London feasts in Ontario Cup
Monday, September 16, 2002
London Portuguese men's team was the third local team to win yesterday.
By KATHY RUMLESKI, Free Press Sports Reporter VAUGHAN -- After almost a decade of disappointment, the London Portuguese men's team kissed the elusive Ontario Cup for the first time. It was a joyous celebration on a rain-drenched field last night with hugs, tears, kisses and a few expletives to accentuate how gratified they felt. The club defeated North York Carolea Azzurri 3-1 at Vaughan Grove Sports Park. "This is what we've been working for . . . all of our lives basically," said an emotional Carlos Miranda, manager of London Portuguese. "This is the best feeling ever, other than the birth of my kids and getting married." The men's win capped off a feast of Ontario Cups for London soccer teams. The six Cups won by London teams came in a record year when 663 squads from across the province started out in Cup play. London United Blitz under-19 girls and North London Shooting Stars under-17 girls also won yesterday. London Forest United Flames under-13 girls and North London Dynamite under-13 boys took titles Saturday. London Supernova under-12 girls won last week. London joins Scarborough as the only other city known to win six provincial club championships in one year. Scarborough did it in 1994. The win means the Portuguese club will represent Ontario in the national championship in mid-October in St. John's, Nfld. "Hopefully . . . we can go into the nationals healthy . . . and represent Ontario well and maybe win the nationals," said Miranda, now a believer in dreams coming true. Portuguese endured injuries, upsets and personal setbacks but fought on to accomplish the dream, he said. On the eve of the final, London player Paul Ferreira's grandmother suffered a seizure and was in hospital and Ferreira didn't think he'd be able to play. "He comes out here and he plays an amazing game," Miranda said. "It shows you the heart and soul of this team." Ermal Murataj scored the winner in the first half during injury time and Portuguese went into the half up 2-1. Phil Pacheco scored London's first goal at the 11-minute mark. Because many of the Portuguese players have been together since they were in their early teens, they play like a symphony for the eyes. Ree San, who has been dynamite for London in the Cup run, scored the third goal off a perfect cross from Steve Maio. "It's our third time in five years (in the final)," San said. "I don't think there's any other team that deserves it more than us right now." In 2000, London lost 3-0 to Woodbridge Azzurri and in 1998 the team lost 2-0 to the Hamilton Serbians. North York scored its only goal on keeper Paul Azevedo just into the second half when Robert Rupf knocked in a corner kick. Moments later Azzurri player Christian Zorzi was ejected from the game for his second yellow card. Being down a goal and a man was too much for North York to overcome. "What it comes to is hard work," Azevedo summed up. "There were 5 a.m. practices that we went through." It was all worthwhile, he said, with the Cup win. The championship has been contested in the men's division since 1901 and London has won it three times. The other two men's teams to win were both from the Marconi club -- in 1966 and 1978.