Friday, May 28, 2004

Tackling another level

Londoner Justin Medeiros, 22, who raised his game last year, gets a chance to test his mettle against a Portuguese Premier team at Cove Road tonight
RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

When the older gents at London's Portuguese Club start speaking in their native tongue, Justin Medeiros just shakes his head, smiles and shrugs.
"I don't understand a word -- my dad's from Portugal and my mom's from Ireland -- the guys at the club bug my dad for not teaching me any Portuguese," the 22-year-old Londoner and talented soccer sweeper said with a laugh.
Medeiros will undoubtedly hear more Porto lingo tonight when he suits up at the back for the Canadian Professional Soccer League Locust Selects against touring Portuguese Premier team Boavista.
If the foreign phrases turn nasty, it means the London City defender and John Paul II high school grad is doing a good job of frustrating the Boavista shooters.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I've been super-excited ever since I found out about the game. I was going to go watch it anyway and now I'm playing in it," said Medeiros, a maintenance worker and moulding apprentice at Falcon Plastics. "It would probably be far-off to say we're hoping for a tie or even a one-goal game. They're just coming off their season and we're just starting ours.
"But we want to show that, as Canadians, we can play with a Portuguese pro team."
Boavista, 12-11-11 in the Portuguese Superliga this year and losers in the UEFA Cup semifinals last season, played Wednesday night in New Jersey against Major League Soccer's MetroStars. They wrap up their North American visit Sunday against the CPSL's Toronto Supra.
"I didn't really follow the Portuguese league until a couple of years ago -- I knew Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon but not much about Boavista," Medeiros said.
London City general manager Harry Gauss didn't know much about Medeiros until his veteran sweeper Jeff Brown (now a City coach and the select team's co-skipper) went down to injury last year.
"My son Sean, who knew Justin from high school, kept telling me he had the perfect replacement," Gauss said. "For the longest time, I wouldn't listen. Finally, I went to watch him play (club soccer with Porto) and he was OK, but I wondered how he would handle things at another level."
Quite well, actually. Medeiros was instrumental in City's remarkable Calgary Flames-like run to the CPSL's Open Canada Cup crown last fall and was named MVP of the final match.
"He's a super kid, he thinks the game well, he knows where to go to put out the fires," Gauss said. "I love him out there with Marco Peters (Medeiros's City teammate who will also play tonight). You want defenders who know each other in a one-game deal like this."
Medeiros is hopeful he can get involved in a nice tackle because he'll have a lot of supporters in the crowd tonight.
He also hopes, some day, to make the visit to his father Nurno's hometown of San Miguel in Portugal.
"With Euro '04 being played (in Portugal) this summer, you think about getting a package and just going to see what it's like over there," he said. "But there's car payments and bills, it costs a lot of money. It'll have to wait. We'll see."
Until then, Medeiros will settle for tonight's game against Boavista and tickets to see FC Porto play Liverpool in Toronto at the end of July.
What: CPSL Locust Selects vs. Boavista of the Portuguese Superliga
When: Tonight, 8:10 p.m. at Cove Road field at the German Canadian Club
Tickets: $30 at the gate


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