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Q&A with 2013 National Soccer Hall of Fame Inductee Peter Vermes What was your immediate reaction after hearing the news that you were selected for the National Soccer Hall of Fame class of 2013?
Peter Vermes: “I think most people would say the same if it happened to them, you’re surprised. The one thing that I didn’t expect to happen was it made me pretty quickly reflect, not just on my professional playing career but since I started playing the game and more importantly on the people that I’ve come to know throughout the years through the game. It’s not just players or coaches, it’s people who have been on the administrative side of the game, people that help grow the game whether it be owners, or people in U.S. Soccer and MLS, you just start to really reflect on your time within that and all those great people that you’ve come across and how far the game has come.” Out of all the wonderful people you mentioned that you met throughout your career who was your first phone call too after hearing the good news?
PV: “Hank talked to me, left me a message and I called him, he’s the one who gave me the news, I have a very good relationship with Hank and he said that he didn’t want me to tell anybody. So I actually didn’t call anybody, I told my wife when I got home, obviously she was very happy for me and I really didn’t tell anybody else. We had our game this past week and there was a little bit of an announcement in our locker room after the game and my son was in there and he couldn’t believe that I hadn’t told him.” At what point in your career did you realize that being inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame was within the realm of possibility?
PV: “I remember the first year I was up for it and didn’t get it; I guess it kind of hits you then. I think the thing is you never really believe that you will until you’re in. As a player you’ll remember more about what it meant to you to play the game and what those memories were as opposed to waiting to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I’m very fortunate, I’ve been in the game for my whole life and I coach with Kerry Zavagnin who was my teammate since 2000, we played together and he’s one of my best friends and we’re still together in the game today. For me it’s those things that have meant so much to me and now to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, as a player obviously it’s a big honor and knowing full well that I get a chance to continue on in the game is tremendous.” If you had to choose one of the many great moments in your Hall of Fame career as your résumé moment, which moment would you choose?
PV: “The easy ones would be to say ‘played in the Olympics or went to the World Cup’ obviously those were major parts in my career. What I would say is probably something completely different than what most would say and that is I played professionally for 15 years and the first eight I played as a center forward. The year that I played in New York, in ’96, the first year of the league (MLS) I wound up playing every position on the field that year for the MetroStars. With about six games left in the season Carlos Queiroz who was our coach came up to me and said ‘I have a new challenge for you today’ I said ‘okay what’s that?’ he said ‘I want you to play central defender.’ From that point on I played central defender thereafter for the rest of my career. I think when I got invited back to the National Team as a central defender; I think that summed things up for me. I had talent but the one thing I truly believe about my time was my work ethic and my attitude were my biggest qualities. I wouldn’t let anybody outwork me and I think I always had the right attitude for the game, no matter where I was and I always wanted play on the field, if you needed me to play anywhere I would. Being able to achieve the National Team coming from a center forward to a defender I think was a huge accomplishment, I don’t think that happens too often.” What did it mean to you to be part of the 1990 World Cup team that ended the United States’ 40-year drought and what was that experience like?
PV: “A lot of people say that group of guys at that time, not just the players but coaches and administrators involved, Sunil Gulati, Werner Fricker, Bob Gansler, they say those people are the pioneers to where soccer is today. When we were going through all that none of us really thought that way or believed it. If I had to reflect back on it today I would say, absolutely, it’s the truth. There’s a lot of people that put a tremendous amount of work into keeping the game alive over many years prior to that but without a real professional league, division one at least in this country, it was hard to maintain a level and a high quality of play that could participate or even think about qualifying for a World Cup all those years prior to that. U.S. Soccer made a very strong commitment to that World Cup, Bob Gansler did an unbelievable job with the limited resources that he had and I don’t mean just money or facilities but even players. We were all guys that were coming out of college and were trying to qualify for the World Cup. With all of that it truly is a group of people that are pioneers and if you look today we’re still involved in the game at one level or another it says so much about that group of people and that time period. If you look back at where the game was then and where it is now it’s absolutely incredible.” Another huge honor in your career was having a field named after you in your hometown of Delran, N. J. Young soccer players grow up and learn the game at Peter Vermes Field where you grew up, what does this colossal recognition for you as an individual mean for the community you grew up in?
PV: I’m from a town that back in the day didn’t get a lot of respect for soccer but I’m definitely from an area that gets a tremendous amount of respect in the United States for soccer in New Jersey. Very interesting story that goes along with that is I went to a place called Delran High School, so did Carli Lloyd. I went to Rutgers University, so did she. She played for our National Team in the Olympics and the World Cup and so did I. So we’ve both had similar careers in that regard, it’s incredible to think those people came out of the same town so I think it’s great for those kids in that area to understand that opportunities are out there. I truly believe that if you have the dedication and the work ethic and you want to do it then the possibilities are endless. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is highest level you can go within your profession. Now that you’ve accomplished that where do you go from here?
PV: “This game has, as I said before, I’ve watched it grow over many decades now. I’m so excited for the future of this game in this country, I think we’re on the tipping point of where this game is going to take its rightful place in the major sports of this country. Because we have such an outreach internationally and I think we’re gaining respect on a regular basis in the international community for the game, I’m excited to be a part of the continuous growth of this game. Not only in this country but also internationally cause I think that our players are getting better, our teams are getting better the National Team is getting better, everything is evolving. Its evolving in a way that I think we’re going to become a very strong competitor of the world’s game not only domestically but internationally. Although we have in the past been there, I think there have been glimpses at times, I think we’re getting to a point where we’re becoming a real player. And I think MLS has taken a huge stride forward that it’s almost like you can’t hold it back and I love having the opportunity to be part of that, not only to watch it grow but also be a part of the development so I’ll continue in this position and hopefully there’s a lot more things to come in the future, but growing the game just within [Sporting Kansas City] is a fantastic opportunity, a privilege and I’ll continue to cherish it and make the most of it.”