Friday, May 24, 2002

Anthony Vassallo - Kicking it around

Friday, May 24, 2002
Kathy Rumleski, Free Press Sports Reporter

Age: 15
School: Regina Mundi College
Position: Midfielder
Highlights: One of seven players that English First Division side Grimsby Town is monitoring for possible scholarship;
played for Grimsby under-15 team while in England earlier this year;
youngest player ever, at 14, to debut in the Canadian Professional Soccer League in 2001;
top scorer in the under-17 indoor London and District Youth Soccer League the last two seasons.
This year: Playing for London City of the CPSL and also Greater London's under-17 squad.Future: Hopes to play professional soccer overseas, especially with an English club.Scouting report: One of his best assets is his speed. A hard worker and determined athlete, Vassallo also wants to better his game and is always willing and ready to learn. Despite his success, also remains humble.Quote about making London City squad this season: "I'm happy; I don't believe it. I hope I get to dress."

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Hope lingers for the future of pro soccer in Canada

By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

Only in church will you find more hope than in a room filled with soccer people. And so it was yesterday at the Canadian Professional Soccer League preseason news conference. In a ballroom in a hotel in Toronto sat men who have lost oodles of cash waiting for the future of professional soccer in this country to flourish. For decades many of them have spent, waited and hoped. For decades, many have been disappointed. Yet every year you'll find them involved in yet another league with great hopes, listening to some well-known soccer personality extol the virtues of the game, and of the imminent breakthrough the sport is going to make at the professional level. No one has seen more of these get-togethers than Harry Gauss, general manager of London City. He's seen them with the National Soccer League, the Canadian National Soccer League, and now the CPSL. He and his team have been around for the bad and the bad. Yet Gauss continues to field a team, often developing good young players, hoping that someone, some day, will find the right mix to make a good go of professional soccer. Some might believe all of this is done for ego or profit. How wrong that is. It's passion. It's done for the passion of the game. "These are men who don't spend with their heads," said Stan Adamson, the league's administrator and media liaison. "They do it with their hearts." When London City opens its CPSL season tomorrow at Cove Road field against playoff champion St. Catharines Roma, there may be reason for justifiable hope. The league will operate with two more teams -- Hamilton Thunder and Metro Lions, bringing the total to 14. There appears to be an enlightened emphasis on marketing and visibility. There also is a distinct plan for the future. It includes a professional women's CPSL by 2004. Talk -- especially in soccer circles -- is cheap. Anyone can spout mighty plans. It's the delivery that's often lacking. In years past, leagues that have expanded too fast, too far, have lost franchises under the weight of travel bills. It appears this league has learned from those expensive lessons. It still has organizational woes. Owners may love the game but there are times when they have no idea how to operate a league. There are too few people willing to handle the many logistical problems. On this day, Gauss is only able to work up a partial rant about one of those problems. Gauss's team is getting his team jerseys from a new company, a Danish firm called Locust, which is also the league's new ball sponsor for this year. Gauss has been after the company to deliver his and the league's balls. He only has one soccer ball. It's a display model. The league hasn't received any yet. "Harry, I need my (soccer) balls," the coach of the Durham Flames tells him. "I open (tomorrow)." "I'll see that you get your balls," Gauss replies. "I call the distributor and he tells me the balls are on Lufthansa (the German airline)," Gauss confides, shaking his head. If there is one aspect to the success of the game in Canada that is readily apparent, it's the need for Canada to develop Canadian superstars. Young players developed by the league help increase the visibility of Canadian soccer and, in the long run, help the national team program. It's only through participation and visibility on the national and international stage that soccer will advance in this country.
So it was no surprise that one of the biggest attractions at this news conference is London's 15-year-old Anthony Vassallo. Vassallo played last year with London United and trained with London's Soccer Academy. He became the youngest player to play in the CPSL when, as a 14-year-old, he appeared for a 10-minute stint for City against London Supra last year.
Also receiving prominent mention was another City youngster, 17-year-old Tyler Hemming. While Hemming plays with City, he awaits word about whether Grimsby Town, the English First Division team, will sign him. There are other suitors with pens ready should Grimsby Town pass.
Vassallo will play for City this year. He's a six-foot, 150-pound lad with the willowy body of the new-age soccer player. The future of the game . . . so the CPSL hopes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

