WOSL Hall of Fame salutes trio

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Walter Kirchner thought he was just going to another dinner.

That's not unusual for the Woodstock resident who has been involved in area soccer for many years.

But the Western Ontario Soccer League dinner would turn out to be more than just another chow down.

"They introduced the first guy, Hermann Belle and said he was being inducted in the WOSL Hall of Fame," Kirchner said. "Then they started to describe the second person and I said to my wife, 'I didn't know there was a copycat in this city.' It sounded just like me. Then they said Walter Kirchner, I thought 'holy smokes!' I had no idea."

Kirchner, Belle and Dominic Mendes were inducted recently into the WOSL Hall of Fame.

Kirchner, a 32-year official is well known for his work in the development of many referees. He remains an assessor and referee coordinator and is the director of officials for the Canadian Soccer League.

Renowned in the soccer community, Kirchner was a force behind the development of the Woodstock Youth Soccer Complex and helped establish the Woodstock Youth program and the senior women's teams. In 2005, he was the first individual involved in soccer to be inducted into the Woodstock Hall of Fame.

Kirchner still enjoys refereeing.

"I have no problems," he said. "What characterizes the way I referee is that I have an excellent rapport with the players."

He apparently had an excellent rapport with one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Kirchner's encounter with Argentinian star Diego Maradona remains embedded in his mind. A number of years ago, Maradona suited up with Toronto Italia to play a National Soccer League all-star select team.

"He came into the room before the game," Kirchner said. "He had two game balls, one autographed, which he gave to me, and then he asked me to use the other ball as the game ball. I asked why that one and he said because it had about 14 pounds (of air) in it."

Kirchner found out why he wanted the hard ball.

"He took a corner kick with the instep. He hit it very hard," Kirchner said. "The ball seemed to have a backward spin. It was fishtailing all over the place. It never travelled higher than a foot-and-a-half off the ground. When it came to the near post, the ball just died and fell into the net.

"When we went to dinner later, I asked him, if it was a fluke. He said no, 'I've done it quite a few times. Now you know why I needed a hard ball.' "

Kirchner will always be impressed by Maradona.

"There was a throw in on the north side of the field and I suddenly hear 'Signore Arbitro, Signore Arbitro (Mr. Referee),'" Kirchner said. "Maradona was behind me and he wanted to shake my hand. I didn't know he had an arrangement to come off in the 83rd minute so he wasn't mobbed at the end. He did not take off until he shook hands. I was a nobody. He still had that kind of class."

Hermann Belle came to London in 1956 and linked up with the German Canadian FC.

He played competitively until 1963 in the original London and District Soccer Association. After sustaining a serious knee injury which prevented him from playing from 1963 to 1967, he continued to contribute to the German Canadian FC by becoming an executive member of the soccer council. He was president of the organization and helped build their youth system.

Under Belle's leadership club teams won numerous championships in various divisions and Cup tournaments.

Dominic Mendes was a club founder, a referee, referee co-ordinator and member of the executive of the old London and District Soccer Association, including president. He was also president of WOSL from 1990 to 1998, helping the league through a transitional time in soccer.

In the community, he was on the board of Panorama/Kavalcade, on the advisory board of OMNI multicultural TV and an active member of P.A.M. Gardens affordable housing for 25 years. He is now a citizenship judge.


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