KANSAS CITY, MO. (Nov. 22, 2021) – The Walt Chyzowych Fund, (WCF) a charitable fund of the United Soccer Coaches Foundation, announced on Monday that Esse Baharmast, former US Soccer, MISL, MLS, and FIFA Referee and Referee Instructor will receive the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award on January 22, 2022, as part of the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Kansas City, Mo. 

Baharmast will be honored alongside former US National Team, NY Cosmos, and MISL player Rick Davis and members of the 1990 US Men’s National Team, the first to qualify for a World Cup in 40 years. The Walt Chyzowych Award Ceremony and Reception is conducted with the generosity of its principal donor, Capelli Sport, as well as a special donation received from MLS’ Sporting Kansas City. Davis and the Italia 90 World Cup stars will receive Walt Chyzowych Distinguished Playing Career Awards.

“It’s a thrill that finally 30 plus years later the recognition of the 1990 World Cup Team that played in Italy is getting a chance to be recognized at our National Soccer Coaches Convention,” said University of Redlands head men’s soccer coach Ralph Perez. “More importantly this group has been the pioneers for soccer in America, the first time in 40 years the US made the World Cup. For me I call that the “Miracle on Grass” and we are really excited that we all will be together to celebrate in Kansas City in January.”

The Walt Chyzowych Fund was founded after his passing in 1994 to honor his memory and promulgate his legacy as US National Team Coach and Director of Coaching. The fund helps provide coaching education, Convention scholarships and grants to aspiring young coaches and developing soccer organizations through its fundraising efforts in partnership with the United Soccer Coaches Foundation. 

Esse Baharmast received appointments as a Referee in the 1996 and 1998 Gold Cup, 1996 Olympic Games and 1997 Copa America. He also worked 1998 World Cup Qualifiers in both Asia and South America before being assigned to two games in the 1998 World Cup in France. His first World Cup game was June 13th in Nantes, Spain, versus Nigeria, but his most famous assignment came in Marseille during the Brazil vs. Norway match which was tied 1-1 and Norway needing a victory, Baharmast whistled Brazilian defender Junior Balano for a foul on Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo in the 88th minute that resulted in a PK game winning goal for Norway. 

Two days of heavy worldwide criticism of the decision followed until a Swedish television station was able to provide footage from behind the goal which clearly showed the shirt pull. The call was selected as one of the top 20 calls of all time in any sport by the National Association of Sport Officials (NASO) Referee Magazine and Baharmast was honored as the only soccer Referee to receive their “Golden Whistle.”

Baharmast had the honor of serving as Referee for the inaugural MLS game in 1996 and then the unique honor of officiating both Conference Semi-Finals leading to the first MLS Cup, which he also officiated. Upon his retirement from active officiating, Baharmast became Director of Officials for US Soccer, a member of the CONCACAF Referee Committee and a FIFA Assessor/Instructor/Mentor working Men’s and Women’s World Cups. He currently serves as Director of Referees for the Colorado Soccer Association (CSA). More recently, Esse Baharmast received US Soccer’s Werner Fricker Builder Award for his contributions to soccer in America.

Esse Baharmast will also be a lead presenter at United Soccer Coaches “Celebration of Soccer Officiating”, a summit for referees from all levels and a unique, first-time event at the 2022 United Soccer Coaches Convention, designed to recognize the important role referees play in our game!

When Baharmast learned of his being named a WCF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, he stated: “I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition that is bestowed on the legends of our game and is named in honor of a dear friend and a great mentor of mine. I was fortunate to get to know Walter during his time as Director of Referees for the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) in the early days of my officiating career. I was a Player and a Coach before I became a Referee and working under Walter’s guidance was instrumental in the philosophy I developed as a Referee in the highest levels of competition. I am forever grateful for that experience.”

