Damir Sutevski had the utmost respect from his teammates for his playing ability and as a good teammate. (Photo courtesy of the Rochester Lancers)
By Michael Lewis
There was little doubt that Damir Sutevski was a good soccer player.
More importantly, he was a good man and teammate.
Perhaps goalkeeper Shep Messing, a teammate of Sutevski’s on the New York Arrows and Rochester Lancers, said it best.
“Damir was an elegant, skillful and classy player,” he said. “He was the same as a friend. All of his teammates loved him.”
That was rule, certainly not the exception, according to some other teammates.
Sutevski passed away Oct. 29. He was 66.
Beyond being a skillful right back in outdoor soccer, Sutevski was a learner. When he emigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia) in 1974, he took English courses. That helped him understand and relate to his new home and eventually new teammates better.
“He could assimilate with the American kids and learn the language and learn what we’re all about,” former Lancers defender Nelson Cupello said. “I’m not just saying this as a slight to the Portuguese or some of the other guys; they stayed with their group. ‘Let’s find out what these guys are all about, what is in their head. Damir was that type of guy. I think he enjoyed that. I wish more of the guys had done that. It would have made for more of a healthy relationship on the team.”
Sutevski, was “one of the quietest, mildest guys on the team,” Cupello added.
“Compared to the other Yugoslavian players, he wasn’t boisterous, someone who was loud. He did his job. He was very subtle about it. I thought he was a great defender. When he played with Toronto, I thought he was a great player because he could hit the ball, can defend, and also can go forward with it. That’s what he brought to the Lancers. … Damir in his own way, stood out as well.”
Former Lancers captain Jim Pollihan, who rented a house with Sutevski in Atlantic Beach, Long Island for two months when both players were on the Arrows in the Major Indoor Soccer League, remembered him as “a very outgoing guy.”
“He wasn’t one to just stay with his countrymen. He spoke to everyone, treated everyone fairly. He was a good guy.”
On the field Sutevski was just as impressive.
“He didn’t give the ball away,” Pollihan said. “He was a good dribbler. He had that Yugoslavian skill level. The majority of them were excellent with the ball. He probably could have played any position indoors.”
Former Lancers and Arrows player Pat Ercoli, who met Sutevski when they played with the Toronto Metros-Croatia, remembered him as “very professional and great teammate.”
“I was 16-17 and was fortunate to be given the opportunity to train with many of the best European players that came to Toronto and played in the CSL [Canadian Soccer League),” he said. “Damir was one of them. We called him by his nickname Suta. We ended up playing together with Toronto Metros-Croatia when we won the NASL title in 1976 and then again with the Lancers and the NY Arrows in 1978[-79], when we won the championship together again.
“He was a great talent at the fullback and midfield position and was a very technical player and was always willing to help teach a younger player like myself.”