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Meola's new hat and gloves

USA's goalkeeper Tony Meola shouting instructions
© Getty Images

Tony Meola earned 100 caps for the United States between 1988 and 2006. The agile shot-stopper, who was the American No1 up at the FIFA World Cups™ at Italy 1990 and USA 1994, is recognised as the man who opened the doors for the likes of Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel - to whom he acted as No2 in the Far East in 2002 - and Tim Howard.

Now, at 40, Meola is making the transition into the organisational side of the game with Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) outfit the New Jersey Ironmen. He is also getting set to launch a new line of goalkeeper apparel: jerseys, gloves and the like.

Meola is accustomed to multi-tasking and trying new things. He once tried out to be place kicker for the gridiron side New York Jets, starred in an off-Broadway play and even fronted his own mortgage firm. But his newest hat - designer - is one that has him all fired up.

"Our first line of glove designs are ready to go and the response has been pretty amazing across the board," Meola told about his new company, GK1 Soccer, that specialises in goalkeeping apparal. "Right now the distribution plan is local but we expect to go national soon."

Still kicking
He wore his own gloves for the last five games with the Ironmen in their inaugural season last year. Yes, that's right, he still plays.

"They (the new gloves) weren't really up to my standards at the start of last season," he said. "But near the end, I was really happy with them and they felt really good.

When I was ten years old I used to sit around and draw up designs for goalkeeper gloves and jerseys and now I am actually doing it. I couldn't be more excited


"Being a player doesn't prepare you for starting your own business. I've had a lot of sleepless nights trying to get this thing off the ground and there's been a lot of hard work, but it's something I am really passionate about."

Meola is a native of Kearny New Jersey, the iconic 'soccer town' where national teammates John Harkes and Tab Ramos both draw their roots. His career spans nearly 20 years and has seen him play briefly in England and win an MLS Cup with Kansas City Wizards in 2000.

He was originally planning to retire from playing in 2006 after finishing up his contract with the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), but that was until he received an offer he just couldn't refuse.

"I was contacted by the Ironmen. At first I didn't have any interest in playing indoor soccer again (he played the fast-paced American version of indoor early on in his career), but they came up with a plan where I could get involved in the front office and learn the ropes of that side of the game... and I jumped at the opportunity."

*A front-office future *Although he has had offers to coach, the legendary American net-minder sees a front office job, like sporting director, as more his style. "I am really more excited about the idea of building a team from the top, making the business side run smoothly and opening up doors that way."

Turning an eye back to his earlier playing days, Meola points to qualifying for Italy 1990 - and putting an end to a 40-year finals drought for the USA - as his proudest moment.

"The highlight had to be 1990, when we got back to the World Cup," he said. "It wasn't like it is today. We had no pro league and no money.

Looking back it's amazing that we achieved what we did. We had guys playing in semi-pro leagues and Sunday leagues just trying to keep fit during qualifying

, and in the end we did it."

He also sees the achievement as a springboard for the USA's up-turn in fortunes over the last 20 years, development which has seen the team break into the top ten of the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking

"When we reached Italy, everything kind of flowed out of that," he concluded. "Doors opened for the players of today and we ended up with a top-tier league and now it's all taken for granted."

With an eye to the future and tireless enthusiasm, who knows where Tony Meola will end up next - or what hat he'll be wearing.

There is one tag that is sure to always fit him though: US soccer icon.

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