CPSL Press Conference May 22nd

CPSL press conference May 22nd...
by Rocket Robin

Details of the pre-season CPSL Press Conference held Wednesday May 22nd, 2002 at the Travelodge Hotel at 12:00pm.

The Master of Ceremonies was Dick Howard (great choice) and the head table consisted of him and Vince Ursini (CPSL League President), Italo Ferrari (owner of Hamilton Thunder), Mutale Chanda (CEO of Metro Lions), Italo 'Al' Ferrari (president Soccer OnLine), Mark Tolet (sp?) (president of FanTactics), Stan Adamson (CPSL director of Media relations), Anthony Perrazi (sp?) a former North York councillor and today replacing Pete LoPreti.

Stan Adamson introduced MC Dick Howard with a page full of his accomplishments including his most recent honour--inductee to the Canadian Soccer Hall Of Fame.

Vince Ursini the CPSL League president reminded us that this is the fifth year of the league. The goals:
Stability--make league financially stable and strong with a high standard. Also make each club meet certain standards. The four new 2001 teams from last year are still under a three year probation.
Grassroots Player Development--promote grassroots using it as a vehicle for: mission statement, affiliations agreement with youth clubs, and player movement agreements with A-League franchises.
CSA & Professional soccer endorse--
The CPSL will be across Canada by 2003 (they moved up their previous goal of 2005).
A WPSL (women's) league by 2004 and their are 14 teams committed.
National Vision--There will be a playoff for a national title between five regions.
East--Maritimes and Quebec.................Central--Ontario..............Gateway--Manitoba and Northern Ontario................Prairie--Alberta and Saskatchewan.............West Coast---British Columbia

Dick Howard gave us some personal observations of good news and bad news in his travels.
Good News:...Women's CPSL announcement, U-19 Women's Concacaf Qualifying was strong.
Bad News:...Vancouver Whitecaps ownership woes, USL attrition rate and demise of MLS Florida teams.

He had his own definition of the acronym CPSL:
C--Caring...CPSL provides a good link with the community, he's been to watch the Trinidad&Tobago league and seen game with only 50-100 fans in attendance because the teams have no identity with the community they play in.
P--Presentation...CPSL has a great product and proud players. However he hates nets having to share fields with football goalposts. (this drew applause). more pride is needed.
S--Setting...we don't have great stadiums, he's seen four T&T stadiums that are better than anything we have in Canada. Grenada has a great stadium. However the St Catharines Wolves final last year was played in a great atmosphere.
L--Longevity...long term stability, the original eight teams are still around [umm Mississauga Eagles?], there is a great sense of community with name changes to teams to broaden their appeal Glen Shields to Vaughan, Oshawa to Durham.

Italo Ferrari (owner of Hamilton Thunder) is excited to be in the league, he appreciates the hard work of the original CPSL teams to form the league.

Mutale Chanda (CEO or Metro Lions) was delighted to be here, he'll bring an African soccer tradition, they've already been welcomed by the Scarborough soccer community, they have an international mix of players and adminstrators, the team will make a contribution to the league. [actually that was a guesstimate of what he said because he was so soft spoken he could barely be heard above the noise of the air conditioning!]

Al Pereira (president of Soccer OnLine) with referee Calin Pintea.
Sportsfutre Soccer OnLine will use up to date computer tools and will try their original idea of making quick updates.

