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Soccer in the Sault

Tony Celli for local2 sault ste. marie
May 27th, 2012 at 10:20am



I was born in Italy and soccer was the sport. You can say that I started to play soccer as soon as I could walk. Although we did not have soccer balls of good quality like today, we had rubber balls or made them out of rags; we still loved and enjoyed the game.

My first love was soccer and to this day, at seventy years of age, I still enjoy playing. In fact, when I came to Canada at fourteen years of age, soccer was not the sport, hockey was. Although I learned how to play hockey very quickly, thanks to my cousins, nobody played soccer. I often went outside and kicked a soccer ball by myself.

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Credit: Tony Celli



When I went to the University of Western Ontario, I again started to play soccer for the university. When I came to teach in Sault Ste. Marie in 1963-64, I played in the premier soccer league. In 1966, along with a bunch of soccer enthusiasts, I organized the Torino Soccer Club and coached and played in the menís senior league. At that time, there were only six senior teams in the city. In 1968, we joined the Marconi Soccer Club to form the Torino Marconi Soccer Club, better known as T & M. I continued to play and coach the Premier Soccer Team until 1996. T & M won many league playoffs including five in a row, mid-season six in a row including an undefeated season in 1974, Northern Ontario Championships and were semi-finalists in the Ontario Cup in 1981. As an individual I won many awards as Coach of the Year, Manager of the Year, most contributions to Senior, Ladies and Youth Soccer and the George Wallace Award.

I continued to play and still play in the Senior Recreation League as well as coaching in the Premier League.

In 1971, I helped organize the Youth (Club) System with Senior Clubs sponsoring youth teams. In 1971, along with Dave Clark, Martin Blakeborough and Lionel Hai, we organized the High School Boys League and later the Girls Soccer League. When the league folded, the afore mentioned organized the Ladies Soccer League which still exists.


In 1981, I organized the first Indoor Soccer League with eight Senior Menís Teams. That summer thanks to Labattís sponsorship, I organized the Sault International Soccer Tournament. What started as a Menís Senior Tournament with twelve teams, over the years, evolved into a Senior Men, Ladies and Youth Soccer Tournament with up to seventy-six teams participating from all over Canada and the U.S.A. In 1997, this tournament became the Marconi International Soccer Tournament and the Italian Festival playing during the long weekend in August.

In 1989, along with Claudio Valentini, we revamped the South System to what it is today, from a Club to a Draft System with up to 3,000 boys and girls playing. I coached and convened Youth Leagues for many years. I chaired the Premier League for many years and have been a member of the Board of Directors since it was established. Seven years ago, I re-organized the High School Boys and Girls Soccer Leagues consisting of twenty-three teams. In 2004, I introduced the Varsity Boys Soccer at Algoma College and in 2006, I organized and coached Ladies Varsity Soccer. I am presently coaching the men.

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Credit: Tony Celli



Our youth players start to play at the age of four in the Mini Soccer Leagues. These teams play locally and our Civic Teams ages ten and older travel to tournaments in Canada and the U.S.A. There are usually 16-20 per team with 11 players per team playing at the same time. They usually practice once a week (house league) and three times (Civics) and play one or two games per week. Usually, depending on the system, you have a goalie, four defenders, three or four mid-fielders and two or three strikers.

Soccer is a very simple game played in a field 100 yards by 60 or 80 yards. Games are played all over the city. Our main complex is Strathclair with seventeen fields. We have many other fields all over the city such as Tom Tipton, Queen E., AUC and others.

Some of the rules are: the ball must stay inside the area of play. If it goes out in the sideline, a free throw is awarded against the team kicking the ball out. Similarly, if the ball goes out at the end line, a corner kick is awarded to the attacking team or a goal kick to the defending team. Play is stopped in case of an infraction such as a tackle from behind, rough play or unsportsmanlike conduct. A direct or indirect kick is awarded depending on the degree of the infraction. The game starts with a kick off from centre field at the beginning of the game, after the first half and after every goal scored. Stoppage of play occurs seldom. It occurs after an infraction or off-side. There are a few rules that would require a very detailed explanation that I will not go into here.

House League Teams usually play in town. Some senior teams travel for out-of- town tournaments. The Civic Teams travel out-of-town. They usually travel by mini-van, cars and sometimes by bus. Usually for the youth teams, parents travel with the teams in their own cars. The coaches are usually chaperons. The most important thing is that the players give their best, play the games as a unit, respect the opposition and each other and have a great time with their players and opposition.

From the 1960s to present day, there has been a great change in our soccer association. We only had Senior Menís Teams at the time. In the late 60s, we started the youth division with Junior Soccer and as already mentioned, in 1971 we started the Youth Club Division. We had teams in every division; U-10, U12, U-14, U-16 and U-18. About 300-350 boys were registered. In 1989, behind the leadership of Claudio Valentini, we changed the Youth Club System to a Draft System and we still use that system. The number of youth players enjoying the game today is 3000-3500. Soccer really grew from the 60s to today. All this was made possible by many volunteers as coaches, managers, sponsors, organizers, referees and parents. Some of the people who led the way were John Brothers, Jim Agnew, Manny Hellstern, Helmut Branstetter, Claudio Valentini, Clive Wilkinson, Tony Celli, Jamie Amaral, Tony Santos, Richard Crema, Colin Rising, Michael Tremicheal, Joe Kin, Tony Zagordo, Joe Gas, Glen Hilton, Barry Fera, Miso Jurko, Howard Gray, Ven Mazzuca and many more, too many to list.

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