ALSO ON SLAM!
Saturday, May 6, 2000
Great men overlooked
It was quite gratifying to see that a few soccer enthusiasts got together and established Canada's Soccer Hall of Fame.
They're going to induct 11 amateur and professional players, as well as 11 builders in the near future. The reason they've chosen 11 for each category is simple -- a soccer team is composed of 11 players.
Some of the names were rather surprising since they were paid officials of associations or leagues. Even more surprising was the fact that some names that would have been deserving of induction have been omitted. This is partially because some of the selectors are Johnny-Come-Latelys, or are not aware of the history of soccer in Canada.
Allow me to name some of the people whom I certainly would have recommended for induction into the Hall of Fame because they've made a considerable contribution to the game of soccer in Canada and to its promotion.
Let me start with Terry Kelly, former head of soccer in Ontario and a prominent official of the Canadian Soccer Association.
The Irish-born soccer man has devoted practically his whole life to the promotion of the game in Canada, often sacrificing his commitments as a lawyer for the good of soccer.
Another man who has never stopped promoting soccer clubs, leagues and international matches for five decades is Steve Stavro, chairman of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Steve has financially supported several Macedonian and Greek teams, was one of the founding fathers of the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League in 1961 and president of the Toronto City Soccer Club, a team that boasted superstars such as Sir Stanley Matthews, Johnny Haynes, Danny Blanchflower, Tommy Younger, Jackie Mudie, Roy Gratrix and others.
For the uninitiated, it happened for the first time in history that the captain of England (Haynes), the skipper of Ireland (Blanchflower) and the captain of Scotland (Younger) played on the same team. It hasn't happened since.
Moreover, Stavro was the man who brought top international teams such as Milan, Glasgow Celtic, AEK Athens, Reims of France and others to Toronto. In fact, he reserved Varsity Stadium for matches of Canada's national team and paid the rental whether or not the CSA arranged for matches.
Stavro's colleagues who have been prominent in promoting soccer in Canada and Canadian soccer in Europe are Johnny Lombardi, the mayor of Little Italy in Toronto; the late Senator Peter Bosa, who guided the Toronto Italia team to success and was instrumental in the formation of the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League, as well as Joe Peters and Montreal's Dr. Karol Stastny, who founded the Montreal Cantalia team and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the promotion of the game in Montreal.
Which brings us to the people who kept trumpeting the importance of soccer in print, on radio or on television.
One of the first was Bob Pennington of the London Daily Express who was invited to Canada for the very purpose by the late publisher of the Toronto Telegram, John Bassett in 1964.
Others who have done a big job on behalf of soccer are television's Graham Leggat of TSN fame, Tino Baxa of Italian TV and the Corriere Canadese newspaper and broadcaster Dale Barnes who was for years on radio and TV promoting soccer.
Those are some of the names I would have liked to see inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame for one simple reason -- they'd have deserved it.