Priceless time with Rangers

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:58 PM ET

TORONTO -- Cost of gasoline to get to Toronto: $40.

Cost of digital camera: $520.

Cost of playing against Glasgow Rangers: Priceless.

For London's Eris Tafaj the $560 he paid for a new digital camera and a tank of gas to get to the University of Toronto was well worth it to play against the storied Glasgow Rangers.

The London City midfielder suited up yesterday for the Canadian Professional League all-star team in a tilt against Rangers, who won 4-1.

Rangers are in Toronto for a training camp and wanted a tuneup game before they play Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb Tuesday at the Rogers Centre.

As a youngster in Albania, Tafaj used to imagine what it would be like to play against the likes of the Rangers.

"We watched them on TV all the time and it's just amazing when you seen them in person," said Tafaj. "Every time I watched them, you think, 'I wonder if I can keep up with them down the line?' "

Tafaj said the chance to play against the team that has won the Scottish Premier League title 51 times will help him when he returns to Albania next week for a trial with a First Division squad.

Tafaj found that he could keep up and dribble around Premier players. He got the ball past Fernando Ricksen -- the North American Rangers Supporters player of the year -- as Tafaj made a run for the net.

Tafaj, who played the first half, even got the first shot of the game in the eighth minute, getting into Rangers territory only to boot the ball over the net.

Also playing for the all-star crew was City midfielder Dennis Peeters, a Parkhill native.

For Peeters, who played the second half, it was an opportunity to view some of the world's best players up close.

"It was a great experience. I got a good appreciation for the quality of soccer over in Europe. I got to watch the centre midfields . . . and how they move -- the way they move off the ball and how they communicate."

Rangers played many of their top guys, including midfielder Barry Ferguson, who just returned to the team after a stint with English side Blackburn and Dado Prso, a Croatian star who will get a chance to play against his countrymen when Rangers meet Dinamo Zagreb.

Watching Peeters was his father Kees, who was thrilled to see his son face Glasgow.

"In hockey, it would be like playing against the Detroit Red Wings," said Kees Peeters, a Holland native, who added he has soccer in his blood.

About 300 people with passes, mostly relatives and friends of the players and some Rangers fan club members watched the match.

Cheering his team on to victory was Rangers supporter Brian Craig of Glasgow.

"It doesn't matter where they go, we follow them," Craig said. "If they played in Mars, we'd ask NASA if we could get a flight."

Other spectators gathered outside the fence as the match was closed to the public.

Rangers, in their blue and white uniforms with red trim, and the yellow and white all-stars, battled to a 0-0 tie at the half. Rangers poured it on in the second with Ross McCormack scoring twice, the first on a free kick from just outside the box.

Also scoring for Rangers were Jukka Santala and Steven Thompson.

While it looked like the all-stars would be shut out, they finally managed to get on the board in the 89th minute.

Carlo Arguittu, of the St. Catharines Wolves, sent a ball across to Oakville's Garbriel Pope, who burst in to the right post to tip the ball past Rangers keeper Allan McGregor.

Rangers manager Alex McLeish said the game was what his players were looking for.

"They were organized," McLeish said of his opponents.

We wanted a competitive game."

Bruno Ierullo, the CPSL's manager, said his team was only able to have one practice together. "I think we gave them a good fight."

Londoner Andrew Jasinski was the referee. He had little nastiness to contend with. Jasinski did have a word with Aaron Steele of the Oakville Blue Devils and Rangers' Thompson after some pushing, but he didn't hand out any cards. "I wanted to let them play," he said.

RANGERS 4

CPSL 1


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