London City love affair resumes again Friday

Morris Dalla Costa -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Luan Jonuzi has this soccer thing figured out, the thing that holds soccer people to the sport with almost Harry Potter-like wizardry.

More about Jonuzi later.

This Friday at Cove Road field, London City will open its 30th season with a Canadian Professional Soccer League game against Durham Flames.

London City has seen more league action come and go than city hall has seen scandals. The team has survived tough times, financial and otherwise, that would have buried just about any other franchise at least half a dozen times. Yet every year there is a London City team taking to the field in some league or other.

Baseball teams come and go with regularity in London and are welcomed with open arms. They are big news. By the end of their stay, as they crawl out of town at the first sign of trouble, tails between legs, they draw fans by the handful.

Yet despite London City\'s struggles for publicity and recognition, the Gauss family, with help from the German-Canadian Club, never quite reaches the point of abandonment. Anyone who has ever operated or been associated with soccer in this country knows what an accomplishment that is. There are times when hitting one\'s fingers with a hammer is more pleasurable than operating a soccer team.

It\'s even got to Harry Gauss\'s dad Max. For years on Friday nights, Max was in the kitchen making the schnitzel sing. Not this year. Max is coming out of the kitchen. The schnitzel will never be the same.

Take this to the bank? Harry Gauss, coach, manager, chief organizer, et al, doesn\'t put any money in the bank. Yet year after year they provide Londoners with someplace to go to watch soccer. So why, why, why do it?

Jonuzi seems to know why.

He\'s played with City for nine years. He\'s a 36-year-old Albanian who\'s a real character. He\'s personable and the type of guy who plays the game because he loves it.

Jonuzi owns and operates Irene\'s Seafood on Wellington Road. He\'s also the chef. Come to think of it, he does just about anything else that needs doing. London City\'s Friday night games at Cove Road start at 8.38 p.m. Irene\'s stays open until 8 p.m. It\'s open seven days a week. Most Fridays, Jonuzi can be found rushing around his restaurant closing up, hopping into his vehicle and fighting traffic to make it to the Coves.

\"There are times when I\'m changing in the dressing room and the national anthem is being played. One time I didn\'t leave here until 8.20 and made it in time. That was a record.\"

So here we go again. Why go through it?

\"It\'s like a disease in the blood,\" he said. \"And there\'s no antibiotics for it.\"

The game bites you and no matter how difficult it is to fulfil obligations, you continue to participate.

\"I\'ve been trying to hang my boots on the wall for a while now,\" Jonuzi said. \"I think it\'s time to retire and then Harry calls and says take your boots off the wall. Some people say I should have retired when I was in my prime.\"

Jonuzi is a forward who last year suffered rib and hamstring injuries. Despite injuries and the hectic schedule, he feels his blood boiling.

\"I feel good, ready to play,\" Jonuzi said.

\"But I haven\'t had an elbow in my ribs yet.\"

As for Gauss, it seems his duties as soccer store owner, general manager and chief organizer weren\'t enough. He took on the duties of coach.

\"When things went wrong I was going to get the blame anyway whether I was coaching or not, so I might as well coach,\" he said.

But one thing remains the same. It\'s the message Gauss delivers before every CPSL season on the state of his soccer club, no matter what condition it\'s in.

\"It\'s fabulous,\" he says.

And there\'s no antibiotic for that.


Videos

Photos