Coach Hill on how soccer changed his life and the future of Tampa Bay sports

6:20 AM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
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St. Petersburg-- Black history month is a time for people to reflect on the past and embrace the changes over the years.

Rowdies soccer head coach Ricky Hill sat down with 10 news and explained how a game changed his life and the future of Tampa Bay sports history.

Coach Hill recalled the day he first fell in love with the sport and discovered his calling.

"There was a person in a white kit and as far I was concerned looked as if I could look he was black skinned and he was in this white kit and I was all excited and I said to my brother who's that?" exclaimed Hill.

That was Albert Johanneson in a white uniform, he was the first black player to compete in the FA Cup finals.

It was 1964 a time of segregation, back then, it wasn't common to see blacks playing professional soccer but Hill couldn't get the idea out of his mind and even told his teacher.

    

"I said Miss I want to be a professional footballer and she said well there is only 2 out of every hundred that become professional players and I said well Miss I'm going to be 1 of those 2," said Hill.  

With hard work and determination Hill proved "Miss" wrong and made it to the pros at the tender age of 16 but that's when his color came into play. 

Hill said as a player he can vividly remember running onto the soccer field before a game and hearing fans boo and taunt him all because of the color of his skin.

"A father and son were spitting and cursing at the same time and I was running I just had to put my shirt up over my head and run out the tunnel and run back out I had my shirt because that's how volatile it was at that time," said Hill.

But Hill's love for the game would not falter he continued to pursue his passion and used people's ugly actions as motivation to win.

Hill was the 4th black player to represent England globally, something by the early 80s, started to change...

"There were a couple of clubs that took a little longer because managers had vowed never to sign black players that was in the 70's but I think even now I smile when these clubs have 3 or 4 black players play for them now because it's a totally different trend," said Hill.

Hill is now 1 of 2 black coaches in the league.  He's part of starting another trend and encourages anyone who dreams, to do that too.

"It's your dream and let no one dampen your dream whatever, whenever it is, whatever your goals, whatever your desires, whatever your dreams are, if you apply yourself in the right manner, if you put your whole heart and soul into what you believe and you try the best that you can then at the end of the day it's respectable of you if you manage to obtain that dream," said Hill.

This is Hill's second stint with the Rowdies he was a player coach with them in the 1990s. 

Hill is proud to be back in Tampa Bay and has his eyes set on winning more championships.

You can catch Coach Hill and the Rowdies this spring season. 

The first game is April 12thclick here for the schedule.

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