Some executives were introduced from the CSA and OSA and also Tony Taylor.
Young Anthony Vassallo from London City who was only age 14 when he played in a CPSL game last year against Toronto Supra. He got on the mike and admitted he wanted to play professional with London and maybe Canada. Dick Howard mentioned how Owen Hargreaves came through the ranks.
Sponsers from the business community were thanked--The Government of Canada, Rogers Television, Locust (equipment suppliers), and Final Decision (for referees uniforms). Josie is back in the CPSL and Stan Adamson came to the league just last year.

Stan Adamson outlined the four segments of the CPSL season.
1. League competition from May to October
2. League Cup played during the season with the semi finals and final in Hamilton on a weekend at the end of September.
3. Playoffs for the Rogers Cup in North York on a weekend in October.
4. One game by each CPSL team against the NTCO team of Canadian Prospects from the National Training Centre. [ok I only counted 11 games].

A video was shown of the 2001 Playoffs with pretaped narration by Alex B from Rogers. [Yikes I've lost my access to Rogers Community Channel and am looking for a tape trader to see the weekly hilight package].

Nicole Hartrell the CEO of Toronto Lynx was introduced from the crowd and came up to talk about the cooperation that has overcome the original fragmentation between the CPSL and the original Lynx ownership. They originally couldn't be in the same room together!
she supports expansion of the league across Canada.
she supports some CPSL teams boosting up to the Lynx equivalent.
it's ripe for Division 2 teams, but it's tough for Division 1 as it struggles financially.

Anthony Perazzi (represented a City of Toronto councillor who couldn't be there today) noted how years ago ball diamonds were in demand but he's seen how that's turned to soccer pitches now that there's been such a growth of support.

Dick Howard says that 40 billion cumulatively will watch the World Cup including 3 billion who will watch the final (more if China makes it that far)!

Question time:

Rocket Robin acknowledges because of stadium availability and television times, the league schedule only came out two days ago but with the new soccer on-line group deal (member sitting at the head table) will there be a fast online update of stats? Vince Ursini says "Yes" as he knocks his water glass off the table. "within 24 hours of a game being played".
I'm thanked by Dick Howard and Vince Ursini for the work I've done over the years for the league.

CHIN radio guy asks questions in Italian for Vince Ursini to translate and answer. Vince says there will be no dilution of talent with two new teams. Last year's four new league teams were quite successful winning some of the honours. He says there will be better officiating and is quite happy it will be improving. Year 2001 the goal was to cut down on player swearing at officials; year 2002 will be to cut down on the player whining.

Orville Reynolds publisher of It's Called Futball asks for more details about game supervisors that were mentioned earlier in the conference. Stan says there will actually be five officials at every game. This fifth official will make sure the game starts on time, that each player is eligible to play, provide logistical aid, file reports, and ensure the smooth running of the game.

Anthony Huie president of the Toronto Soccer Association asks about youth support similar to the Toronto Lynx affiliation with the communities. Vince says ties between each team and their community are not all the same, the league is working to standardize this involvement, and their new marketing company is working towards that goal.

Lunch is served! Although I recognize more than 50% of the people here, I've almost finished before I realize that I'm sitting at the same table as Canada's Women's National Team coach Even Pellerud. Even asks how there could ever be any fat vegetarians to a CSA member at our table. "Too much cheesecake?" I say as that turns out to be what the veggie CSA member is eating. So everyone laughs and it's a good time to slip him my card and praise my own coverage of the previous Women's World Cup qualifiers in Etobicoke a few years ago. "21-0, 14-0, well I don't expect we'll do that well again but here's hoping".

Now let's detour to the WalMart on the way home and buy some blank video tape so I can be one of those 40 billion World Cup viewers.

