By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
April 26, 2022-The United States qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this fall and will play England, Iran and a European team to be determined later (from among Ukraine, Scotland and Wales). Playing significant minutes in the intense World Cup qualifiers were midfielder Tyler Adams, goalkeeper Matt Turner and forward Tim Weah, who are all Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) alumni.
But the United States Men’s National Team is not the only national side with a local flavor that has made it to the World Cup as the US National Amputee Team is one of 24 teams that have qualified for the Amputee World Cup in Turkey this fall. Coaching the team is Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) coach Dr. Eric Lamberg, who grew up playing in the Hauppauge Soccer Club and at Hauppauge High School, previously coached the Commack Raiders and now coaches Hauppauge USA, playing in the LIJSL Boys-Under-17 Champion Division. And if you think Hauppauge’s team name has something to do with Eric being a national team coach, you are incorrect as he inherited the team and its name.
Eric has been the US National Amputee Team’s head coach since 2014 and President of the American Amputee Soccer Association since 2020. But he is not the only member of the team with local roots.
Carlos Ayala lost part of his right leg in the 2001 earthquake on El Salvador. He played for the El Salvador National Amputee Team and has been wearing the red, white and blue of our National Amputee Team since 2018. He lives in Amityville.
Jovan Booker grew up in Cutchogue playing for his late father Joseph’s North Fork Soccer League team, playing with a prothesis on his right leg after it was amputated because of a birth defect. He currently coaches for LIJSL club North Fork United.
Zef Gjinaj is from Center Moriches and lost his left leg in an accident at work last year. He has played soccer for the past two decades
Carl Calabria photo of the US National Amputee Team. Dr. Eric Lamberg is in back row on far left, Jovan Booker is #23, Carlos Ayala is in back row, fourth from the right behind Jovan and Zef Gjinaj is not pictured.
Three other Long Islanders are part of the Amputee National Team as well. Dr. James Pierre-Glaude of Selden is the National Team’s Sports Medicine Director and Secretary for the American Amputee Soccer Association, Commack’s Jim Franks is National Team assistant coach and head coach of the Metro New York Amputee Team and Paige Palazzolo of St. James is National Team goalkeeper coach plus is helping to start the women’s game.
Amputee soccer is different from the soccer you watch on TV as it’s played using crutches. There are six field players (each having one amputated leg) and one goalkeeper (with an amputated arm). Nobody plays with prosthetics. With no offsides rule, kick-ins instead of throw-ins, a smaller field (maximum of 70 x 60 meters) and smaller goal (5 meters wide x 2.2 meters high), the game is very fast with many shots on goal.
“When the keeper makes a diving save with one arm, it’s very exciting for all watching,” Eric explained.
The last Amputee World Cup was in Mexico in 2018 and the USA finished in 17th place.
Unlike the US Men’s National Team, the US National Amputee Team does not have much funding and the players pay out of their own pockets for their travel and lodging so Eric asked that potential sponsors contact him. There is also a current fundraising campaign to raise $200,000 for the funds for training and travel for the Amputee World Cup through https://www.usampsoccer.org/donate
You can reach Eric regarding his team and all the fundraising efforts at firstname.lastname@example.org
With approximately 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with nine leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/