Canada has never had a permanent place in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, the Confederation competition open to champion clubs in the 35 countries of North and Central America and the Caribbean, But if you search long enough you will come across a Canadian championship team that was brave enough to enter of its own accord back in 1976.
Toronto Italia defeated New York Inter-Giuliana 3-2 at Montreal on June 13 of that year, to be followed by a New York 2-1 win in New York City two weeks later.
Prior to that and since, the record books are filled with the achievements of Toronto Italia, the most outstanding being the team’s final year when in 1996 Italia won the Canadian National Soccer League championship and they were also the playoff champions. Coach Peter Pinnizzotto (now with Montreal Impact) was coach of the year, Italia’s Michele Gioia was the league’s MVP as well as the leading goalscorer (he later trialed with Atalanta of the Italian Serie A), Italia’s Joe Ciaravino was the goalkeeper of the year, the late Joe Mallozzi of Italia was the manager of the year, and Toronto Italia’s .Pasquale Fioccola was voted the president of the year.
If British teams dominated the Toronto soccer scene during the period from 1926, there is little doubt that Toronto Italia took over in the post-war period, holding the spotlight until 1996.
An Italian team is back, with the unmistakable Azzurri blue and all the right moves that caused some who saw the CSL semi-finals last weekend to suggest it’s the beginning of a new era.
“This is great, an Italian team playing such attractive soccer has emerged to challenge the Eagles,” said Portuguese-born Alex Franco, editor of Post Milenio newspaper following a Italia Shooters 1-0 win over Toronto Croatia in a semi-final battle last Saturday.
“And in World Cup year,” he added.
The Italia victory was followed by a 6-1 Serbian White Eagles defeat of Windsor Border Stars at Esther Shiner Stadium in North York and the winning teams are both from the CSL’s inaugural year International Division.
CSL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL – ESTHER SHINER STADIUM, NORTH YORK
Sunday, October 15 at 5 p.m.
Italia Shooters vs. Serbian White Eagles