Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Soccer orphans given a home

04/16/2003 London Free Press :
Thames Valley club teams were told there were no pitches for them in Strathroy.
By KATHY RUMLESKI AND RYAN PYETTE, Free Press Sports Reporters

Shut out from the public soccer pitches at home in Strathroy-Caradoc, 60 players from the Thames Valley Competitive Soccer Club have finally found a place to play -- in London. The London United competitive club has agreed to help the new Thames Valley club, whose players are entered in the London and District Youth Soccer League. The Township of Strathroy-Caradoc told the club last week no fields were available for its teams. Director Aldo Caranci said London United would welcome Thames Valley children to play in their program. London United officials met Monday night with the Thames Valley parents in Mt. Brydges and the process of feeding the teams into the United system has already begun. "We have agreed to take them on," Caranci said. "When I read that 60 people would be out of soccer, I was kind of ticked off. It's just awful." Thames Valley president Dale Brown said the arrangement has saved the club's major fundraiser -- a tournament on the May 31 weekend. "London United is trying to help. They're not trying to demolish our program," he said. "It had started as a temporary measure, but it is developing into something more than that. We found our clubs have identical philosophies. We're a junior club and there has been talk of us being a western franchise in the United system. "But we're keeping all our options open for 2004." All four affected Thames Valley teams will wear jerseys with the London United logo. However, one team will stay and play at a private field the Lions Club recently donated. The Elgin-Middlesex Soccer Association had promised to find a place for the 60 kids. "Our mandate is to promote and develop the game of soccer," EMSA president Bill Spence said. But the local governing body will not get involved in a dispute that has players fleeing the Strathroy area to play in London. Spence said he is concerned about soccer in Strathroy, but trying to resolve the problem is "a waste of time. There seems to be something every year. We have no problems at all from anyone else. It just seems to come from that one area." Longtime Strathroy soccer observer Doris Heisler, who fought to get girls into the game years ago, said she's disgusted with the fighting in the soccer community. "I'm disappointed adults can't act like adults. It pains me to know that girls are leaving to play in London." Brown said the township and other soccer groups have failed to recognize Thames Valley as an official club. He claimed there is a "smear campaign" against him in an attempt to destroy the club. Spence agreed some officials in Strathroy don't recognize Thames Valley. Spence also was critical of Tim Hanna, the township's director of recreation and leisure services, for acting as an adviser to Middlesex United. "It's definitely a conflict," he said. Hanna has said he would work with any group that sought his input, including Thames Valley. He said the only reason that club didn't get field space is because it is a new group and established clubs come first. He said there are more players than in the past and development of fields has not kept pace. But Spence said numbers are the same as last year. "There are no new players," he said. "(Thames Valley) is only a change of name. They're an existing club." Brown was hoping EMSA would call the two sides together for a meeting. One problem Brown asked EMSA to review was the use of the name Middlesex United after a Jan. 15 letter from EMSA to local soccer groups said the name was not permitted. Brown said his club will continue its push to have soccer cleaned up locally. Thames Valley will ask the Ontario Soccer Association to look into the situation. A club executive has spoken to a representative with the Tourism and Recreation Ministry. "I'm just so disappointed," Brown said. "We tried to follow the rules and and do the right thing. Other people don't and I guess they're going to get away with it."


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