Long before that,
Tony had chosen his position. Or had it chosen him? His mother says, "He
was a fat kid. Ah, not fat but, well, a little butterball. So the coach made
him a goalie."
"Look at my
hands," says Meola. "They're fat hands. On the national team, they call
them the Meat Hooks. And every finger has been broken once at least, though
never my thumbs."
Starting out big
and slow forced Meola to practice his footwork day in, day out during high
school. And that's not all. After regular practice, he and Rosamilla—now a
goalie for Columbia—would stay on for an extra 45 minutes. "Sal called it
D.I.M. time—it stands for 'dirt in mouth,' " says Meola. "We didn't
have a grass field for two years."
From now on,
though, Meola is going to be playing on the best-quality grass in the world.
And on June 10, when he runs out onto the manicured turf of the Stadio Comunale
in Florence for the U.S. team's first World Cup game, against Czechoslovakia,
many of his friends from Kearny will be there to see him. His girlfriend,
Colleen Silvers, is going. So are Vinnie and Maria and Tony's 24-year-old
"I was in
Port of Spain, and I was in tears," says Vinnie. "Now this is something
for the rest of my life, something beautiful. And, of course, we'll be going a
week early. I want to visit everybody in Avellino."
It's hard to
think of a sweeter homecoming than that.