City GM plumping for bananas
By JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press
London City Soccer Club general manager Harry Gauss went bananas yesterday.
Wait a minute. Let me rephrase that.
The veteran soccer man was discussing the value of playing touring teams such as next week's visiting Boavista and he touched on things he's learned on and off the pitch over the years.
Three years ago, another Portuguese team, Maritimo, was the visitor to Cove Road field and provided some insights.
"They had more bananas than a banana boat," Gauss said. "I've never seen so many."
Bananas as in curling free kicks? he was asked.
"No, bananas -- the kind you eat. Their coach was heavy into bananas for his players. He found the potassium in bananas led to fewer cases of cramping."
It made sense to Gauss. He recalled high school pals on the wrestling team going on a diet of bananas and water to make weight without losing strength.
So London City, which opens the season with an exhibition game Monday against defending league champ Brampton Hitmen at Cove Road, is into peeled potassium. Gauss will monitor height, weight and physiologies among his players for reaction.
He expects four and perhaps five of his players will be chosen for the Canadian Professional Soccer League Selects who will play the Portuguese Super League team here May 28 after they open their North American tour two days earlier at Elizabeth, N.J.
So far, two players have been named, City midfielder Gentian Dervishi and league MVP Phil Ionadi of Brampton.
Next Friday's visitors, who compiled a 12-11-11 record in the Portuguese season just completed, went to the prestigious UEFA Cup semifinal last year, losing to Glasgow Celtic 2-1. Two of its players are members of the Portuguese national team.
Defender Ricardo (Alexandre Martins Soares Periera) was named earlier in the year to join Frechaut (Nuno Miguel Frechaut Barreto). Ricardo Sousa was fifth in Super League scoring with 14 goals.
Unlike games involving Europe's super teams, such as the one between Portugal's Porto and England's Liverpool that could well fill SkyDome July 30, games between touring teams and domestic selections can sometimes be "holiday matches" for the visitors.
They stroll out, work up a slight sweat, humour the locals and hurry to the traditional postgame festivities put on by the hosts.
Gauss says there's a built-in safeguard nowadays. Careers are on the line every game with some teams, a reason why Maritimo won 4-0 here.
"Players who don't want to give it their all can end up not starting," he said. "The Maritimo coach benched a couple of his Brazilian stars when they were here and the two weren't very happy. When they came off the bench, they played like gangbusters."
Only lately has Boavista begun to join the elite teams of Portugal, where championships have traditionally gone to a small group of teams -- Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Nacional. Boavista was only the fifth team in league history to win the title three years ago.
As for putting his men on the banana boat, Gauss can lean on a precedent. He points to England's Fulham, where French manager Jean Tigana used the fruit and unprecedented training methods to give the team the lowest fat level in British soccer to help the team into the Premiership.