Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Commisso ready to hang up boots

A possible seventh concussion makes retiring after 13 years an easier decision.
Ryan Pyette, Sports ReporterThe London Free Press

"I learned that City isn't about politics, I got my fair crack and 13 years later, here I am." -- Tonino Commisso London City captain Tonino Commisso is ready to call it a soccer career.
The 31-year-old midfielder and Woodstock native figured he suffered his seventh concussion in City's 2-1 loss to the Metro Lions Sept. 3 in the Open Canada Cup wild-card game at Cove Road field. Commisso scored City's goal on a superb header, but said he woke up the next day with familiar symptoms and decided it was time to retire from the Canadian Professional Soccer League.
"I don't know if I got elbowed or what, but I had a sore jaw and I was groggy, which was how I felt with the other concussions," he said. "Seven is enough. If I was dragged off the field injured, I might have some regrets. But the way it went, I thought the team played well and to score a goal in my last game, I think it's a fitting way to end it."
Commisso, a small but scrappy leader, was a fixture with City for 13 years. He had contemplated retiring after London won last season's Canada Cup -- an achievement he calls his favourite City moment -- but decided to give it one more try.
London, which now has to fill a gaping hole in central midfield, lost 4-1 to Hamilton Thursday in its first post-Commisso game. City also lost 4-1 to Border Stars Saturday.
"I'm proud of how long I was able to play at this level," Commisso said. "I'm not a big guy (he's around 5-foot-8), but I had to battle guys who are six-foot-two, 200 pounds every game. The CPSL is certainly the best calibre of soccer in Ontario. I've often thought of playing at a lower level, but the game was always too slow. This is where I always wanted to play."
Retirement now gives Commisso the chance to devote 13-hour days to his hair-styling business -- the Wellington Hair Studio in Woodstock.
"It means I don't have to drive in for practice or games any more, that's tough when you're trying to run a business," the Beachville resident said. "But I'm going to follow these guys closely and I think it's time to give something back to the game through coaching."
Commisso currently coaches a minor soccer team in Woodstock and has already been named the coach of the new City women's team whenever the CPSL gets its pro women's league running.
When Commisso started out as a teenager with City, he had been a striker just returned from a stint playing for a team in Calabria, Italy..
"When I met (City general manager and coach Harry Gauss), I didn't want to get involved in the politics of soccer at all," Commisso said. "In my first interview, Harry asked me what I wanted and I said, 'Just a fair crack.' I learned that City isn't about politics, I got my fair crack and 13 years later, here I am."
It's going to be a busy year for Commisso -- he's engaged to be married next August.
But he said you can still expect to see him, once in a while, in the stands at the Cove having a beer with old teammate Luan Jonuzi and cheering on his old squad.


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