Island University, plays with a consistent, coherent, recognizable style. As most of coach Arnie Ramirez’s players are from Latin America, it is a Latin style. The players, by and large, are at ease with that style. They know instinctively what they should be doing at any given moment. When things click at LIU, the team is delightful to watch.’ ”
On returning from a successful Caribbean Cup in Guyana with Puerto Rican national team coach Alfonso Mondelo when he was the team’s technical director:
“The drug enforcement agent was there with his dog. The dog’s sniffing. He goes over to Alfonso. He’s sniffing Alfonso’s bag. He’s sniffing Alfonso’s pants, he’s sniffing his crotch. He goes back to sniffing his bag. Alfonso is so nervous. We’re all watching what the dog is going to do next. The dog goes away. So I go over to the guy, the officer, and I say, ‘What’s wrong? What happened? The dog was sniffing so much Alfonso. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Dumb dog. Sometimes he thinks that dirty laundry is drugs.’ ”
On coaching the Ramapo College women’s team since 1999:
“Never did I think that coaching women’s soccer could be so gratifying. I love what I do and the best part of it is that we only work 180 days a year. It gives my wife and me a chance to travel and to see more of the world.”
On what he will do next:
“I’m going to England [he left Sunday night] . . . a lot of sightseeing. But of course, we’re going to watch Real Madrid vs. Arsenal in the Champions League. What’s a vacation without soccer?”