Soccer builds brotherly bonds for Gino, Angelo and Andrea DiSomma
Andrea DiSomma darted down Ed Journey Field on a brilliant Thursday afternoon, doggedly pursuing a loose ball during Manheim Township’s preseason scrimmage with Lampeter-Strasburg. The Blue Streak out-paced an L-S defender before drilling a shot inside the far post for the opening goal of a 4-3 victory.
At the far end of the field, pacing the sideline, was Andrea’s oldest brother, Gennaro “Gino” DiSomma, the Pioneers’ head coach. For the past four years, the pitch has pitted the two siblings against each other with bragging rights on the line. Over the last three years, the middle brother, Angelo — another Township grad — joined the fray as Lampeter-Strasburg’s junior varsity coach.
“Being an ex-Township player,” Gino said, “and now seeing my brothers come up through this school, it makes me feel great. Obviously, we’ve had this battle between us for the last four years now, and it’s kind of a shame that (Andrea’s) graduating this year. The L-S/Township games aren’t going to be as much fun without seeing my brother.”
For the DiSomma brothers — sons of Italian immigrants — soccer means family. Their passion for the game, inherited from their late father, Giovanni, has fostered a brotherly bond that transcends their allegiances on the pitch.
“I grew up playing with my dad a lot in the backyard,” said Andrea, 17, “just kicking it around before dinner. Ever since he passed away, these two have taken over, and they’ve done so much. They’re teaching me everything I know.”
The tutelage helped Andrea develop into one of the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s elite players. A three-year starter for the Blue Streaks and two-time L-L first-team all-star, DiSomma tallied 13 goals and five assists last year’s campaign that ended in the first round of districts.
“He’s an unbelievable talent,” said Kevin Baker, Manheim Township’s head coach. “His skill level with the ball, he’s very good, and he’s always a threat when he steps on the field. But the thing that I think separates him from a lot of guys on a lot of teams is that he’s really a humble player. I know that sounds cliche, but he’s just as willing to look for the assist as he is to look for the shot. He has no arrogance to him whatsoever.”
After the scrimmage, a nostalgic DiSomma looked back on the highlights of his scholastic career. He recalled the time he scored the lone goal in a win over Hershey to open his sophomore season. He remembered the battles against Gino’s Pioneers, including last year’s 1-0 regular-season loss. He also looked ahead to a senior season filled with promise, hoping to help his teammates capture a section title or a district crown in their bittersweet last go-round.
“It’s kind of sad to think about it,” he said. “I love the coaches. I love the teammates. I love the rivalries, and I’ve grown up with these players, basically.”
Andrea also grew up with Angelo, 25, who, unlike his brothers, wrestled and played American football as a high-schooler. Between watching Italy’s 2006 World Cup run with his father and seeing Andrea’s development as a player, Angelo decided to dive into organized soccer as a coach.
“Getting to pass on the passion,” he said, “and seeing it from Andrea — the love, the passion that he has — seeing him play brings me back to life as if I was in high school. It makes me happy.”
Along with their devotion to soccer, the DiSomma brothers — who also have two sisters, Rosa and Carmela — inherited the family business that began when the DiSommas moved to Lancaster from their home near Naples. Gino, 35, ran Rosa Rosa Pizzeria with his mother, Maria, before taking a position at Red Rose Indoor Arena and handing the pizza-shop responsibilities to Angelo. Andrea is also learning the trade.
“For us, it’s important that these mom and pop shops stay alive,” Gino said, “especially at this day and age.”
Gino played for the Blue Streaks in the early 2000s, his varsity playing days preserved in a few VHS tapes and the stories he passes down to his youngest brother. Despite the admittedly exaggerated stories, it’s Andrea that dishes out the most smack talk among the brothers at home, particularly concerning his prowess in the FIFA video game.
“Somehow, he got some of the better genes,” Gino said. “He’s taller with blonde hair, so he thinks he can walk all over us.”
“We still show him how it’s done,” replied Angelo.
Since 2011, Gino coached Penn United Force F.C., a club team with a roster that includes Andrea as well as other varsity players from Manheim Township and Lampeter-Strasburg, where he served as a coach for the last five years and the head coach for the last three. While preparing the Pioneers for another season in a competitive L-L Section Two division, Gino praised the rest of the L-L league’s coaches.
“I have nothing but respect,” he said, “for Coach Baker and those guys here.”
Gino has coached his youngest brother. He’s coached against him. But as the sun set after the scrimmage and the players and coaches left the pitch, he painted a picture that ties soccer and family together for everyone, something that stemmed from the passion passed down from his father.
“For us,” Gino said, “I’m trying to get away from, ‘You go to this school. I go to that school.’ At the end of the day, we’re all on the pitch together, working together, and we’ve got to represent each other.”