By Michael Lewis
Much like Superman and Clark Kent, Antonio (Junior) Superbia essentially has two separate identities in which he has made a difference.
Off the field, he is known as Mr. Superbia to the students of P.S. 146 in Howard Beach, N.Y., where he is a physical education teacher for students from kindergarten through junior high school.
To friends, family and many of his Brooklyn Italian colleagues, he is known as Antonio, his given name.
To many in the metropolitan area soccer community over the past several decades, he might be better known as Junior Superbia, a player who made a difference during his time playing the beautiful game.
Not surprising, his surname, Superbia worked itself into a few headlines back in the day as a member of the 1991 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion Brooklyn Italians.
Antonio (Junior) Superbia while playing at Brooklyn College. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Superbia)
In fact, when he struck for a hat-trick in the Brooklyn Italians’ 4-1 win over Polonia in the Over-50 final of the Long Island Soccer Football League indoor tournament in February 2020, the headline in FrontRowSoccer.com read:
JUNIOR WAS JUST SUPERB: Superbia shows he still has it with the Brooklyn Italians
As a college student, he worked at the summer soccer camp of Nick Zlatar, a well-known soccer coach and a professor at Kingsborough Community College, a co-worker called him “The superb one.”
While growing up in his native Brazil, Superbia got the nickname Juninho, which means little junior.
Superbia’s soccer name became Junior, “which I never made a big deal about, whatever they call me, at least as a player” he said.
“It’s Junior Superbia but in school as a teacher and as a DOC, I do like Antonio,” he added. “I would prefer that at my current phase in life. I don’t want to be in my 80s and called junior but that’s out of my control.”
What has been in Superbia’s control is his teaching ability.
Superbia, 53, is director of coaching of the Italians. He was named to that position on June 25.
As a former player and national champion – Superbia was a member of the Italians’ 1991 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship side – and now as the director of coaching for the club, being a part of the club means the world for the Brazilian native.
“It means a great deal, sport-wise,” he said. “Even in my personal life.”
During his Italians playing career, Superbia was a member of four Northeastern Super Soccer League championship teams (1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993). He also led the league in scoring in 1990. The NESSL housed some of the best players in the metropolitan area during a time in which there was no professional soccer in the USA.
Antonio (Junior) Superbia during the 1990 Lamar Hunt Open Cup final in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Superbia)
Born in Bebedouro, São Paulo, Superbia grew up in Taiuva, Brazil where he played for the Internacional second team and Clube Atlético Juventus Under-19 team. He played with Osmar Machado, who was the brother of Brooklyn Italians standout Osiris Machado that there was an opportunity to play for Brooklyn College under a scholarship.
Osmar had played with Socrates, who captained Brazil at the 1982 World Cup and played for the side in the 1986 competition.
“That is so funny,” Superbia said. “Osiris went to visit his brother, who was playing in the second division team at the end of his career. He saw me training and playing fine. He said that ‘There’s this team in Brooklyn. Would you like to come to New York?’ So, I ended up getting a visa, and ended up here in Brooklyn.”
Superbia while he was with Clube Atletico Juventus. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Superbia)
Superbia joined the Italians and wound up playing for Brooklyn College head coach Len Roitman and assistant coach Mike Rybak, the Italians coach at the time.
“Everything happened for me because I arrived here in Brooklyn,” he said. “Everything followed from there.
“I was very lucky. I just stayed here.”
Superbia played with the Italians from 1989-1994. He also competed with the Jersey Dragons in the United Soccer League in 1995 and was selected by the New England Revolution in the inaugural Major League Soccer draft in the 14th round (135th overall selection) in 1996.
He was cut from the squad in March of that year, just before the season, although Superbia felt he had the skills and experience to compete in the league.
When he retired as a player, Superbia took the next logical step as a coach.
In the classroom, he has earned a Bachelor of Science in physical education and a Master of Science in the pyscho-social aspects of physical activity. Superbia also has earned several coaching licenses and Diplomas from the United Soccer Coaches and U.S. Soccer, including a national C coaching license.
Off the pitch, Superbia coached the Brooklyn College men from 2000-2006, was the director of coaching education at the Brooklyn Italians from August 2007 and has been a physical education teacher in New York City since 1994, most recently at P.S. 146 in Queens, N.Y.
“I’m almost approaching the end of my teaching career and now have the DOC at the club,” he said. “I have come full circle. I’m very happy about that.
“It’s been a good ride for sure. I can’t complain.”
When he isn’t instructing and supervising children in various sports at P.S. 146 – naturally, soccer is his favorite sport – Superbia has taught the finer points of the beautiful game to a new generation of coaches at the club.
Antonio Superbia “I do feel very emotionally attached to the club. I’m very grateful to have worked with past presidents. And now the current president, Peter Ciaccia brought me in as a DOC.” (Photo courtesy of Antonio Superbia)
“I’ve managed to build a part time position, parallel to my teaching career and it doesn’t feel like work,” Superbia said. “It’s a pleasure of going to the club and now at my role as a new DOC, passing a little bit of my experience to the younger coaches and contribute to the game, the best I can.”
In fact, there is no other place where Superbia would rather be than the Brooklyn Italians.
“It means a great deal,” he said. “I do feel very emotionally attached to the club. I’m very grateful to have worked with past presidents. And now the current president, Peter Ciaccia brought me in as a DOC.”
In May, the Italians entered in an affiliation with the New York Red Bulls, “which is unprecedented for the history of our club and the youth program,” Superbia said.
“It’s a pleasure to be associated with the New York Red Bulls because we are one of the most traditional soccer clubs in the country,” he added. “Our youth program deserves to be well recognized as well.”
With a name like Superbia and his accomplishments, it has been difficult not to be recognized, regardless of if he was called Antonio or Junior.