It wasn't always easy being an American soccer pioneer--or even
being near one. In April 1975, Bob Rigby manned the goal for the
U.S. when Giorgio Chinaglia and Italy battered the Americans 10-0
in a so-called friendly at Rome's Olympic Stadium. When an errant
Italian shot crashed into the lens of a photographer crouching
beside the U.S. net, the game was stopped briefly as medics
attended to a five-inch gash on the shutterbug's forehead. "I
remember thinking, Please let them hit another photographer,"
Rigby says. "I needed the break."
Rigby, one of only two male U.S. soccer players to grace an SI
cover (Earnie Stewart is the other), once dreamed of playing
against the world's best. In the early 1970s, as an All-America
at East Stroudsburg (Pa.), he wallpapered his dorm room with
posters of Pele, Manchester United star George Best and English
goalkeeping great Gordon Banks. Pele and Best became Rigby's
teammates for some of his 12 seasons in the North American Soccer
League (NASL), and Banks and Rigby have run goalie camps together
in the Philadelphia area for five summers.
The NASL's top draft pick in 1973, Rigby had his finest pro
season as a rookie, when he led the league with a goals-against
average of 0.62 and helped his hometown Philadelphia Atoms win
the title. (The $500 championship bonus he received from the
Atoms was quite welcome, considering Rigby's subatomic salary of
Rigby returned to the Philadelphia area in 1986 to teach high
school phys ed and health but was frustrated by his limited
ability to reach troubled students. "I saw kids with a lot of
baggage," he says, "and there was no system in place to
intervene." After earning a master's in counseling psychology at
Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Rigby sold the school
district in suburban Ridley, Pa., on a program he had designed
to identify and help students burdened with drug, alcohol,
mental health and/or domestic problems, and has worked as the
district's crisis counselor for 13 years. Rigby, 49, and his
second wife, Linda, a guidance counselor at Ridley High, live in
Turnersville, N.J., with daughters Amanda, 12, and Nicole, 8.
Rigby has two kids from his first marriage; a son, Jeff, 23,
who's a defender for the New Jersey Stallions of soccer's
A-League, and a daughter, Jennifer, 21, who's a senior
communications major at Rutgers.
As for his appearance on our cover, Rigby was so pleased with the
recognition for him and his sport that he didn't even mind when
SI called him Ray Rigby in the 1978 NASL preview. "If I'm not the
most obscure guy on the cover I must be in the top 10," Rigby
says. "It was absolute serendipity."
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS
He designed a program to identify and help students burdened with
drug, alcohol and/or domestic problems.