Professional players bring new sport back home, create a venue for it
By Howard Tsumura, The Province December 22, 2010
Their pro playing careers are not yet over, but that hasn't stopped Michael D'Agostino and Alex Elliott from re-establishing their soccer roots on native soil.
In back-to-back years, Langley native D'Agostino (2004) and Summerland native Elliott (2005) were honoured on these pages as members of The Province's Head of the Class.
Each went on to play professionally, D'Agostino in England with Blackpool and Cheltenham Town, and Elliott in Germany with SF Siegen and FSV Mainz before a stint with the Vancouver Whitecaps this past season.
The pair have decided to join forces to bring the Lower Mainland a taste of futsal, the five-aside indoor game which is hugely popular in other parts of the world.
D'Agostino and Elliott have founded the Vancouver Futbol Academy, which has the goal of providing academy training for aspiring players, but for now is centred around its VFA Futsal league which is set to begin Jan. 3.
"Masumi Turnbull [VFA's technical director], Michael and myself all met while playing together for Canada's youth national teams throughout our high school years and into college," says Elliott, who played his NCAA soccer at the University of Portland, while D'Agostino and Richmond native Turnbull attended Kentucky.
"Travelling with teams all around the world exposed us to futsal, and so we took the first chance we could get to bring this game to Vancouver."
It was perfect timing.
"The opportunity with the Richmond Olympic Oval coming up and putting in real futsal courts was something that we didn't think was going to happen," says D'Agostino of the facility which has three regulation size playing surfaces. "Before, there had never been an outlet to make this happen."
And what are the benefits of playing futsal as a means of improvement?
"It's one of the best ways to develop your skills," says D'Agostino. "If you look at players in South America and Europe, the reason their players are so technically advanced is because they start playing futsal at such a young age. Indoors, it's all quicker and faster. It really hones in on quick footwork and ball advancing skills. It develops the skills because it's quick and contained and to find a way out you have to use a little magic."
The VFA recently held a 12-team tournament, and it provided enough of a barometer that D'Agostino and Elliott know there is an appetite to start a men's league. To that end, an eight-to-10 week league is set to begin. Full information and registration can be found online at vfasoccer.com.
The group is also attempting to launch a high school league in the spring.
Beyond that, the VFA has even more ambitious plans to start a full academy, and the trio can lean on their experiences at so many levels of the game.
Says D'Agostino: "Whether it's a player wanting to make a metro team, provincial team, national team or professional team, we want to give them our expertise."