Longtime New Jersey soccer fans who remember the glory days of the German American League and the Italian League, will certainly remember Mike Fitzgerald.
Anytime there was a big soccer match in the Garden State during the 1950’s, 60s and into the ‘70s chances are Mike Fitzgerald was either the guy with the whistle in the center of the pitch making sure the game went smooth, or the assistant referee (linesman) keeping close watch on the action along the sideline.
For over 30 years Mike Fitzgerald was one of the most respected referees in the state, if not along the East Coast. That’s why he is being enshrined tonight in the N.J.S.A. Hall of Fame as its newest referee inductee.
Born in Dublin, Ireland where he developed his love for soccer at an early age as a youth player with teams like Clifton United and Home Farm Club reserves, Mike came to the U.S. in 1948 and settled on the New York side of the Hudson River.
Soon after he had made the move to the Garden State and his officiating career took off.
For over 30 years Mike officiated the top high school game during the weekday afternoons, and the best amateur matched in the state as well. A linesman for many of the international matches held in Jersey City or at Giants Stadium. Mike was one of the busiest refereed in the state – because he was the one everyone wanted to do their match.
Mike was also a charter member of the New Jersey Referees Association and a founder of the Old Bridge Soccer League.
Now 83 and living in Sayreville, Mike was president of the N.J. referee board of directors for several years while employed at RCA.
While he refereed top matched around the state, you could usually find Mike Fitzgerald officiating in the middle of the pitch at New Jersey’s most hallowed soccer venue- Farcher’s Grove in Union.
“Farcher’s Grove was like a second home to me,“ he says fondly today.
It was because of referees like Mike Fitzgerald that so many of the great games played at Farcher’s Grove live on in the memory of longtime New Jersey soccer fans.