The afternoon of Sept. 9, 2001, with minutes left in the match, FDNY Soccer Club Player Sergio Villanueva charged down the field and shot the ball past the goalie, winning the game 1-0. Villanueva, an Argentinian native, loved soccer. It would be the last game he would play.
Two days later he would respond to the World Trade Center with his firehouse Ladder 132 and would be one of the 343 firefighters lost on 9/11.
Recently, the 9/11 Memorial Museum placed Villanueva’s jersey for Argentina’s national soccer team on view in the museum’s memorial exhibition. The jersey was donated by his fiancée, Tanya Villanueva Tepper. Describing her finance’s passion for soccer she said, “He was an absolute madman. He just loved it. Loved watching. Loved playing.”
Villanueva Tepper remembers that on the days that the Argentina national soccer team would play, Sergio wore the jersey and she would have to put on a hat adorned with dangling bells. When the team scored, they ran around their Queens apartment screaming “goal!”
In addition to playing for the FDNY Soccer Club, he often organized pick-up games in Flushing Meadows Park, and played at Chelsea Piers.
After his death the FDNY team retired his No. 10 jersey. Villanueva’s friends, retired NYPD Det. Jonathan Kanovsky and FDNY Soccer Club Coach Joe Bossi, and his family created the Firefighter Sergio Villanueva Soccer Foundation. The organization emphasizes community service and promoting international goodwill through soccer. Since it’s 2001 founding, it has awarded more $150,000 in scholarships to young players.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist