Three London teams chase soccer Grail

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:07 PM ET

There's a lot on the line when it comes to Ontario Cup soccer.

The largest competition of its kind in Canada and one of the oldest sporting events in the country -- dating to 1901 -- the Ontario Cup is the Holy Grail for many teams.

This weekend, three London teams vie for the Cup -- the Forest United Flames under-16 girls, the London Dynamite under-16 boys and the London Supernova under-14 girls.

For under-14 and under-16 teams, a win leads to a trip to the national club championships, meaning the Cup is even more hotly contested.

Two years ago, the Dynamite won the national championship and the Flames won Canadian silver.

Coach Anthony Camacho said when the Flames played their semifinal game last Sunday against the Richmond Hill Raiders, members of the Burlington Flash, who won their semifinal, showed up at the Flames' game in Kitchener wearing their uniforms.

"They're probably trying to intimidate my girls," Camacho said. "We beat them (in league play) a week ago Wednesday. They'll come back for revenge."

The Flames and the Flash, gold medallists at the Ontario Summer Games in London last summer, play in the Ontario Youth Soccer League.

"Everybody has pegged them to be the winner of the Ontario Cup," Camacho said.

That's OK with him. "We like the underdog role."

Geoff Painter also feels his Supernova are "significant underdogs" against the Oakville Phantoms.

"(The) team has only been together for this season and has not had the opportunity to play at a high league level."

Painter, who led the London Shooting Stars to a national title in 2000 and last year was the manager of the Canadian champion u-14 Supernova, said local teams with a chance of winning an Ontario Cup and advancing to the nationals have top Toronto-area players calling.

"There are players both on the u-16 Flames and on the u-16 Dynamite who live in the GTA and who play for the London teams because they are already strong, well-coached and have a genuine chance to win it all."

He said on his squad, every player is local but one. "We will continue to try to develop local players to a level that can match those on the top GTA teams."

Painter's son Martin will help coach the Supernova in their game today at 3 p.m. at the Vaughan Soccer Centre, where all Cup finals are held. He's also the Dynamite head coach.

Martin Painter said his opponent in the u-16 game, the Mississauga Dixie 89ers, have competed against the Dynamite for seven seasons. The 89ers and Dynamite are the only teams to win an Ontario Cup in their age group in the last four seasons and the two will likely have a real battle again this year.

"This season we have played Dixie twice in the (OYSL) and tied both games 0-0. Obviously we are expecting a very tight, hard-fought game, probably decided by one goal," he said.

Mississauga won the Ontario Summer Games gold last year and Martin Painter said his team is glad to have the opportunity to "win back our provincial championship and then to get a chance to defend our national championship."

The Dynamite play Mississauga tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Flames hit the field at 5 p.m. today.

Both of the Painters and Camacho led their teams to Ontario Cup titles three years ago when London tied a record for the most provincial titles from one city, with six. In 2002, eight teams made the Cup finals. Last year, there were also eight local teams in finals, but only two won.

In Cup finals last month, both the u-21 London City women and the Sarnia Bluewater 87's lost.


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