ONEONTA, N.Y. (August 29, 2005) - Former U.S. internationals Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes and Tab Ramos were inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame today in a ceremony at the National Soccer Hall of Fame Museum in Oneonta, N.Y. The trio of World Cup veterans, who gained entry into the Hall in their first year on the ballot, were joined by Fernando Clavijo (Veteran), Hank Steinbrecher (Builder) and five pre-NASL players during the two-day induction that culminated with a friendly match between the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United.
Each of the five inductees were honored this morning inside the National Soccer Hall of Fame Museum and spoke to the overflowing crowd that came out to support the newest Hall of Famers. Balboa, Harkes and Ramos were overwhelming favorites to be enshrined as the 2005 Class, each having collected well over the 80 percent of the votes required for induction back in April, while Clavijo and Steinbrecher each received more than the 50 percent of the votes required from Hall of Famers.
Steinbrecher, the former Secretary General of U.S. Soccer and current President of Touchline Consultants, kicked off the ceremony, stating that soccer has grown immensely in the USA before thanking the numerous people that helped him during his career. “Ladies and gentlemen, our time has come,” he said. “If there’s anyone alive on this planet today and doesn’t believe that soccer is an American game is living a delusion.”
Clavijo, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Men’s National Team, the American Soccer League and Major Indoor Soccer League, was honored as a Veteran and was introduced by his two sons, Jonathan and Nicolas. The current coach of the Colorado Rapids, who played and scored for the Rapids in the friendly played after the induction ceremony, stated he was overwhelmed by the thought that he belonged in the Hall.
“To be rewarded by this is absolutely a highlight of my life,” said Clavijo.
Balboa was the first of the three players to be take the podium and he talked about his experiences on the field as a player and how he looked forward to continuing to stay in the game off the field as a broadcaster. The second-most capped defender in U.S. history (128 caps) thanked a number of people who had helped him throughout his career.
“Being here and realizing the gentlemen that are over here and the pre-NASL guys, I’m humbled and honored to be in the same group as you guys are in right now,” said Balboa, who also presented the Hall with the jersey he wore when he became the first player in U.S. history to get his 100th cap.
Harkes talked about how fortunate he was to go from one of the smallest kids on the field growing up to become a pioneer by being the first American to play in England, including the famed Wembley Stadium.
“I am completely and honestly humbled by this induction today,” said Harkes, whose career began with the national team in 1987, earned over 90 caps while netting six goals for the United States. “I was a servant of the game and was very fortunate to have the chance to play, so thank you.”
Ramos was the last of the inductees to speak, touching on how he was fortunate to have people who helped him grow as a soccer player and a person, and that he never expected to be in the Hall of Fame.
“The Hall of Fame is so far beyond anything you can dream about that to say that I had a dream about this would be an outright lie,” said Ramos, who appeared in three World Cups for the United States. “When you get elected into the Hall of Fame, you get elected into a group of elite people who are the top of the top of the game at the professional level. Just to be standing here is an incredible honor for me.”
After the ceremony, Harkes, Balboa and Clavijo quickly changed and stretched to participate in the Hall of Fame game between the Rapids and United played at At-A-Glance Field next to the Museum. Harkes, playing for United, and Balboa and Clavijo for the Rapids, each played a little more than half the match, which Colorado won 6-2 with four unanswered goals in the second half.
In a bit of Hall of Fame magic, Clavijo and Balboa connected on the Rapids first goal. After winning a penalty kick, Balboa stepped up to the spot to take the kick, but played it to his left for a charging Clavijo, who blasted the ball into the net.
In addition to the five inductees, a Blue Ribbon panel of the Hall of Fame studied the players from the pre-NASL era to determine those that may have been overlooked in the Hall of Fame process and elected Tom 'Whitey' Fleming, Alex McNab, Johnny Nelson, Werner Nilsen, and Fabri Salcedo. The players each had family in attendance as they were honored during a dinner on Sunday night. Also during the dinner, noted soccer broadcaster Seamus Malin has been named recipient of the Colin Jose Media Award for his outstanding career contributions to the game.