Monday, October 02, 2000

Harry Gauss pondering soccer future

Monday, October 2, 2000
Tough weekend has Harry Gauss pondering soccer future
By Morris Dalla Costa, Free Press Sports Columnist

When Harry Gauss learned in April that London would hold the Primus Cup, he could hardly wait for the big event to happen. The Canadian Professional Soccer League, of which manager Gauss's London City team is a member, awarded its championship tournament to London. But expectation turned to desperation. Gauss could hardly wait for the tournament to end. It finished with Toronto Croatia defeating Toronto Olympians 2-1 yesterday in what was almost a perfect day for soccer. This was somewhat of an experiment for the league and for Gauss. Despite good weather, good games and hard work by London City and members of the German Canadian Club, crowds never got above 500. If those were the only problems, Gauss might be able to shake it off and forget it. But Gauss might have just gone through a weekend from hell. It began early Friday when Harry's father, Max, suffered chest pains and had to be taken to hospital. Harry wouldn't have had to worry about that too much except Max refused to stay in hospital and was last seen getting ready for the tournament banquet last night. Then Harry Gauss was called at home Sunday morning by London police to be told his London City soccer store had been broken into. He lost $35,000 in merchandise -- for which he has no insurance. "I've been broken into 22 times and any insurance I can get would cost me more than my gross sales for last year," said an emotional Gauss. "I won't be able to keep the store open." To round out the weekend, Gauss found the dressing rooms in the German Canadian Club were left in a horrible mess and he received complaints from the German Canadian Club's tennis professional that some soccer players had used the tennis courts as washrooms. "I couldn't believe it," said Gauss. "So many people have worked so hard for this. I don't think people really appreciate what's gone into this. I have one real regret and that's that the press box isn't high enough to jump off." While Gauss was frustrated, he felt much pleasure in what he and the German Canadian Club had accomplished. He walks you through the big hall, speaking with pride at how his group had managed to decorate the banquet site with soccer ball balloons and stars on the tables, all done with virtually no budget. And on the field there was plenty of good soccer. London City lost in its first game Friday after extra time and penalty kicks. That was the highlight for Gauss. "I was proud of them," he said. "They worked hard." Soccer can be a frustrating sport and over the years Gauss has had more than his share of frustration. Despite a hard sell on tickets, plenty of publicity and several quality teams, Gauss still didn't put many people in the stands. "People tell me all the time, 'Keep going. It will be fine. Things will change,' " said Gauss. "That's great to say but it's time people got off their butts and supported it. I have players who played on my team coming in from Orangeville, Toronto, Kitchener. They've really supported me. We need more support from here." As Gauss's youngest son, Ryan, moved through the crowd selling draw tickets for four game soccer balls, Gauss was announcing on the public address system this was the last time his son would sell tickets. Ryan would be retiring permanently. "And I am as well," he said jokingly. Or is he? "I'm going to take a serious look at whether I'll run the team again," said Gauss who said before this tournament if everything didn't go well he would probably pack it all in. "This weekend was very difficult for me. I don't know if it's all worth it." Gauss has said it before. But judging by how he was feeling yesterday, this time he may really mean it.