National Soccer Hall of Famer and former U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Gene Olaff passed away Tuesday night, January 17, 2017, at the age of 96.
The son of a Swedish postal worker and Scottish mother, Olaff’s early adulthood was a balancing act between his passion for the beautiful game and a knack for serving his country. He rose through the ranks of New York area semipro soccer teams, until he was signed by Brooklyn Hispano at the start of the 1941-42 American Soccer League season. With Brooklyn Hispano, he made his mark on the soccer world, winning the ASL championship in 1943 and back-to-back U.S. Open Cups in 1943 and 1944, all while serving in the U.S. Navy.
Olaff registered one cap with the U.S. National Team in a 4-0 loss to Scotland on June 19, 1949. He also played in an unofficial game for the U.S. in 1948 against Israel. His cap number does not tell the whole story however, as the United States did not play any matches between 1937 and 1947 due to World War II. He could have been a member of the U.S. team at the 1950 World Cup but was forced to decline the invitation in order to prioritize his career as a policeman.
Olaff retired as a player in 1953 and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1971. He later became the commander of the New Jersey State Police in 1975 and served as the dean of the National Soccer Hall of Fame until his passing.