Nick Apostolides forged a three-decade career mentoring many referees and earning the respect of them as well. (Photo courtesy of ENYYSA)

Long-time referee and referee assignor Nick Apostolides was remembered as a mentor, dedicated game official and administrator and a man with a gruff outward personality with a heart of gold.

Apostolides passed away from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and health complications at the age of 77 on April 3.

A resident of West Babylon, N.Y., Apostolides became one of the top referees in the Long Island Soccer Referees Association in the 1980’s. He and his wife Nanci became assignors, who give referees their schedules. As the Long Island Junior Soccer League and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association grew, so did the number of assignments as that became a full-time job for the couple.

“Nick was my first assignor and he had my back coming up and guided me through U.S. Soccer to college to the pros,” said Brian Dunn, the 2019 Major League Soccer assistant refreee of the year. “I was a LISRA board member with him and have a lot of great memories with that man.”

Apostolides survived a civil war in Lebanon and a plane crash in Athens as he accompanied many shipments from his Kennedy Airport cargo job.

He was the LISRA vice president for three decades, from 1986-2016, working with LISRA presidents Keith Bantz, Mario Boltri, Barry Lawson and Cathy Caldwell. By simply saying “Nick,“ people knew exactly who you were talking about since he was a straight-shooter who livened up monthly referee meetings by telling it like it is.

ENYYSA public relations director Randy Vogt officiated games with Apostolides in the 1980’s and thought of him as bit of an enigma.

“Inside that sometimes gruff personality was Nick’s heart of gold and he often told people that he loved them,” he said. “I will never forget, and I thanked them repeatedly, how Nick and Nanci found out that my mother had a stroke and I was serving as a caregiver for her at home. So all my assignments for years were games just in our neighborhood, so I could spend more time with Mom.”

Apostolides officiated many levels of play – youth, adults, college and the pros. He also was a director in the New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association for several years around the turn of the millennium and was honored with the organization’s 2003 Service Award.

He also was a LISRA Life Member, the organization’s version of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“My first year, Nick gave me a couple of tough games and I was on the verge of quitting, but he told me not to as he assigned me those games because he thought I could handle them,” LISRA Trustee Al Giorgianni said. “His confidence in me was so important and I refereed for a dozen more years until I switched to a mentor role, as Nick had done for me.”

Apostolides served under Caldwell, the 2019 LISRA referee year of the year, as LISRA vice president from 2010-2018.

“Nick Apostolides was a giant of a man in dedication, heart and spirit,” she said. “I had the honor of meeting Nick early in my refereeing career and was immediately impressed by his knowledge, work ethic and absolute love for the game of soccer,” Caldwell stated. “We worked closely together for over 20 years as LISRA grew exponentially, in part due to his insistence on professionalism from each and every referee. I don’t think you could find a single referee in LISRA who has not received a phone call from Nick, at some time in his or her career, to either compliment, instruct, encourage or in an occasional moment, told to get your referee bag and to go to a field, now!

“There was no greater champion for referees than Nick Apostolides. He was a man of honor who was loved and respected by so many. I’m proud to say he was my mentor, my confidante and my friend and I miss him already.”