Why The National Soccer Hall OF Fame Closed In Oneonta
(Second In Three-Part Series)
The largest city in Otsego County, N.Y. is Oneonta, situated amid the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. While the Susquehanna River forms Oneonta’s southern spine, the waterway’s source flows from 23 miles north in Cooperstown, Otsego’s county seat and, since 1939, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
In 1977, Oneonta Mayor James Lettis posed a question to Albert Colone, a lifelong Oneonta resident then serving as supervisor of the town’s recreation department, during one of their weekly Thursday meetings.
“He had gotten some correspondence from alumni at in-town Hartwick College and Oneonta State wondering if there was such a thing as a National Soccer Hall of Fame,” Colone recalls.
In 1950, the same year the U.S. upset mighty England in the World Cup, the Philadelphia Oldtimers Soccer Association, a small group of former professional and amateur players, formed their self-declared National Soccer Hall of Fame. Over the ensuing three years, the Oldtimers inducted 50 people before transferring oversight to the U.S. Soccer Football Association. However, this hall of fame lacked any physical presence or means to provide ongoing honor.
Enamored with Cooperstown’s example, Oneonta decided to push forward with a soccer counterpart in 1979.
After not receiving any immediate response to their hall of fame bid from U.S. Soccer, by mid-1980, the ad hoc Oneonta Soccer of Fame committee, chaired by Colone, began proclaiming the town home to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. That declaration and the accompanying publicity it generated began fostering a self-fulfilling endeavor.
“As soon as the soccer public became aware of what we were attempting to do, it was remarkable,” Colone recalls. “People started sending us stuff… Things started to come in that were absolute treasures to soccer’s history.”
Soccer organizations and regional soccer halls of fame contributed items. Longtime U.S. soccer historian Sam Foulds donated his formidable archives. When
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