Friday, June 13, 2003

New City player came with a twist

CPSL THIS WEEK: New City player came with a twist
Kathy RumleskiLondon Free Press

Sometimes help comes from strange places.
A hairdresser aiding a soccer team may seem a bit of a stretch. But for London City, an appointment to get a hair twist turned into the team getting a starting defender.
Jeff Russell, 22, was getting his hair done at Fantasy Hair Design when he started talking soccer with shop owner Rob DeSouma.
DeSouma happens to be a friend of City coach and manager Harry Gauss.
A phone call to Gauss turned into a tryout for Russell, who also plays for the London Portuguese of the Western Ontario Soccer League Premier Division and the Western Mustangs.
"He called Harry one day when I was just sitting getting my hair twisted. I talked to Harry and he said, 'Come out in a couple of weeks.' "
Gauss loved Russell immediately. "There's nothing about this guy that I don't like."
City has played two Canadian Professional Soccer League games and Russell only left the field once when he developed cramps in his hamstring late in last Friday's 1-1 tie with the Mississauga Olympians.
The Ottawa native believes things are working out well for both parties and he has DeSouma to thank.
"I was looking to get more games this summer," he said yesterday while taking a break from his job at Sport Western where he helps run a sports camp for children.
"(Mustang coach) Rock (Basacco) is really adamant about trying to play at the highest level. Every game is a really competitive game. With Portuguese, we're limited to the quality teams that we play against."
Russell said he went home to Ottawa for a couple of weeks after he finished his third year at Western, hoping to get a summer job and play for the Ottawa Wizards, the defending CPSL champions.
"I was training with the Wizards and I just couldn't find a job. I came back here and so far I'm really happy with the decision. I think with the Wizards, the playing time would have been limited."
Russell said he must be careful about playing so much soccer and training hard. He's suffered hamstring injuries before.
A member of the Mustangs' track team, Russell was injured just before the national championship and couldn't compete. He was a member of the 4x400 and 4x200 relay teams.
The 4x400 team went on to win gold at the nationals.
But Russell, who won an Ontario Cup with London Portuguese last fall, feels healthy now and is excited about the season before him.
"We're playing well. Most teams are coming here thinking they're going to get an easy win. I think we're going to surprise a few teams."
Russell, who played for Ontario at the 2001 Canada Summer Games in London, joins four other Portuguese players in City's lineup -- Andrew Loague, Ree San, Erald Pope and Ermal Murataj.
"I play with those guys basically five, six times a week. I know where they're going; I know where they want the ball," he said.
London (1-1) plays the North York Astros tonight at 8:30 p.m. at Cove Road field. The game can be seen live on Rogers Television.


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