Center Circle Extra: One-on-One With Tab Ramos
CHICAGO (April 21, 2005) - Former U.S. internationals Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes and Tab Ramos were elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Tuesday (April 19), each gaining entry in their first year on the ballot. The trio of World Cup veterans will formally be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a ceremony Aug. 29 in Oneonta, N.Y.
Ramos's career with the National Team began in 1988 and lasted until 2000. He appeared in 81 games for the U.S. Men's National Team and scored eight international goals. Often referred to as one of the most talented players ever to wear the National Team jersey, Ramos appeared in three World Cups, in 1990, '94 and '98. He also was one of the few Americans to excel in Europe, playing for Figueres and Betis in Spain. He later played for Tigres of Nuevo Leon in Mexico and then became the first player ever to sign a contract with Major League Soccer, where he played for seven years.
Ramos tooks some time to chat with ussoccer.com about his time with the National Team, the future of U.S. Soccer and the Tab Ramos Soccer Programs.
ussoccer.com: What does it mean to you to get elected in your first time on the ballot?
Tab Ramos: “It obviously means a lot. You’re always short of words for something like this because it’s not something that you really dream about growing up. Obviously, growing up, you always dream of being a professional player or being like another professional player and to some day make a living out of doing what you love to do, which is to play. But obviously, making it to the Hall of Fame is another step much higher than we ever really think about. Specifically, this year, if you think about the class that we had that was eligible to be selected, it was incredible the names that were in there. Obviously I was surprised, and at the same time, very honored that so many people selected me as one of the guys to induct this year.”
ussoccer.com: Can you now reflect on the legacy you made with U.S. Soccer?
TR: “Well, I don’t really look at it that way. You called it “legacy,” but I think that I was really just fortunate to be surrounded by other guys who thought just like me, other guys who wanted to make something happen even though we weren’t expected to, even though no one thought we could ever do it. I was fortunate enough to play around other personalities who weren’t afraid to make a difference and I think I benefited from that. In turn, U.S. soccer has (benefited) as well.”
ussoccer.com: Many see you as the most talented player to ever play with the MNT. What do you think when people say that?
TR: “I don’t know what to say. What can I say? We always do things the best we can. I know that I was never afraid to be different than anyone else. I did the best I could to be always a team player, but I was never afraid to be different and to take people on and to be creative, and I think that’s probably one of the reasons that many people may say what they say.”
ussoccer.com: Was scoring the goal against Costa Rica that secured a spot in the ’98 WC your favorite on-the-field moment with the U.S. MNT? Or was it something else?
TR: “I think my favorite on-the-field-moment was our 1990 World Cup game against Italy. Playing in Rome against Italy, it was probably the most special moment for me in my career as far as “here I am at a place where I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.” Obviously, the Costa Rica goal was very important because of a lot of things. It was a very important goal because, if we had not won that game I think we would have fallen to third or fourth place in our group. By winning that game, I think, we went back to first or something like that. But, also, I had just come back from a knee injury and I think that was my first start again in a World Cup qualifier after seven or eight months so that goal was special because of many different reasons. I think the 1990 moment, the game in Italy, even though we lost 1-0, was definitely the most special moment for me.”
ussoccer.com: What do you miss most about competing for your country?
TR: “Everything. I miss everything. As a matter of fact, people ask me all the time: “Would you come back to playing?” or “Do you miss playing?” I tell them, “for some reason, I never miss playing, unless I watch the National Team play a World Cup qualifier.” Then I want to be there. It’s funny because I’m 38 years old. I know I’m over-the-hill as far as physical ability to be able to compete at any level like that, so I would never even want to train for one day with the National Team, because I know how hard it is. But, man, would I love to be back on the field in the starting 11 in a very important World Cup qualifying game.”
ussoccer.com: Do you ever go to watch games?
TR: “I watch games all the time, as a matter of fact. And not only in the U.S. At the end of last year I took my whole family to Madrid to watch the Real Madrid-Barcelona game in Madrid. We’re very big fans.”
ussoccer.com: What was your first, “welcome to international soccer” moment?
TR: “This is an easy one. The “welcome to international soccer” was our initial loss in the 1990 World Cup to Czechoslovakia. We lost 5-1 in our first game. That’s probably the easiest answer there.”
ussoccer.com: What was you proudest moment wearing the U.S. National Team jersey?