Rocket Robin

Friday, May 10, 2002

City offering players chance to make team

Friday, May 10, 2002
By Kathy Rumleski, Free Press Sports Reporter

London's only professional soccer team is giving a couple of London Soccer Academy players a chance to crack its lineup.Fifteen-year-old Anthony Vassallo and Bryan Yanful, 17, both strikers, have impressed Jurek Gebcznyski, the coach of London City."We're looking at them quite closely," Gebcznyski confided.Gebcznyski, who is also the academy's coach, said Yanful "is good at actually performing in pressure situations" and has the speed, "which is really crucial.He said Vassallo "is willing to learn," and noted that his "speed and his big heart" are his biggest assets.London City begins Canadian Professional Soccer League play on May 24 against the St. Catharines Wolves at Cove Road field.City and the academy have an affiliation -- "that's the big part of it," Gebcznyski says."(Young players) practise with the academy. I try to develop their skills and if they're ready, they can play for City. That's the door for the European clubs."He says Yanful and Vassallo may not see immediate action but could in time be worked into City's lineup."We slowly introduce them. If they perform, that opens the door for them."Yanful and Vassallo were part of a group of 16 academy players who went to England last year for a chance to perform for scouts from First Division Grimsby Town.Yanful also plays for Forest United's under-18 team. Vassallo is with Greater London's under-17 squad.Another newcomer to City is defender Ken Copco, 31, of Wallaceburg. He came highly recommended from striker Sandro Constantin, 33, also from Wallaceburg, who played with London last season.Goalkeeper Altin Rucaj, who played with Strath-roy Portuguese of the Western Ontario Soccer League last year, has also been added to the roster.More than 60 players have come to tryouts for the team, which hasn't been finalized."We're still looking," said Gebcznyski. "It's shaping up."CPSL, launched in 1998 with eight teams in Ontario, now comprises 13 teams in Ontario and one in Quebec.For the first time this season, the league will be split into two conferences.City is in the Western Conference, along with St. Catharines, the Hamilton Thunder, Mississauga Olympians (formerly Toronto), North York Astros, Toronto Croatia and the Brampton Hitmen.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Hemming awaiting word from Grimsby

By KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

Tyler Hemming will be available to play in an exhibition match between the Canadian Professional Soccer League all-stars and 1860 Munich in two weeks. Whether or not he's around for his second season with London City is still uncertain. Hemming, 16, said he is waiting word on whether English First Division side Grimsby Town will offer him a scholarship to its youth academy. "They said they would phone me no matter what." Hemming is expected to hear from Grimsby Town soon. "They said probably they would offer me a youth-in-training. That would mean I'd go over there and stay there for two years and train with their program." Hemming said at the end of the two-year program, Grimsby Town may offer a professional contract or he may decide he wants to attend university. Grimsby Town has a working arrangement with the London Soccer Academy. The English club's coach of youth players, Ian Knight, spotted Fleming while on a visit to the academy. Academy director Cam Vassallo said Hemming's status is uncertain because the club is currently negotiating player contracts. "They really can't go to the next step until they finish that up. If some of the (youth-in-training scholars) have been given contracts, that would open up room for someone like Tyler," Vassallo explained. If he gets the nod from Grimsby Town, Hemming would move to England at the end of June or early July. Hemming said Knight told him he has the ingredients to be a professional player. But Hemming must be better than an English player the same age to get the invitation. "There's no point in bringing over a foreign player when they have an equal player over there," Hemming said. Hemming has been training with City for the past month. The CPSL season begins May 24. Hemming is looking forward to the chance to play against 1860 Munich of the German Bundesliga. "It's unreal . . . to watch a team of that calibre play." Along with Hemming, City's Gentjan Dervishi was chosen for the all-star squad. City's player-coach Jurek Gebcznyski was named to the coaching staff. The German consulate in Toronto arranged to have Munich come to Canada for the May 15 game, which will be played in Kitchener at Budd Park. The match is part of a doubleheader. A tri-city all-star team will play a new CPSL team, the Hamilton Thunder, at 6 p.m., followed by the feature game with Munich. Munich will also play the Milwaukee Rampage May 12 and the Toronto Lynx May 18. Both are A-League teams. Munich will be bringing most of its full squad to North America.