Filippo Russo brought his love for soccer with him when he arrived in Elizabeth in January, 1965 after his family had emigrated from Ribera, Sicily where he was born in 1950.
Once he arrived in the Garden State Phil Russo became one of the state’s finest players.
A 3-year all-star at Thomas Jefferson High in Elizabeth where he won All-State honors in his senior season, he went on to play college soccer at one of the nation’s premier program–Division I powerhouse Hartwick in Oneonta, N.Y.
The leading scorer at Hartwick as a freshman and sophomore, Russo helped lead the Oneonta school to a No. 2 ranking in the nation then went on to play for the North American Soccer League’s Rochester Lancers during the 1973 season.
That season he faced the legendary Pele during one of Rochester’s international matches with Santos of Brazil.
His career in New Jersey amateur soccer was a legendary one, too. From 1967 through 1990 he played for such well-known teams as Ribera Sports Club, Westfield Italians, Elizabeth Irish, Elizabeth Sports Club, Serbia, Paterson Dovers and the Trenton Italians.
He still found time to coach soccer at Kean University, with Ribera SC and Serbia, and continues to coach today with the Elizabeth High junior varsity program.
Although his playing days are over, the passion for soccer that has flowed through Phil Russo’s veins for years continues today as he teaches his grandaughter Liliana the outstanding skills that made him a legendary New Jersey player.