Saturday, March 10, 2001

Area teens heading for tryout in England

March 10, 2001
By STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

A partnership begun less than a year ago between the London Soccer Academy and England's Grimsby Town FC is already paying off for four soccer-playing teens from the London area.

Neils Dekker, Bobby Stipancic, Alan Hirmiz and Tom Kaczmarek of the academy, which is for elite players from a variety of clubs in the London area, leave tomorrow for a 10-day trial with Grimsby Town of the English First Division.

The local players will be staying with their Grimsby counterparts, working out daily and perhaps playing in a reserve-team match.

"We'll try out and, hopefully, stay. I'd love to stay," said Hirmiz, 17, a midfielder-forward on London Portuguese's premier team, which came within a win of capturing the men's Ontario Cup last summer.

His dream is to play professional soccer.

"Oh, yeah, that would be great," said Hirmiz, in Grade 12 at Beal. "When I got the call about this trip, I was jumping up and down. I was going, 'Oh, man, oh, man.' It's exciting."

Dekker, 18, is a midfielder from the Springfield area, in Elgin County. Stipancic is a 17-year-old defender from London and Kaczmarek, a 16-year-old keeper, also from London.

Dekker, who played outdoor last summer for FC Kleinburg's under-18 team from northwest of Toronto, won't be going in cold.

He spent three weeks in February in his native Holland trying out for Heeren Veen, and things went well enough that he's been invited back for a longer trial in April and May.

"It's fantastic. It's the opportunity I've dreamed of," Dekker said of the call from Grimsby.

Still, no matter what happens at Grimsby, his priority for the time being is Heeren Veen, he said.

"If something comes out of Grimsby, I'll have to get it put on hold. I made them promises (in Heeren Veen), and I won't go back on them."

The London academy, started last year by Cam Vassallo, has about 50 boys aged nine to 17. He went looking for an affiliation with a European pro club to give the academy "some structure."

The tryout offers to the four players followed a visit in December by Ian Knight, head of Grimsby's youth academy.

Knight saw a group of 40 elite London players, nine to 18 years old, before settling on four for trials.

"It's very good news for our school, the London Soccer Academy, of course, but it's very good for the young men as well," Mario D'Oria, an instructor at the academy, said of the Grimsby trials.

"And the news will be even better if they come back saying they've been invited to return. Still, it's nice to know that what we do at the academy counts."

Talking about their strengths, D'Oria said Dekker, Hirmiz and Stipancic all have "tactics, ball control, skills and motivation" going for them.

Keeper Kaczmarek has "size, grit and understanding of the game on his side. And he's not afraid to challenge shooters one-on-one."

If asked for advice, Dekker, the only one of the four who has gone through such a high-level trial, would say:

"Be yourself. Believe in your strengths and show them.

"Don't try to do things you can't do. It's your dream so go for it."

Thursday, March 08, 2001

London youth players head overseas

By Alf De Blasis
LONDON, ON 8 March 2001

Four players from the London (Ontario) Soccer Academy have received offers of Professional Trials from Grimsby Town of the English First Division. Neils Dekker, Bobby Stipancic, Alan Hirmiz and Tom Kaczmarek, all of London, leave for England March 11 to participate in a ten-day training session with Grimsby.
"The boys will be lodging with other players and training on a daily basis,” commented Cam Vassallo, the Academy director. "There is also the possibility that the players will be involved in a reserve team game".

The events which led to the trials can be traced back almost a year. "I initially contacted Grimsby last May about a possible joint venture between our academy and their Club," Vassallo said. "I immediately was contacted by Ian Knight, head of Grimsby's youth academy, who welcomed the partnership".

The correspondence continued via Internet, with Knight visiting the London, Ontario school last December. During Knight’s visit, more than forty of London’s elite players, varying in age from 9 to 18, were showcased.

Knight was impressed with the caliber of players and, upon returning to England, he was given the green light to invite four students over for a trial. The possibilities for the players can range from a full scholarship to a pro contract.

"We are extremely hopeful that at least one of the boys will be successful during the trial," Vassallo said.

The Academy trains periodically during the winter months and Mario D’Oria, one of the instructors, commented on the boys’ preparation for the visit.

“When I learned that Knight was given the go ahead from club management to set up the trials for these players, it was a great feeling of joy for me,” D’Oria said. “Finally, we have been given the opportunity to showcase some of the best individual players the school has produced.

“This is what our school is about - to prepare and showcase the talent and, once it matures, see them join professional clubs worldwide. This, in my opinion, is an experience that these players will not easily forget whether they make it or not.”