By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
Tributes are pouring in from throughout the Long Island soccer referee community after the passing of Nick Apostolides from the coronavirus and health complications at the age of 77 on April 3.
He lived a very interesting life as he survived the Civil War in Lebanon. He also managed to survive a plane crash in Athens as he accompanied many shipments from his Kennedy Airport cargo job.
Nick became one of the top referees in the Long Island Soccer Referees Association (LISRA) starting in the 1980’s. He and his wife Nanci became assignors, the people who give referees their schedules. As the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) grew, so too did the number of assignments so assigning became a full-time job for the West Babylon couple.
2019 Major League Soccer Assistant Referee of the Year Brian Dunn stated, “Nick was my first assignor and he had my back coming up and guided me through U.S. Soccer to college to the pros. I was a LISRA Board member with him and have a lot of great memories with that man.”
Nick volunteered as Vice President on the LISRA Board of Directors for an amazing three decades, from 1986 to 2016, working with LISRA Presidents Keith Bantz, Mario Boltri, Barry Lawson, and Cathy Caldwell. By simply saying “Nick,“ people knew exactly who you were talking about since he was a straight-shooter who livened up monthly referee meetings by telling it like it is.
ENYYSA Public Relations Director Randy Vogt refereed with Nick in the 1980’s and thought of him as bit of an enigma.
“Inside that sometimes gruff personality was Nick’s heart of gold and he often told people that he loved them,” Vogt explained. “I will never forget, and I thanked them repeatedly, how Nick and Nanci found out that my mother had a stroke and I was serving as a caregiver for her at home. So all my assignments for years were games just in our neighborhood, so I could spend more time with Mom.”
Nick officiated many levels of play – youth, adults, college, and the pros. He also volunteered as a Director in the New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NYMISOA) for several years around the turn of the millennium and was honored with their 2003 Service Award.
Additionally, Nick was a LISRA Life Member, the organization’s version of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Longtime LISRA Trustee Al Giorgianni said, “My first year, Nick gave me a couple of tough games and I was on the verge of quitting, but he told me not to as he assigned me those games because he thought I could handle them. His confidence in me was so important and I refereed for a dozen more years until I switched to a mentor role, as Nick had done for me.”
We’ll let 2019 LISRA Referee of the Year Cathy Caldwell have the final word since Nick’s last several years as LISRA Vice President was under her as President from 2010 to 2018.
“Nick Apostolides was a giant of a man in dedication, heart, and spirit. I had the honor of meeting Nick early in my refereeing career and was immediately impressed by his knowledge, work ethic, and absolute love for the game of soccer,” Caldwell stated. “We worked closely together for over 20 years as LISRA grew exponentially, in part due to his insistence on professionalism from each and every referee. I don’t think you could find a single referee in LISRA who has not received a phone call from Nick, at some time in his or her career, to either compliment, instruct, encourage or in an occasional moment, told to get your referee bag and to go to a field, now!”
Caldwell concluded, “There was no greater champion for referees than Nick Apostolides. He was a man of honor who was loved and respected by so many. I’m proud to say he was my mentor, my confidante, and my friend and I miss him already.”