By Emma Fischer
One of Centretown’s premier soccer clubs has been marking a major anniversary this year – its 65th – with upgrades to its facilities in Little Italy and plans for a gala celebration.
Ottawa St. Anthony Italia Soccer Club opened its doors in 1952, primarily as a men’s soccer league, located at the corner of Preston Street and Gladstone Avenue in the heart of Ottawa’s Italian-Canadian community.
To commemorate this year’s anniversary, said club general manager Nick Valente, the club expects to host a celebratory gathering before the end of 2017.
“We’re planning on hosting a gala later in the year, in addition to other projects that we’ve been working on to lead up to this huge milestone,” said Valente. “This club is more than just a sports club or a building. It’s a home of our memories, and we’re looking forward to celebrating that.”
The gala will honour the soccer club’s founders and celebrate St. Anthony’s rich history on the west side of downtown Ottawa. In 1952, Fathers Jerome Ferraro and Domenico Fiore formed the original St. Anthony Senior Men’s Soccer Team, which frequently participated in a local men’s league.
During the 1960s, the senior men’s team won consistently in the Ottawa league until 1965, when it joined the Quebec National Soccer League, winning that league title five times.
More recently, in 2006, the men’s team became Ontario champions and also won the Open Canada Cup and Canadian National Challenge Cup.
Along with the planned gala, the soccer club has gone through some remodelling over the past year, with additions to its clubhouse, a new artificial turf field and soccer cage.
The so-called “field of dreams” is St. Anthony’s newly installed turf. Having made its official debut in January this year, said Valente, the field was installed in a large space in the Preston Street clubhouse and allows players — specifically younger ones — the opportunity to practise year-round.
“It’s the only club-owned turf field in the city,” he said. “We’re hoping that it will now offer our players and the wider community general use of the field during all months of the year.”
Along with the “field of dreams” came the addition of a European-style “extreme soccer cage.” Essentially a small area of turf surrounded by a fence, the cage is used by two players to practise one-on-one skills.
Rene Bueneman, an active member of Centretown’s athletic community, said he’s happy to see the club continuing to succeed after so many decades.
“It’s great really. The new turf field in particular was a great addition and it was nice to see it help commemorate this milestone,” said Bueneman. “I think it’s good that it’s available to both members of the club and the community alike.”