Citizen of the Month: Manny D’Almeida

The Citizen of the Month has in some way made a major commitment to this neighborhood – its people, places or both. There’s no formula for what qualifies someone for the title; I can just say that you will know her when you see her (or in this case, him). Also, this is not a news story. There’s no reason to run this now, or next month or next year. That’s part of the point. The Citizen of the Month has most likely been serving Tribeca in one form or another for a long time, and probably will for a long time into the future as well.

As today is the day of thanks, this one goes out to Manny D’Almeida, the longtime ref and coach for Downtown Soccer League. If you or your child has played rec soccer at all in the past 20 years (there are 2100 kids in the league this year alone), you already know who I am talking about, and why. No one could possibly encapsulate the joy of athletics more than Manny, who has not only made our fields his second home, but has brought the littlest ones into the game as a coach and even started a women’s night league to bring the older (relatively) set back to the game. He just loves soccer and has helped many of us to love it too.

“This game is so healthy,” he says. “You don’t have to be heavy or tall, or thin or short, you just have to be yourself.”

His life in soccer begins much before his time with us, to his childhood in China starting 80 (yes, you read that right) years ago, when he was born into a family of 11 kids. (His Portuguese father was a sportsman and while he didn’t play himself, he loved the game.) When communism took hold, the family fled to Macau and at 17, Manny came to San Francisco, where he first started playing semi-pro soccer for a Russian club.

He joined the US Army team and played for three years in Germany and almost stayed to play for a German city team, but he instead returned to New York and took up with a German team here. (“I’m a child of the international community,” he says.) Not long after, he started work at Citibank and stayed there for 38 years as a computer programmer; his first machine: an IBM 1401.

He raised his own three kids here, and now has a grandchild as well. Sometime around 2000, while he was coaching the BMCC team, he was recruited by DSL to manage the refs and coach micro soccer – a job he relished. (Here he’s with the girls Minor 9s.) “I never had the coaching myself as child, and I wanted to share what I knew, share my talent and love for the game.”

But having spoken to Manny for just 10 minutes before his 8 a.m. whistle, it’s clear to me why his presence on the fields has made such an impact, and how one person’s energy can ripple across an acre of turf.

“I love people,” Manny says, “but I love kids especially.” And this will be the final words on this day of thanksgiving: “I am fortunate to be who I am, where I am and what I am.”

 

22 Comments

  1. Manny is a true Tribeca Citizen. I couldn’t think of a more deserving recipient for all that he does for the community. He loves the beautiful game and is instrumental to the success of the Downtown Soccer League!

  2. We are great, great fans of Manny, a great human being, a joy to the community. We are very lucky to have him around!

  3. Bravo Manny! You bring much joy and spirit to our community and to DSL. Congrats!

  4. Congratulations Manny. You gave me ten minutes goal keeper instruction the other day after game. Really appreciate.

  5. Congrats, Manny! Manny is a true asset to the Tribeca community! He has coached my sons’ teams and has coached a team of soccer moms! He really believes in all of his players and has taught them so much about having a positive attitude.

  6. Manny you are a walking legend – we cannot tell you how much we appreciate your hard work and youthful spirit. Here’s to the next 10 years of 8am games!

    Go Monarcas!!

  7. Thank you 🙏 Manny!

  8. Since my boys were babies, they have been running around the battery park fields playing soccer and interacting with Manny. We are so incredibly lucky to have him as part of our downtown community. I am so happy to learn more about his upbringing, a true mentor to our downtown kids. I know friends who have moved out of the neighborhood or gone back overseas to their home countries, but no one forgets Manny. Whenever we see him, we say hi and there is always a smile on his face. Thank you Manny for all you do and for all you stand for.

  9. Congrats , Manny! Well deserved and long overdue. We are lucky to have you as a part of our community, coaching our children.

  10. Manny, what can anyone say about Manny? That he is focused, unselfish, driven. Exemplified in every conversation and in every action, appearing impervious to age, he is a spirit, undeniable, indomitable. A lifelong athlete striving to stay connected regardless of the role. He can evolve to any situation; fair, gentle but stern, true to his family and sport, both his passions. I am a stranger, but Manny always made my children and I feel like we were a part of his family.

  11. Soccer and Manny are synonymous – can’t imagine soccer occurring downtown without him. It would not be soccer season without Manny on the pitch. A big thank you Manny for all many years of inspiring kids, helping coaches, training refs and sharing your passion of the game with us “older kids” – you not only made soccer better but life too.

  12. Manny is amazing. I spent a decade on the ball fields watching him gently ref and guide the kids on the field. He is great with the girls in particular. But what may people don’t know is that Manny also coaches a team of downtown mom’s who have gotten off the side line. He brings his signature warmth and kindness to this group. He is THE BEST!

  13. So thankful for the work Manny does with our children!

    Lucas has learned so much from him, and this is both in terms of soccer and how to be nice and a team player on the field.

    Obrigadissimo, Dankeschoen and Thanks a lot, Manny!

  14. Wow! What a life, and what a gentleman.
    Bravo Manny.

  15. Manny, you are my hero.

    Citizen, thanks for recognizing him.

    Bill, Heather, Duke and Daphne Tsapalas

  16. Manny: thank you. Your joy, open arms, and love of the game made each every time we saw you the very best!
    Steve, Alyce and our “kid” Nate

  17. A true Legend of Battery Park City!

  18. Manny, the world is a better place because of you.Thank you for your expertise, patience and good cheer on the pitch. You are the best.
    Jake, Sean, James and Madeline

  19. Manny! There are no words to express the gratitude we feel for your commitment to the families of our neighborhood. You are not just the person of the month..how about nearly 25+ years on our fields if my memory serves me correctly. You are a mentor, a beloved person, and role model for not just the kids, but all who have been lucky enough to have had you in our lives. Not just downtown but on the field at Chelsea piers, and at many PSAL leagues.
    Your energy and passion are inspirational.
    Kathy, Samuel, Marco, Magee and Asa

  20. Manny is the greatest. Always positive, helpful and encouraging.
    Thanks so much!

    Ben, Maya, Eric & Chiya

  21. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do, Manny! Our downtown community is so lucky to have you!

  22. Manny is very unique and we shouldn’t take his everlasting presence for granted, he’s an institution in himself and the envy of other communities. His dedication and contributions for the downtown kids is invaluable. Thank you Manny for all that you’ve done and that you continue to do!

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