Also being honored on January 22nd is former US Men’s National Team and New York Cosmos player Rick (Ricky) Davis, considered the outstanding American player of the 1980’s. Davis will receive a WCF Distinguished Playing Career Award, the third such award given to an individual player after Landon Donavan and Michelle Akers.

Davis played his first game for the United States in September 1977 and scored his first full international goal just six minutes into that game. He went on to play 35 full internationals for the US which was a record at that time. He was named Captain of the team from 1984 onward, leading it to the 1884 and 1988 Olympic Games. Perhaps, his best game was in the 1984 Olympics when he scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Costa Rica.

Rick Davis played for the New York Cosmos from the start of the 1978 season and played through 1984(a total of 154 NASL games), as well as participating in several Cosmos worldwide tours. He was a member of the 1978, 1980 and 1982 NASL Championship teams and as a play-making mid-fielder scored 15 goals.

Davis also played in the qualifying rounds for the ’82, ’88 and the first two qualifying games for the 1990 World Cup before a knee injury ended his outdoor playing career. 

Davis also started playing in the MISL in 1983 for the Saint Louis Steamers (three seasons) and later for the New York Express and Tacoma Stars. He was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 2001.

Davis had this to say when he learned of the award: “This award is uniquely special to me because not only was Walt in so many ways responsible for starting my career (he was the one who gave me my first opportunity at the National Level), he was doing the same thing for the entire sport of soccer in the United States. I am honored to be a part of such a special group and like so many others, have benefitted from Walt’s dedication to the game, his example and his legacy.”

Finally, United Soccer Coaches will be hosting a reunion for the members of the 1990 US Men’s National team which qualified for the Italia ’90 World Cup, the first such qualification over the previous 40 years. The players will be recognized for their achievement not only on the field but for their continued involvement in the growth and development of the game in the United States. Each of the 22 members will receive a WCF Distinguished Playing Career Award similar to the Awards given to members of the FIFA bronze and silver medal winning 1989 and 1992 Five-A-Side (Futsal) teams. Their names read like a Who’s Who of American Soccer: Desmond Armstrong, Marcello Balboa, Jimmy Banks (deceased), Brian Bliss, Paul Caligiuri, Neil Covone, John Doyle, Eric Eichmann, John Harkes, Chris Henderson, Kasey Keller, Paul Krumpe, Tony Meola, Bruce Murray, Tab Ramos, John Stollmeyer, Chris Sullivan, Steve Trittschuh, Dave Vanole (deceased), Peter Vermes, Mike Windischmann, Eric Wynalda.

“It is a great honor for U.S. Soccer’s 1990 World Cup team to be recognized by the Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund, said Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes. “Our major achievement of reaching the World Cup for the first time in 40 years was a defining moment in American soccer history and changed the trajectory of the sport in our country. Every player on the team was incredibly committed to the objective of qualifying and put aside all individual agendas to attain that goal. We are especially grateful for the opportunity to come together 31 years later and celebrate this special accomplishment. On behalf of all the players and staff on the 1990 World Cup team, we thank the Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund for recognizing our contribution to the sport and making this reunion possible.”

The Walt Chyzowych Fund Award Celebration and Reception will be held on Saturday Jan. 22, 2022, at 4:30 PM in the Kansas City Convention Center Count Basie Ball Room of the Marriott Hotel. The public is invited, and light refreshments and beverages will be served.

To learn more about the Walt Chyzowych Fund and the United Soccer Coaches Foundation and/or to donate please see www.waltslegacy.com or www.unitedsoccercoaches.org/CoachesGIVE

Capelli Sport is an innovative sportswear and team wear brand focusing on design of the highest quality, latest fabric technology and design functionality for world-class performance on the field. For more information on Capelli Sport, current partners, and how to join the team SHOP CAPELLI SPORT, visit the ONLINE CATALOG PAGES at www.capellisport.com, follow them on Twitter (@capellisport) and Instagram (Capelli Sport), or visit the Capelli Sport Facebook page.