Joe’s love of soccer followed the same pattern as that of many little Italian boys.
With an unstoppable desire to run after a round ball and dreams of soccer glory, Joe’s dreams started in his native Duronia, a small village in central Italy, 2,400 feet from sea level.
He kicked anything in sight – a soccer ball when it was available, or any make-do ball from an empty cigarette pack to empty can.
His imagination created the reality he wanted, fantasizing himself to be one the great Italian soccer stars playing against imaginary teams.
It became more real when Joe was to a private high school in Frosolone, not far from his hometown. There he played in a regular field, and when possible, at the college where games were played at break-neck speed.
At 15 Joe became the youngest player ever to play for the starting team of Suronia in Italy’s 4th division. Games against opposing neighborhood town were battles, on the fields and on the stands. That was a grand experience that served him in good stead when he came to the U.S. at 18.
No sooner had Joe set foot on American soil, he joined the Palermo team in the Italian American Soccer League for the 1960-61 season. His position was right wing, according to the tactical formations of the time. Speed and drive characterized his innate qualities.
It was a germinal time for U.S. soccer, where, for the most part, first generation ethnic talent played in various metropolitan leagues. It was a Tower of Babel of languages, united by a common denominator – the love of the game.
The following season Joe transferred to Cilento Salerno team of Jersey City and the next two seasons saw him with Bayonne Italia. The Bayonne team, was a big winner, with Joe’s goals being decisive in key games.
A local newspaper, covering a championship game of Bayonne Italia, nicknamed Joe; “Manfredini,” because of his style of play closely resembled that of a very famous Italian superstar of that name.
The U.S. Army interrupted Joe’s formal soccer playing as he spent two years in Korea. When discharged from the Army he started in earnest a business career that has become very successful.
He was in insurance with Metropolitan Life, in the travel business, real estate, construction and other diverse areas. His soccer passion, never left.
Whenever possible he fielded teams with personnel of his large companies, playing quasi-friendly games against other large companies, such as foreign airlines loaded with international talent.
Not satisfied with his involvement on the field, and having now become a very charismatic and successful businessman, Joe entered two colossal investment ventures in big time soccer.
In 1983, together with Giorgio Chinaglia, Peppe Pinton (Chinaglia’s manager and Cosmos VP,) Joe headed a group of Italian-American investors who negotiated the acquisition of Lazio, one of Italy’s top clubs.
Not satisfied with his feat in 1985 he headed another group of investors who negotiated for the purchase of the Cosmos from the Warner Communications.
What had been a heady moment for the North American Soccer League, with Pale, Beckonbauer, Carlos Alberto, Chinaglia and many other international soccer heroes, was starting to decline. The stadium that had been filled to capacity, beating all U.S. attendance records, was experiencing ever increasing lower attendance. The NASL could no longer continue.
The Cosmos, without a league, played a few more ad hoc international games waiting for better days.
During the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., one of Joe’s companies provided strategic land services to the Italian Team that was a runner up to Brazil.