TR: “I don’t think I could pick one. I know that I always felt very fortunate every time. Any time you’re standing on the field listening to the National Anthem and you’re one of the 11 guys representing the whole country; millions of children and adults that want to be where you are. If you can’t feel proud every time you put on a uniform, then you certainly don’t belong there.”
ussoccer.com: Take us into the locker room when the U.S. beat Colombia at the ’94 World Cup.
TR: “You know what? I wish I could but I don’t even remember. There was so much excitement around that victory that I know that it became, like, instant mainstream U.S. news for the first time ever. I don’t recall exactly the locker room afterwards. I do recall that over the next couple of days, we went from soccer just being alright-the-World-Cup-is-here and there being some excitement in the country, to being on “Nightline” with Ted Koppel and morning shows like “Good Morning America” and being on everything within a couple of days after that win. It was just crazy. The whole country was crazy over that win.”
ussoccer.com: You competed in three World Cups for the U.S. What is the best thing about playing in the biggest tournament in the world?
TR: “The best thing is that that’s what you dream about. That’s the thing you dream about. That’s where you want to be. I grew up watching World Cups and wanting to be like many different guys that played in World Cups and being a fan of the World Cup. There’s nothing like it. And, when you get there, it’s the ultimate and it’s the highest. I don’t think that any one World Cup is more significant than any other. Obviously, you always remember your first one more than any of the others but I think that any time you’re there you really do appreciate, not only what it takes to get there, but the excitement of just being there and competing with the best of the best.”
ussoccer.com: Who were some of the people you looked up to growing up?
TR: “Oh, man. A ton of guys. I caught the end of Pele’s career here in New York. From then on, everybody, from Maradona to all the Dutch guys of the late ’70s. I could name a bunch of different names, obviously with Pele and Maradona being the two top names because we all wanted to be like them. On the field, they were certainly something special.”
ussoccer.com: How does the future of U.S. Soccer look in your eyes?
TR: “I think it looks better and better every day. I hope that we continue to give many different types of children opportunities and the confidence to be creative and to think out of the box while they’re on the field. Not just to play simple all the time, but to take their chances on doing something different.”
ussoccer.com: You were the first player to sign with MLS and now the league has hit its 10th season. How important was it for you and other players to come back and help the league get started?
TR: “It was extremely important. There were many of us who gave up careers elsewhere to help start the league and, obviously, we’re talking about it 10 years later so I think it’s worked out so far. Hopefully the best days for MLS are still to come. Hopefully it can stick around long enough to have enough funds to eventually sign some world-class players and become a world-class league.”
ussoccer.com: How do you think the league has grown since 1996?
TR: “I think the one area where you can see the most growth is that we’ve been able to give, over the last 10 years, more and more opportunities to young American players. Now it’s become common to have an American player or two sign with known teams in Europe. Where, you look back before the league started, and if it was six or seven getting an opportunity in Europe, that was a lot. Now it’s become commonplace to not accept offers from European teams for some of our players, and I think eventually we’ll benefit from the fact that we can have 17 and 18-year-olds now playing in the professional league with professional players and getting that type of experience that young. In the past, the only way we could get that was going to college first and then going to Europe after.”
ussoccer.com: What are you up to now?
TR: “I have a sports facility where we run soccer and many other sports throughout the year. I also have what’s called the “Tab Ramos Soccer Programs,” which we coach about 80 youth teams and we have about 20 coaches on our staff. Our coaches are in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We’re busy. We run 12 weeks of camp in the summer in the three states and we do clinics throughout the year, not only for players, but also for coaches and parents. We’re trying to teach the game to many different people.
“After that, I coach in our academy. We have an academy for which we have eight teams, and they’re eight elite teams. I coach the Under-11 team, the team that my son is on. They’re called the New Jersey Soccer Academy and the name of my team is “Gunners,” which we named last year after the Arsenal Gunners had their undefeated run. Anyway, the team is ranked No. 1 in New Jersey and they’re No. 13 in the country at Under-11. It’s a joy to watch these kids play. They really do a nice job. I’m really busy with the two businesses I run. The great part about it is that I’m only five minutes from home. It really works out for me at this point, considering that my children are so young.”
ussoccer.com: How do you hope people remember Tab Ramos?
TR: “I don’t know. I just hope that they remember me as someone who contributed to taking a step toward where we are now and where we’re going to be later. That’s all, because, obviously, this is a team sport. I couldn’t have done it by myself. We all worked together to get anything done. I just hope that I continue to be considered just one of the guys that helped. That’s pretty much it.”