Albert Colone in a 1987 photo (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
Albert Colone, the driving force in Oneonta, N.Y.’s acquisition of the National Soccer Hall of Fame in the 1970s, has died.
Colone, who passed away April 13, was 76.
He was the Hall’s executive director from 1983 to 1997. The Hall in Oneonta closed in 2010 due to financial difficulties.
Before he became involved with the Soccer Hall, Colone forged a reputation as a community leader.
To the American soccer community, however, Colone was best known for his Soccer Hall efforts and leadership.
“I was saddened to learn of Al’s passing,” said former executive director Jack Huckel. “He warmly welcomed me to the Hall of Fame in the 80s and was dedicated to building the organization. I was happy to contribute time and energy then and am proud of my contributions which he encouraged.”
Some U.S. Soccer observers believe there might not be a Hall and museum today had it not been for Colone spearheading the Oneonta effort.
Colone grew up playing baseball, football and basketball. “Never played soccer in my life except for some experience in some recreational play, adult recreational leagues,” he was quoted by the Binghamton Sun-Bulletin in 1991.
As an employee of the Oneonta recreation department in the 1970’s, Colone created men’s and women’s adult soccer leagues.
“That was my early introduction to the game, and I really feel in love with it from watching people play the game and enjoying themselves,” he told the newspaper.
He learned about the history of the game quickly. “I’ve been a good spokesman. I know probably as much about the history of soccer in this country as most anybody two or three people,” he was quoted by the Sun-Bulletin.
According to www.dignitymemorial.com, while Hartwick College and Oneonta State enjoyed several successful seasons during the 1970s, Oneonta Mayor Jim Lettis asked Colone, “Is there such a thing a National Soccer Hall of Fame?”
There was a NSHOF, but there was no building to call home. With the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown only 19 miles away, Colone strived to bring the Soccer Hall to the central New York City. He started a campaign calling Oneonta Soccertown USA. The Wilber Mansion at 5 Ford Street served as the first building that housed U.S. Soccer artifacts and a Hall of Fame exhibit before Colone oversaw the acquisition of the Wright National Soccer Campus.
The original National Soccer Hall of Fame on Ford Street in Oneonta. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
The campus also hosts annual tournaments and the New York State high school soccer tournaments.
The new Hall opened in 1999, where enshrinement ceremonies were held every year until it closed due to financial difficulties in 2010.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame on the Wright Soccer Campus. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
In 2018, a new Hall of Fame and museum was built at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, home of FC Dallas.
In an interview with SASH (Society for American Soccer History) at www.USSoccerHistory.org in 2015, Colone was asked what some of his favorite artifacts from the Hall’s collection were.
“The photo collection of the late John Albok; Sam’s historic archives and papers; the Milton and Irma Ganz Miller collection; Pele’s Santos jersey worn in an exhibition match at Yankee Stadium in 1964; Walt Bahr’s career memorabilia; the NASL collection and many others,” Colone replied. “They were all important treasures.”
For the full interview, visit:
Colone is survived by two sons, Luke (Ashley) Colone, of West Deptford, N.J. and Gregory Colone of Monroeville, Pa.; his siblings, Frank (Margaret), Lucia and Patrick Colone; and his grandchildren Holden Parker and Hadley Elizabeth Colone.