- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The love of soccer brought a Lusby family together and is now bringing a community together.
Joseph Kirk Nguyen was born in Vietnam on June 6, 1967 and started playing soccer as a child.
Nguyen moved to St. Mary’s County in 1978 and graduated from Leonardtown High School in 1986 where he lettered in varsity soccer.
Two years later, he enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed at New London Naval Submarine Support Facility in Groton, Conn. Nguyen married Pamela Higgins in December 1990 while they were both stationed in Groton.
Nguyen was an avid soccer player his entire life and passed that love onto his children, Joseph Edward Kirk Nguyen and daughters Sydney Renea and McKenzie “Cierra”.
Nguyen passed away on March 31 of this year. He had served as referee for the Calvert Soccer Association and the St. Mary’s Youth Soccer since 2005.
Nguyen’s family and friends are working on establishing a nonprofit organization in his honor and have set up the Joe Nguyen Memorial Soccer Tourney that will take place on Sunday at Chaptico Park with approximately seven adult teams and six teams for children under 18.
The first adult game will begin at 8:45 a.m. with the last game starting at approximately 4:30 p.m. Every team will be guaranteed three games. Tournament official Daniel Hayes is planning to host more soccer tournaments throughout the year. All proceeds will go to support the Nguyen family.
Trophies will be given out and have been donated from Trophy By Design of Leonardtown.
“There wasn’t a time in Joe’s life when he wasn’t playing soccer,” Pamela Nguyen said. “If he wasn’t playing, he was refereeing. He first started coaching and getting involved to help our son out and he coached one year for my daughter, Sydney’s team. Soccer was his first love. He played soccer year-round. He played in the summer, fall and indoor [futsal] in the winter. I’d tease him and told him he was cheating on me and her name was ‘Soccer.’”
Hayes said that Joseph Kirk Nguyen was an amazing referee, player and coach.
“He was a great coach as far as realizing that the sportsmanship, morale and principals that you instill into the players was there,” Hayes said.
“He always took the time to instruct and tell players what they’d need to do to get better ball height,” Pamela Nguyen added. “He was just always trying to help other people out.”
Hayes said that as a referee Nguyen would always remain calm and explain why he made the call that he did.
Curtis Nicholas, a coach in the Calvert Soccer Association’s U-12 recreational league, once coached against Nguyen’s team.
“Joe was very competitive and he wanted his players to play with tenacity,” Nicholas said. “He really enjoyed the game and this tournament is such a great way to remember him. One thing he and his daughter Sydney have in common is that they’re both passionate about soccer. It didn’t matter if it was a pick-up game or organized, he wanted to win.”
Nicholas said he looked up to Nguyen who was a mentor to many.
Robert Leal played with Nguyen in the St. Mary’s County coed adult soccer league and remembers pick-up games at Webster Field Annex in St. Inigoes when Nguyen would join the group.
“What I remember most about Joe is that he was devoted to his kids,” Leal said. “He would bring his daughters to the games and set up a tent for them to sit under and he’d kick the ball around with them at halftime. He would also come and play with us at Webster Field during lunch. When he wasn’t playing, he would ref.”
Pamela Nguyen said that the tournament would honor her husband and that this is what he would want, with kids and adults alike learning and improving on their soccer skills.
“With everything’s he’s contributed to the soccer program in the tri-county area, he deserves this at the very least.” Hayes said.
All of the referees are volunteering their time for the entire day. Kyle Rambo, a local coach in southern Maryland, will take the lead role in refereeing.
“There’s no way I could have gotten this together without the help of the community,” Hayes said. “The support was already there, this is just a way now for them to channel it.”
For more information on the tournament, email Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.