|Photo by Mike Kiel|
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved
FRISCO, TEXAS (September 29, 2019) The National Soccer Hall of Fame inducted its three newest members in front of a packed house in Frisco, Texas. Former USA star Abby Wamback and Sunil Gulati, the face of U.S.A. soccer for nearly two decades joined the elite of the elite of the Greatest Game on Grass along with photographer Tony Quinn who earned induction for his ability to tell the game through pictures.
The order was of induction was telling as well. It went from the architect Gulati to the star, Wambach, who took it upon her shoulders to lift the US Women’s team and the essence of national team soccer to new heights while Quinn told the story through the lens of a camera.
Gulati was the face of soccer for 12 years but before that he was even more.
Introduced by Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, the words used to describe Gulati were family, loyalty, honor and integrity. Four words that define the growing of a sport that was struggling to say the least when he was told by then US Soccer President Alan Rothenberg “to fix the mess.” Gulati’s life from his earliest upbringing in India has been one of service. Whether it’s serving the global soccer community or in the classroom at Columbia University, his goal is to make life better for each person he comes in contact.
For U.S. Soccer, there can be no greater accolade then to be called “the single most important person in the development of soccer in this country.” Before he was a known entity, Gulati was seen doing the most menial of tasks and quickly became what Garber described as ”the suit that was as comfortable in the locker room as in the boardroom.” He developed relationships on and off the pitch turning as afterthought U.S. Soccer Federation into a decision maker at the table in 2019. His genius, expertise and relationship building led the three nation triumvirate that for the first time ever will host a World Cup in 2026. He serves on the FIFA Council and was named to the Independence Governance Committee, a group which provides recommendations for grievance changes within the FIFA structure ensuring that the United States will have a voice that the highest level of soccer.
As Gulati grew soccer, opportunities blossomed for a player like Abby Wambach to take women’s soccer and more importantly U.S. Soccer to new heights on the pitch. Wambach came onto the national scene as she was invited to the senior side in 2001. Soaking in all she could from women’s legend Mia Hamm, the Rochester, New York native became the most prolific goal scorer (184) on the international scene scoring more goals then Messi and Ronaldo as she rippled the net 184 times.
Throw in another 73 assists and you have the best all around star for women’s soccer. Despite her success, Wambach has never been comfortable with the praise directed her way. On Saturday night, her brother sent her a message to for once just accept it and she did with the grace and style that made her player and an even better teammate. Wambach said she most treasured the team bus rides and the relationships built over her career. Christie Pearce, who began the play that was finished by Wambach’s header to save the 2011 World Cup,introduced the superstar for induction with the words “If there was something to be done, Abby would see it through to the end.” Selfless devotion to team was the message, Wambach continues to espouse even o this day.
“So the thing that I am most proud of is to be a part of that building , to be a part of the growth of this game, so that the millions of kids, girls especially have somewhere to look and actually see themselves potentially being part of.”
If Gulati was the architect off the pitch and Wambach the builder on the pitch, then Tony Quinn was the storyteller who brought it all to life. For decades, his phots told the story of Gulati, Wambach and countless others. Receiving the 2019 Colin Jose Media Award as just the second photojournalist of 12 honorees puts him in a unique class. His assignments have taken him to 54 different countries and territories capturing some of the greatest moments of soccer history. He was with Gulati for countless moments. He was there as Wambach joined the WUSA league. He was there for four World Cups, three Olympics, and countless Gold Cups and College Cups. His name is synonymous with soccer.
“I was flabbergasted and over the moon, two nice British expressions,” said Quinn about hearing the news of his selection. “And I’ve never been flabbergasted and over the moon at the same time before. I’ve been doing it so long, I just didn’t think it was that long and that I’ve been involved for all those years.”
Gukati, Wambach and Quinn, three honorees who will forever be remembered as the best of the Best.